Generations will miss 'larger than life' Jim

A former teacher who passed on his love of history to hundreds of youngsters has died.

Jim Ridge, 64, of Ribchester, near Preston, suffered heart failure and died after a short spell in hospital.

Dozens of friends and former colleagues gathered for his funeral at the Parish Church of St Wilfrid, Ribchester.

Jim, who lived alone, was one of the town's best known characters after taking the mantle of honorary curator at the Roman Museum.

The son of the late John and Edna Ridge, he died on January 21.

Current curator, Patrick Tostevin, said: "He was one of the most influential and popular figures in the museum's 90-year history.

"He was larger than life and very kind. He was very knowledgeable and very funny. He will be sadly missed."

Earlier in his career, Jim had been a popular history teacher at Broughton and then Fulwood High schools. Generations of pupils thrilled to his enthusiastic style of teaching.

Antique collector Jim even uncovered a little piece of the past on own his doorstep; he excavated one of the corner towers of Ribchester Roman Fort in the back garden of his cottage on Church Road, Ribchester.

It provided the ideal site for an archaeological dig led by Tony Robinson for Channel Four's Time Team programme.

Mr Tostevin, said: "He was thrilled with what he found in his garden; it was the centrepiece."

His first practical archaeological experience came in the 1950s when he volunteered on excavations at Walton-le-Dale, near Preston.

The team uncovered a Roman industrial complex and settlement.

He continued his interest in local archaeology through his long-time involvement in the Ribble Archaeological Society, before linking up with the museum.

Mr Tostevin, said: "He welcomed a constant stream of visitors here including former pupils, students, archaeologists, antique collectors and friends to admire the remains in his garden. People looked up to him.

"Many of these visits would end in a visit to one of the local hostelries, to which Jim had a healthy attachment, to discuss all matters Roman and historical."

It was under his leadership that the museum underwent a major improvement scheme in 1989, resulting in modern displays and educational facilities.

Mr Tostevin, said: "He did a lot of work for the museum and was responsible for its survival in the 80s. He got the ball rolling and literally made it happen.

He was influential in raising the funding for it."

Jim retired from Fulwood High School as head of the history department where he is still fondly remembered by staff.

A deputation from the Black Bull Lane school attended his funeral.

A spokesman from the school said: "He was a wonderful history teacher who shared his love of the subject with his pupils.''

e-mail: emma.broom@lep.co.uk