Family pay tribute to Doctor Who Dalek creator Ray Cusick

C5172135   Ray Cusick -photo by Steve Cobb
C5172135 Ray Cusick -photo by Steve Cobb

A ‘bashful’ man, ‘passionate’ worker and ‘great father’ is how family of Raymond Cusick - the man behind Doctor Who’s Daleks - has been described this week.

The Horsham designer and former cleaner at Forest Boys School died peacefully at the age of 84 on Thursday (February 21) after a short illness.

His youngest daughter, Claire Heawood, has paid tribute to her father and thanked fans across the globe for their ‘very touching’ messages.’

This week she told the County Times how she hid behind cushions like any other child a the sight of her father’s creation.

“The Daleks terrified me,” she recalled. “We actually had a huge life size picture of them at the top of the stairs so we used to run up and down past it, trying not to look up, scared it would get you.

“I remember when we were taken to Leicester Square to watch the movie and within five minutes we ran out screaming.”

In 1963 Raymond spawned one of the most famous villains in cult science fiction.

But he was given a budget of just £250 to bring the idea to life - which demoted a sinister claw to the plunger.

In the early stages of its creation, Raymond slid a salt or pepper pot - he could never remember which - across a table to show a colleague how he envisioned the Dalek to move.

“I don’t think he was the easiest man to work with,” continued Claire. “He didn’t take fools lightly and he was passionate about his work.”

But Ray never sought fame, and was surprised at how the Dalek became the household name it is today.

“He was quite bashful, it always surprised dad if he got a letter from Canada or anywhere else around the world and he would always write back if they asked for an autograph.”

Speaking of the man outside of work, Claire said: “He was a great father, a great man. He was quite strict but he indulged us. We were always well taken care of.”

She added: “It’s all been really touching because it just reaffirms the support and how much the Daleks meant to fans.”

Raymond’s death comes just nine months before the 50th anniversary of Doctor Who, which boasts millions of fans around the world.

Paul Winter, of the Horsham-based Doctor Who Appreciation Society, believed Raymond did not receive any serious recognition for his work for years, until Jeremy Bentham published his book Doctor Who: The Early Years.

“The work of Ray and people like him is a real testament of what you can achieve against the odds because all the pressure was there to produce this ground breaking science fiction on the same budget as a typical Saturday afternoon series like Z Cars or Compact,” explained Paul.

“Doctor Who was meant to push the boundaries of what could be done on TV, but it was ended up stuck in the oldest studio in the BBC.”

As a junior designer, Raymond had enormous responsibilities thrust upon him, but successful made the villain the global icon it is today.

Paul said the modest man was ‘very proud’ of the Dalek stamp, adding: “The thing that I happen to know that annoyed Ray for a lot of years is that people tried to claim credit for a lot of his work.”

When news of Raymond’s death met former colleague Jose Furtado, the 64-year-old contacted the County Times from Belgium to pay tribute. “When I met and worked with Ray my career in TV was only just beginning, but now, when I look back on my professional development, the gratitude that I owe Ray is extraordinary. In the short time that I worked with him he was a mentor to me in more than one way.”

Jose even based his company name on Raymond’s words of inspiration.

“I called it Visual Generosity because what I learnt from Ray when doing sets is to make it ‘visually generous’.”

He added: “Ray had an extremely dry sense of humour, it was really wonderful, he could tell a story and tell a joke in a very individual way. I feel very sad that I never had the chance to thank him.”

Raymond had a keen interest in military history and wrote extensively about the Horsham Rifles.

Jeremy Knight, curator at Horsham Museum, said he did much research for an exhibition in 2000.

“He hated the Daleks, he just saw that as his day job, his real passion was in military history,” said Jeremy.