‘Witty grandfather of Islington had borough in his heart’
The family of Raymond Harris remember his life in Islington
14 December, 2018 — By Samantha Booth
Rabbi Mendy Korer with Raymond Harris and Yvonne
RAYMOND Harris’s house is adorned with paintings and drawings of the borough he had lived in for most of his life.
The 89-year-old, who died in October, was a prominent part of Islington’s Jewish community, known as the Zeide – the grandfather – of the borough.
“Islington was in his heart,” said his daughter Yvonne.
Mr Harris’s mother Bella came from Islington and with her husband, Leon, who was born in Poland, they moved to Acton.
During the Second World War Raymond was evacuated to Harpenden, studying at a grammar school in St Albans.
He did his national service in the Royal Air Force and went to Hull University to study accountancy.
Love of his job brought him back to London where he worked as an accountant at Staple Inn in Holborn.
“He was in that building for 50 years and he absolutely loved it,” said 60-year-old Yvonne.
“He was actually a workaholic but he loved his work. He was full of humour, he was full of wit, very sharp and super intelligent, very funny.
“He always looked on the bright side really.”
Raymond led a full life, and was involved in many branches of the borough’s institutions, from Islington Boat Club to Tower Theatre.
At the theatre, which is now based in Stoke Newington, he and his wife Pauline played a prominent part.
The couple had met at drama school when Raymond was 17, and Pauline was 23. “He was besotted with her,” said Yvonne. They married and moved into their first home together in Highbury.
Pauline and Raymond on their wedding day
Pauline acted at the Tower Theatre until her death in 1966, aged just 40.
In a letter to a friend in 1996, Raymond wrote: “Although I carried a spear a couple of times myself, I never enjoyed acting but was treasurer of the bar committee for some 20 years until 1976 when I became chairman of the Tower Theatre Club.”
Raymond remarried a decade later to Jaine, and the couple lived all around Islington including in Alwyne Square and finally in St Paul’s Road.
But Raymond and Yvonne’s lives were struck by tragedy again, when Jaine died 11 years ago in her 60s from breast cancer, the same disease that took Pauline’s life.
“He was tough on the outside, but it was difficult,” said Yvonne.
Raymond was one of the last members of Poets Road Synagogue before it closed in 1967.
When Rabbi Mendy Korer, a founder of Chabad Islington, moved to Islington in 2011, Raymond, a liberal Jew, was one of the first people he met.
He lived in Wallace Road, where Raymond’s grandparents had lived decades previously.
“He had such a keen interest in seeing something local grow and being available to the community,” said Rabbi Mendy. “Those who knew him in the community called him the ‘Zeide’ – an affectionate term for grandfather.”
Raymond died peacefully at his home on October 15. He leaves Yvonne and her husband, Barry, his two grand- children, Natasha and Ashley, and five great-grandchildren.