The Original “One Off”

Unique is a word I use sparingly but to say that Jimper Sutton, Marshman, Fisherman, Bonfire Boy, Marshman and Author is unique is almost an understatement.

Jimper is a character, a rarity in today’s world of conformity and order. A man who stands by his principles and his word. He has an amazing knack of seeing things in a simple and straightforward way. He comes up with easy solutions to problems that appear so complicated to ‘experts’ and ‘suits’ from government institutions.

His understanding of the way of the countryside and seashore comes from his experience and observation as a farmer and fisherman and his great love of wildlife and nature. He is a natural writer, a contributor to this magazine since 1965. The words just flow from his pen.

“It was misty with low cloud and a fresh east wind on December 2. Around 9 am. I noticed that the sky was full of weaving lines of birds bearing south at about 100 ft. I confidently identified them as Golden Plover, a bird that, in the sixties, used to arrive around late January just as the shooting season ended. The Plover is one of our fastest flying game birds and presents a real challenge to the guns. One shot sends the whole flock into an instant swoop for cover offering a difficult target. Similar to a shoal of fish, birds have the knack of turning as one from the first day they can fly or swim – unlike clever man of this planet you never see them practising for hours on a parade ground, birds and fish have the technique born in them. The soldier just gets shouted at if he gets out of step – the bird or fish that goes the wrong way ends up as someone‚Äôs dinner.”

This was the introduction to his ‘Jimper’s Jottings column in January 2004 which went on to castigate the Environment Agency plan to give up land to the sea.

“Over one third of Holland is below sea level and the inhabitants take pride in adding to their land mass by draining even more areas and winning extra ground back from the sea every year. Not so in My England. Here we obey the rules of Brussels and are forced to live with the fear of floods or, as in the instance of the Environmental Agency, encourage the sea to reclaim land our forefathers worked so hard to drain and turn into good rich soil.

The experts came up with the idea to remove the beach from the mouth of the river at Rye Harbour. Had they used the money, spent transporting the beach, for putting in new groins to contain the stones and protect the West wall of the Harbour Mouth that same wall would not have been knocked over by the first gale of this winter. Now the Agency is spending vast sums of cash importing large stones from France to shore the structure up! Meanwhile, despite the Agencies efforts to move beach along to Pett, the mighty ocean shifts the beach back to where it wants it.

B***** the experts! The mighty man upstairs now seems to be the only one who cares not for red tape. He created this earth and will do his utmost to let us know how best to use it.

Our forefathers learned to use nature to their advantage. They had the sense to stand back and gauge her beat. They did not rush ahead with a new idea but first asked the question, why is it like it is. They made improvements, not alterations.”

Simple common sense answers from Jimper. His words have proved so true on the Somerset Levels, where, turning away from the proven methods of dredging on a regular basis, which has kept the land in good farming condition for 300 years, since Dutch expertise was sought to drain the area. Now look at the results of ‘penny pinching’, using the excuse that by not dredging they were protecting wildlife!

Jimper is not just a local character, he has appeared on television and radio numerous times and in the local paper frequently. ITV made a half-hour film of a day in his life and showed it at peak viewing time; this has been repeated many times and gone around the world. He has been on the BBC’s ‘Morning’ programme with Richard & Judy talking on fishing. A detailed article about him appeared in The Sunday Times.

Having kept a diary every day since the age of six and having had hundreds of articles and stories published over the last fifty years, an illness slowed Jimper down and gave him time to write novels. Jimper publishes booklets yearly of 60 pages of short stories and gives all the proceeds to local good causes. His last two books are selling well at all good book shops and tesco.com rated his romantic novel ‘Moon Girl’ 6 stars.

Jimper has been a Bonfire Boy almost from the time he could walk and has kept a remarkable record of the adventures and mishaps that have befallen the event over the years.

He is thought to be the only man left in the country fishing with keddle nets, continuing a family tradition that has spanned generations. He was born in Winchelsea in war torn 1944 to an established family that go back to the Doomsday Book in the area, trading as fishermen since Norman days.

The Suttons have appeared in countless history books chronicling this part of the South Coast. Jimper’s name originated as a smuggler’s name in the 18th century. Farming and fishing have been his life, along with bee-keeping, the same as his father and grandfathers. The Sutton’s are a family of longevity, several having reached the age of one hundred, even at a time when the average life expectancy was much lower than today.

Jimper was educated at the local school and left at fourteen. Book learning did not teach him as much as life’s rich pageantry has. He had only three close mates as a child and the seashore was their playground. He once told me that girls were a mystery until his late teenage years when ballroom dancing became a great feature in his life.

Jimper fished out of Rye in a 36-foot trawler for 20 years, which kept him very busy. Being a teetotaller he has always been able to watch the world from a sober perspective.

He was a District Councillor for 16 years and is now Life President of Rye Bonfire Society, one of the oldest Societies in Britain and a very important part of the Sussex scene. Jimper is married with three grown-up children.

He has a monthly column in a this magazine that has been published since 1965 ‘Jimper’s Jottings’ have been a regular feature, first published in “Rye’s Own” in 1966. Jimper’s articles and stories appear in Countryman Weekly on a regular basis. For four years he had a page in The Bee Keeper Monthly. Over the years he has had two books published and 800 other articles in various publications.

He publishes booklets yearly of short stories and give all the proceeds to local good causes. Each edition is of 1,000 and sells out locally in 6 months. His last two books are selling well. tesco.com rated his romantic novel ‘Moon Girl’ six stars and are now rating ‘Bees in Abundance’ at five stars.

Jimper is a prolific writer and his unmistakable style of mixing fact, emotion and humour have earned him an ever growing readership.

The past couple of years have been tough for Jimper Sutton, illness kept him confined to his bed for many months. That all seems to be behind him now and he is out and about meeting and greeting his friends and living life to the full again.

Rye’s Own May 2014

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