Ray Henderson, Co-op Press secretary and movement stalwart, 1946-2022

‘Ray was a man of great integrity and was widely respected throughout the many co-operatives of which he was a member’

The co-operative movement, and Co-op News, had a sad loss this month with the death of Ray Henderson, well liked and respected for his roles at the Co-op Party, Co-op Group and Co-op Press.

Ray will be greatly missed at Co-op News, which he served for many years as secretary and later treasurer. A friendly, supportive man, he would regularly drop by the News’s old office in Holyoake House, his genial north-east accent softening his wry observations of the goings-on of the co-op movement as he offered guidance and advice.

Executive editor Rebecca Harvey said: “Ray was  kind and clever soul, with dry wit and endless patience. His advice and guidance during the time I was appointed to the editor role was vital.

“He was passionate and committed, extremely diligent in his role as secretary, and thorough in his knowledge of the politics and intricacies of the Press and the wider movement. He was a great teacher, I’ll miss him dearly.”

Ray’s active involvement with the co-operative movement began when he became a member of what is now the Co-op Group in 1984. He was elected in 1992 to a divisional committee and in 2005 to the North Eastern and Cumbrian Regional Board. In 2009 he was elected to the Group board.

A member of the National Members’ Council since its inception, Ray was keen to see the body challenge the main board and promote membership participation at a local level. His involvement in the movement deepened when he retired from the Telecoms and IT industry, leading him to become secretary of Co-operative Press. But he was a committed and dedicated co-operator all his life, with particular interests in financial management and corporate governance.

In 1999, he became company secretary of the North East Music Teachers Co-operative, a successful public service mutual. He also had a stint as company secretary of the Film and Video Institute, a national membership organisation.

Denise Scott-McDonald, president of the Group’s National Members’ Council, said: “Ray had a long-standing commitment and involvement with the Co-op Group. Over the years he served in a variety of roles from a local level, at regional board level and as a director on the Co-op Group Board before 2015. 

“Ray had wide knowledge and experience of the Co-op and the wider co-operative movement and always enjoyed working closely with members. He was deeply committed to co-operative values and principles and was actively dedicated to his role as a council member, even during his long battle with myeloma.

“He’ll be hugely missed by members, fellow council members and co-operators across the movement.”

Ray was also an active member of Tyneside Co-op Party, and sat on its party council, which said it was ‘extremely sad’ to hear the news. “He will be dearly missed by us all,” it said in a message on Twitter.

Co-op Press chair Elaine Dean, a friend and fellow co-operator, said: “I initially met Ray in 2008 when I was first elected to the board of Co-operative Press at Congress in Blackpool. Ray was so kind and helpful to me and helped me find my feet.

“He was a superb secretary of Co-op Press and I came to appreciate his skills even more when I became chair in 2013. We appointed a young editorial team and acted as ‘elder statespeople’ to them. We appreciated their fresh take on News and supported their plans for change.

‘Ray was always totally professional and conducted the affairs of the Press so well. He became a trusted ally and a very dear friend.

“When illness forced him to give up the role a few years ago we kept him involved as treasurer and he attended board meetings by Zoom over the last two years.

“He was also an excellent contributor to the Co-op Group National Members’ Council, challenging without fear or favour when necessary.

“Ray was a man of great integrity and was widely respected throughout the many co-operatives of which he was a member. He was a true co-operator I was always proud to call my friend.

“Rest in peace Ray, you will be sadly missed by your Co-op News family.”