A life well-lived

BIG PERSONALITY: Henry Ramagge was a well-known health campaigner, particularly on diabetes issues

BIG PERSONALITY: Henry Ramagge was a well-known health campaigner, particularly on diabetes issues

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HEALTH campaigner Henry Ramagge will likely be best remembered for his fight for better services for his fellow diabetics.

Few who read the newsletters he wrote on behalf of the Friends of the Manx Diabetic could ever doubt his commitment, or his sense of humour.

Henry, who died on May 30, would perhaps then have been pleased at the number of MHKs who turned out for his packed funeral at Douglas Borough Crematorium. It was confirmation that he had the undividing attention of those in power.

Henry Ramagge was born in Gibraltar on July 10, 1934, to parents Victor and Pepi Ramagge.

Following the outbreak of war the family were evacuated in 1940 to London and later Barkingside.

Henry had two younger brothers, John and Victor - the latter born while his parents were in the UK.

In 1944 they moved on to Clough in Northern Ireland.

The family returned to Gibraltar in 1945 and, while sailing home on the Warwick Castle, the end of the war was announced and they saw submarines surrendering to the ship.

Henry’s first job was in Barclays Bank in Gibraltar. In 1953 he was poached by the Gibraltar Government to work in the Treasury and the following year he undertook six months’ national service with the Gibraltar Defence Force.

In 1958 he was transferred to the Registry of the Gibraltar Government and later that year was made officer in charge of Radio Gibraltar, which was then a government department.

1961 saw the creation of the Radio Broadcasting Service and Henry was appointed executive officer.

In 1963 the Gibraltar Broadcasting Corporation was formed, made up of the radio station and a newly formed TV station. Henry was the general manager.

In 1972 he left his beloved Gibraltar and moved to London to work at Television International Enterprises. He bought a hotel in Kensington with his brother Victor and his wife Jan ran the hotel. He left the TIE and started his own TV/film company with Victor, supplying TV programmes to the overseas market.

Somehow, Henry also found time to drive a mini cab.

By now he had two sons: Stephen, from his first marriage, and Matthew, with Jan. Stephen, now 50, lives in Gibraltar with his son Stefan, 21, and Matthew, 33, lives in Edinburgh.

The Ramagges moved to the Isle of Man in 1978. They had two farms, at Ballavartyn and Ballagarey.

They started Soft Plus in Market Hill, Douglas, and then a TV and electrical shop in Duke Street. Meanwhile they were still keeping animals on the farm.

Proving Henry really would turn his hand to any task, he gave up farming and bought the petrol station in Kirk Michael.

In 1998 diabetes started taking its toll and he gave up work, throwing himself into campaigning.

He was chairman of the Manx Diabetic Association, which later became the Manx Diabetic Group.

After resigning from that post he went on to join forces with the Friends of the Manx Diabetes Centre, which became Friends of the Manx Diabetic.

Although known for a variety of campaign subjects, including the island’s reciprocal health deal with the UK, diabetes really was his cause.

After moving to the island, he continued to travel back to St Mary’s Hospital, in London, for treatment where he saw what could be done given the right facilities. Determined to press for a better deal for Isle of Man patients, Henry worked alongside the Department of Health and was instrumental in setting up clinics at Noble’s Hospital, run by specialist GP Dr Alison Blackman.

The work grew and the Diabetes Centre was created. When the new Noble’s was built and there was no centre in the plan, Henry was there once again to represent the interests of the island’s diabetics.

The Diabetes Centre in Braddan is now well-established.

Along the way, Henry wrote a book called The Elusive Alien Has Been Here All Along.

Just before his death, Henry was seriously considering standing in September’s general election in the Douglas South constituency. A comprehensive manifesto had been prepared and the final decision was due to be thrashed out with his family in the coming weeks.

Whether he would have stood for the seat will now never be known but, with his track record in political activism and worldy experience, it would have been foolish to rule him out.

While always serious he made sure he went about his business with a smile on his face.

It was fitting, therefore, that at the point of committal during his funeral Great Balls of Fire was played and, as the congregation left, they did so to the strains of Monty Python’s Always Look on the Bright Side of Life.

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