A community champion, described as a gentleman who was one of life’s givers and a true friend of the town he loved, has passed away, aged 81.
Ray Farnsworth, from Alnwick, died on Wednesday, May 21, after a short illness. He was a devoted husband to Jean and father to David and Joanne, as well as a grandad of three.
Highly-regarded Ray was a familiar face in and around Alnwick and dedicated many hours of his time to helping and improving the town.
He was involved in many community groups and organisations over the years, including the town’s Christmas lights, Rotary club, bloom team, civic society and flower show. He was also a former Mayor of Alnwick.
Current Mayor, Bill Grisdale, paid his tributes, saying: “Ray gave excellent service to the town as a local councillor in the 1990s and was town mayor in 1992/93.
“During his year as mayor, he was involved in the consecration of the Alnwick Cemetery extension. Ray had a reputation for being hard-working and diligent in all that he did.”
One of Ray’s biggest legacies, according to Alnwick Rotarian Carnegie Brown, was starting off daffodil planting at the entrances to the town.
Mr Brown said: “Ray was on Alnwick in Bloom and in March 1987 he suggested planting daffodils at each approach to the town.
“He ordered around 10,000 daffodils – is was a marathon effort. It was quite a unique thing at the time and I think it did put Alnwick on the map.”
Former Alnwick in Bloom chairman Tom Pattinson described Ray as a lovely, intelligent man who was also a key player in the now-defunct Alnwick Flower Show.
Ray was a founder member of Alnwick Christmas Lights. Chairman Gordon Castle said: “He was still working on the lights a few months ago and still took an active role. He was a prominent citizen of the town and I want to pay tribute to his contribution to Alnwick, especially to the Christmas lights.
“He was an unmistakable character who made his mark and he will be a big miss.”
Alnwick Civic Society president, Philip Deakin, said that Ray always contributed with something useful, was well-known and believed in the Civic Society principles of preserving the town.
Richard Sayer, of Rook Matthews Sayer Estate Agents, described him as a true friend of Alnwick who will be very hard to replace.
Ray was a regular contributor to the Gazette letters pages.
Ray was a former RAF pilot – and a few years ago, a special present brought the memories flying back.
In the summer of 2012, Ray, aged 79 at the time, got behind the controls of a vintage RAF Tiger Moth, more than six decades since he first flew the aircraft during his national service.
He first flew the two-seater plane as an 18-year-old Air Force recruit in 1951, while training for deployment in the Korean War.
And when his son David arranged a flight as a Father’s Day present, Ray got back in the cockpit after 61 years. He said at the time that the 20-minute flight brought memories from his service days flooding back, adding that it was the best present he could possibly have received.
Apart from the take-off and the landing, Ray did all the flying. He said that the aircraft was a lot noisier than he remembered.
A service is being held tomorrow at St Paul’s RC Church, Alnwick, at 1pm, followed by an interment in Alnwick Cemetery. Family flowers only, but donations, if desired, to Newcastle-upon-Tyne Hospital c/o Alistair Turner Funeral Directors in Alnwick.