Saturday 25 January 2014
Others have observed that Ray was a gentleman and that he was in a league of his own when it came to his work. All true, but there is more.
Ray appeared to be unassuming, even mild mannered, but he wasn’t soft. I don’t think that I ever saw him angry. Just frustrated, occasionally. I never heard him use base language.
Ray was devoted to Elsie and I’m sure that was why he didn’t travel with Reuters as often as he might otherwise have done. He felt that she would be home alone and that wasn’t their way.
I met Ray when I joined Reuters from the same Cable and Wireless training ground that spawned so many telegraphists in those days. I worked alongside him and shared his enthusiasm for work in Special Traffic, the name mentioned elsewhere to describe the use of spare telecommunications capacity to carry own reports from source to head office for international media. In that context Ray allowed me to travel in Europe and US in search of Special Traffic contracts, and once to Cairo, in the manner I’d always wanted to travel – at the expense of someone else.
Ray had a heart attack at work during the 1970s and it was clear he needed to be in hospital quickly. He refused to be taken to nearby St Bartholomew’s because he knew he would be admitted and that would have created a visiting problem for Elsie. So I drove him to their local Oldchurch Hospital in Romford. What were we thinking?
He was taken away to be examined and I waited until a nurse asked me who I was waiting for. I told her and she went for information. On her return she simply said “You can sit beside him if you want” and pointed the way to Ray’s cubicle.
“What did you tell that nurse?” he wanted to know. “She came in here saying my son is waiting outside!” Strong words to someone who was just ten years older than me and who really didn’t need that kind of excitement.
From that time on I often addressed Ray and Elsie on the phone, or through Christmas cards and letters, as “Mum and Dad Rumble”. They had no children of their own but they enjoyed the tease.
I visited Ray and Elsie just a few weeks before he died. After 30+ years it was sad to hear him greet me with “I know you, don’t I? Yes, you’re Mike.” So sad. ■