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Tributes: 'Gentleman' Ray Sidaway − he battled to keep Ipswich green

PUBLISHED: 12:03 26 January 2019

Ray Sidaway in 2010, during the Save Kiln Meadow campaign   Picture: PHIL MORLEY

Ray Sidaway in 2010, during the Save Kiln Meadow campaign Picture: PHIL MORLEY

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The Westbourne High School teacher also gave hundreds of youngsters a love of cricket

Helping people learn about and safeguard the natural world can involve getting a bit mucky... But it's fun. This was one of the Suffolk Wildlife Trust midweek work parties  installing a dipping platform. Ray Sidaway is on the right   Picture: Stuart HollandHelping people learn about and safeguard the natural world can involve getting a bit mucky... But it's fun. This was one of the Suffolk Wildlife Trust midweek work parties  installing a dipping platform. Ray Sidaway is on the right Picture: Stuart Holland

Ray Sidaway will be widely remembered for his dedication and enthusiasm for nature conservation in Ipswich and around Suffolk. Key roles included being spokesman for the successful Save Kiln Meadow campaign and chairman of Ipswich Wildlife Group.

In a 25-year teaching career and in his 20 years as a cricket coach he helped shape the formative years of thousands of young people.

Ray was born in Maidenhead, Berkshire, on May 15, 1947. His early years were blighted by health problems; despite this, he quickly developed into a promising young cricketer and became the captain of Buckinghamshire Young Amateurs (under-18s), most notably defeating a Lancashire team containing future England batsman Frank Hayes.

Ray went on to represent the University of York, and was a successful club cricket captain at Wivenhoe Town Cricket Club. In later years he became a popular coach of the youngest children at Ipswich and East Suffolk Cricket Club. He taught the basic elements of the game, and the spirit in which it should be played.

Ray Sidaway in 2010, during the Save Kiln Meadow campaign   Picture: PHIL MORLEYRay Sidaway in 2010, during the Save Kiln Meadow campaign Picture: PHIL MORLEY

Ray was also a talented musician and an excellent singer. As a child, he taught himself to play his brother’s guitar. He was a lead singer and played rhythm guitar in several amateur rock bands and was a member of various folk groups. Later on he also learned classical guitar and composed several pieces of his own classical guitar music.

After obtaining an honours degree in chemistry in 1968, Ray trained as a secondary school teacher and went on to senior roles including head of chemistry and head of science at several schools. He was at Westbourne High School in Ipswich from about 1986 until 1997. He also taught in Tiptree.

Ray was always a keen supporter of equality for women and demonstrated his commitment to these principles by giving up work for two years in order to look after his two young children and enable wife Jen to continue working.

He resumed his teaching career at Westbourne High School, where he was a widely respected teacher and mentor of less-experienced members of the teaching staff. Ray often encountered former pupils in and around Ipswich, the majority of whom were very appreciative of his efforts.

Taking every chance to get the message across... Wildlife champion Ray Sidaway talks about the need to help nature    Picture: Colin HullisTaking every chance to get the message across... Wildlife champion Ray Sidaway talks about the need to help nature Picture: Colin Hullis

In part owing to further health problems, Ray retired from teaching at the age of 50. However, with more time on his hands he was able to focus on his major interest in the environment and wildlife. He initially became involved with Ipswich Wildlife Group, and then Greenways, a local conservation group, as a volunteer.

As family and other commitments placed fewer demands on his time, he became an increasingly prominent figure among the volunteer community, eventually becoming the volunteer warden of Spring Wood – an ancient woodland on the southern edge of Ipswich.

As well as the physical conservation work, he gave talks to groups and visited many local schools, inspiring others with his knowledge, enthusiasm and commitment to a vision of a green Ipswich.

In 2008, planning permission was granted for housing development on Kiln Meadow, an ecologically important meadow next to Spring Wood.

Practical action. Ray gathering wood in 2012 for Ipswich Wildlife Group's annual bean pole day near Spring Wood  Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWNPractical action. Ray gathering wood in 2012 for Ipswich Wildlife Group's annual bean pole day near Spring Wood Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

With its committee of other volunteers, including his wife, the Save Kiln Meadow campaign ran for four years and Ray served as its spokesman.

The campaign pitted this small group against several local councils and developers, and was in the process of taking the case to a judicial review when a change in local government resulted in the development being rejected.

This intervention protected an area with a population of up to 7,000 toads, plus numerous other important species, from being lost forever and the site is now a local nature reserve.

With his subsequent nine-year term as chairman of Ipswich Wildlife Group (a charity involved in promoting interest in, and conservation of, wildlife in and around Ipswich) Ray became an integral part of many conservation projects and a widely respected member of this community.

Ray Sidaway in 2010, during the Save Kiln Meadow campaign   Picture: PHIL MORLEYRay Sidaway in 2010, during the Save Kiln Meadow campaign Picture: PHIL MORLEY

Councillor Carole Jones expressed Ipswich Borough Council’s gratitude for Ray’s hard work with Greenways and the River Action Project. “I still remember him showing us around Spring Wood and Kiln Meadow and how knowledgeable and patient he was,” she said.

Wife Jen says: “We had a great partnership bringing up the children, and I will so miss talking about the shared memories, and also his extensive knowledge of science, ecology, astronomy and history. I’ll have to rely on Wikipedia now!”

Although a humble man at heart, he would hope that his environmental legacy will not be forgotten. Many of those who knew, worked with or were taught by Ray will remember him best for his optimism and enthusiasm for anything he happened to be involved in. Encouragement and support were always forthcoming for anyone who could benefit from it, and these attributes will be sorely missed.

Dave Little, from the cricket club, said: “Ray volunteered his services as a coach at Ipswich and East Suffolk Cricket Club for nearly 20 years. During that time he has been responsible for the introduction to cricket for the six- to 10-year-olds and literally hundreds of aspiring young cricketers have passed through his capable hands. Initially, Ray came to the club with his son Peter, but when Peter flew the nest Ray stayed at the club and with his able lieutenant ‘Joey’ continued with the coaching. Sadly, we will no longer wait to see Ray cycling over the horizon and storing his faithful bicycle in the pavilion, and then relating to us where he has been that day, working with wildlife and helping to improve the environment.

Ray Sidaway helps foster the interest of a younger generation   Picture: Colin HullisRay Sidaway helps foster the interest of a younger generation Picture: Colin Hullis

“Everyone associated with the youth programme at the club will miss Ray greatly. His patience with the little uns and enthusiasm for the game ensured that the youngsters always had an enjoyable and rewarding session under his guidance.

“In all those years I cannot remember Ray losing his temper or raising his voice. He certainly put the ‘gentle’ into ‘gentleman’. The end of a very fruitful and rewarding innings.”

Ray died on January 10 after a short illness. He is survived by his wife of 46 years, his children Peter and Kate, and two grandchildren. His funeral is at Ipswich Crematorium at 11.45am on Friday, February 8.

The family requests no flowers at the ceremony; charitable donations (if people wish) to Ipswich Wildlife Group/Médecins Sans Frontières.

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