THE South African racing industry is mourning the sudden passing away of veteran journalist and journeyman Jimmy Lithgow on Friday, 17 October, a month before his 68th birthday.
Jimmy, a stalwart who had served racing in a number of capacities for the greater part of his colourful life, spent his last four years working on a “Legends Of The Turf” documentary project with his son Aidan, described as a “mammoth task involving 300 hours of unedited footage to be done on a shoestring budget”.
This was something Jimmy had devoted himself to, working from the depth of his passionate love for the game within a racing community that had almost wholly lost its respect for the rich history of racing, the traditions that laid its foundations and the many fascinating characters of decades gone by.
Jimmy Lithgow with his Equus Award, 2013.
Jimmy won the 2013 Equus Trophy for outstanding TV journalism, an award which also served as overdue recognition for his life’s work.
Tributes from around the country poured in to media blogs after the news of Jimmy’s death on Friday and Mike de Kock commented: “Jimmy Lithgow was a true old school gentleman of racing, perhaps one of the last we had. His death is a tragic shock and the loss of his talent leaves a void in the industry. We were always very fond of Jimmy, he was a friend, a professional whose interviews and contributions were always thoroughly enjoyed.
“Our deepest sympathies go out to the Lithgow family and we hope and trust that Aidan will continue his father’s wonderful work and finish their joint ventures, that’s what Jimmy would have wanted.”
Aidan wrote on his facebook blog: “This morning has been the darkest day of my life. I lost my father, my best friend, my soul mate. You were the best, sweetest, kindest, most honourable and brightest man I have ever known. It seems so unreal. A bad dream that I can’t wake up from. So sudden and unexpected. Words cannot express the sorrow I feel right now. Wish I had told you every day how much you mean to me. I love you daddy. Rest in peace.”
Jimmy held a degree in English and the History Of Art and alongside his career in racing starred in many stage productions and TV series. His trademark theatrically English accent carried the class and integrity of the distinguished man he was, perhaps hiding the unbridled passion and gusto with which he explored many avenues of life.
Robyn Louw, writing on the Sporting Post website, described the loss of Jimmy Lithgow succinctly: “They say people may forget the things you say, but they will never forget how you made them feel. Jimmy had a warmth and sincerity that made him a natural confidante and an immediate, life-long friend. His kind, easy-going disposition and wicked sense of humour inspired confidences and off-colour jokes. In short, Jimmy made everyone feel like an old and treasured friend.”
Jimmy Lithgow is survived by Elaine, his wife of 40 years, sons Aidan and Jonathan and two grandchildren.
Rest in Peace, Jimbo and give ‘em carrots, old boy! We’ll miss you always!