Former Covent Garden wholesaler Ray Hopley has passed away at the age of 74 following a courageous three-year struggle with cancer.
Hopley’s career in wholesaling started when he left school and joined Barney Springer Ltd as a trader in the floral hall of the old Covent Garden Market.
With ambitions to become a carpenter, Hopley did not expect to find himself working in fresh produce, but he embraced the industry, quickly demonstrating his trading ability under the scrutiny of the Springer family.
The budding wholesaler soon became one of the most successful salesman at Covent Garden, and when the market moved to Nine Elms in 1974 his reputation grew further.
Director of the Fresh Produce Consortium Richard Brighten reserved special praise for Hopley calling him “one of the legends of Covent Garden”.
“Hopley was one of the finest wholesale market salesmen that I had the good fortune to deal with,” Brighten said. “Unlike his contemporaries in the same league Ray did not shine in a ‘trumpy’ market but performed brilliantly with a volume challenge.”
This was a skill that Hopley demonstrated most consistently during the Cape season when his team sales were “often quite outstanding,” according to Brighten. “There are a number of fruit growers in South Africa and other parts of the globe that owe a fair share of their successes to Ray’s energies and skills,” he added.
When Barney Springer went into liquidation in the 1980s, Hopley was recruited by fellow Covent Garden wholesaler Mack. The trader made one more move in the market before transferring his talents to Western International, where he spent the rest of his fresh produce career.
Having always been a keen golfer, Hopley then went to work at the London Golf Club where he acted as a ‘welcomer’ and, on occasions, as a caddie for the players. He was also captain at Pedham Place Golf Course, where he ended his working days.
Hopley leaves behind his devoted wife Ann and son Paul, who lives in Australia. His funeral will be held at London’s Kemnal Park Crematorium, off the Sidcup bypass, on Tuesday 28 February at 3.30pm.
The family has requested guests not to bring flowers but, if they want to, well-wishers may make donations to Greenwich and Bexley Community Hospice where Ray was cared for during his final days.