Penn Pengelly – “A great guy who will be sorely missed”

I received a telephone call last Monday, 4th November, informing me that Penn had been involved in a fatal accident. I emailed Pete Lay who confirmed the tragic news. I didn’t feel it was my place to prematurely report the news on Jazz&Jazz but now that Fred Burnett has included it on Jazz North West I want to pay my own personal tribute to Penn.

But first here is how Jazz North West reported the tragedy:

“04/11/13 – I’ve received news from several sources now that Pen Pengelly, part of “Jimbo & Penn” who managed the Stage Equipment for many New Orleans jazz weekends, was involved in a fatal accident on the 28th October.  “I understand that Jean Pengelly survived with broken ribs and is now in Taunton Hospital”, Tony Talk told me, “He featured mostly on the New Orleans Jazz weekends organised by John Long and the KC Trust at Sandbay/Hemsby – as was. Jimbo is the “Grand Marshal” for the Brolly Parades; together, they did the Stage changes & Audio etc. He was at Alvaston Hall ……but those guys tend to be invisible”!  Dennis Whitehead said, “He also played the e flat clarinet  sitting in with many bands everywhere? he was very well loved by all in the jazz world, a fierce Cornishman who did so much in the jazz scene. He would be very well known by any of your readers who go to Upton, Hemsby, Bude, or many other venues. He will be missed  as a true friend of jazz and above all a person who we are proud to say we knew”.  “I am afraid it is true – a great guy and will be sorely missed” – Pete Lay.”

My Personal Tribute to Penn
At the Hemsby Autumn Jazz Parade this year, Penn took total control of stage management, lighting and sound in the absence of Grand Marshall Jimbo who was unwell. As always, I chatted to Penn – everyone did. He was on top form and totally unflappable.

So I want to pay my own tribute to Penn by posting here the photo I took of him at the festival playing his beloved e flat clarinet with Brian Carrick’s Algiers Stompers. And I want to dedicate the photo to Jean, wishing her comfort in her recovery.

Peter Mark Butler

Since posting this Fred Burnett has updated Jazz North West as follows:
  • 08/11/13 – In the news item on Penn Pengelly on 4th Nov, I quoted from an email that Penn “was involved in a fatal accident yesterday”, but in fact the email arrived with me on the 29th October.  I would not normally report tragedies like this immediately, except at the request of family, so I waited five days before announcing it on the site.  My apologies to those who may have thought I was too quick off the mark.

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  1. Dave Mayor says:

    Along with the great work he did at the Bude Jazz Festival, Penn also sat in and sang with the Cornish Shanty Band “Friggin Riggin” on lifeboat day. He was always welcome and we shall miss him.

  2. Peter Butler says:

    Hi Dave
    I’ve also posted on Jazzers the sad news about Penn and as you are a member of the group you could mention this there too.

  3. Syd says:

    I didn’t know Penn personally but having done ” The sound” on several Butlins weekends I know what it takes. The punters show up for the morning session and he’s there and they come and go but the sound guy / girl are usually still around until 1 am only to find that the customers want the band’s to carry on with a jam session. I regularly had my lunch / evening meal whilst sitting at the mixer and people like Penn, Jimbo, John Ding, Phil Buckley and myself certainly earned their money at those weekends. The band in the afterlife now have a good sound man ….. R.I.P. Penn, and condolences to his family and many friends …. Syd

  4. Martin Bennett says:

    Penn was an old mate going back years to when I used to stay with him and Jean when gigging around the West Country. He was a true enthusiast and somebody I am gutted to lose as a friend. He loved being on the jazz scene and anyone who ever met him would very quickly realise what a spirited person he was.

  5. Peter Butler says:

    I got to know Penn over the last few years, Martin, especially as he even helped me adjust stage lighting on occasions so I could get better photos. He was ever busy at Festivals but always found time for a chat – as at Hemsby this September. Sometimes it doesn’t matter whether you’ve known a person for a lifetime or just a few years – they are still very special to you so I too will miss Penn.

  6. Paul says:

    Can I make a big thank you to all you you nice people for all the support and goodness shown to Jean and the family regarding Penn’s tragic loss.
    I am writing this on behalf of my sister Jean who is so brave but utterly heartbroken.
    I have trouble writing this through swimming eyes but Pen’s CD playing on my old steam Hi fi (The Old Rugged Cross) isn’t exactly helping
    The procession through North Petherton through howling wind and rain with the New Orleans Jazz playing coming to us loud and at times soft with the winds buffeting. Bringing..traffic to a halt as our family followed my brave sister who spurned a wheelchair and made it to the church
    It fair took my breath away when we walked into the church…standing room only. It was packed.

    The band playing…singing from us all How Sweet Thou Art…then pure magic as Christine Tyrell took over …sang the hymn with such feeling and such a wonderful rendering …thank you Christine.
    Tributes to Pen from friends and his old workmate too….they rang true….. so sincere and heartfelt.
    His Cornish friends Friggin’ Riggin sang two songs but Trelawny….well it brought the old church resounding with the last chorus and the spontaneous applause the likes of not heard for many a year in that hallowed place.
    The rugby club after for a bite to eat and as people greeted other that had not met for years and of course some more wonderful music.

    Somehow much later a certain member of the family staggered to his hotel wearing someone elses shoes????

    The next day the family travelled to Pengellys beloved Cornwall to his final resting place..the old church on a hill,the grave almost under some trees.
    It was a dank,dismal cold day with grey all around and wind in the air,matched our mood.

    Our sat nav took us through country twisting route …

    As we drove through those narrow winding lane
    Blue sky and bright sun as if welcoming Pen home again
    Tree lined ancient thoroughfare our way
    Painted gold so poignant as if to say
    Pen this is especially for you coming home
    Your Cornwall to forever roam

    The small family gathering around the grave,
    We prayed for him,
    Prayed for sister Jean
    then as we stood in cool Western breeze .
    The wind sighing through the trees
    Words spoken sincere farewell goodbye old friend
    Maybe a new beginning.not the end,
    As we stood in silent thought,
    I gave my own farewell…
    a surprise to my grieving sister and family
    Soft and slow midst the tugging wind
    I played as my tears fell for for all to see
    Just to Pen
    Abide With Me

  7. Peter Butler says:

    Paul, thank your for sharing this with us on Jazz&Jazz. I personally feel honoured and privileged that you have done so, especially having got to know Penn so well over the last few years. We are all the poorer for his passing.

    I hope you don’t mind but I just had to share your thoughts on my Facebook Jazzers Group for many more to read.


  8. Leo and Nelleke Bogaards says:

    Today (15 january 2014) we received a note from Jean with the Order of Service for Penn.
    We were shocked that Penn has passed away.
    We met Penn and Jean in Hemsby at the Ken Colyer Trust Festival and once we were invited to their home. A lovely couple and very special to us. We are very sorry for Jean and her family that they have to live with this loss.
    We always will remember Penn as the warm and friendly person he was and we will miss him too.

    Leo and Nelleke from The Netherlands

  9. Peter Butler says:

    I’m sure Jean will find comfort in your words, Leo and Nelleke. I too first met Penn at Hemsby and from then on counted him as a very good friend.


  10. Ewan Hewitt says:

    Jean rang me today, finding my phone number whilst tidying things up, and this was the first time I heard of Pen’s sad death. Starting in 2005, he was a great hit at three of the concerts I organise at Martock Church, sitting in with the jazz band for a number of clarinet duets which always brought the house down. I used to see him helping out at the Wessex Hotel’s jazz weekends in Street and at Lyme Regis Jazz Festivals, but for the past several years he and Jean have been away at other jazz dates when I have tried to get them here to Martock. They rang me last Spring to tell me of the Rae Brothers’ concert in their own North Petherton Church, so I went to hear the band. The church was packed, entirely due to the tremendous efforts he and Jean had put in to persuade many many non-jazz lovers to come and enjoy the music. Pen played his beautiful e-flat clarinet to great applause.
    I immediately booked the band to come to Martock this coming May after a residential date they had at the Sherborne Hotel. The Hotel has recently gone bust, so those twice-yearly dates are no more, but thankfully they have achieved a replacement date on the way down from Newcastle and go on to Torquay from Martock. Jean is driving again now, but not at night, so will persuade Taunton friends to bring her here that evening, but it wont be the same without Pen’s participation.


  11. Peter Butler says:

    Thank you, Ewan, for such a wonderful tribute and for showing such concern for Jean.

  12. Tony Quinn says:

    Just heard the sad news. I knew Penn when my band, The New Washboard Syncopators, played at Bude and also on tour in Devon/Cornwall. He was such a nice, genuine, funny man who couldn’t do enough for us. I wish I found out sooner in order to pay my respects at his funeral. My wife and I have now moved down to East Cornwall and I’m playing with a newly formed “New Washboard Syncopators”. May he rest in peace.

  13. c.f.Palmer says:

    Can you please tell me the final resting of Penn Pengelly. Also I would like to know if that was his actual name. I really loved his music and was very sorry to hear of his passing. I would like to visit his place of interment one day.

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