Jim Arbon was a man of many parts and many talents and his recent death has left a larger-than-life void in the hearts of many who knew, loved and respected him.
His life is the story of a big man with a big heart. A man who enjoyed company and whose company others enjoyed. A great performer, a talented character actor with a particular flair for comedy, a popular and gifted teacher, a lover of music, art and food. A man who was full of fun, an intelligent and compassionate man, as well as a loving son, brother, uncle, cousin and friend.
Jim was born in the Haig Maternity Hospital on December 9, 1946, the first child of Richard and Mary Arbon. Richard was an ambulance driver and Mary was a hand-sewer at Barrie’s. And at that time the family home was in Union Street. Jim attended St Margaret’s Primary School even when the family moved to 104 McLagan Drive in Burnfoot.
His sister Margaret remembers being taken with Jim to the Hawick opera when they were quite young. Jim was no doubt inspired at that early stage to tread the boards.
When Jim went to Hawick High School, he excelled at maths and physics and on leaving school in 1964 he went on to study mathematics and physics at Edinburgh University and thereafter obtained his teaching qualification at Moray House College of Education.
He must have made a good impression at the high school because, on leaving college, his first, and, as it turned out, his last, teaching post was back at his old school. Jim is remembered as a talented, popular and caring teacher.
When Jim first worked at the high school, Ian Seeley, the music teacher, always did an annual Gilbert and Sullivan school production, and he asked Jim if he’d be willing to take part. Jim’s rich bass voice had already been noticed, and he agreed to play the part of the Police Sergeant in Ian’s production of The Pirates of Penzance. This was the start of a long and happy association with the Hawick thespian fraternity.
Jim starred in so many operas, plays and pantomimes, and in every one, he was outstanding: Song of Norway, The Flower Drum Song, Half a Sixpence, The Sound of Music, The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas, Beauty and the Beast, South Pacific to name a few.
He retired from teaching in 2000 due to ill health. He didn’t allow his talent to go to waste, however, and he began private tutoring in 2002. Because he couldn’t drive, most of his students were in Hawick. Jim often had up to 18 students receiving expert tuition, and he helped a great many kids through their higher maths over the years.
Jim’s life, although tragically cut short, was a life lived to the full. He gave huge pleasure and joy to so many, and comfort and peace to others. He had a kind heart and a great talent.
As his health declined further, he was confined to his house more and more. But instead of complaining, he simply adjusted and he bore his infirmity with patience, humour and without complaint.
Words to describe Jim come easily: generous, caring, considerate, sympathetic, gifted, down-to-earth, loyal and loving.
He is handsomely woven into the rich fabric of Hawick’s story. He is, and always will be, fondly remembered and very sorely missed by all who knew him, and even by those who only heard his reassuring voice or saw his wonderful performances.