30th November 2018

Obituary: Peter James Cave

Trading standards lost a good-humoured and pioneering professional in November 2018


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Our friend and colleague Peter Cave sadly passed away on 1st November 2018. A service close to the home he shared with his wonderful wife Vicki was held at Trinity Church, Lower Earley, Reading on the 26th November. Peter would have been delighted to see so many trading standards and other friends there to bid him a fond farewell and to support Vicki. Being a huge cricket fan, he would have been equally delighted to have known that England had just completed a whitewash test series win over Sri Lanka! Only Hampshire CC winning the county championship would have made him happier.

Peter knew he was dying and had been typically courageous, pragmatic and stoic in those final weeks of his life. I had the honour and privilege of being asked to say a few words at his funeral where together all of us there shared in the memories of this lovey man and consummate professional. Peter was a long-time member of the Western Front Association and it was good to see a WFA representative at the service. His grandfather had fought in WW1 for the 4th Hampshire Regiment and had survived the infamous actions at St Eloi, Ypres. Peter’s father had been named William St Eloi Cave and never short on humour Peter had even named his favourite cat Gerald St Eloi Peter Catkins Cave.

Born in Chale on the Isle of Wight on 10 August, 1947 Peter remained a proud Islander throughout his life and fittingly, and at his request, Vicki will lay his ashes there. He joined the IoW Weights & Measures Department in 1964. On qualifying in 1968 he moved to Crawley in West Sussex where he, like others of us, worked for and adored the inimitable Darby Alan (Bill) Read. Six years later he joined LB Hillingdon as a Senior TSO led by John Brookes. In 1977, Peter was awarded the first College of Fellows research scholarship and went on to visit six European countries studying their consumer redress systems. Pioneering stuff, and in that same year he was appointed by Jim Spinks as Assistant Head of Consumer Affairs for the London Borough of Croydon.

The handsome Peter was a born networker and communicator with a natural entrepreneurial flair and in 1979 he took a huge leap of faith and founded GEMS, Gatwick Employment & Management Services Ltd. The airport was growing and Peter had seen an opportunity to use his talents to provide contract staff to the likes of Laker, Virgin and more. He was soon turning over half a million pounds a year, supplying 40 plus staff a week as well as being treasurer of the Gatwick Airport Managers Association chaired by Sir Freddie Laker. Alas the UK economic downturn in the late 1980s and early 1990s had seen airline failures and in 1992 Peter oversaw the orderly closure of GEMS. His health had also started to suffer and he needed a lucky break to return to the trading standards family. John Brooks to the rescue and in January 1993 Peter started at the Berkshire Trading Standards service led by John. Sadly, for Peter and Vicki illness then took hold and after having pancreatic surgery Peter became an insulin dependent diabetic.

Peter had met Vicki in 1988. They moved to their new home at Lower Earley in Berkshire in the summer of 1993 as Peter returned to health and work. Just three years later his health again suffered and he was diagnosed with cancer requiring extensive radiotherapy to his lower jaw. He got well again and was overjoyed to be elected Chair of the Institute’s Southern Branch in 1996. Needless to say, he took the Branch to the IoW for its autumn meeting. Those of us that attended – including the then Director General of Fair Trading John Bridgeman and Peter’s good friend Noel Hunter – will never forget the hovercraft crossing on a very choppy Solent!

Peter had married his great love Vicki in 1999. Local government reorganisation had contrived to break Berkshire into six unitary authorities and Peter went to Reading BC. 14 months later he took early retirement and started a trading standards consultancy business. He took a law degree and was awarded his LLB Honours in 2000. He also qualified as a member of the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators and then became an integral part of the modernising Trading Standards Institute as consultant manager of its Appointments Service, a role he performed with typical aplomb, efficiency, tact and warmth.

Vicki had herself taken retirement from her Social Services career in 2011 and Peter opted to follow suit and hang up his working boots. This gave him the time to then follow another passion, writing. His great uncle had been murdered on the IoW in 1940 and Peter had wanted to research and author a book on the mystery for many years. The end result ‘Death in Godshill, an Isle of Wight Tragedy’ was published in 2012. It’s a commendable read and remains in publication.

Vicki has lost the love of her life and we have all lost a marvellous and incredibly special friend and professional colleague. Vicki knows she has our collective support and condolences and has asked that her thanks and regards be passed to all those who contributed to the funeral service collection made at Peter’s request where over £1,000 was raised for Cancer Research. That lovely smile of his will be radiant.

Written By Ron Gainsford.