By Nan King
To compare Jimmy Hollands with Winston Churchill would make him blush, but by sharing the same birthday it has prompted me to think that many of the things that he has fought for on behalf of others, added to a rare pioneering spirit and the will to win, are qualities that shone in the great man himself. Born in Rye on the 30th November,1938, Jimmy was the eldest of 3 sons of Jim and Winifred Hollands (asked how many years his ancestors had been in Rye, he cheerfully replied that he was convinced that they came over with the Dutch Huguenots and this was where his surname had originated!)
First education started for little Jimmy at the Primary School at Ferry Road, from whence he progressed to New Road and the Secondary there, and from there to the Grammar School to take a technical course (“and they wished they’d never had me” was the only comment I could persuade Jimmy to make). It was at school that his enthusiasm for soccer began to take root, and his first stab at organising came when he formed Tilling Green United, where young Jim played keenly at inside forward. However at 15, football had to take second place when Jim joined Rye Wheeler Cycling Club, a sport he was able to continue when the Hollands family moved to Slough when the family “garden netting business”was burnt down and “dad” Hounds went to work for Firestones. Slough Cycling Club boasted a hard track which is where the 16 year old youth first began to come to grips with the sport, and from where he remembers the exhilarating experience of bike racing over the famous Bath Road Time Trial course. It was now that he realised his forte lay in the sprint races (“I was never much good at going up hills” he told me wryly) and he went on to win the Club Junior Championship. Justifiably proud, he was sent from Slough to ride at the Rye Grass Track Meeting, and in the same season he finished third in the East Sussex 1000 yards Championship at Rye Sports — at last he was able to sense something of the success that his boyhood hero Brian Robinson must have felt when he became the first Briton to ride in the Tour de France.
Back home in Rye after only 10 rather unsatisfying months in Slough (apart from his cycling achievements) Jim joined the Hastings Cycling Club and became Junior 10 mile Time Trial Champion. Whilst he was 12 there he met a former member of the Rye Wheelers, Curly Price from Northiam and together they decided to reform the defunct Club with Jimmy as secretary. It was a popular move and they soon had 40 members with which they formed a track team which included Mike Adhdown from New Romney, who one year became the ‘surprise’ Sussex Sprint Champion. The team itself went on to great successes, winning the Gasson Team Shield at Rye Sports consecutively from 1963-5. It was in fact through his great love for cycling that Jim met his future partner in crime, Roma Page (herself a formidable cyclist and time trial record holder) whom he married in December 1960.
With Slough behind them, Jim and his father decided to start a window cleaning and chimney sweeping business and with the slogan “AND WHY NOT HAVE A CLEAN SWEEP?” to inspire them, Jim and his dad set off one morning resplendent in new white overalls to tackle their first job in Military Road. The “Rayburn” turned out to be an easy affair with all the soot coming from one trap hatch, and soon they were contentedly driving home with a large bag of soot thinking they were going to get along famously. They stopped the van at the Landgate for Dad to get some cigarettes and were just pulling out again when they almost collided with a fire engine making great speed to a lady in Military Road whose chimney had just caught fire! With a year’s modest success in the chimney sweeping industry behind them, they opened a Radio and Television shop at 55 Cinque Ports Street in 1958 with £100 capital. However, the following year Jim had to abandon his father when he was called up and became a Storeman in the R.A.F., where he was able to continue his cycling exploits. Determined with a friend to compete in the R.A.F. Hill Climb Championships, they managed to persuade one of the lads (who in no way claimed to be a cyclist) to make up their team of three. They lent him a bike and as there was no club funds to travel in style, the only way to reach the championships was to cycle the 80 miles. It was an arduous journey as Jim and his friend had to take it in turns to push their now reluctant team-mate to get there on time. They made it and the Climb took place that night, the irony being that the non-cyclist finished almost as high up the list as his team-mates who had to push him there!
However, the gay life in the R.A.F. for Jim was unexpectedly cut short when he attended a routine Mass X-ray and it was discovered that he was suffering from tuberculosis. After four months in the R.A.F. hospital at Swindon he was discharged from further service with a pension. A further four months in the Eversfield Chest Hospital at Hastings found Jim well enough to return to his cycling within moderation, and in fact it wasn’t until 1967 that soccer finally replaced cycling when he joined Udimore F.C. His ability for leadership was soon to the fore again when he captained the 2nd XI but a little later, with football being the big business it is today, Jimmy was transferred to the Reckitt & Colman side. Two happy years passed before R & C left Rye, when Rye Athletic was formed with Jim becoming a founder member, and up to the time of going to press, he’s still going strong in midfield.
Discharged from the R.A.F., Jim rejoined the T.V. business which was beginning to gather momentum (“especially with my Dad selling them” said his son!) Rumour has it that “dad” called one day on a likely customer and as he knocked at the door, a cowboy film revealed the good about to shoot the bad, but by the time the villain lay slain, a new set had been sold and installed, and Jim’s father was stowing the redundant set in his van! With sales like this the business expanded, though in part due to the introduction in of l.T.V., and more space was necessary. After temporary accommodation opposite at the Elizabethan Tea Rooms, the business was transferred to I 2 Cinque Ports Street which had previously housed grandfather Hollands grocery store. In the new premises television sets were joined by washing machines and to increase enthusiasm for selling, they started to enter competitions run by manufacturers. It was not long before “dad” had won the Hoover competition twice, the second time by selling more machines than any other single retail outlet in the British Isles. The prizes took the Hollands family on various overseas holidays, whilst another competition presented a lucky customer with a vintage Bentley and £1,000 to the business. The family gift for being good competitors rose again to the surface when Jimmy, having set up the Rye Camera Centre in 1963, (at No. 6 Cinque Ports Street at premises where his grandfather had started a cakes and confectionary shop) won the Kodak award for the best window display in South East England. At the same time Roma opened a hairdressing salon – a salon far from ordinary, for the proprietress like her husband, was far more concerned with the people she could help through her work than she was with financial gain. The Camera Centre had fallen into place soon after the present of a camera from his wife which also led to Jimmy joining Rye Cine Club. With the competitive finger pointing at him again, the Club entered a film skit on Steptoe & Son (director James Hollands) in the East Sussex Cine Competition, and to the amazement of all concerned, the film carried off the award. The Club was twice more successful in later years.
With his appetite for something new to get his teeth into, coupled with the desire to do something for the people of the town he loved, Jimmy felt there was a gap in the coverage of local news for local people in any of the newspapers already in circulation. Thus one day, he found himself in the offices of Jimmy Foster who although he turned down Jimmy’s first idea of a newspaper, suggested that there might be a definite demand for a monthly magazine in Rye. With the enthusiasm of his wife and father to back him, no capital, and Roma’s camera still in working order (…“not forgetting the marvellous support of would be advertisers”) Rye’s Own reached the printing press and made its début in November 1965. This led to a greater sense of fulfilment than Jimmy had expected. Apart from finding the scope to become rather more than a wedding cum social occasion photographer, it led him to meet many fascinating people and experiences that have enriched his life. It also encouraged him to get to grips with the town’s affairs and he felt a new channel for local opinion was formed through his columns. With Ryers very much at heart, the editor was in a position to fan the flames of enthusiasm for the new Community Centre (I was working in his office at the time and I well remember the diligent campaigning that he maintained despite setbacks to get the Centre to become a reality).
Another occasion when the editor was able to help the people of Rye was when he presented in the magazine a straightforward article which did much to explain a somewhat difficult to comprehend Town Draft Map in 1969. But this is Jimmy Hollands, a man who wants the truth in simple language and inspired by a crusading spirit for the people that have so far meant most to him in life. It is the same thoughtfulness coupled with his boyish need for fresh adventure that has now led him to Wales to fulfil Roma’s ambition to own enough land to start a Pony Trekking Centre. Not to be outdone, Jim intends to start his own enterprise in the form of a Pitch & Putt Course so as to benefit from the hard work he has recently been putting in with the Rye Artisans on his “swing”. So a hill farm in Ysbyty Ystwyth (a small village about four miles from Devil’s Bridge, Cardigan) is to be their hew hope and they also intend to make a flying start in the Bed & Breakfast industry. With the Hollands’ record of success, together with their genuine love of people, they cannot fail and I for one, and for you all, wish Jimmy and Roma lots of luck.
From the March 1973 issue of “Ryes Own”
All articles, photographs and drawings on this web site are World
Copyright Protected. No reproduction for publication without prior