By Fanny Charles
The streets of Shaftesbury were packed with people who turned out to pay their respects to one of the town’s best-loved residents, “Mr Shaftesbury,” as many called him, Ray Humphries MBE, who died on 24th October.
Owing to Covid-19 restrictions, the funeral on 10th November was a private family service, but the cortege passed through the High Street, stopping at the Town Hall, where Shaftesbury Silver Band played a tribute to Ray, a long-standing member who played the side drum.
Ray, a former Mayor and town councillor, was an electrician by trade, and ran the still much-missed Humphries’ hardware shop in the High Street for many years.
He was a leading light in the glittering Shaftesbury Carnival, one
of Dorset’s finest.
He chaired Shaftesbury Carnival Committee for 37 years, and became a patron after he stepped down from the chairmanship. A carnival committee member said: “No-one ever worked so hard for Shaftesbury.”
Tributes poured in from those who knew him personally and had worked with him, from residents and civic leaders of other towns who knew him through the carnival and his years on the town council, and from people who simply knew him as “a great man who will be missed by many,” (as he is described in one of the messages on the town council website).
Stuart Campbell, also on the town council site, said: “You’ve helped to make Shaftesbury a better, more connected place and have touched
the lives of many. You are truly one
of Shaftesbury’s finest – long may you be remembered.”
Ray was born in Shaftesbury, served as a town councillor for 13 years and was Mayor twice, in 1997 and 2001. He was a trustee of the Hope Trust and the William Williams charities, chaired Shaftesbury in
Bloom and was a member of
many other organisations, including the Royal British Legion.
In 2010, the town council invited Ray and his wife Chris, to be Freemen of the Town – a rare honour that has only been awarded to 11 people.
In 2011, in recognition of his long and remarkable service to the community, he was awarded an MBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours.
The current Mayor, Andy Hollingshead, said: “Ray will be remembered with great warmth, fondness, and admiration across the whole of Shaftesbury, the town of which he was so proud. Carol and I send our deepest condolences to Ray’s family.”
As a drummer, he not only played in the Silver Band but for dances and parties, including the fondly remembered Electric Bath Band. He played at many amateur dramatic and musical performances, including the annual SNADS pantomime at Sturminster Newton.
When you read the many tributes to Ray, you get a real sense not only of this lovely man with his warm smile and his infectious sense of humour, but of a true local hero, a man who loved and served his town and his community and always had time for people.
As a journalist who knew him for nearly 40 years, I would echo those tributes. Ray was always generous with his time, happy to answer my questions, give a comment on a local issue, or just have a gossip about people we knew, how the carnival had gone or the latest goings-on in the town council. He and Chris were a wonderful partnership. He will be much missed and long remembered.