In Memoriam - Jeremy Skertchly

1968 - 2021

I first met Jeremy during my week of Work Experience with Derby City Council's Street Lighting Department in May 2003, although I recall seeing him around Derby prior to that. Before our official meeting, however, I would never have approached him, for fear that he would not understand my street lighting interest. Imagine my surprise very early on in my week of Work Experience, when I discovered that, not only would he understand it completely, but he too was an avid enthusiast - it was a dream come true to have a friend who was like-minded living locally! As part of the Work Experience, I had to fill in a booklet about the things that I had learned; how the work environment differed from school, etc. (it was probably more to check that some of my fellow students actually turned up at their own Work Experience placements instead of just messing around for the week!), and included in this was a section where I had to 'interview' three employees about their role in the company, with Jeremy being one of my choices. His responses can be read here.

This picture was taken on the last day of Work Experience, when I helped Jeremy to unload the contents of the 'borrowed' platform van that he'd been allocated a few months earlier (owing to the bucket on his own van being damaged by a vehicle crashing into it!), and transfer it into his new van. We joked that he should have the second of the three new vans, as its numberplate included a 'J', and so, that's what happened.

 Little did I realise then that this van, and its driver, would become a regular visitor to my house, as Jeremy found various street lighting bits and pieces that he thought would be of interest to me - I always remember how he would state every time that he didn't wish to lumber me with things that I didn't want, to which I would reply that he wasn't, as I didn't object to the items being donated!

Of course, a major part that Jeremy played in the Collection was his assistance in returning my ESLA lantern to its natural outdoor home. He had exceptional strength, and was able to pick up and "walk" the cast iron column into its hole with ease, whereas weakling me was unable to move it at all! A tale exists that he was able to lift a Stanton 7 concrete column on his own, without any mechanical assistance - I would loved to have seen that!

He also installed the bracket and lantern...

...wired up the column base...

...and even carried out the first lamp change a few years later!

One of Jeremy's trademarks was to write his initials, along with the date, on any components that he fitted. This wasn't out of conceit - it was a genuine pride and love for the work - all artists will sign their work for that reason - and his incredibly neat wiring is testament to that. If I could make my own wiring even half as tidy as Jeremy made his, I would be happy!

He would even sign the column door on many occasions; I expect that there are still columns bearing his initials around Derby to this day:

After Jeremy left his Street Lighting job in the early 2010s, he donated the Linbin that contained the stencil numbers that he had used when re-numbering columns, to me. I used these numbers when numbering the two miniature columns that I'd had fabricated for supporting the GEC Z5698U and Thorn Gamma 6 that had been installed on the footpath behind my old house, and formed the basis for my street lighting interest in the first place. Aside from the digits that were used in numbering these, the Linbin is in as-received condition, with the Sangamo time switch case and makeshift carry handles made out of earth wire being present at the time.

 

When visiting me (usually, to donate more items to the Collection!), he would write a note in advance, by way of explaining some of the items, or their history. In many cases, I used his notes when writing up the corresponding pages on this site. Scanned copies of some of these notes can be downloaded as PDFs by clicking the links below:


A few recordings of Jeremy's vocal performances exist too; all date from the early-mid 2000s:

Clip 1 - Jeremy left a message on my answer phone, informing me that he had managed to bring the Wardle Murray seen in Survivor 14 back into working order.

Clip 2 - BBC Radio Derby's Shane O'Connor calls (yells!) up to Jeremy while on an outside broadcast in 2004. Jeremy met Shane a while before this when he was working near the Radio Derby studios - the latter was outside the building, talking to singer Michael Ball during a break, when Jeremy needed to access the area where they were standing with his van - the three of them then chatted, and Shane would always say hello to him if the two of them crossed paths on future occasions.

Clip 3 - BBC Radio Derby's Andy Whittaker manages to collar Jeremy after noticing that column 35180 outside the studios appeared 'different' one morning. The column was one of the few things that the presenters could see out of the narrow window at the end of the building, and was used as a tool for gauging the weather - i.e. if it looked wet, chances were that rain was falling (funny, that!). Here, Jeremy explains what has happened.

 

In conclusion, Jeremy was a true gentleman, in every sense of the word, and was a great inspiration to me for both expanding my Collection beyond all recognition, and for the fact an eventual career was within the Street Lighting industry (although, I maintain a wider gulf between "work" and "hobby" - I would retire tomorrow if finances allowed!). A former manager of his at Derby City Council told me that despite having emigrated to New Zealand, he still has a letter that Jeremy wrote when he (the manager) was leaving, expressing gratitude for giving him the opportunity to work in the Street Lighting Department, where having the job was more of an extension of his hobby. He described knowing Jeremy as being "a pleasure", and I echo those thoughts entirely - he was a great man who was taken from us at far too young an age.

Thank you, JPS; the lights all burn a little more dimly with your passing, and of course, we're not talking LED!

Rest in peace, old friend.


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