Village says fond farewell to Otford stalwart

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By OaksScoop | Thursday, May 23, 2013, 20:27

There was standing room only in a packed St Bartholemew's Church, Otford on Wednesday (22 May) for a memorial service for Otford stalwart Ray Gulliver, who founded of one of the village's most recognised businesses - Gulliver Timber Treatments

He died recently at the age of 85.

Ray, who had a winning smile and warm charm about him, will be fondly remembered for the amount of time he devoted to community work in Otford and for the charity work he carried out as a member of Amherst Rotary Club in Sevenoaks.

For many years he was involved in the organisation of Otford Village fete and would always be among the first to volunteer for distributing leaflets, car park and washing up duties. Ray could also often be seen picking up litter around the pond, in the churchyard and on the station concourse as he was very proud of the village and didn't like it to look untidy.

He served as vice chairman on Otford Parish Council and as its transport representative on the services committee was instrumental in securing funding for weekend bus services in the Darent Valley and also provision of new staircase and step-free ramp to the platform at Otford Station.

His life-long passion for railways and all things trains included serving on the Sevenoaks Rail Travellers Association Committee, where he strived to improve the services and conditions for local commuters, despite never having been one himself.

Ray was a founder member of Amherst Rotary Club and served as a president during his 34 years of dedicated service with the organisation. Here again he was always the first to volunteer for their many charitable activities.

This included personally arranging days out to the coast for around 2,000 disadvantaged children from Kent & South East London when three whole trains were needed to get them there. He also served as chairman of the Kent Youth Music Bursary Fund.

Ray Curtis Pym Gulliver was born in Bromley on the 14 July 1927, the youngest of four children and the only boy. During his schooldays, which coincided with the Second World War, he won a scholarship to Ardingly College in West Sussex.

He did his National Service with The Royal Navy before going on to Edinburgh University where he studied Forestry, gaining a BSc.

During his spare time he indulged his love of music by joining the Edinburgh University Singers and also earned extra money by working as a bus conductor - which some believe was where he gained his interest in public transport.

When he returned to Kent in the early 1950s, he worked for the Forestry Commission (including a period planting saplings in Andrews Wood, Shoreham).  From there he joined timber importers W R Crow & Son where his father had also worked.  He was asked to use the knowledge gained through his degree to head up a new wood preservation division operating throughout Southern England & Wales.

He met his wife Valerie at the Orpington and Bromley Choir (now Bromley Philharmonic) in 1954. They married two years later in Petts Wood and purchased their first house in Sutton-at-Hone in 1957.

It was while living there that their sons Simon and Roger were born. The couple then moved to Otford in 1961 and this was followed a year later by the birth of their daughter Susan.

When W R Crow was taken over Ray left and set up Gulliver Timber Treatments, opening for business on 1 September 1971.  Ray ran the company from home until 1978 when he moved to offices in Otford High Street.

Both his sons later joined the company and in 1983 Ray purchased the former bank buildings adjacent to Otford Station.  It was not uncommon for Ray to climb onto a chair while on the phone to a client so he could watch a particular train go by.

He was a generous employer and would use any excuse to arrive at the office laden with boxes of cakes from the local bakery or ice creams for all the office staff.

Gulliver Timber Treatments carried on expanding and opened five branches across the South East. Ray served on many committees of BWPDA (British Wood Preserving and Damp Proofing Association) and was one of the founder members of the Guarantee Protection Trust, always endeavouring to protect the long term interests of the client. 

When Ray retired in 2002 he and Valerie travelled extensively around the world visiting far flung destinations such as Australia, Zimbabwe, Hong Kong, Kuala Lumpur and Los Angeles.

In the last few years of his life Ray sadly suffered from Alzheimer's and he passed away peacefully in Gloucester House Nursing Home in Sevenoaks on 22 April, 2013. His family are extremely grateful to the staff at Gloucester House and at Pembury Hospital who nursed him with great care and compassion through his final months.

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