Tributes paid to former Bedfordshire Times artist who has died aged 83

Former Beds Times artist Ray Aggett, from Renhold, who died on June 15.
Former Beds Times artist Ray Aggett, from Renhold, who died on June 15.

Tributes have been paid to Ray Aggett, the former art studio manager at the Bedfordshire Times who died on June 15, aged 83.

Family, friends and former colleagues heard three vicars who knew him well sing his praises at All Saints’ Church, Renhold, on Monday, June 30.

“This was his spiritual home,” said the Rev Sarah Burrows who conducted the funeral service where it was standing room only even in the adjacent ‘overflow’ room.

Ray got into the newspaper world after training as a compositor during national service and landing a job at Elphicks of Biggleswade, former owners of the Chronicle, before moving on to the Sydney Press and the Bedfordshire Times group in Bedford. There his job was to illustrate stories and adverts and to provide drawings and cartoons - even Christmas cards - for the paper.

And he did it all with style and elan while his charming wife Pam was the front of house face of the group as the office receptionist.

“He never missed a deadline,” one of his former colleagues wrote in the book of remembrance in the church – the highest praise for an old style newspaper man. Through his work appearing in print his reputation blossomed in the 1970s and 80s and he became famous for his art - especially his water colours and cartoons. Many in the congregation would have a Ray Aggett on their wall said the Rev Clifford Bradley who led the prayers.

Ray was a popular and charismatic figure who threw himself into community life after moving to Renhold when his family grew up. He served on the parish council, was part of the group who developed what became the village magazine, organised car displays at the fete and helped at the lunch club.

“He was an extrovert. The life and soul,” said the Rev Lawrence MacDonald in his address. “He even got me to paint a water colour.”

He was born in East Ham, London, in 1931. At the start of war in September 1939, the family was evacuated to Berkshire but they missed the East End so much that they soon came back. The next year however they went to Biggleswade and it was just as well because their home was bombed in the blitz. Perhaps that was why he became a retained fire fighter in later life and wrote a humorous book about his experiences.

In Biggleswade, Ray joined the scouts and remembered camping with them near the US base at Thurleigh – an experience that gave him a life long interest in war time and aeroplanes. He was a keen supporter of the 92nd US Air Force Association at Poddington.

Ray’s other great love was football. He played as a youngster in Biggleswade and later joined the town committee. He followed the Eagles at Nelson Street and Meadow Lane and he died just hours after watching England lose their opening match in the World Cup.

Ray Aggett 12/02/1931 – 15/06/2014