Harrow Humanists
Humanists UK
BHA Ceremonies
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To our fellows – humanist friends and members of Harrow Humanists :-

JOHN RAYNER 1929 - 2014
DON LIVERSEDGE 1917 - 2015
GILL PHARAOH 19  - 2015
IKE ASCHER 19  - 2015
MIKE SAVAGE 1937 - 2016


JOHN RAYNER (1929 – 2014)

Harrow Humanists’ thoughts at John Rayner’s funeral
read by Terry Lilley

From AH

“John had a great sense of humour, and the very useful ability to challenge hard, without causing offence. He felt passionately about the need to tackle the issue of over-population in the World; hence his membership of ‘Population Matters’.

“At Harrow Humanists we will greatly miss his incisive thinking and steadfast presence.”

From JO

“When my late husband and I attended Harrow Humanist meetings, John was always there, with his wry sense of humour and lively face. He expressed opinions that at times were contentious, but hit the nail on the head, and were a wake-up call to everyone.

“Harrow Humanists will sorely miss him.”

From TC

“I owe to John my recent familiarity with Albert Einstein’s theory of special relativity. John thought there was something wrong with it, deserving to be brought to the attention of the Royal Society. I was not sure, but spent many happy hours reading up on it, and arguing about it at coffee mornings.

“On such interactions scientific knowledge thrives.”

From JC

“John loved books and as a result of being so widely read, held confident views on many serious issues which included political, economic and scientific matters.

“He also enjoyed challenging visiting speakers at humanist meetings.

“In addition, he was highly sociable and was happy to organise outings and day trips for groups of friends including, each summer, to performances at the Globe theatre.

“He also had a mischievous side which included as he put it “lowering the tone” of the conversation with a scurrilous story or a rather rude joke.

“We certainly will miss him.”

From RB

“John Rayner was undoubtedly the most distinguished treasurer in the history of Harrow Humanists. In fact he was a pillar of the society in every way. He contributed so much to the general running of the group that his presence will be sorely missed.”

From CR

“John was a thoughtful person, both in the sense of being considerate towards others, and in his concern for world problems.

“He wrote a letter to all the MPs at Westminster, with a copy of his booklet “Elements of Macro-economics”, about what he saw as the weakness of the British economy.

“Another of John’s concerns was Humanist non-religious ethics and he wrote a booklet in 2009: ‘Comprehensive rational ethics'”.

From MS

“John was a well-known and well-loved speaker at Humanist groups around London and Conway Hall. At Harrow, while I was Chair of Harrow Humanists, he led vigorous discussions on such topics as population growth and the ethical dimensions to politics.”

From TG

“Sadly, I didn’t know John for very long but found him to be a kind and courteous man”

From EB

“When I joined Harrow Humanists about six years ago I quickly became friends with John Rayner, and was encouraged by him to attend the group’s weekly Tuesday coffee mornings which he organised.

“From there John and I, and sometimes other members, regularly went on outings. These were greatly enhanced by John’s vast knowledge of history, the sciences and the arts, as well as his wit and sense of humour.

“John also suggested I might be interested in the South Place Ethical Society and I enjoyed attending many talks and other events with him at Conway Hall.

“He was an active contributor on these occasions. Right up to the Sunday before his death he had organised informal discussions at Conway Hall on Sunday afternoons, and these were greatly enjoyed.

“John was unfailingly polite, considerate and conscientious, and will be greatly missed.”

From TL (Hon Chair, Harrow Humanists)

“In conclusion; John was a Humanist and a living example of how to be good, without gods.”

John’s birth date was June 13; he would have been 85 on the day of his funeral.


DON LIVERSEDGE (1917 – 2015)

Don Liversedge, who has died at the age of 98, was born in Llanelli on 30 June 1917. Soon afterwards his family moved to Addiscombe (Surrey), and then to Bexhill-on-Sea. His father died when he was 14, and his mother opened a guest-house in Bexhill, which Don assisted in running. During the Second World War Don was in the army and served in Northern Ireland. In 1952-54 he studied PPE at Ruskin College Oxford, where he met his lifelong partner Diana Cant at a college reunion in 1959. He then trained as a careers officer and worked for Herts County Council advising school-leavers. In about 1975 he moved to a similar job with the London Borough of Hillingdon, retiring in 1982.

Don’s family background was non-religious: a christening arranged by his grandfather was cancelled by his mother! He was active in the humanist movement, serving for many years as a trustee and honorary representative of the then South Place Ethical Society. He was also a founder member of Harrow Humanists in the 1960s, together with Alex Dawn, Henry & Ruth Young, and Rosemary Bennett. He also chaired the Harrow Association of Voluntary Services, and promoted the “Agenda 21” environmental initiative in Harrow. He was an election agent for the Labour Party in the 1945 election. He was a tremendous committee man, and is said to have sat on 27 committees, on behalf of the many organisations he belonged to.

Don’s interests included jazz: he ran a jazz appreciation group at Conway Hall; cars: he learned to drive at an early age, and owned an early Ford which he bought for £7 10 shillings; biology and psychology: he was a member of the Galton Institute. He was carried through his long life by a quirky sense of humour, an equable temper, and a lifelong interest in education.

Charles Rudd, with thanks to Diana Cant.


GILL PHARAOH (19   – 2015)

Gill Pharaoh, a member of Harrow Humanists, died on July 21st 2015, at her own request, at Lifecircle in Basel, Switzerland, (www.lifecircle.ch), accompanied by her Partner of twenty five years. Gill was seventy five. Gill`s career was almost entirely in Palliative Care with years spent in the Home Care team of a hospice in Romford, Essex, followed by a management role with Marie Curie organisation in London, and latterly with Motor Neuron Disease Association. Gill retired about ten years ago, and moved to Pinner in 2010. Her health deteriorated after Shingles in 2010, and together with tinnitus, disabling back pain and near permanent exhaustion, she felt that her life was complete. She joined several organisations which proved very helpful with advice and warnings, notably SOARS (Society for Old Age Rational Suicide) at www.soars.org.uk and FATE (Friends At The End) at www.friends-at-the-end.org.uk Because she had no recognised terminal illness, and was familiar with UK palliative care, her decision attracted a lot of publicity, especially following a Sunday Times article published on August 2nd 2015, with which Gill had cooperated prior to her trip to Switzerland.
Gill was a keen gardener, insatiable bookworm, energetic shopper, lifelong socialist and great fan of the NHS. She was immensely sociable. She wrote two books, “Careers in Caring” and “How To Manage Family Illness At Home” and left posts on her website www.yesiambovvered.co.uk which will remain until probably July 2016. She leaves a daughter in California, and a son and Grandson in Australia.

John Southall
May 9 2016


IKE ASCHER (19   – 2015)

Ike Ascher was Principal Lecturer in Government and Political Thought at the School of Business Studies, City of London Polytechnic and London University Lecturer in Sociology and Sino-Soviet Affairs.
He had travelled extensively in North America, Europe and Eastern Europe, Russia and Japan and visited China during the cultural revolution. He contributed to the BBC television coverage of British general election results. When he retired, he became a founder member of South London U3A. He was a Meccano enthusiast and constructed intricate models, and installed a model railway in his garden.

Suzette Ascher


MIKE SAVAGE (26th August 1937 - 25th May 2016)

Mike Savage, who was Chair of Harrow Humanists between 2006 and 2013, died at the age of 78 after a protracted and increasingly disabling pulmonary illness.
Mike had a varied and interesting life. He studied languages at university in his youth, including Russian which he was later able to use during the cold war for translating intercepts from the Soviet Union and which he kept up even when he became housebound towards the end of his life. Later he also did a Masters degree in Business Studies and after retirement took various IT exams even though he had no computer at home and was reliant on the IT facilities of the university and the local library.
He had held a variety of jobs including in finance, a trainee manager for Sainsbury's and a London guide for the British Council but was basically an academic and worked as a college tutor for most of his life.
He had a great interest in the theatre and attended London shows and plays very frequently. He also took part in ballroom dancing and yoga classes. He had travelled widely, including latterly to exciting destinations such as the Andes and to Cuba.
Mike was brought up as an Anglican but during his national service in the RAF started to question this belief and even more so when he was at university. As a gay man he found the church's attitude to homosexuality unacceptable but when he discovered the Gay and Lesbian Humanist Association (GALHA) where he was welcomed by serious minded people like himself, he felt that this was really where he fitted in and indeed he became the Chair of GALHA for a number of years. Although he lived in Essex, his local Humanist group meetings clashed with an evening class, and so he used to come right across London to the Harrow Humanists meetings and was elected Chair of this group. He took this responsibility very seriously and did not miss a single meeting or committee meeting during his seven year tenure.
Even when very disabled and housebound he still retained his interests in languages and in Humanism and was always stoical and very appreciative of the various carers and friends who were looking after him.

Julie Crow



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