Our thanks to Adrian Searle who was a good friend of the late Jack Richards for sharing this obituary. Jack’s body was tragically discovered at Alum Bay on Friday 5th April. In his own words. Ed
The sudden death of Jack Richards has deprived the Island of one of its most prominent musicians, someone who also earned huge respect for his involvement with several other aspects of community life.
For many he will be remembered chiefly for the immense contribution he made to the specialised musical field of percussion as a highly-regarded peripatetic teacher, the inspiration for many a young drummer on the Island who valued his help, support and enduring friendship. He was also a national examiner and concert performer.
Moved to the Island as a child
But music was only one aspect of a life which began at Guildford in 1947. Jack moved with his parents to the Island as a young child and was educated at Ryde’s former secondary modern school.
Early employment with British Rail saw him work for a short time on the Ryde Pier tramway before moving to a train control centre on the mainland.
Played drums for Tiny Tim at 1970 Festival
Jack was already earning a name for himself as a drummer at local venues, a talent recognised in 1970 when he played drums in the band backing the cult American singer Tiny Tim at the Isle of Wight Festival.
For three years he worked as a drummer on Cunard Line ships plying the Atlantic passage. Returning to shore, Jack acquired formal performance qualifications as a percussionist before a period of teacher training at Bath paved the way for his career as a peripatetic teacher.
An infectious enthusiasm
His infectious enthusiasm and ability to ‘think outside the box’ ensured that his teaching career was an outstanding success, serving as the springboard to his ultimate status as an illustrious percussion examiner.
Latterly senior examiner for the London College of Music, he compiled a series of acclaimed published works on the subject and led the way in re-structuring the national teaching syllabus for drums.
A highly-prized asset for a variety of musical ensembles, including the IW Symphony Orchestra, his percussion skills were also utilised at many of the musical shows produced by groups such as the Island Savoyards.
Leader of the Island’s rail user group
Others will recall his promotion of the railway network, initially, while a resident of Ventnor, in the campaign which so nearly saw the restoration of the town’s rail link, then as leader of the Island’s rail user group.
He was the first chairman of the IW Community Rail Partnership and served on the Rail Passengers Council for the South of England.
Co-author of The Quintinshill Conspiracy
Driven by a deep sense of injustice at the outcome of the investigation into Britain’s worst-ever rail crash – near Gretna in 1915 – he had just completed a new appraisal of the facts behind the story, his research yielding some extraordinary results, as co-author of The Quintinshill Conspiracy, a book due for publication later this year.
He was also a consummate modeller of railways, enjoying a craftsman’s reputation which extended far beyond the confines of the Island. A member of the Wight Model Railway Group, his extraordinarily detailed layouts were a feature of many an exhibition.
Jack’s unbounded commitment to helping others involved him in unstinting charitable work for both the IW Tinnitus Group and the Island’s branch of Action on Hearing Loss.
In recent years, following a move to the area, he was a regular worshipper at Cowes Baptist Church and, as a deacon, was a member of the church’s leadership team.
He is survived by his wife, Helen, whom he married in 2007, his two children from a previous marriage, Sally and Ben, and his sister, Kay.
A thanksgiving service will be held at Cowes Baptist Church at 2pm on Friday, 26 April, followed by cremation.
Related: [Inquest opens]