It was with very great sadness that I heard about the death of Ray Blackwood at the age of 90. Ray was one of life’s great enthusiasts, always retaining an optimistic outlook and remaining positive, even when experiencing set backs.
Ray was a councillor on the old Brighton Borough Council for many, many years. He first represented the area off Lewes Road (I think it was called the Lewes Road Ward but I might be mistaken) before moving to represent Stanmer Ward in 1983 when the ward boundaries were redrawn. He served as Mayor of Brighton in 1987/88,the second year of Labour control. I sadly missed his year as Mayor as I had lost my seat in 1987 before being re-elected in 1988.
Ray was always upbeat, enthusiastic about anything and everything he turned his hands to. He encouraged newly elected councillors and always was willing to offer support and advice.
Ray and his wife Marilyn were regulars on the Great Dieppe Trip, an annual pilgrimage to Dieppe organised by the late Peter Avis who should be credited for the survival of the Newhaven-Dieppe line. (The civic authorities in Dieppe have acknowledged this by naming a square in Central Dieppe after Peter).
Ray Blackwood was the ultimate Europhile. He spoke several European languages and travelled widely. He would have been distraught by the impending Brexit.
Ray used to volunteer at Labour Party Conferences when they were held in Brighton, and he got to know many of Labour’s leaders over the years. I have a copy of Denis Healey’s autobiography, The Time of My Life, which Healey had inscribed for Ray, which Ray later donated as a raffle prize.
After Ray lost his seat in 1992, the victim of a landslide against Labour, exacerbated by a very fractured Labour Party locally, he stood unsuccessfully in Woodingdean. He contributed a regular community column to the Argus focusing on Woodingdean, until the Argus made the shortsighted and ultimately cataclysmic decision to cut community coverage in an ill-judged attempt to appeal to London commuters, thereby destroying its readership base. The Argus has never recovered.
Ray is survived by his Wife, Marilyn, and their daughter, Yvette.
I will always remember Ray as a happy man, and optimistic man, and a man with great generosity of spirit. He was a thoroughly, thoroughly decent personand I am glad that I knew him.