James Leavey, a Cowes resident who lived a busy life as a journalist, actor, blogger, travel writer, YouTuber, broadcaster, film buff, cat lover, cigar aficionado and raconteur, has died aged 75.

Born in 1947 in Beckenham, Kent, to Esther Mary Leavy and Werner Pfeifer, a German ex-POW father, by the age of eight, James had already written his first book and was dreaming of a job in journalism.

He left St Anthony’s school in Bromley at 15 and, despite his headmaster saying he had no future as a journalist, within the months, had written his first article for a weekly magazine called Southern Africa, where he worked as an editorial assistant.

His winding career path began in 1964, when he became road manager of his school friends’ band, The Villains, before deciding to study acting at Mountview Theatre School in London from 1968 to 1970.

Besides acting in various London shows and working backstage and front of house of West-End productions of Cabaret, The Sound of Music and Fiddler on the Roof, James performed Shakespeare in basketball stadiums as part of Mountview’s first US coast-to-coast tour in 1970.

His most recent theatre work was backstage at the English National Opera in the 1990s.

Having attended Sidney Webb College for teacher training in Westminster from 1974 – 76, he decided not to pursue a career in teaching, instead taking up the role of deputy editor of Database, the magazine for Post Office computing staff in 1980, and wrote about subjects including film, art and theatre.

In 1984, he transferred to British Telecom’s marketing department, where he worked on the introduction of the 0800 telephone numbers and was seconded to develop some of the earliest video games, including Booty, Elite and Bird Strike, under Telecomsoft’s Firebird label.

He went freelance in 1990, working on commercial magazines and writing the Sharing an Ashtray column for Punch magazine, for which he interviewed many famous smokers.

He edited The Forest Smoker’s Guide to London and the Scottish version, which led to an appearance in the BBC Horizon documentary We Love Cigarettes in 2006. He received The Snow Queen Cigar Writer of the Year award in 2015.

His first marriage having ended in divorce, he met his second wife, Gwenda Silsby, in 1992, marrying in 1994.

From 1988 to 2009, he volunteered as a presenter of Great Ormond Street Hospital radio, Hospital Radio Barnet and Angel Community Radio on the Island, where he spent his later years with Gwenda in Cowes.

James died after a long illness on June 24 and is survived by his first and second wives, children Jerome and Francesca, and a granddaughter.