Ken Bray 1929-2017: RIP

A tribute by John Hayward, Club President 1982-84 & 2008-09

On 29th December, after a 14-week battle with illness, one of the club’s oldest members, 88-year old Ken Bray (left, below, with wife Brenda to the right) died at home surrounded by his family.

Ken and Brenda Bray Trophies 2015 2

Ken joined the club in 1949, inspired by the 1948 Olympics. He quickly became engrossed in all aspects, major and minor, of the club which he was to remain a member of all his life apart from a 5-year spell in the 1970s when he flirted with his dream world of autocross.

As an athlete, one of Ken’s proudest accomplishments was to win the Essex Steeplechase Championship in the late 1950s on the last occasion that the Essex Champs were held at Ashton Playing Fields. He was Club President from 1976-78.

A photographer by profession, his photographic work for the club spanned nearly 70 years – some of it may still be seen on the clubhouse walls, while the club museum holds a remarkable collection of albums containing his press photos and articles.

He promoted home fixtures, a major component of the club’s social fabric, and drove fundraising events. One of these caused him particular stress – a version of “It’s A Knockout” on the waters of the former swimming pool at Larkshall in Chingford. The funds so raised contributed to the building of our much-prized clubhouse.

Ken was part of a small group who founded “The Evergreens” and organised social events for the ‘once young’ members of the 1950s-1980s. They were also behind the development of the club’s museum.

Business-wise, his photography included private and commercial work and aided by his wife Brenda, he spent many years as the Official Photographer on investiture days within the grounds of Buckingham Palace.

Ken Bray had a rare quality: if he said he would do something, one had no need to worry, for it would get done, and very well. He was almost part of the club’s furniture, and will be sorely missed.

A tribute by current President Terry McCarthy

I joined the club in the mid-1980s, and I took on my first team management role in the early 1990s. In so doing, I was inspired by many of the older club members, most of whom had been with WGAC in their distance-running heyday of the late 50s and early 60s. Their views and experiences were a constant reminder of the standards the club had once set. 

Ken Bray was one of that generation, and it meant a lot to me that he strongly supported me and my cross country team, both through his enthusiastic presence at races and through quiet, encouraging words spoken at the right time. His support was such that he presented the Ken Bray Trophy, to be awarded to the most consistent senior male athlete each winter season, and, when we joined with Essex Ladies, he and his wife presented the Brenda Bray Trophy as the senior woman's version (see photo above).

Ken was a constant presence at club events throughout the 1990s and the 2000s, usually taking photos which were admired and appreciated. Ken was also the driver behind the club's first website, usually contributing the excellent photo galleries which graced the site for many years (we do not currently have the technical capability - any volunteers?). I saw at first hand the effort that Ken put into the website, even after his 80th birthday.

I was also lucky to share social time with Ken and wife Brenda, and their stories of their travels, sporting adventures and community work, even back in the 1950s, were always entertaining and uplifting.

Ken was very much one of my personal inspirations at the club and I feel very grateful to him for that.