Raymond Cannon

Raymond Cannon

13 November 1933
London, United Kingdom
03 May 2024
Netanya, Israel
Words by
Adam Cannon Son

My father was born in the reign of King George V and Queen Mary in 1933. A long time ago. There is a front page from the Daily Mail from the day of his birth on the wall in their flat which shows King George and Queen Mary leading the mourners at the Cenotaph on Remembrance Sunday, 13 November 1933. The people were mourning the dead of the Great War, and it was still six years before the start of World War II. Germany had just been taken over by the Nazi party and the birth of the State of Israel was still a distant dream.

The Soviets would never invade on a Wednesday afternoon.

He lived through the war, where he was evacuated to Wales, then did National Service when it was still a thing in the UK. He loved his time in the Royal Air Force, although it is fair to say he saw very little action, spending most of his time in West Germany, ostensibly protecting us from a Russian invasion, which never happened during his watch, and certainly not on a Wednesday afternoon, when he delighted in telling us that the runways were closed for sports afternoon. The Soviets would never invade on a Wednesday afternoon.

I must have inherited my love of history from him, but the difference is he actually lived through so much; VE day, the foundation of this Jewish state where he eventually made his home, and the birth of the National Health Service in England. He was alive during evacuation, decimilisation, digitialisation and computerization. He saw the Berlin Wall being built and dismantled, Nixon’s resignation, the Vietnam War, and the assassination of JFK. Covid didn’t seem to bother him and he was alive during the reign of five British monarchs and the birth of the iPhone. Dad loved new tech and was the first person I knew with a car phone, phoning Mum to ask her to put the dinner in the oven.

a titan of the Anglo-Jewish community

He taught us to get involved and to make a difference in the community. One of my friends, a member of the House of Lords no less (he would have liked that) said to me yesterday that Dad was a titan of the Anglo-Jewish community. He made a difference to everything he touched. He said that our community needs more Raymond Cannons, and that is very true. He held many communal positions, starting with turning their beloved Kenton Shul into one of the leading Anglo communities at the time. He was Vice President of the United Synagogue and Chair of Education and Chair of the Burial Society. Education was his thing. He was Chairman of Governors at Solomon Wolfson and then Sinai, a school he helped set up. He then became Chairman of the Governors at the Jewish Free School and helped transform that school to one of the best. Transformation using your magic touch was what made you stand out.

one of the country’s leading experts in Franchise Law

Of course he also topped out professionally. His career was a stellar one. He reached the top of his game, being one of the country’s leading experts in Franchise Law. He literally wrote the book, having not even gone to university. He followed the apprenticeship path, becoming Senior Partner of one of the West End’s leading firms, Peters and Peters. And then working in Hong Kong for a couple of years when Jonny was working there. Both Graham and Jonny have an ability to go into an organisation or school and turn it into a roaring success. Something they must have learnt from my Dad.

Lord Levy (another member of the House of Lords) messaged me yesterday to tell me what a truly special man he was and how much he did for the community, particularly JFS.

I feel very proud and lucky that either by design or serendipity, I have followed in my Dad’s footsteps in many ways. As a lawyer, as a governor of JFS, and as someone who gives time to the Anglo-Jewish community and its institutions, trying to make a difference, something which I hope I can do as well as he did.

Mum and Dad retired to Netanya, something they always wanted to do. He loved living here, he loved his friends and family, the sea view and complaining about the noise from mini golf. But Dad and Mum made an amazing life for themselves . He loved his history course. Going on tiyulim most weeks, Mum and Dad have seen most of this amazing country. And they loved to read, write and give lectures (and send regular email analysis of the current situation) and of course going swimming in the pool across the road. Going to the pool and having a coffee and snack there was often the highlight of his day.

But he did not start out life as a sporty child. In fact, he used to tell Ellie that his childhood doctor told his mum that he had to walk to school everyday, there and back, as he was a bit fat. I don’t think he stopped walking or running around since.

the most wonderful few days with him

Mum and Dad liked to travel to see their children and grandchildren, none of whom followed them to live in Israel. Unfortunately in the last few years, it has not been possible, so we have all had to travel to see them. And we often did just that. Just three weeks ago, Lottie and I had the most wonderful few days with him. He was in great form. We went walking and discussing everything from the state of the UK stock market to the intricacies of the Tory party and we went out for some lovely meals at his two current favourite places, the diner on the motorway and Cafe Nitsa. And for the first time in ages, the chips were hot enough so he didn’t even need to send them back. He also had a complaint about Mum going clothes shopping, so everything felt wonderfully normal.

Only last summer, he drove to Jerusalem and Tel Aviv because he didn’t want to miss out on a burger and chips with his youngest grandson, Jude who was on Israel Tour at the time.

Dad. But what a life. Ninety long years, sixty four of which you were married to Mum. We can all just aspire to lead a life like yours. I love you Dad and I am so proud of everything you have done for us, your family, your friends and your community and I will miss you.