Tributes to former council chief executive ... ‘A lovely man’

James McGhee, former chief executive of Mid Sussex District Council SUS-170805-103714001
James McGhee, former chief executive of Mid Sussex District Council SUS-170805-103714001

Tributes are being paid to former Mid Sussex District Council chief executive James McGhee who has died aged 95.

Mr McGhee - known as Jim - was with the council for eight years during which he was at the forefront of one of the biggest reforms in local government.

When he retired in 1982 at the age of 60 he launched his own solictors’ practice from his then home in Ansty. His widow Daphne said: “He wanted to do things to help other people.”

He was also a past president of Haywards Heath Rotary Club, a trustee of Age Concern and provided free legal advice to members of the public via the Citizens Advice Bureau.

A keen sportsman, he was a member of Pyecombe Golf Club, enjoyed cricket and gardening and was a founder member of CAMRA, meeting up with fellow real-ale enthusiasts every Friday at the Star in Haywards Heath.

Born in the East End, the son of a train driver, Jim won a grammar school scholarship and went on to gain a law degree.

He began his career with Harlow Development Corporation before working with councils in Suffolk, Essex and Kent, finally moving to Mid Sussex in the 70s.

He married his second wife Daphne in 1979 and became proud stepdad to Daphne’s children Simon, Andrew and Helen. “He was just a lovely, lovely man,” said Daphne. “He had a very happy, sunny nature. He was such a gentleman.”

Gardening was among his favourite passions and he was always followed around the garden by his faithful pet labrador, Rumpole. “They were absolutely inseparable,” said Daphne. So much so that Jim always said he wanted to have his ashes buried with his beloved pet in his garden.

Jim died at the Princess Royal Hospital in Haywards Heath on April 29. His funeral is being held on Friday at 11.30am at Woodvale Crematorium, Brighton.

As well as Daphne and his three stepchildren, Jim leaves daughter Clare and eight grandchildren.