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Driffield Times & General Advertiser,
September 22, 1900


Had Driffield possessed a roll of honour whereupon the names of its most illustrious townsmen could be inscribed, few, if any at all, would have stood higher than the gentleman who passed away after a very short illness at the close of last week.
We refer, of course, to Mr James Elgey (known to many as "Driffield's Grand Old Man"), who died at midnight on Friday, at the advance age of 85 years, and today the town is poorer for the loss of one whose long public services and integrity of character made for him a multitude of friends, and what can be said of few, no enemies.
The deceased gentleman commenced business in the town in 1836, and amongst his other qualifications was entitled to being looked upon as the oldest tradesman in the town, and for a period of over 50 years was associated with the management of the affairs of the place.

In 1843 he was elected an overseer of the poor and before the establishment of a Local Board, Mr Elgey occupied the office of surveyor of highways for a quarter of a century. He was returned at the head of the poll at the first election of a Local Board in 1874, the late Mr J.M. Jennings being the next on the list of successful candidates.
Mr Elgey and Mr Jennings were both proposed for the office of chairman, the last named being elected by a majority of four votes. In the following year, Mr Elgey was again returned at the head of the poll, and amongst his colleagues elected occurs the name of Mr Luke White. Since the establishment of elective bodies under the Public Health and Local Government Acts, Mr Elgey had been a member consecutively, and he has held almost every public position in the town, except that of parish constable (now obsolete), Guardian of the Poor, and member of the School Board.

He was an overseer of the poor, a member of the Burial Board until the duties were undertaken in recent years by the Urban Council; he was a Past Master of the Freemasons, the first chairman of the Working-Men's Constitutional Club, and on the election of Mr Holt to that position he was chosen vice president.
He was also one of the first to be enrolled amongst the local Volunteers when that movement was started.
Amongst the local institutions he was sought as one of the working committee, and he took an active interest in the work of the Charitable Society and was also trustee of the Savings' Bank.

At the first election of the East Riding County Council he stood a contest for the Northern Division of Driffield against Mr Bradshaw, chairman of the Liberal Party, who defeated him, the election being fought on political lines.
He was chairman of the Urban Council up to April 1897, when Mr White succeeded him, the election of a chairman possessing legal knowledge being considered advisable on account of the negotiations that were then proceeding in connection with the purchase of the Gas Light Company's undertaking. Mr White being unable to act as a county justice by virtue of his office as chairman of the Council, he being a solicitor in practise, steps were taken by the Council to memorialise the Lord Lieutenant that Mr Elgey's name should be placed on the Commision of Peace.
An influential petition was presented, and the wishes of the townsfolk were complied with by Lord Herries, and on the 25th May, Mr Elgey was placed on the Commission of the Peace for the East Riding, and was thus enabled to continue his duties as magistrate, an office he had fulfilled as chairman of the Urban Council. Of Mr Elgey's first colleagues on the Local Board only four survive him :-
Dr Wood, Dr Eames, Mr T. G. Marshall and Mr H. Angas.

Mr Elgey
retired from the Urban Council in April last and at the meeting in which he took farewell of his colleagues, the following resolution was unanimously carried, on the motion of Mr J.F. Shepherdson, seconded by Mr Charles Smith,
"That this council desires to place on record it's high appreciation of the services rendered by Mr James Elgey, J.O., not only to this council, but to the town generally, during the long period of 58 years, through the whole of which lengthened period he has faithfully performed the duties of every position to which the voice of the ratepayers has called him; and whilst assuring him of the high esteem in which his colleagues have ever held him will express their earnest hope that in peace and quietude he may enjoy the rest he has so honourably earned.
In the speech in which he said farewell to the Council, he emphasised his opinion that every townsman was under an obligation to take a share of public duty, and that people were cowards who shirked public life under fear of incurring ill-will.

Mr Elgey had been married twice, and died a widower. He leaves four sons and two daughters. His elder son occupies the farm at Holme Field, in the parish of Wetwang, where the deceased was born, and which has been in the occupation of the family, first as tenants under the Ecclesiastical Commissioners, and then as owners, for over four hundred years.

THE FUNERAL took place on Tuesday afternoon at the Cemetery, and as was anticipated, it was a large one, the tradesmen closing their places of business for a short time, while along the route to the Cemetery, blinds were drawn at private houses.
In addition to the mourning coaches containing the relatives of the deceased, were several private conveyances, while on foot were representatives of the magisterial bench, the members of the Urban Council, together with a number of gentlemen, that he had come in contact with in political, social and business life. The coffin was of pitch pine polished, with brass mountings.

Before the business of the Police Court commenced on Thursday, Col Brooksbank, in a few words referred to the regret of the Bench felt at the loss of Mr Elgey, and also spoke of the kind and genial way he had carried out his duties as a magistrate.

My greatful thanks to Della Petch for finding and transcribing this obit

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© JCC Glass Updated 24 Aug 2003