VENTNOR beach has lost the man who was at its heart, with the passing of longshoreman Jim Blake at the age of 92.

Born in 1930 in Ventnor, Jim was born to Albert and Mary Blake and into a family that could trace their longshoreman roots back to 1830. He was destined for a life on the sand and on the water.

He grew up on Ventnor seafront with sister Rosemary, helping as tea-boy from the age of eight, and taking over the family business at 15 on the death of his father in 1945.

Apart from his National Service in Egypt, specialising in carpentry, Jim spent his working life on Ventnor beach.

He met his future wife on the golden sand. She was also called Rosemary (Bower — part of the Island's Flux family).

The couple married in 1958 at the congregational church which was situated where the Central Car Park is now. Their reception was at the former Central Hotel over the road.

Isle of Wight County Press: Jim Blake on his wedding day with wife Rosemary.

They moved into a little cottage on Ventnor Esplanade, called The Dawn, and their three children were all born there — in 1962, 1964 and 1966.

Their family complete, they bought Cliff Dene at Steephill Cove, which was to be their family home for the next 50 years. Jim loved fishing from the bay, and was featured on TV's Country Ways with another Ventnor resident, Dave Wheeler, in 1983.

The Dawn got changed into a beach shop and later the Longshoreman's Museum.

Jim built rowing boats and rented them out on the beach.

Isle of Wight County Press: Sophie BlakeSophie Blake (Image: Sophie Blake)

He was well-known for his motorboat, The Enterprise, which he filled with people for pleasure cruises. "Any more for the motorboat" was his familiar cry along the beach. He sold the boat in 1973 and it was much missed by residents and visitors.

Jim rescued more people from the perils of the sea than he could remember. As a teenager he bravely rescued RAF pilot Fl Lt Lucian Ercolani, an airman who had drifted up to 200 miles. Decades later, in 1982, Fl Lt Ercolani paid Jim a visit to give him another heartfelt thank you.

Isle of Wight County Press: Jim Blake on Ventnor beach.

Jim volunteered for HM Coastguard and was awarded the British Empire Medal (BEM) in 1986 for the many lives he saved at sea.

He was also given the "key to Ventnor".

There was sadness for Jim when son Bob died in 2011 and wife Rosemary died in 2017.

He was proud to see his grandsons helping on the beach and his granddaughters working in the Longshoreman's Museum, with daughter Sophie taking over the museum and grandson Paul taking over the beach activities — continuing the family businesses. They are both helped by family members.

Jim died at Ward House Residential Home in Ventnor on Friday evening. He was facing towards the sea, and with Sophie and grandchildren Jody, Lucy, Paul, James and Sean by his side.

Isle of Wight County Press: Then IW MP Andrew Turner giving Jim Blake the key to Ventnor in 2006.Then IW MP Andrew Turner giving Jim Blake the key to Ventnor in 2006. (Image: Newsquest)

Anyone who wants to learn more about Jim is welcome at the Longshoreman's Museum, where his life is catalogued in County Press cuttings, family photographs, and his own hand-written notes.

Funeral details can be found by clicking here