Volume 45 Number 4 Article 1
“Through Caverns Measureless to Man” – a quote that drove Jim and inspired him throughout his long , adventurous and eventful life. I first met Jim on Skerton Bridge in Lancaster in 1949. A green aspiring caver waiting for a lift to Bull Pot Farm. In a cloud of black smoke and the clanking of many chain drives an apparition on an ancient New Hudson (or was it an “Indian?) Motorbike came to a halt. As Jim dismounted his “L” plates fell to the floor from inside his coat. “Don’t worry” said Jim, “not allowed to take a pillion passenger displaying L plates, climb aboard” as he stuffed the L plates back inside his coat. Typical of Jim’s philosophy on life – always one to take chances; and get away with them. Many adventures followed.
After Jim’s service in the Navy when he served in the 2nd. World war on destroyers and minesweepers he caved with the British Speleo-logical Association (B.S.A) until the discovery of Lancaster Hole. For Scientific reasons the B.S.A placed a locked lid on Lancaster Hole and restricted access . This resulted in several breakaway groups , one being the Red Rose Cave & Pothole Club founded by Jim Eyre, Wilf Taylor and a few others. The clubs involvement in the caves of Leck and Casterton Fells led to the lease of Bull Pot Farm which remains the H Q of the club to this day. For the next few years detailed exploration and survey of the new caves occupied most of the club’s time. When Pete Ashmead’s first survey was published Jim wrote a detailed description which gave us an idea of his talent for writing.
Another talent need by a caver was the nerve and ability to climb. Jim was also an exceptional climber. My first experience of his skills was soon after the connection was made between Lancaster Hole and Easegill. Stop Pot is a loose climb of some 25 feet which was normally climbed by a rope or a ladder from the Lancaster Hole end which was then closed to our club. Jim free climbed it from below , no mean feat , and helped me up with the aid of some survey tape he found nearby. We were then able to do what was probably the first through trip except that the lid on Lancaster Hole was locked and having climbed the 110 foot iron ladders we had to reverse our steps and exit from Easegill. Many cave passages are out of reach but still needed to be looked at. Our way of climbing to these passages was to scale them using Heath Robinson contraptions made from bed irons, metal poles and anything else we could get our hands on. Jim’s daring escapades with scaling poles is legendary.
By 1956 as the Red Rose developed, Jim was made our first President. His humour was expressed in many of his articles and cartoons. It was Jim who invented the President’s chain of office, a lavatory chain complete with flushing handle and matching bottle openers! Jim was also a stalwart of the Cave Rescue Association, taking part in over 100 rescues including the Neil Moss and Mossdale Caverns tragedies. On one of the rescues on a foul night in Dow Cave when the duck leading into the Dowbergill passage was much longer than normal Jim held his breath and dived into the dark waters. I followed but got stuck on some projections in the roof . Almost out of breath and blue in the face I was greatly relieved to see Jim’s hand as he dragged me out. A case of rescuer rescuing the rescuer! Later in 1988 John Frankland and Jim wrote a book about Cave Rescue entitled “Race against time.”
This wasn’t Jim’s first publication. In 1981 his book “The Cave Explorers” was published. A great read, full of excitement and humour and illustrated by Jim’s unique brand of cartoons. This book and his latest “The game goes on” gives the full story of Jim’s eventful life in much more detail than I can ever accomplish in this brief obituary. During the 1960’s Jim left the Red Rose and joined the Northern Pennine Club to continue his caving at home and abroad. Jim was an unforgettable character with his loud laugh, broken nose and great sense of humour which comes out in his writing. He will always be remembered and will be greatly missed by his many friends in both clubs and throughout the caving world.