Jim Higgins is known as the man who heads the team of police volunteers in Tawa. As he rightly points out, without that team there would be no local police base, situated as it is in the Tawa Community Centre building. He is another example of a person who makes an invaluable contribution to this community and, in doing so, plays his part in improving the quality of life for us all.
Jim's accent, and he can be quite a "talker", indicates that he originally heralds from the British Isles. But where precisely and how long has he lived in this neck of the woods? The answers are given below.
Where were you born, Jim?
Rhondda Valley, south Wales. "Welshman by birth and family."
Where did you grow up?
Left Wales when I was about two years old. We moved around an awful lot. Settled in Derby, county town of Derbyshire [England], with occasional forays elsewhere.
Where were you educated?
High schooling at Derby School of Arts & Crafts. It wasn't just arts & crafts, but that was its name. "I got a scholarship for there. Don't know why."
What is your line of work?
I took an apprenticeship with Rolls Royce. Derby is the home of Rolls Royce. I left after one year. I've always been an outdoors person and the thought of working indoors the rest of my life didn't appeal. I joined the Ordnance Survey Department. Their job was mapping. Very, very interesting being out in the field, up church towers, etc.
I've always had a bent for aviation and joined the Air Training Corps (evenings and weekends) in 1939. The whole idea was to promote understanding of the air force. Learned navigation, morse code, etc. In May 1944 "I got the call" and went into the Royal Air Force, training as a pilot on Tiger Moths. I came out of the air force and went into the Gordon Highlanders (the army), the Parachute Regiment. Commissioned as a second lieutenant and went to the Middle East, Palestine, for two years as an officer. I was demobbed late 1947 and rejoined the Parachute Regiment in the Territorial Army (part-time) for 9 years. My fulltime job was again with the Ordnance Survey back in Derby.
In 1952 I joined Avery Scales (the weighing machine people) on the sales side and came to New Zealand with them in 1957. Worked with them until I retired in 1982.
What about family?
Married to Barbara for 63 years. She died last June. "We had two wonderful girls, plus a talented son who's a company director based in Sydney." My twin daughters live at Raumati Beach with their families. 5 grandchildren and a great-granddaughter.
What are your interests/hobbies?
Keen sea swimmer in the warmer months. Used to go walking and tramping. While I was working I enjoyed my work so much I didn't have time for much else, apart from gardening. "Always lots of vegetables on the table."
For the past several years I've been "Base Controller" for the Tawa Community Police base. It takes quite a bit of time and is such an important part of Tawa. I'm involved at the moment in recruiting. If we didn't have the volunteers there'd be no police base in Tawa. A good volunteer must be able to listen, digest and record. "There's a lot of job satisfaction out of helping people."
How long have you lived in Tawa?
Lived in my present place since 1958.
What do you think is great about Tawa?
"I know I wouldn't want to be anywhere else, that's for sure." We looked all over Wellington when we first came here. The schools [in Tawa] looked good. And 20 minutes into town by car. It was far enough away [from the central city] not to be persuaded to go back into the office after work. The beaches are just up the coast. "I think it's a great suburb, a nice little town."
What, if anything, would improve Tawa?
I was sorry when it didn't stay a borough in its own right. "You'd see Mervyn Kemp [Tawa's long-serving mayor] regularly." If we hadn't got a community board I suppose there'd be grounds for criticism. And the Woolworths' thing could be very unsettling for many, particularly the elderly. [Woolworths, Tawa's only supermarket, is scheduled to close at the end of November and it could well be 9 or 10 months before its replacement, New World, is open for business - Ed.]
What is your favourite dessert?
Apple pie and ice cream.
Favourite sports team and/or sportsperson?
I'm not a sports person actually. To be honest, no [favourite], even though my daughter-in-law's brother is Sir John Walker [the famous former runner].
Favourite musical group or style of music?
Basically light music which you hear very rarely, and some classics. Frank Sinatra, Bing Crosby. "Music with a tune. I hate pop - it's tuneless."
Favourite holiday destination in New Zealand?
"Very difficult one, that." [After a pause ...] "I know one of our favourite places was the East Coast of the North Island, up from Gisborne and including Opotiki. Also the Marlborough Sounds."
Favourite quote(s) or saying(s)?
Churchill's famous speech after the retreat from Dunkirk in May 1940:
"Whatever the cost may be, we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender."
If you could meet any two or three people (alive or dead), who would they be?
The Duke of Wellington; Robert Muldoon; John Wayne; Field Marshal Montgomery.
What three things would you take with you if you were stuck on a desert island?
One of them's got to be a book. [Pause]. Top of the list has to be a line and bait, assuming there's just a coconut tree there.
What is one talent you would like that you do not have?
I would like to have a good handle on mathematics. I didn't do very well with maths at school, particularly percentages.
What are one or two talents you have that you could not do without?
"I'm a chief rather than an Indian." Always had an aim, an objective. It made my day when I went into the army as a private soldier, became a lance corporal, then an officer. Gave me a great deal of satisfaction to be in a leadership role.
I've been told sometimes that I can talk. That's true, but I insist on being knowledgeable and well versed on the subject. That [being able to talk] is why I was on the sales side of business.
What accomplishments/achievements in your life give you much satisfaction/pride?
I was head boy at school, probably because I was assertive, never impolite, and good with the gab I think.
My biggest achievement was to pass out of Sandhurst, the Royal Military College.
What are one or two things you would like to do before you die?
We were going to go back to the UK for a final trip.
I'd love to have my wife back but I realise that's impossible. It was a wonderful marriage of 63 years. "My wife was my joy."
Compiled April 2011.