We know there are many people following our challenge who knew Charlie incredibly well and miss him like we do. But we are also lucky enough to to have met many, many wonderful people since he died who never had that chance. So we thought this was a good excuse to dig out some old pictures and stories about Charlie so you know who this challenge is all about.
We have some very special guest editors for this blog post – Charlie’s parents Brian and Jane Raper.
When the children were growing up, we lived on Addingham Moorside near Ilkley in an old farm house that was quite isolated and surrounded by fields and moorland. A good place to roam for the children and they all did!
A great deal of Charlie’s early life was spent in the back of the car, usually with a book once he could read, as his sister (Cath) and brothers (John and Michael) were shuttled back and forth from school and friend’s houses and shopping! He was a very calm and happy little boy with a shock of blond hair, who basically fitted in with everything that was going on.
Charlie started school at Ghyll Royd (picture below) when he was 4 and learned to read early. When he was very young, he used to get up before anyone else to read downstairs by the fire in the kitchen, with a dog on either side of him.
We spent most of the annual summer holidays in Scotland when the children were quite young. Below is a picture of Charlie aged 6 on top of a mountain opposite Ullapool in August 1977 (Beinn Ghobhlach 635 meters). Half the family didn’t make it to the top, but he did, and his little legs wouldn’t work at all next day!!
Charlie adored Scotland – one time we found him sitting for hours on a rock with a piece of string and a hook attached to a pole, fishing. Eventually, (I think we had forgotten about him!) a shout, and he had caught the tiniest plaice anyone had ever seen!
From Ghyll Royd, around aged 8, Charlie went on to Aysgarth School to board. I remember, just after he started we had a letter from him “Dear Mum and Dad, I hope you are well. I have broken my plate and am having to hold my teeth in manually.” This was a typical Charlie remark, which always seemed to come out of nowhere!
Rather surprisingly, as he was basically a natural cricketer, at Aysgarth, Charlie became heavily involved in playing Eton Fives (left handed; very useful for dealing with the buttress and the ‘pepper pot’!) and ended up being very good at it. In 1984, he and his partner James Woodcock went all the way through the Preparatory Schools annual competition and won it for the first time for the school! This is a picture of the cup being presented to them – it seems nearly as small as he was!
We have a letter from an old school friend of Charlie’s at Aysgarth, Robert Travers, who went on to Winchester and was in touch through their teens. He wrote to us after Charlie died from America, where at the time he was Professor of History at Cornell University.
“It seems both a long time ago, and not long at all, since Charlie and I became friends at Aysgarth. I remember long hours of playing table tennis in the old gym, and of course cricket matches. I was so proud to be Charlie’s friend, and I didn’t mind at all that his force of personality, allied to other abundant gifts, nearly always got the better of me on the golf course or snooker table. I longed to be as stylish as he was, but failing that I just loved to be in his company as we laughed at films like ‘the man with two brains’ or watched endless re-runs of Botham’s Ashes.”
After Common Entrance when he was about 12 he went to take a scholarship to Harrow School, and arrived there with nothing but an Asterix book (he collected all of them) and a pair of gym shoes, unlike many others who had bags full of revision books and papers. He got his scholarship!
Holidays from Harrow often started with Charlie arriving home usually accompanied by 6 or 7 school friends. I don’t think anyone else would have them ‘en masse’! They would play golf, cricket on the drive, rugby on the landing and snooker in a smoke filled room until the early hours (usually joined by more old friends from Ilkley). Then they always had a massive ‘fry-up’ leaving the entire bottom floor of the house filled with blue smoke! (Fortunately no smoke alarms in those days) The friends were all so nice and always polite to us but we were awfully glad when they went home!
I think Harrow days were really very happy for Charlie with all his friends, and he certainly made his mark on the cricket field, as a sharpish left arm opening bowler and a pretty useful middle order right hand batsman.
Quite something for him, as his two elder brothers had given him an extraordinarily difficult act to follow, both of them having had outstanding cricketing careers there.
One short quote about Charlie from the school magazine after his third Lord’s appearance against Eton, may suffice: “Martin appeared to blaze away at each of the Harrovian bowlers, yet was eventually caught for 71 by Raper. This was a stunning catch and much the cricketing highlight of the day. The Harrow captain somehow managed spectacularly to cling onto the ball (moving away from him) in full view of the Tavern Stand: it brought the supporters to their feet.”
I think this, and the reaction of the crowd, even shocked Charlie himself as his face was bright red immediately afterwards! He told me later….
“Crikey Dad, I had to catch it: I had put myself there for just such a shot and everyone else knew it, and if it had got past me I would have looked a real dummy.”
I will never forget that chat!
At Oxford he met more wonderful friends. They came in ones and twos by then, and remain amazingly kind to us even now and still so loyal to Charlie.
We have one or two memories in particular of Charlie from his time at Oxford. The first was when we went to visit him there for the first time.
Excited and a little awed, and having set off at about 6 in the morning, we arrived at his door in college at the appointed time and there was a scruffy note pinned on it. In Charlie’s near illegible hand-writing was scrawled “Sorry Mum and Dad, change of plan, gone to London. Will ring tonight.” This had an immediate explosive effect on us, and it was at least two minutes before we realised that there were hoots of laughter coming from the other side of the door……
Another time, Charlie invited us to take tea with a good friend of his, Justin Higgo. Just before we were due to meet, Charlie pulled me to one side and whispered to me:
“Now Dad, this chap is really bright, so don’t ask too many questions or talk too much: just listen.”
When he was at home finalising his ‘dissertation’ for his degree, and we stayed up most of the night consuming red wine, he told me quietly, that he had put in it five words that he had made up and were not in any dictionary that he knew about. He wanted to see if they would be spotted. Apparently they were not picked up, as he got a first for that. Although I questioned him a few times, he never told me which words they were, and I still haven’t found them!
He met Alison who was at Oxford at the same time reading Geography, and in November 1996 they married. Both were by then working in the City. Unfortunately, after two or three years their relationship broke down and they were divorced.
A few years later, when Charlie first brought Kirsty to meet us here at home, Michael phoned earlier in the day and told us ‘you had better be nice to Kirsty, Charlie adores her’. So, this beautiful, City attired girl duly arrived with Charlie, and I (Jane) went out to greet her and gave her a big hug and a kiss, whereupon Charlie passed and whispered “don’t overdo it”. You can’t win, can you?
Charlie’s career in the City took in Guinness Mahon, Investec and Kroll. When he eventually left the City to work with his brother Michael setting up Blue Hackle, we were very happy for them both.
Lachie Monro, a close colleague of Michael and Charlie’s at Blue Hackle wrote to us after Charlie died, saying:
“I knew Charlie really for only two years or so when we worked together at Blue Hackle, but it feels like I knew him since childhood. I can clearly remember thinking how impressive Charlie was when I first started working with him. He had such a clear and intelligent mind, complete self-belief, a beautifully crafted sense of humour and fun, and most strikingly of all, his respect and compassion for other people.”
He had a wonderfully happy life with Kirsty. He adored her and Issie and all Kirsty’s family who are so loyal to him still.