Jeffrey Howard Rayner, publicist: born Gravesend, Kent 24 February 1935; married 1962 Jackie Lorimer (died 1990; one son, one daughter); died Ockley, Surrey 27 November 2006.
Jeffrey Rayner was a public relations man who combined pleasure and professionalism with a panache which was always infectious but sometimes positively chastening. He made work seem such fun that it sometimes left one feeling quite guilty.
Rayner began his professional career as a journalist on the Slough Observer - in the 1950s and 1960s a notable provincial nursery for hacks aspiring to a career on national papers. Rayner, however, did not follow his ambitious colleagues on to Fleet Street but instead went into public relations, specialising in travel, which he loved.
I first encountered him in 1972 when he was handling the Calabria account. This undeveloped though beautiful part of Italy was wonderful to visit but completely resistant to the sort of mass tourism Rayner was hired to promote. The future depended on a huge new international airport which it was quite obvious to everyone, including the PR agency, was not going to be built. His association with this colourful employer was therefore short-lived.
From time to time Rayner's agency, Intercommunication, involved partners and other employees, but he seemed more comfortable and effective when working on his own. This he did from a series of small offices, mainly in the Covent Garden area of London.
His approach to the job was pragmatic. On one occasion, when he was trying without much success to sell the Beaujolais Nouveau wine race, I explained to him that I was almost certainly not going to be able to interest any travel editor in the idea. "It doesn't matter," he told me. "Just brush up your languages and bring a suit."
And so it was that I found myself in a series of obscure towns and villages dotted along the Loire valley talking in fractured French with the likes of the legendary journalist Anne Sharpley and an assortment of grizzled vignerons and perplexed mayors. Rayner was an avid Francophile, often inviting the portly, monocled gourmand Arthur Eperon, a particular favourite, to sample the pleasures of the cross-channel hovercraft or the Normandy resort of Le Touquet, both of which he represented.
Other Rayner accounts included Tunisia (twice, over the years); Hong Kong; and a cut-price airline which involved a memorable day trip to Berlin to celebrate a Len Deighton novel. The occasion included Jeffrey Bernard, fuelled from the beginning of the day on a diet of neat vodka. Another German trip culminated in a ground-breaking visit to Colditz Castle despite the scepticism of Communist hosts reluctant to believe that the old schloss occupied a significant place in British folklore.
In recent years Rayner had concentrated on the magnificent little fleet of latter-day sailing clippers owned by the Swedish millionaire Mikael Kraft. The three Star Clipper ships plied their trade around the Caribbean, the Mediterranean and the Far East. Rayner hosted regular press trips in all three areas, always a generous and amusing host, yet concealing a steely resolve under his dapper welcome.
Taking part in one of these little voyages was more like attending an exotic house party than researching an article. Rayner took great care to mix and match his guests, always remaining loyal to old friends while encouraging interesting new blood. He never, however, lost sight of the fact that the end result was supposed to be column inches and, although he seemed relaxed and laid back, everything was organised with consummate professionalism and attention to detail.
His private life was centred around rural Surrey where he lived, first with his wife, Jackie, and their two children, and latterly in genially hospitable solitude. He was an avid cricket supporter who had recently taken over as president of the Surrey branch of the Lord's Taverners.
He was also a keen bridge, golf and tennis player, as well as having an interest in a local gastro-pub where he threw a lavish 70th birthday party attended by a wide variety of loyal friends from many walks of life.
Tim HealdReuse content