Jim Randle: A Final Farewell
As reported in my August 2019 newsletter, Jim Randle passed away on 6th July 2019 and Rob Jenner and I felt highly honoured when we were invited to a small, private gathering to celebrate the life of this great man at his local church in Welford-on-Avon, along with some of our greatest Jaguar hero’s ……. Sir John Egan, George Hind, Howard Hunt, Jonathan Heynes, Michael Quinn and Tony O’keeffe among them.
I had elected to take my 1988 3.6 XJ40 Sovereign ‘Opium’ to Jim’s funeral, as Jim had driven her at the 30th anniversary of the launch of XJ40 at Dunkeld in 2016. David Marks took his prototype XJ40 ‘D38BRW’ and Rob Jenner was invited by Jim’s son, Steve Randle, to take D802CDU – which was Jim’s own prototype, and now that it has been accounted for, takes D38BRW’s place as the oldest known surviving XJ40 !!!
Our small but very important procession of XJ40’s assembled at David Marks Garage in Nottingham on the morning of 22nd July 2019 and drove in convoy to Welford-on-Avon to pay their respects to their creator.
The Randle’s are a quiet, close and well-organised family, a true reflection of Jim, for whom they have the greatest respect, as was made very clear on this sad day.
Jim’s daughter, Sally, spoke of Jim ‘the family man’, struggling valiantly against the tears.
Terry, whom we’d met before at Dunkeld, spoke of Jim from the viewpoint of a close and loyal friend.
Both very poignant and moving tributes, but the one that had the most impact on me was by Steve Randle, Jim’s son, who has inherited his father’s gentle character, sense of humour, stance, and that all important delivery. He spoke of ‘Jim, the engineer’ and granted my request to share his eulogy to his father with anyone who wishes to read it here.
Steve introduced his eulogy by thanking us all for attending – he felt that his father would have been pleased with the turnout! He went on to say that Jim had faced his illness with the same patient, first principles approach that served him so well throughout his career.
He referred to the feature by Eoin Doyle in Driven to Write, saying that there’s more in there than he had time to relate at the service, and much, much more beyond that too !!
Jim Randle Eulogy, written and recited by Steve Randle
Jim began his career as an apprentice at Rover, but most of his career was devoted to Jaguar Cars, where he rose to the role of Engineering Director in 1980.
From this position, he rebuilt the Engineering Department into something capable of taking on the best that Mercedes and BMW could offer. There are a lot of people here today, and around the world who learned from his patient, logical, approach.
Jim’s babies included the XJS, XJ40, and XJ41, and, through the ‘Saturday Club’ XJS cabriolet, and XJ220.
The 1980’s also saw Jaguar return to the track, firstly with the Group A TWR XJ-S, the Group 44 XJ-R5, and ultimately the Le Mans win in 1988 with the XJ-R9, all under Jim’s support.
I learned a great deal from Dad, beginning as a child visiting the development shop on a Saturday morning, holding the spanners as XJ13 was rescued from abandonment, in awe of what seemed to be acres of drawing boards.
And later on, helping to build the first structural models of the XJ220 in cardboard on the sitting room floor. He didn’t mind a bit when I later moved on to help McLaren build its rival supercar.
Perhaps Jim’s finest achievement was the XJ40. A car that served the company in various forms for 11 years, and one that still stands up today against its modern equivalents.
This era saw Jim, with John Egan, who is here today, and a great many others rescue Jaguar from the depths of the British Leyland period to become the jewel in the crown of the British motor industry, where it remains to this day.
Also here today is Michael Quinn, grandson of Sir William Lyons, founder of Jaguar cars. Dad held Sir William in great respect and affection, and was responsible for drawing him back into the fold after the dark years of the 1970’s.
Jim’s constant pursuit of a better answer continued after Jaguar with his work appearing in the turbine hybrid Volvo ECC, and the all-aluminium Lea Francis 30/230 which in turn spawned the Morgan Aero 8.
Jim also had a great love of aircraft, and continued as a private pilot until only last year.
Since we are here we should probably spare a thought for God. Dad would amuse himself by declaring he was a lapsed agnostic. A true engineer, he recognised that decisions are what we make when we don’t have enough data to draw a conclusion.
So maybe he has enough data now. And potentially has more than a little explaining to do.
He will at least to able to rely on the support of Sir William, wielding his stick with fearsome authority ….
What did we learn?
We can’t conclude this without asking ourselves the question that Jim would expect to be asked:
So what did we learn from all this?
The first principles approach that he learned from Bob Knight will serve you well: A patient dissection of the problem into its constituent elements and the application of logic.
Losing your temper does get results. Though only in the short term, and typically not the sort of result one might hope for. Jim was not known for losing it..
You can’t fix it all, and sometimes you just have to make the best of it. I’m not sure he ever really learned that one.
And finally, be careful who you ask to do stuff for you. I, for instance, singularly failed to get the stainless cap screws he asked for.
You’ll find them in your jacket pocket, Dad!
So, finally ……. Thank you all ……. Thank you Jim ……. Thank you Dad
Following the service, the family attended the private burial and met up with the remainder of us at the local pub where we could reflect on memories of Jim, aided by a substantial picture board made up of a large number of pictures celebrating every aspect of the life of Jim Randle, which naturally included XJ40 and XJ220 !!
Out of respect for the family, and not wanting to impose on them, very few pictures were taken, so we have only our treasured memories of this very moving day.
I would like to finish with a comment taken from an email to me by Eoin Doyle (owner of Driven to Write) which neatly sums up my own thoughts on Jim Randle in one paragraph…..
“I recall a man of immense intellect, integrity, warmth, and humour. Quick to laugh, often at his own expense and generous to those he worked with – he also refused to stick the knife into those who treated him badly. A lovely man, who I admired enormously.”