A WAR veteran who flew bomber missions over Berlin at the end of World War Two and a talented ice hockey player who was still skating and playing into his 80s, Ernest ‘Rip’ Ripley , has died at the age of 88.
Rip was the grandfather of ice hockey in Moray, a founding member of the Moray Dolphins and a coach to many promising young players at Moray Leisure Centre.
His passion for hockey began when he learned to skate at Durham in the 1940s and he only stopped skating at the age of 80 when he could no longer be covered by insurance to keep playing the sport he loved.
Rip had lived in Forres for over 40 years after settling in the town with his late wife Pat following his second posting to RAF Kinloss in 1970.
Born and brought up in a small mining village in the north east of England, he left school at the age of 14 and went on to work as an apprentice fitter and turner at a munitions factory at Gateshead.
After joining the RAF towards the end of the war, Rip underwent three months’ training before being deployed to a frontline Lancaster bomber squadron, flying missions over Germany. On his first mission they came under heavy attack from German fighter planes but returned safely.
Rip learned to play hockey from Canadian airmen who came over to serve in Britain during the war.
He was selected to play for the RAF Ice Hockey team in Switzerland during the late 1940s.
He continued playing over the years and when Moray Leisure Centre opened in 1993 Rip was one of the first people on the ice.
He was made an honorary rink steward for his support of junior players, which he was very proud of.
Rip only stopped playing in 2005, aged 80, when it became clear that he could no longer be insured to carry on skating and playing.
Despite the robust nature of recreational ice hockey, Rip competed against opponents more than half his age and never shirked a challenge.
He enjoyed road trips with the Dolphins well into his 70s and one of the highlights of longer journeys to the south of Scotland was a regular stop off at the Caithness Glass visitor centre in Perth where Rip would enjoy a cup of tea.
Past and present members of the club gathered at the leisure centre on Sunday for a challenge match as a tribute to Rip.
First posted to Kinloss in 1962 when he was flying Shackeltons, Rip was then posted to Cornwall and Ireland from 1965 to 1970 before returning to Kinloss to fly the Nimrod and stayed there until he retired from the RAF in 1977.
He worked for the Customs and Excise at Glenburgie Distillery until he retired in 1990.
Rip was also a keen member of Forres Angling Association and St John’s Lodge in Forres. His beloved wife, Pat, passed away in 2007 and Rip is survived by his sons Tim and Robin.
Tim said: “Rip loved his ice hockey, which he played competitively for near on 50 years. Few people half his age would have been able to play to that level for so long.
“He was particularly keen to pass on his experience to young or novice hockey players and really enjoyed helping at coaching sessions at the Moray Leisure Centre in Elgin.
“It was great to see so many of Rip’s old ice hockey teammates at his funeral – he would have been touched.
“Robin and I have been overwhelmed by the kind cards and messages of condolences from many of the people who knew Rip during his life.
“I would also like to thank Padre Andrew Hewett for conducting Rip’s funeral service and Warrant Officer Bernard Morrell and the bearer party from RAF Lossiemouth who gave Rip such a fitting send off.”
Rip’s funeral service at Moray Crematorium saw his coffin carried in by an RAF bearer party from RAF Lossiemouth as a piper played. A bugler played ‘The Last Post’ at the end of the service.