Jim Leach arrived on the caving scene towards the end of the last war. His walking in Bowland and the Three Peaks areas alerted him to the existence of holes in the ground and the streams that often flowed down them, and his curiosity led to the acquisition of a length of rope and some primitive illumination. He was now all set for the classical introduction to speleology, which is to slide down a fixed rope, preferably without a lifeline, and hope that you can get back up again. Fortunately before he did himself any serious injury, he heard about the existence in Settle of the British Speleological Association, which he joined, and became an active member of the local group, He took part in the exploration of VJ Pot (1945) and Notts Pot (1946), and the preparations for the first post war Gaping Gill meet.
Despite all these goodies, the potholers in the BSA were fed up with the arguments and feuding that was taking place at this time and a small group left and started their own Northern Pennine Club. That this group established itself and became known nationally was due in no small measure to Jim's enthusiasm and his ability to turn his hand to anything that needed doing. Shortage of equipment meant that the club had to spend its time trying to find new holes, not having enough ladders to do anything else. After several minor finds they were rewarded with the discovery in 1949 of Stream Passage Pot and Pen-y-Ghent Pot in both of which Jim played a major part. This more or less marked the end of his serious caving and having decided that he was spending so much time in the Settle area, that he might as well live there, he set up a partnership with his fellow founder member, H. (Budge) Burgess, and the firm of Leach and Burgess, plumbers electricians and general tinkerers, was started in 1952 and survived until retirement some forty years later.
As soon as he became an established resident in the area, Jim was co-opted onto the Cave Rescue Organisation and made a Warden, now known as a Rescue Controller. This position he held through various reorganisations and modifications until he retired at sixty. With the exception of Reg Hainsworth he took charge of many more rescues than anyone, and had the ability to find an answer to problems as they cropped up without having to hold a committee meeting. This and the fact that he was not in the least frightened of responsibility, contributed to the success of the CRO by gaining the confidence of the police, ambulance service and so on.
As well as running many of the rescues, Jim also took an active part in running the organisation. In 1952 the CRO was mainly concerned with the callout, and with providing local knowledge; the men and materials were provided by the clubs. In conjunction with others, Jim hammered away at making the CRO into a genuine rescue team, with its own equipment and trained personnel. That this was the correct approach was shown by the general reduction in the length of time taken for the average rescue.
Once retired from the CRO and from the firm, he was obliged to find new things with which to fill up his time. Constrained by deteriorating health, walking was replaced by motoring, work was replaced by help and advice when asked, which was frequently; and spare time was filled by providing transport for numerous friends and relatives who had had to stop driving. This lifestyle continued up to the day he suffered a major stroke while playing snooker, and this is how he would have wanted it.
H (Budge) Burgess
Old Budge died on 11 August 2000. He was always closely involved with the NPC but in his later years was not able to visit the club as often as he would have liked. Many younger members will have known of him through his humorous articles for the newsletter but may never have actually met him and may not be aware of his contribution to caving over the last 50 years or more. His early caving years were with the Leeds Pennine Club and then the BSA in Settle. It was then that he met Dick Hylton, Harry Gray, H Shaw, Max Thornton, WW & DG Brown, Arthur Gemmel and Buzzer Butterfield; all of whom were caving before the outbreak of hostilities and were still active into the early years of the NPC.
Budge was involved in the exploration of some of the best caves in the Dales:
He was an influential player in the BSA, Eli Simpson actually mentioned him in the formal record:
'Also to H Burgess who undertook the making of 1000ft of new ladders - in readiness for the great reunion'
This would have been the planned get together of all the cavers who were then at war.
He broke away from the BSA to form the NPC in 1946. Serious potholing had to take a back seat; being an infant club of only 12 members they worked hard at making Crows Nest Cottage habitable and had to build a stock of rope ladders. Activity was prospecting and digging on Fountains Fell and the Allotment due to lack of transport, Budge played a major part in Stream Passage Pot and Penyghent Pot in 1949
Leach and Burgess was founded in 1952 when Budge and his business partner Jim Leach were finally able to live and work in the potholing area. Pressure of work left little time for leisure but Budge was still involved in the potholing world, and with the NPC in particular, not least because both Budge and Jim used Crows Nest and later Green Close as their home. They had to tidy up after the weekend and when the place had been wrecked. They were prepared to do any electrical and engineering work and some interesting sidelines developed. The greatest success was the conversion of the Coastal Service to wire ladders for cliff rescue - successful sales were also made to caving clubs, who were either too rich or too incompetent to make their own.
Budge was involved in the CRO from the 1940s because he felt it was in need of substantial reform and modernisation. The NPC tried out some of his ideas in 1948 but the CRO still showed no interest. Behind the scenes he worked to modernise the CRO. A report prepared in the 1960s, written by Budge suggested training underground teams in cave rescue techniques, a radical idea at the time, although modestly he did not claim ownership. In his retirement years he enjoyed fell walking. He died on 11 August 2000 at the age of 81 and will be sadly missed by his friends in the NPC.
[Based on a conversation with Jack Myers]
Jim and Budge died within months of each other but Leach & Burgess continues as a firm, and also in the memories of Pennine members.