Jarra Jim stars in BBC documentary about inspirational elders

INSPIRATIONAL ... 'Jarra Jim' Purcell took up running after the death of his beloved wife Betty.
INSPIRATIONAL ... 'Jarra Jim' Purcell took up running after the death of his beloved wife Betty.

JARRA Jim is set to star in a television show which champions his generation.

Jim Purcell features in the documentary, which is the centrepiece of a BBC2 season marking 70 years since the end of the Second World War.

TOO YOUNG TO FIGHT ... Jim Purcell in his Army days.

TOO YOUNG TO FIGHT ... Jim Purcell in his Army days.

The 93-year-old running and charity legend is among the “wide variety of incredible 90-somethings and centenarians” tracked down by the programme makers as they reveal extraordinary and inspirational but mostly unknown life stories.

The first show of Britain’s Greatest Generation will air on Friday, May 8, the anniversary of VE Day.

Pete Vance, of Testimony Films, helped make the programmes and said: “Jim is one of the stars of the series – and appears in every episode.

“Jim was born in 1921 and had a very impoverished, and unhealthy, childhood. His father struggled to support his family through the Depression years, but Jim adored him.

Jim is one of the stars of the series.

Pete Vance, programme maker

“He often looked after his brothers and sisters.

“He has clear memories as a boy of the Jarrow March and the unemployment that plagued the town.”

Viewers will see Jim talk about how he was patriotic from a young age and decided to join the Army after reading Rudyard Kipling.

He was recruited into the Territorial Army (Royal Engineers) at 16, even though he was too young to join.

When war broke out, he was sent to fight and survived the horrors of Dunkirk.

He went on to help protect Britain’s shores from invasion before going to North Africa, fighting in El Alamein, where his friend died in his arms.

He was then captured and forced to undergo gruelling work in German mines.

After the war, Jim met wife Betty, and they raised five children.

He has told film-makers his recollections of the post-war years, from getting his own council home, the introduction of the NHS – and he even rejoining the TA.

Jim was devastated when Betty died in 1982, and at the age of 65 he began running to cope with his loneliness.

He has since run 12 London Marathons and carried the Olympic torch in the relay held in the run-up to the 2012 Games.

This year he is due to take part in the Great North Run, with Epinay Business and Enterprise School among those he has helped raise funds for.

Jim said: “I loved it. I’ve got a good memory and I’ve got quite a life story.

“All these stories would be lost in time, and I liked doing it because I could tell them all about the real Jarrow.”

The programme looks at how the generation has been shaped by war, their lives in peacetime and what they make of life today.

Pete added: “These men and women are all very different characters, from very different backgrounds.
“But together they share many of the same defining qualities – qualities that over the years have helped them overcome adversity, defeat Hitler and ultimately, enjoy a long and happy life.”

A book has also been produced to accompany the series.

Twitter; @shieldsgazette