‘He was big part of the family’

SCARBOROUGH businessman James Corrigan has shared some of his favourite memories of close family friend Sir Jimmy Savile.

Mr Corrigan told the Evening News there were so many tales that he didn’t really know where to start, but – as Jimmy would say – he would “start at the beginning”.

James’s late father Jimmy Corrigan was one of Sir Jim’s best friends, so James grew up thinking of the TV legend as one of the family.

Jimmy Corrigan was one of what Sir Jim called the “Scarborough Team”, a group of people who would act as a local contact point for the star, who didn’t have his own agent.

When Mr Corrigan passed away in 2000, James followed in his father’s footsteps and became the “Scarborough Office”.

He recalls that one of his earliest memories of Sir Jim was watching the Jim’ll Fix It Christmas special sitting next to the man himself.

Mr Corrigan said: “He came to every Christmas dinner at our house from before I was born until last year, with the exception of three times when he got a better offer.

“One of those was when Margaret Thatcher invited him to go to Chequers.”

He remembers Sir Jim giving a running commentary as they sat at home and watched the Queen’s Speech, followed by Jim’ll Fix It, saying: “Oh my goodness, what’s going to happen next?

“That can’t be me on TV, because I’m here.”

Mr Corrigan laughed: “Everyone at school didn’t believe that I was sat with him on Christmas Day! I had to get a photo taken as proof.

“Then they all tried to get me to get them on Jim’ll Fix It.

“I asked for a badge and he said I didn’t need anything fixing.”

He also recalls one Christmas when Sir Jim brought along Mairead Corrigan, who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1976 for her for her efforts to end the violence in Northern Ireland.

Mr Corrigan said: “Every Christmas he’d do something different and bring someone with him.

“They stayed all day, and by the end of it her prize, which was a coin, had gone missing. It turned up down the side of the sofa.”

He added that Sir Jim was a keen royalist and always brought his yearly HRH card with him and put it straight up on the mantelpiece every Christmas - but forgot James’s present.

He said: “Putting the card up was always one of his proudest moments.”

Despite his connections with the great and good, Sir Jim never lost his connection with the man in the street, said Mr Corrigan.

He said: “He was stopped in the street everywhere he went and would always take time to talk. He always had time for people, and had no airs and graces.

“My theory about why he ran was so he could actually get somewhere without having to stop!” Mr Corrigan said that growing up, he spent a lot of time with Sir Jim. “He was always there. He has been to every family occasion -– weddings, christenings.”

When his father died on June 5, 2000, Sir Jim led the tributes and was one of just a handful of people who attended the private family funeral.

Mr Corrigan said with a smile: “Savile was the strangest thing anyone could inherit – and I inherited him from my father.”

Sir Jim was also very close to fellow “Scarborough Team” member John Dunn, whom he commemorated with a memorial bench at the top of McBean steps after he died.

He even got another bench next to John’s, with a plaque engraved “Sir Jimmy Savile (But not just yet)” as he said John “looked lonely”.

Sir Jim’s bench has now become a site where tributes – such as makeshift Jim’ll Fix It badges – have been laid by members of the public.

Mr Corrigan said that when he heard of Sir Jim’s death on Saturday, the family had already sent out cards for his 85th birthday, which would have been yesterday.

He said: “On his 80th we sent him a special card. When we asked him what he thought of it, he replied ‘It’ll do’.

“I said ‘What’s wrong?’ and he replied ‘I’m 160 – I’ve got two birthdays’.”

Mr Corrigan explained that it was a running joke following a mistake in a national newspaper, so he ended up with two birthdays “like the Queen”.

He said he will miss Jimmy’s jokes and tales - even the way he used to start conversations on the telephone.

Mr Corrigan explained: “It was always a withheld number and I’d say ‘Is that you?’ and he’d reply ‘No, it’s me’. It was always the same.”

He hopes that Sir Jim will be honoured with a bronze statue in Scarborough, which will be a permanent tribute to the star in the place he loved the most. Mr Corrigan said: “Scarborough was his favourite place – he loved it.

“He was done a lot of work for the town and there needs to be a memorial.”