James Eyre (1892 - 1987)
Jimmy Eyre, born in Leicestershire in 1892, joined Herbert & Sons in 1915 as our very first motor van driver, having failed his medical to join the Army.
At that time the Company had just purchased two 3-cylinder Panhard delivery vans, which had been converted from private cars. They were not very reliable and one was later swapped for an Argyle, as Jimmy recalls 'a car that had two gear levers, one forward and the other reverse'. He also recounted that his first job in the morning was to drive to 6&7 West Smithfield to collect the forgings made by the blacksmiths working in the cellar.
One winter morning Jimmy had an accident in the vehicle when delivering shell weighers to Woolwich Arsenal. In Jimmy's words 'On the 27th January (1916) Bob Chenery and I started off with a big load, about 4.30 a.m. We were making our way to Lewisham with a load of punch blanks, we only had two old "oil lamps". We got to the top of the hill and were going so fast a chap on a bike was hanging on the back. We got to the corner of Cemetery Lane and there we met a bus.'
Bob Chenery was taken to Shooters Hill Hospital, but the seriously injured Jimmy went to Miller Hospital, Deptford. 'I had my head sewn up, this was Thursday. On Monday morning I got the screens round me and the doctor took all the stitches out, and I had a yard or two of pluggings and boiling hot fermentation every 3 hours night and day.'
Jimmy was in hospital for many weeks near to death and one night the crisis was reached and he subsequently wrote 'I saw an angel standing at the foot of my bed and she said I would recover'. Jimmy survived this crisis and while convalescing went to look at his Panhard Van which was a complete write-off lying in a scrap yard. He removed part of the exhaust manifold and later said to Jim Herbert 'as a way of thanks to the Almighty I carved the aluminium cross which I have kept with me ever since. I suppose it really belongs to the company so I'll give it to you on my retirement for safe keeping'.
He requested as a farewell present he should be given a wooden cross as a replacement and the item in the "Lion News" reads "at a farewell gathering Mr. & Mrs. Eyre were presented with a silver tea set, a bone china tea service and an oak cross".
Jimmy is pictured with Leon Bagrit's Austin 7, our first 'company car', and also with Jack Herbert at the company's Silver Wedding party in June 1977 held at Doveden Hall.
Jimmy Eyre retired in 1961 and died in 1987.