IN THE 20 years I knew him, Jim Cronin never once called me by my first name.

It was always Hey, Butterworth' - or even Budderworth', depending on how much his New York accent was going to mangle my surname that day.

I met him in 1987, a few weeks after I had moved down here. He was already making waves, the pesky brash American stirring up the Dorset folk with his plans for a sanctuary that would save and protect the apes he loved.

As the years passed, Monkey World grew in stature and visibility, much to the irritation of some of his detractors.

It's a zoo, the petty politickers squealed as more and more endangered animals arrived.

It's a theme park, the narrow-minded local minority moaned as Monkey World seared its name on the global map and thousands of people started arriving to see the chimps, the orang-utans and other characters they were seeing on their television screens.

Jim never quite grasped the intricacies of local politics.

Despite his innate ability to rub people up the wrong way - usually because he had to to get results - he managed to negotiate with highly sensitive governments across the globe - Taiwan, Vietnam, Thailand - and successfully secured deals on rescue centres and endangered species.

Yet put a parish council meeting's minutes in front of him and he would throw his hands up in disbelief.

In fellow American Dr Alison Cronin, he met a kindred spirit. She was someone who was not only as intelligent and passionate about animals as him, but she was more than a match for - and a counter-balance to - his bloody-mindedness.

They spent virtually every hour together, whether it was dealing with business down at Monkey World or securing a safer life for primates across the globe.

Alison's grief at Jim's passing will be shared by many, many people who have seen and shared even a small amount of the passion he felt, especially his staff at Monkey World.

The world will be a slightly quieter and duller place without Jim, but we should celebrate the sheer drive that created his unique sanctuary.

Neal Butterworth Editor, Daily Echo