Former Peterborough coroner was ‘a remarkable human being’

The coroner for Peterborough and Cambridgeshire has paid tribute to his predecessor, labelling him as a ‘remarkable human being’ following news of his death.

Wednesday, 17th July 2019, 5:06 pm
Gordon Ryall

The sad news of the death of Gordon Ryall was confirmed yesterday.

Mr Ryall was the Peterborough coroner for nearly 40 years when he retired aged 70 in 2012. Following his retirement, he was given the freedom of the city for his tireless work.

During his time presiding over inquests in the city, he was known for his caring, sensitive manner, helping families during some of their most difficult times.

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David Hemming, HM Senior Coroner for Cambridgeshire & Peterborough, took over the post following Mr Ryall’s retirement, and today he paid his tributes to him.

Mr Hemming said: “He will be remembered by the city as a truly remarkable coroner , public servant and human being.

“Anyone who appeared before Gordon will recall his modesty and calm authority in court.

“He was fiercely independent as any member of the judiciary should be and he was a trusted reviewer of difficult coronial cases with the result that families could be satisfied that there had been a full, fair and fearless inquiry into a death.

“He provided a huge degree of personal support to others and never held back in sharing his knowledge and wisdom.

“His extraordinary achievement was in juggling the demands of his legal/coronial role with his utter devotion to and care of his wife Janet who suffered with Parkinson’s disease.

“Our thoughts are with Janet, and his children Ann and Adam.”

Along with Mr Ryall’s role as coroner, he held a number of senior professional posts in his career.

He started his legal career as a solicitor in private practice in Peterborough, firstly at Percival and Son, then Ryall and Lee, before moving to Hunt and Coombs where he stayed for a few years before retiring from private practice to concentrate exclusively on his coronial role.

He also held the position as Clerk to the Tax Commissioners in Peterborough.

He was appointed as a deputy coroner in 1971 before holding the Office of HM Coroner for Peterborough from April 1 1975 to March 31 2012. He had also held the position as Senior Coroner for Stamford.

National recognition came when he was appointed as President of the Coroners Society of England and Wales in 1990/1991,

He subsequently served the Society for several years as Hon. Medical Secretary.

He was also a past president of the Peterborough and District Law Society.

On the April 18 2012 Gordon was given the Freedom of the City due to his tireless work – especially to ensure religious traditions were upheld after death.

Outside of his professional duties, Mr Ryall was also president of the Peterborough branch of Parkinson’s UK, after his wife, Janet, was diagnosed with the condition.

Chair of the branch, Ruth Brinkler-Long said he had been a valued, inspirational and respected member of the team.

She said: “Gordon Ryall joined the Peterborough branch of Parkinson’s UK more than 10 years ago when his wife Janet was diagnosed with Parkinson’s

“After a couple years Gordon’s support and commitment had inspired the branch committee, and he was invited to accept the appointment of President of Peterborough Parkinson’s. He accepted and members soon enjoyed is charm and quick witted repartee

“Despite increasing care duties in respect of his wife Janet, he was constantly supportive and ready to perform customary “presidential duties.”

“With his wide knowledge of official procedures, he was always available to advise the committee, always being conscious of diplomacy and gentle guidance. From chairperson down through the ranks of membership, Gordon’s was always there for support

“The Branch committee and 230 branch members are shocked and saddened by the news about Gordon and on behalf of Peterborough Parkinson’s we would like to pass on our sincere condolences to Janet and the family.”

Yesterday, chief executive of Peterborough City Council Gillian Beasley paid her tribute, remembering his kind manner and sense of humour.

She said: “I knew Gordon both as our coroner and latterly as a Freeman of this City. Gordon was a true professional and an excellent coroner and I can remember how well he handled bereaved families in often tragic circumstances.

“He had an excellent sense of humour and he would often tell stories about the more macabre aspects of his role, but always in an appropriate manner!

“Following his retirement, together with his wife, he strongly supported the civic and other important events as a Freeman of the City. He will be greatly missed and my sincere condolences go to his wife and family.”

The funeral will take place on Monday the 29th July 2019 at 11 am at St Marys Church, Whittlesey followed by a private burial.