James Thornton: A Splendid Life
He was not the sort of man to say no to proposals. If someone came to him with a plan to start a crocodile farm he would probably have gone for it!
And for James it was the element of excitement and challenge that inspired him rather than the idea of making money. He was never interested in the trappings of wealth. He simply wanted to enjoy life and start businesses that would be fun. And that involved gathering like-minded individuals around him, many of whom are in this room today, and inspiring them to jump onboard and work with him.
Where did all this start? Anybody meeting James for the first time would be struck by his imposing stature. By his mannerisms, his voice, his posture, and above all, by his good looks. He had a philosophical, open, honest, face. He attracted people. He was a man you could trust. He was a man you could do business with. And he was a man who commanded respect, and he got that respect.
James went to one of the great public schools of England, Shrewsbury, founded before the reign of Henry the eighth. My own son went to the same school and that has given me an insight into what made James the man he was. Shrewsbury manufactures English gentlemen and eccentrics — who are driven to success. And James is a perfect example. On one visit to the school I thought I’d sneak into the house where James used to live and see what he looked like as a 15-year-old boy.
On the walls were row after row of faded photographs. Eventually I found him. Back row, second from the left. A gangly youth standing next to a boy who was to become deputy prime minister of England, and another boy who was to become a world famous TV celebrity and next to him another boy who was to became a famous political activist.