Former Guild chairman and journalist Ray Vale died at the age of 87 mid-October. Ray specialised in commercial horticulture, covering both industry news and technical topics, and was an enthusiastic advocate of this important food-producing sector.
He was chairman of the Guild’s management council in 1991 during many years’ service to the Guild and was awarded the Netherthorpe ‘crowing cockerel’ trophy in 1998 as Communicator of the Year, which his son Philip says was one of his proudest achievements during a long career in agricultural journalism and PR.
Fellow Guild members and horticulture writers Claire Shaddick and Spence Gunn compiled the following:
After national service in the RAF, Ray studied for an agricultural science diploma at the Royal Agricultural College, Cirencester.
Following a brief spell on a mixed farm, he joined a specialist agricultural PR agency in Kent, which saw him work on accounts for various large corporations including Ciba-Geigy, Esso and Tate & Lyle.
Attracted most by the craft of writing, he subsequently moved to the Kent Messenger, a weekly newspaper, to work on the farming pages as well as sports coverage. In the mid-1980s, following a brief spell as editor of South East Farmer magazine, Ray went freelance and began to forge close contacts with horticulture and the fruit-growing sector in particular.
He wrote regularly for The Grower magazine, Fresh Produce Journal and all three of ACT Publishing’s titles. At the same time, he was strongly involved with raising the industry’s national profile while publicity officer for Marden Fruit Show, forerunner of the National Fruit Show, in a role he held for 26 years, and the Kent County Show.
His son Philip said: “He had a massive passion for the horticultural industry and the people who worked in it. He understood its challenges and felt very protective towards it, to the point sometimes of getting angry on its behalf. People recognised that in him and even if they didn’t like him they respected him for it and that’s just how he’d have wanted it.”