It is with the deepest regret the Society announces the death of Tony Packer, Historic Ryde Society’s treasurer since inception and co-founder of Ryde District Heritage Centre. Tony’s vision and inspirational drive to give Ryde its first museum since the 1880s has always been in the background, and he will be hugely missed.
Although not born on the Island, Tony was evacuated here during WWII, and by the age of eighteen, was managing The Seagull Ballroom at the end of the pier. He had many tales with which he regaled the Centre volunteers – the grand piano, which was thrown off the pier, and expected to sink, had floated off and narrowly escaped being hit by the ferry. A fruit machine also went the same way, but was later retrieved.
The mists of time obscure the initial exchanges between Tony and Diana, but by mid 2009, it was apparent plans were afoot to create a Centre for the town. Tony was right behind this, with a lifelong interest in all things Ryde – brewers, chemists, photographers – you name it, Tony was there buying it up.
He instigated and organised the monthly pub quizzes, along with his late brother Allan’s son, also Tony, and the Antique and Collectors’ Fairs with long-time friend and HRS volunteer, Jerry.
The Society was recently the centre of a media frenzy, with the bi-centenary of Ryde Pier. Tony and other volunteers were interviewed by the media, and Tony also joined volunteer Vic Scovell being interviewed by Countryfile’s Matt Baker about his long working life on the pier.
Tony’s passion was instrumental in the Society gaining recognition in achieving The Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service 2015. He and Diana attended one of Her Majesty’s Royal Garden Parties in late May. After lunch at the RAF Club on Piccadilly, – sorry folks! – he opted for gammon and chips, and a glass of coke. – and a tour of the Duke of Wellington’s home, Apsley House, Number One, London, a pleasant afternoon was spent in Buckingham Palace gardens.
The Society, and the town, owe him a great debt of gratitude for his legacy – Ryde District Heritage Centre.
Our thoughts are with Theresa, Zara, Allan and the family.