Obituary: Dick Ray takes his final bow

IMPRESARIO Dick Ray, who put on hundreds of shows in the heyday of tourism in the Island, has died.

Dick Ray, whose life revolved around showbusiness
Dick Ray, whose life revolved around showbusiness

Show business was in his blood, and he brought cabaret, comedians and concerts to Jersey.

In an interview with the Jersey Evening Post last year he spoke of how he could almost still see the happy, smiling faces of the audience and hear the applause as he recalled the great nights out that he had brought about.

He was born Richard Ray-Marks on 29 November 1935, the son of Dick Ray snr and Jessie Ray.

His father and siblings were the show producers The Ray Brothers, whose clients included Charlie Chaplin.

The young Dick always felt that he would follow in the footsteps of his father.

During the war, when the bombs started falling on London, his father decided to move 'to wherever the next train was going'.

Dick Ray (left) in 1980 with singer Max Bygraves and boxer Alan Minter

A stay in Worthing and then Reading followed, and that is where he lived for the rest of the war.

In 1950 Dick moved to East Finchley and spent several years with his cousin, Peter Sellers (the son of Dick's father's sister), and his new acquaintances Spike Milligan, Harry Secombe and Michael Bentine.

In 1957, at the age of 21, Dick Ray came to Jersey. Harry Swanson had approached him for a singer for a show in the Island and Dick said he had two singers – Peggy (who would later become his wife) and her sister, Angela.

He was given the chance to spend 20 weeks in Jersey to produce the show at the Watersplash, which he did for the next nine years, turning what he called 'a sleepy little cabaret into a worldwide name'.

From 1966 to 1975, working with Maurice Segal at Modern Hotels, Mr Ray put on shows at Caesar's Palace at Grève de Lecq as well as Swanson's, The Hawaiian and Fort Regent, starring showbiz stars like Tom Jones, Max Wall, Tommy Trinder, Mike and Bernie Winters, Frank Ifield, Dave Allen, Lonnie Donegan, Des O'Connor, Matt Monro, Kenny Baker and Engelbert Humperdinck.

In the early 1980s Mr Ray also leased the Ciné de France, which he ran with his brother Raymond, and he managed two recording artists who had number one hits – Stuart Gillies and Stephen Lee Garden.

For 21 years Mr Ray owned the Jersey Opera House. He bought it from Tommy Swanson in 1975 and during the heyday of tourism the summer farces were sell-outs, starring household names including John Inman, Sue Pollard, Les Dennis, Lionel Blair and Barbara Windsor, to name but a few.

As well as the summer seasons at the Opera House, Mr Ray brought classic artistes to perform there, among them Stéphane Grappelli and the tenor José Carreras, whose show sold out in 20 minutes and three further performances had to be arranged to meet the demand.

Mr Ray also worked closely with the Jersey Amateur Dramatic Club and the Jersey Green Room Club, helping them to put on productions for many years.

By 1996, the continuing costs of the Opera House's renovations proved too much, and in order to preserve the building for the people of Jersey, it was sold to the States.

Taking a leisurely look round behind the scenes at the Opera House

In interviews, Mr Ray would explain how his father always used to say: 'Take any situation and turn it into an opportunity', and that is what he would do, going on to organise major concerts in Jersey, Guernsey and the Isle of Man and bringing over names like Katherine Jenkins, Russell Watson, Jools Holland, Alfie Boe and Status Quo.

Charity work was also close to Mr Ray's heart, and he was Chief Barker of the Variety Club of Jersey for many years.

He was also a member of the Water Rats, and enjoyed the role of vice-president of the Entertainment Artistes' Benevolent Fund, which is responsible for organising the annual Royal Variety Performance at the London Palladium.

After the death of his wife Peggy in 2003 at the age of 63, Mr Ray went on to produce many shows at the Gaiety Theatre, Isle of Man.

In 2013 he was diagnosed with leukaemia, and he died on 23 July in Torquay, where he had been receiving treatment. His daughter Rachel, brother Raymond and sister-in-law Alexis were by his side.

To them and his son Daniel, daughter-in-law Monique, son-in-law Ian and grandson Elmore (3), as well as to other members of the family, the JEP extends sympathy.

Dick Ray with Stuart Gillies and Variety Club dancers

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