Town bids a final farewell to an orchestral leading light

Town bids a final farewell to an orchestral leading light
Ralph Hebditch

Ralph Hebditch, who has died aged 89, was for many years Chairman of the RTWSO. As such, Ralph was instrumental in turning the orchestra into the finest of its type in south-east England.

Born in Scarborough in 1930, Ralph left school at 16 and joined a local electrical engineering company before moving to London where he met his first wife, Barbara Rowntree, who was studying at the Royal College of Music.

After marrying in 1958, the pair moved to Tunbridge Wells where Barbara started to play with the RTWSO, eventually becoming its Chair, until her untimely death in 1996, when Ralph was catapulted into her position.

“Ralph was not a player himself, but through his professional business experience and his lifelong involvement in the Quaker movement he developed a deep understanding of people and what makes them tick,” said current Chairman, Giles Clarke.

“This gave him a special rapport with the musicians of the Orchestra who, in Ralph’s words, ‘in some ways live on their nerves in order to do the wonderful things they do’.

“But Ralph’s business skills also meant that he ensured the Orchestra had a sound financial basis and, through setting up its associated Friends’ organisation, gave the RTWSO a secure future that remains the envy of many other local orchestras.”

Ralph, who remarried in 1998 to lifelong friend Anne Speedy, had two children from his first marriage, Stephen and Alison, six grandchildren, four step daughters and 13 step grandchildren.

His funeral service takes place on Friday, January 10 at Tunbridge Wells Crematorium at 2.30pm.

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