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James Raby



James Raby – Personal Eulogy


(Jonathan Walton)

Putting this presentation together hasn’t been easy as the date for this event was set after I left the UK for Antarctica in early December and I only arrived home yesterday. Most of my time away was spent out of the reach of electronic communication (at least for one with my limited technological skills). Believe me, such places still exist and they are to be treasured! In due course I received information from James’s brother Andrew which was of immeasurable help. Andrew freely admits it is only since James’s passing that many of his passions have come to light. James has been for a long time a skilled photographer with a specialism of dance and portrait photography – of a high professional standard. His family only discovered this, almost accidentally, online. When confronted with this revelation at a family meal, James evidently put on a slightly peeved look with a reluctant admission of “guilty as charged”.

I am now going to go back a few years. I first remember James as a very quiet 14 year old - we met upon occasions when I was visiting my parents. James had arrived at Malvern in 1977/78 – preceded of course by his brothers Andrew and Charles. One has to ask whether James’s successes at school were helped or otherwise by the earlier connections. I couldn’t possibly comment. But James certainly went through school with less hassle and confrontation than his siblings. I next remember meeting up with James at one of my very occasional return visits to Imperial college – during his term there as an undergraduate – I too am a City and Guilds engineer – of the civil variety. However, I largely lost touch with James in the 1990’s apart from our considerable involvement with Penguin Sailing, an off shore sailing organisation. This had started in 1970 and both Andrew and James in due course became fully involved. At various times of year, usually coinciding with Easter or summer holidays, there would be a migration of would be sailors from England to the North west of Scotland, there to board a selection of yachts. I remember one drive north with James – he insisted on calling at a large number of communications masts en route – M6 and beyond – for professional purposes. He said he could then class this as a professional excursion and claim for the fuel.

James’s involvement with Penguin cruising continued for 40 years right through to last autumn. The organisation, started by my father, came to a crossroads in 1993 when Dad decided to relinquish the reins. We found an alternative club commodore for 3 years then it was decided that it was time for the old far….., sorry old fogies to make way for younger ones. We needed a new club commodore –we looked at our list of members to see if any of us had any proper credentials apart from general enthusiasm and experience -we then realised that young James Raby was probably our only qualified RYA Yachtmaster offshore, having gained this in his early 20’s – in his usual fashion, without any fanfare or fuss. James was also willing to take on the role. The club took on a new dimension but in a matter of months James’s career path took him to the USA so he had to relinquish his Penguin role. If my memory serves me right the new incumbent was one Andrew Raby!


James was not only active with sailing in the club. He set up most of the administrative procedures and membership databases that we have and was always there to find out the best routes to sort insurances and other similar necessities. In due course he served a full 5year term as club commodore that only ended in 2018.

I well remember one particular cruise James and I shared in Scotland in 2003. This was not a Penguin cruise. Friends of my sister in the USA had enquired about how to go about chartering a yacht or yachts in Scotland. I offered to arrange a trip for them, with 2 boats, myself as skipper of one and then to find another skipper. My first choice was James – I contacted him on the off chance that he might be in the country and available. He was, he leapt at the Opportunity and we duly headed North. The cruise was a great success – and James was hailed as just the quintessential English Gentleman by his brash American crew. It was helped by record high temperatures and swimming every day – our visitors thought this was just the norm!!

In due course, James returned to the UK from the USA and continued to be a regular visitor to “Fossil Bluff” in Colwall, my parent’s home. Still fixing Dad’s electronic bits and pieces although we had now got to the internet age. James was infinitely patient and kind with Dad and always ended up with something that worked – until Dad tried to improve it. The end result often resulted in an additional trip to Herefordshire for James – not that he considered this an arduous undertaking. I know he felt very comfortable at Fossil Bluff and found it quite a home from home.

Meanwhile James career continued apace. Often short term work and from my limited “professional” conversations with him, often trying to pull an organisation out of a hole that a predecessor had created; this work totally absorbed him to a serious stress level. When working hard, he was much less social so most of us rarely saw the stressed James.

All this time he was a loving uncle to nephews and nieces growing up. He was asked for advice on courses and jobs –his advice was often given a much higher rating than parental advice- perhaps not that unusual. He loved taking the next generation to theatre in London and show them his passion for musicals in particular. This was a great treat for them but it was an equal treat for James. He made several visits to almost all of the musicals staged in London over the years . On occasions he took a niece or nephew on holiday – one such trip was beautifully described by nephew Tom at James funeral.

“James took me to Florida for my first major trip abroad when I was in my early teens. He treated me to a business class flight, universal studios, indoor skydiving and to top it all off, a trip to the Kennedy Space Centre at Cape Canaveral, before returning again a few days later to watch a space shuttle launch. Frustratingly, due to technical difficulties, the shuttle launch was delayed until a few days after our return flight. However, sure enough James was round at our house a few days after we returned home and figured out how to live stream the space shuttle launch on the internet, bearing in mind that the majority of people had no idea that live streaming even existed! That trip with my uncle James pretty much sums up everything there is to about him and I’ll always be thankful for that time I had all those years ago.”

James’s caring side came to the fore in all that he did to help his mother in her fading years. Despite living a long way away, he arranged many aspects of her home to work by remote control and his voice would spring up from all sorts of unlikely sources around the house at unexpected times. Without fail he phoned Mary every evening, from wherever he happened to be. He visited every few weeks. He found the right care agencies, recruited the carers. His brothers have admitted that they assumed he was the classic unmarried bachelor with time for all this – only since he left us have they realised just how many other pressures there were on his time.

Only since last autumn has it come to light that James’s love of musicals led him to become an executive producer of a Broadway production- “Only Human”, due for its premiere in October this year, despite James’ absence.

In recent years is has been a great delight to me that a strong attachment arose between James and my sister Jane. I am not sure if James’s emotional savoir faire matched his many other qualities- it seemed for a while that he didn’t quite know how to handle this new arrival in his life. I only once spoke to James on this subject, a number of years ago. I just wanted to reassure him that if he was seeing Jane on a more regular basis and not just as an old family friend that would be absolutely fine with the rest of the Walton clan! His only comment was that he was very scared of letting Jane down. Such was his lack of confidence in that side of his life. The relationship progressed slowly but it has been a joy to me to see how it blossomed over the last couple of years and how James blossomed with it. And then, just as things were progressing wonderfully, everything came to a crashing stop.

James is no longer with us in person. His memory and his influence will continue awhile in many aspects of our lives. So many tributes to James have arrived with the family. To round this off, I want to share just two. I do not know who the authors are.

“James was my friend. He was my business partner but most importantly my mentor. He was the first person who ever gave me $1 for the show. He told me he was not putting the money in the show, he was investing in me. It stuck with me. When I visited the UK for the first time, I remember walking off the flight, completely lost, and before I had time to panic, there was James. He taught me how to use the subway, the history of the tree at Trafalgar square and about London’s architecture. At night, we walked along the river as I picked his brain about women, which is where I learnt about you, Jane, and his life”.

“I will always remember the first time I sailed with James,on the arctic Norway cruise. He breezed into the galley and filled the racks with innumerable varieties of oils, herbs and spices which he used to great effect to produce his signature gourmet meals. I also have an image as we passed 70degN of the crew in full oilies and thermals and James our skipper at the helm in an old sweatshirt and as laid back as ever.”

In the eulogy read at James’s funeral service by his nephew Tom he describes how as youngsters, all of his nephews and nieces were convinced that their mysterious uncle who flitted around the world must be a spy. When they ribbed him about this James never agreed or denied their suggestion. One can understand their conclusions.

So many of us will miss you in so many ways James – you will just never know.




James Raby – Professional Eulogy

(David Falzani MBE)

My name is David Falzani, and I’m President of the Sainsbury Management Fellowship. James was my good friend and I had the pleasure of working with him these last 12 years.

James started his career with a Masters degree in engineering from Imperial College – one of the leading engineering schools in the UK. He then worked as a project manager in the telecoms sector for several years which led him to become a Chartered Engineer and a Member of the then Institute of Electrical Engineers.

In 1994 he gained a place at the EAP business school in Paris to study for an MBA and was selected by the Royal Academy of Engineering to receive a Sainsbury Management Fellow Scholarship, which is awarded to 10 of the brightest young engineers each year. From then on, James became a Sainsbury Management Fellow, or SMF for short.

He then returned to telecomms and broadcasting, with roles in the USA, UK and Asia, getting involved with Mergers & Acquisitions. In 2003 he attended the IMD business school in Lausanne and in 2005 made a transition to private equity and venture capital, helping manage funds of over £300 million, with international roles at MMC and SEB. He became a CF30 and Financial Services Authority ‘approved person’, legally qualified to make investment decisions.

His roles and qualifications enabled him to help mentor and support many entrepreneurial businesses. In 2013 he also became a chartered company director. In fact, we attended the director training at the Institute of Directors with other SMFs together in the same class. Due to James’ considerable experience with so many companies, I remember the instructors often called upon him to supply the model answers!

I met James at the Sainsbury Management Fellowship, where for over 12 years he served as a director, trustee, secretary and finally treasurer.
Established 32 years ago by Lord Sainsbury of Turville, the SMF has given away over £8 million in bursaries to over 350 of the brightest young engineers. The SMFs, in turn, have gone on to create businesses with a total value of over 4 billion pounds and create over 18,000 new jobs.

I have little doubt that the Sainsbury Management Fellowship would not be where it is today without James. Working closely with James we incorporated the society as a company limited by guarantee, and we gained registration with the charity commission. James’ signature is, and always will be, near the top of the original Memorandum of Association filed in the permanent record at Companies House. James also helped with the fundraising which stands at over £2 million.

I remember arranging our first meeting to discuss SMF business – I chose a small ‘café’ near his home at the Barbican. James found the choice amusing and referred to the place as the ‘old smokey joe’. I never did find out why!

After I had been President for a few years, and with James very much as my right hand man, I asked if he would like to take on the Presidency. He said ‘no’ immediately. He said he’d prefer to avoid the limelight and instead contribute from the wings. That typified his lack of ego and his lack of need for centre stage. Self effacing, but nevertheless always adding value.

James was at the core of the SMF in so many ways it’s hard to imagine how we will ever replace his generosity of spirit. We’ve read how James was an ideas man, how he completed everything to 200%. And everything he did reflected his selflessness. He also had a distinctly alternative view. If you wanted a second opinion, James was the perfect choice. In a business world with often homogenous views, James’ opinion was always unique – and therefore a source of great value. All of my SMF colleagues here today will attest to this and also to his sense of humour when expressing his point of view.

The Sainsbury Management Fellows also give mentoring and support to the Royal Academy of Engineering with its Engineering Leaders Scholarship Award for engineering undergraduates, and Executive Engineers Programme, for young engineers in the workplace. . No description of James would be complete without highlighting the profound influence he had here. He played a central role in those schemes over the last 18 years, helping the Royal Academy shape the young minds going through those programmes. Many have reported the transformational effect he had. A total of 970 young engineers attended James’ training, his business simulation games, and enjoyed his mentoring and support. Hersh Shah was one of those who James mentored before becoming an SMF himself, and he will tell you the profound effect that James’ mentoring had on his life - so much so that James even attended Hersh’s wedding in India, having become such a firm friend!

These young engineer schemes also hold an annual weekend event at Aston business school. I recall, one year, having delivered my training session, finding James in the room where he had been training a group of 30 or more. He was working on his fabulous business game, named Building New Town, improving it for the next day. We all went to the group dinner together. Afterwards, many of us retired to the bar but James went back to work. Walking back to my room at the end of the evening I just checked, and wasn’t really surprised, to find James still at work on the game. I attempted to get a promise out of him that he would not work all night. Next morning, going down to breakfast, I walked past the same room only to find James at the same desk, still working away. He looked up sheepishly and admitted to having worked through the night. Again, getting things finished, delivering what he promised to the highest possible order was typical of James.

The number of SMFs here today is a testament to how much the Sainsbury Management Fellowship valued James as a driving force for our organisation and as a friend. This was true for all, inside and outside the organisation –the many mentees James helped through the years, our stakeholders – The Royal Academy of Engineering and other institutions, and our founder, Lord Sainsbury of Turville. Last May, when Lord Sainsbury was unable to deliver his speech at the SMF Annual Dinner to 150 Fellows and guests, the person he chose to deliver his speech for him was, of course – James.

I feel privileged to have this opportunity to express the gratitude we all feel for James. I’m also delighted to announce that SMF has created a new annual award in James’ memory, starting this year. This is to be called the James Raby Award, and it will be presented at our annual dinner in Whitehall Place to the SMF that has done the most in the preceding year to support the Royal Academy’s young engineer schemes - the same schemes that James was so passionate about. We hope that this new annual award will be a fitting tribute to James and will inspire those who follow to continue all of his good works.
Rather than despair what feats James might have gone on to do in the future, if only he had been given more time, we can perhaps be inspired and motivated to do some of those deeds ourselves.

If I may, I’d like to finish with some words from a letter by James’ friend and mentee Hersh Shah, ‘James is a legend and his legacy lives on with all the people he touched’.

Thank you.