Pink Triangle Trust treasurer Diesel Balaam shares his memories of Saich, pictured right, a key figure in the establishment of the Gay Humanist Group which later became the Gay And Lesbian Humanist Association.
Our dear friend and stalwart campaigner, Roy Saich, sadly passed away in hospital on Tuesday, May 2. He had had some medical complications over the weekend necessitating hospitalisation.
He was visited by his nephew, Guy Saich and his wife Tracey and by John Marshall, a Pink Triangle Trust trustee, on the Monday, when he appeared to be in good spirits and rallying a little. It’s good to know that he had company in his final days and hours, as he had been essentially housebound since the first Covid lockdown in March 2020, with visits from just a few close friends, the district nurse, housekeeper and meals-on-wheels.
I’m glad I got to speak with him over the ‘phone just a day or two before he went into hospital, when he seemed bright and cheerful, but may, characteristically, have been putting a brave face on things.
Together with his late partner, George, above, who died aged 87 in 2021, Roy was a big part of my life for the past 39 years. While it was George who held court and could work any room he found himself in, it was Roy who quietly and steadfastly navigated the Gay Humanist Group, later the Gay And Lesbian Humanist Association (GALHA), as well as the Pink Triangle Trust, through the choppy waters of campaigning for LGBT equality and the rights of secularists.
Whenever there was a debate, everyone would have their say, before Roy would chime in, getting straight to the point and offering a crystal clear summary of the point at issue and what course of action was necessary.
He was scarily well-read and erudite and for years I believed he was university educated, but, in fact, he was a largely self-educated man. He worked for the Prudential until retirement. He and George were both co-founders, together with others, of the Gay Humanist Group and its charitable arm, the Pink Triangle Trust, as well as, before that, their local Campaign for Homosexual Equality (CHE) group. In Kenilworth, Roy and George were both leading lights of the Coventry and Warwickshire Humanists.
Roy had a passion for books and was especially well-read and knowledgeable about ancient Roman and Greek societies. It was Roy who introduced me to Epicurean philosophy and would recommend books and articles on Bradlaugh, Ingersoll, Paine, Shaw and others.
For many years, Roy could be found manning stalls at the Conway Hall or at Gay Pride, promoting Humanism via leaflets and books. It was Roy who introduced George to freethought and humanism and both were active members of the National Secular Society and British Humanist Association (Humanists UK).
Moving to Kenilworth in 1975 much of the next 40 years was spent writing letters to MPs, the press, and organisations to counter homophobia, religious privilege and especially the religious homophobia stirred up by the AIDS crisis in the 1980s and early 1990s.
He and George were a formidable team, bringing great charm, wit and erudition to their tireless campaigning. In GALHA’s heyday, they would travel up to London each month to chair meetings with guest speakers in the library at Conway Hall, and every year, they would help organise the annual gathering of members at a hotel, usually in a seaside resort, then a gala dinner in the winter months. They also edited the group’s newsletter for many years, eventually elevating it to magazine status.
It was my privilege to know Roy for 39 years from the time I joined the Gay Humanist Group back in 1984 at the tender age of 21. He and his late partner, George, soon became very good friends and we spent many happy times together, whether campaigning, dining out, or spending memorable weekend breaks together in Morecambe, Lyme Regis, or at the Burgh Island Hotel in south Devon, George being the incorrigible social butterfly, Roy tutting and rolling his eyes as George over-did the negronis or demanded yet another tissue from Roy’s ever-present satchel.
As with any deep and enduring friendship, there were ups and downs between me and them—inevitable when you are involved in campaign groups with all their internal politics—and I did fall out with Roy and George on one or two occasions. It was then that I glimpsed their steely determination and the unbreakable bond between them, but they were never unkind and always the first to extend or accept the olive branch of reconciliation.
A hug and a white lady cocktail and soon all was well between us again. I miss them both enormously, but will treasure the memories and be thankful for their friendship, kindness, guidance and inspiration, as we lay Roy to rest beside his beloved George at Canley Crematorium later this year.
John Marshall added:
I think Diesel has expertly summed up Roy’s character, which was frequently quiet and studious, deep thinking and precise—contrasting greatly with partner George’s more gregarious and flamboyant style. The dynamic interplay between the two characters made them a formidable duo. I first met George and Roy in 1976 when I joined the South Warwickshire Area Gay Group, a local group they co-founded.
This group was a life-saver for me and was the first step in my journey as a gay man. Although I saw them from time to time in later years, it was only in relatively recent years that our friendship was genuinely rekindled, when I moved back in Warwickshire.
By the time that George died in 2021, Roy was effectively housebound and I became a frequent visitor. By this time Roy was hard of hearing which made conversation difficult, but we persevered and I always enjoyed learning about the latest book he was reading.
I will miss his company, his occasional grumbles (“the country has gone to pot”) and his endearing thoughtfulness and good manners, not to mention his lifelong commitment to freethought and humanism. His life was well lived and his presence will be greatly missed.
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May 8, 2023
Very sorry to hear of Roy’s passing. I came to know him and George only very slightly through my very occasional visits to the UK, particularly during GALHA’s annual long week-end
gatherings. They were both then already advanced in years, but we kept in touch through emai until George’s passing in 2021. I had the highest regard for their commitment to, and championing of, human rights, humanism, secularism, LGBT rights, GALHA and other such causes, and particularly for their persistence in the face of the great challenges presented to them in these endeavours. I am sure they were centrally instrumental in the social and legislative successes in these fields achieved in the UK over the decades, and wish there were some national acknowledgment that could be awarded them for this.
May 9, 2023
A touching and eloquent tribute to a lovely man who will be greatly missed. The debt that LGBTQ Humanists owe to both Roy and George is great indeed.