In Memoriam

 

As you may have been saddened to learn, one of our longest serving members James Morton-Robertson passed away recently from Leukaemia.

 

 James Morton-Robertson – Memories from Jane Oliver Chairman of OVFM and personal friend of James.

James Morton-Robertson was born on 11th August 1937 and was proud of his Scottish heritage.  His broad Scottish accent never left him. As a young man, Jim studied to become a design draughtsman and was part of the production team for the electronic newscaster advertising boards like the one at Piccadilly Circus.  Subsequently he set up his own computer software and consultancy business.  This is where I first came across him.

Some 20 years ago, whilst searching for a firm that could provide a computer with video editing software, I came across Amplix Services, Jim’s business and went to see his edit suite set up.  It was impressive.  Soon I was parting with my well-earned cash.  Jim built a high spec graphics computer capable storing and editing huge video files, loading all the software. He provided ongoing support, right to the end of his life, something that cannot be bought.

He ran the ‘Kemsing Video Club’.  I began attending these meeting at his house with his wife Jennifer, Barbara Darby and other like-minded folk. We watched one another’s films and discussed how they could be improved. Jim’s feedback was blunt, to the point, even harsh at times, but it was honest and what I needed in order to learn and develop my filmmaking skills.

James was an accomplished and skilful film maker who enjoyed a challenge.  Using his technical ‘know how’, understanding of camera settings, editing tools and programs, he became an award winning film maker.

At OVFM, he wrote articles in the club’s ‘Viewfinder’ magazine, whether to provide training, review software or cinematic films. He took on the ‘official’ photographer role when asked to.  His creative mind came up with all sorts of stories. Sometimes he was called upon as ‘speaker’ and I remember a session where he unpicked the famous ‘shower scene’ in Alfred Hitchcock’s horror movie ‘Psycho’; absolutely fascinating. As a prolific film maker he made films for almost every project evening, right up to our last meeting before lockdown.

Having travelled the world extensively, he would treat us to his latest adventures. Australia, New Zealand, Oman, Kuwait, Jordan, Barbados, Sri Lanka, France, Spain, Germany, Ireland, the USA, not forgetting the wine route in South Africa.  Another love of his was ‘wine’; making it, tasting it and drinking it; he successfully ran the Otford Wine Club for years. With an interest of flying he joined the U3A Aviation section; spending time ‘flying’ his latest ‘simulator’ at home.

Jim made films with me, Barbara Darby, Hugh Darrington, his first wife Jennifer and others.  Jennifer sadly died in 2010.  He particularly enjoyed making funny films with Hugh; often using animation and special effects.  These fascinated him.   ‘The Open Road’ in which a two ‘slugs’, narrated by Jim and Jennifer, set off on the open road one bank holiday, only to come to a grinding halt behind a ‘snail’ interpreted by him as a ‘caravan’.  What an imagination and what amazing animation skills!

In 2015 he married Fran whom he had been friends with for many years.  He was proud to be a Scotsman and wore the full Scottish regalia; ‘Robertson’ tartan, sporran and all’ when he wed Fran.  Now Fran would feature in his films, and ‘Jim’ became ‘James’ to me and a few others, but at OVFM he was still known as ‘Jim’.

He wasn’t shy of acting in front of the camera.  He had us in stitches when he donned his Lycra green suit in order to do a disappearing act.  He stumbled both physically and in his speech when playing a drunkard in another film and Barbara Darby and I could hardly contain ourselves as we filmed James chasing an imaginary fly around the house trying to swat it with a rolled up newspaper for his film ‘Obsession’.  He had to have a gory ending, one that would prove he wasn’t imagining the fly.  He revealed a nasty squashed mess on the newspaper, generated with the use of ‘special effects’.  The credits included a note at the end of the film ‘no fly was harmed in the making of the film’!

His popular film ‘Whitefella Dreaming’ was beautifully narrated by his brother Brian, who having emigrated in Australia as a young man, had the perfect Australian accent to fit the bill.  James made hundreds of films.  We are privileged to have some of them in the archive.  He entered film after film into competitions and with such a broad spectrum, managed to lift every trophy OVFM had on offer, all 12 of them.  Very few of us will achieve this in our lifetime.   James wasn’t restricted to filmmaking; he joined the Otford Art Club and many of his paintings adorned the walls of his home.

James taught me to persevere, to take on new challenges and to use gifts; art, storytelling, film making, whatever; to ensure our passion lives on to benefit future generations.

This year, to keep up with the latest technology, he was learning DaVinci Resolve and Fusion, new editing programs that are too difficult for many of us to get to grips with.

The film that meant the most to James was his award winning ‘Hampden P1344’; the aircraft in which his father, James Morton-Robertson, the wireless operator, was shot down in World War II.  James was only five at the time his father was killed.  He dedicated many years to tracing one survivor, interviewing him, and to following the finding, recovery and restoration of that aircraft, now at the RAF Museum at Cosford.

Barbeques, quizzes, garden parties, some with strawberries & cream, others with fish & chips, James accommodated them all in his garden; made even more beautiful by Fran’s clever and colourful planting.  Chatter, laughter, clanging of glasses is what I’ll remember of these occasions, interrupted only by the sound of the Merlin engine of the Spitfire flying overhead, with James admiring it and waving as though it were flying over especially for him.  Indeed he was a pilot, having completed his first solo flight in March 1959 in a De Havilland Chipmunk or ‘Chippy’ as they were known, whilst in the RAF in 1959, a career he didn’t pursue.

James was recently diagnosed with Leukaemia.  He and Fran had hoped they’d get to enjoy at least another six months together.  He had fibrosis of the lungs and sadly developed a chest infection. He slipped away peacefully at Pembury Hospital on 10th July 2020, just five weeks after his diagnosis and one month short of his 83rd birthday.

James was given a wonderful send off, when Fran, unbeknown to others, had a recording played at the end of his service …… yes, the sound of the unmistakeable Merlin engine of the Spitfire, paying a fitting tribute to him.

James leaves a huge void in the world of film making.  We will miss him very much.

 

 

PETER MITCHELL

We also lost Peter Mitchell too, who passed away a few weeks ago in hospital.

Peter MItchell by Jane Oliver

Peter Ronald Michell, was born on 9th July 1936 and enjoyed a happy childhood in the Brockley/Catford area of London.  Peter excelled in maths and on leaving school worked in an engineering factory.  His two years National Service with the Royal Airforce was spent in the Far East and he had fond memories of this time.  On returning to ‘civi street’ he got a job in the civil engineering department at Imperial College, initially working with concrete and later in administration, where he served on a number of committees and joined the college’s Holland Club.  He gave loyal service to Imperial College, whose focus, amongst other things, is in engineering, remaining there for the rest of his working life.   Indeed it was here that he met his wife, Janet. Rumour has it that he wooed her over breakfast! They married at the end of August 1974.

He and Janet travelled throughout Europe and also went to America, during their happy years of marriage.  Janet would spend time focusing on her love of Bonsai, whilst Peter focused his attention on capturing photographic records of these holidays.

Peter belonged to a number of clubs, including dining clubs, computer clubs, camera clubs and OVFM.  His great love was photography.  He always had his camera with him, taking photos, composing each shot to give the best image, developing them and exhibiting them, winning many awards for his work.

At OVFM, whilst he did not produce films, he enjoyed watching those of other club members, joining in constructive feedback to filmmakers.  He was a regular attendee, only missing evenings through holidays or illness.  He introduced us to a speaker from his computer club, Andrew Bishop, a professional animator, who fascinated us with his wonderful mind boggling creations.

We, at OVFM, will remember Peter as a quiet, calm and mild mannered gentleman who, over coffee, would share his love of the Japanese Bonsai garden he had created for and with his wife Janet, whom he adored.

Peter was a Charlton Athletic fan, something he kept close to his chest, maybe having witnessed the banter and torment that rival supporters of Arsenal and Chelsea levelled at one another from time to time.

In recent years Peter was living with the effects of bladder cancer for which he had undergone radiotherapy treatment.  Peter had become increasingly weak and tired.  He spent the last two weeks of his life in Darenth Valley Hospital.  He had suffered a collapsed lung and sadly passed away on 8th June 2020, one month short of his 84th birthday.

Peter will be sadly missed at the club and we offer his wife Janet our sincere condolences.

 

 

OVFM sends out condolences to the family and friends of both Jim and Peter and if you have any memories or messages you wish to share about Jim and Peter, please reply to this post below.

Thanks for reading.

10 comments on In Memoriam

  1. Peter Michell
    Peter was a very quiet man and as far as I know made no films, but he did have some shrewd comments to make on particular films when asked.
    Clubs like ours do depend upon having a nucleus of members like Peter who serve without necessarily making films.
    I shall miss his cheerful face.
    Colin Jones.

  2. Jim Morton-Robertson
    We all knew Jim who had seemed a fixture in our club and who made his house and grounds available so often for garden parties.
    He also was very helpful to me when we made my film “Pulling the birds” which needed a country scene and in which he played an acting part.
    Jim was also a mine of technical information upon which some of us depended.
    The most memorable film which he made was in my judgment “White Fella Dreaming” which I felt was badly treated by the judges in the festivals.
    We will certainly miss Jim at our meetings.

  3. Memories of Jim Morton-Robertson, by Hugh Darrington

    It was such a shock to hear that Jim had died. I had always thought of him as such a strong man especially after he had defeated an episode of bowel cancer some years ago. I remember driving him home from hospital after he had recovered from major surgery and marvelled at his optimism and zest for life.
    Only a few days before he died he phoned me to tell me that he had got leukaemia and the outlook was not good. ‘Not good’ somehow seemed like six months at least, or maybe a year. Not a week.
    At one time Jim was my major film buddy. He joined the club in 1990 and was one of our video pioneers. Videoing for the amateur was in its infancy at that time, and how we cine people used to laugh at ‘the video people’. The recorder part of Jim’s camera was a separate unit strapped to his waist – he looked like a deep sea diver. We had to watch his videos on a 14 inch telly at the front of the room which didn’t compare favourably with the giant movie screen we used with film. I wound him up by bringing binoculars.
    However, we weren’t laughing for long as video technology improved. Jim was one to have the latest equipment. His next camera was all in one but still the size of a small battleship. Editing was a problem and his bungalow began to fill with video recorders, sound equipment, cameras and so on.
    I must have turned to video in about 1992 and Jim and I co-operated on a number of projects. I starred in a number of his movies. I was the Russian spy in ‘Red Sky at night’. Jim was a Scottish shepherd. And his Scottish accent was mocked by a critical member. He was wounded. ‘They thought my Scottish accent was fake,’ he complained. In another I was an Arab solder being forced to play Russian roulette in some unknown terrorist war. In an early green screen experiment, I was a weather forecaster who could control the weather. Another film involved Peggy Parmenter’s dog, I can’t remember the plot.
    Jim was a star in my film ‘Grumpy old men of Orpington’ when he voiced some of his grumbles. He was the voice of Duncan Tam O’shanter in my skit on Dragons Den. We made a semi-commercial film together in which I used some of the extraordinary people and product pictures I had been sent in my work as a food magazine editor. It was called ‘My secret files’ and we sold it to the food public relations industry and shared the profits. And there were others, many others. Oh, we had so much fun.
    Many of Jim’s films were scripted by his wife Jenny and together they made a number of prize-winning documentaries about the Kemsing area. Travels to Australia to see Jim’s brother produced more prize winners: I particularly remember ‘White fella dreaming’. And of course there was that amazing documentary he made about the retrieval and reconstruction of the actual Hampden bomber in which his father had died in Murmansk during the war. Unfinished business as the plane isn’t complete yet.
    We had regular dinner evenings at each other’s houses, and Jenny and Ann used to compete to see who could product the most exotic desert. We shared some Burn’s night evenings at Jim and Jenny’s place, and as you can imagine Jim spared no effort in donning his Scottish garb. We long toyed with the idea of doing a Roman Empire epic, walking around in togas and making Roman jokes comme Frankie Howerd.
    Jim was a qualified pilot and in later years satisfied his pleasure of flying with a sophisticated simulator setup in his office, complete with joystick, rudder pedals and so on. There were two or three large screens. I once went round to his place and found him in the middle of the flight to New York. He fiddled with the controls and said he had switched to auto pilot whilst I was there. The flight was in real time. I think we were half way over the Atlantic.
    Jenny had many years of ill health fighting Crones disease and Jim was devastated when she died 10 years ago. They had been together since she was 18. I was so pleased for him when he married Fran five years ago and her family became his family. I am sorry that these extra years of happiness should have been cut so short.

  4. I was shocked, as we all were, at the news of Jim’s passing.
    He was a very active member of the club who excelled in many of the clubs competitions. He was very good natured and jolly and was always ready with helpful advice.
    Apart from his interest in flying, in reality or as a PC Pilot, he was also involved with the running of The Otford Wine Club where I, along with 3 members of the club provided the entertainment once a year.
    My sincere condolences to Fran and all members of his family.

    John Bunce

  5. Peter & Jim two completley different characters but were always there.
    I knew Peter from outside of OVFM he was very much involved with the Royal British Legion in Swanley and he also help organise Patients Voice Newsletter at our local doctors. He may have not been a film maker but he was certainly a well loved man for his charity work. RIP Pete.
    Jim was a different kettle of fish altogether. A very clever film maker and always critical of anything I attemped to make but at the same time always there with a suggestion.
    Two stalwarts of the Club now departed he and Mike Shaw always sat near one and other, let’s hope they do in Heaven. God Bless all three.

  6. James Morton-Robertson

    A productive member of the club since 1990, James – or Jim as most people called him – was always on hand to provide a comment or two during the feedback sessions of our Top Ten competition as well as being a guaranteed entrant in this and all of our competitions.

    However, if there was ever a dissenting voice about something, it would often be Jim’s but he would be able to back it up, and on one occasion it did lead to change in the club implementing a fixed audio level for all films so nobody had an excuse for their films being too loud or too quiet.

    In the past few years Jim opened his home to the club for the Summer Socials, whilst his filmmaking took him all over the world, covering a number of styles and genres. Despite being a member of what I christened the Kemsing Mafia, Jim was a  proud Scotsman and thankfully didn’t take offence at my jokes about his Irish accent, on the rare occasions we actually spoke.

    Whilst I personally didn’t get to know Jim that well, I respected his contribution to the club, and his desire to learn more and embrace the changing technology involved in filmmaking. I saw Jim as one of the elder statesmen of the club like Reg Lancaster, Colin Jones, and Mike Shaw, and like them he tended to lead from the front rather than rest on his laurels.

    Peter Mitchell

    I think I only ever spoke to Peter twice in my 10 years with the club, so I’m not best qualified to pay tribute to him, except that he must have loved films if he would always attend a club without making any himself! What I can recall is during the Top Ten feedback, Peter would often take “Structure” and always conclude that a film “had a beginning, middle, and an end”, and usually wasn’t wrong!

    R.I.P

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