Dr Terry Riley OBE – Obituary

The Deaf community are paying tribute to Dr Terence (Terry) Riley OBE, a prominent broadcaster, campaigner and leader from the Deaf community, who passed away on Wednesday 9th October 2019.

Born in Manchester in 1944 to Deaf parents, Mary and Terence (Snr), Terry first entered a Deaf club at one week old. Tenacious, eloquent, and quick-humoured, Terry soon rose to become a popular community leader. By the age of 15, he was secretary of Manchester Deaf Centre.

Terry’s early working life included working on the cheese counter at Seymour Mead grocers and doing deliveries by bicycle. He moved on to Louis Edwards butchers and the gas board before joining the BBC’s Deaf magazine programme See Hear as a researcher.

By 2002, Terry was the first Deaf editor of the programme, a post in which he remained until 2008. On leaving See Hear, Terry became the first Chief Executive of the British Sign Language Broadcasting Trust. In 2014, he was awarded an OBE for services to broadcasting and the Deaf community.

Terry maintained a fifty-year association with the British Deaf Association (BDA), serving at various times as Branch Secretary, Branch Chair, Area Council Chair, and as a member of the Executive Council. He served three consecutive terms as Chair of the BDA, from 2008-2018.

To many, Terry’s name was synonymous with the BDA. He once said his proudest moment was receiving the BDA Medal of Honour in 2000. To the end of his life he was tirelessly lobbying for the legal recognition of sign language in the UK.

Terry was also well known in many Deaf communities around the world. He served as vice-president of the European Union of the Deaf from 1991-1994, and as a Board Member from 2001-2005. From 2011-2019, he served on the Board of the World Federation of the Deaf.

Terry’s achievements and successes are well-recorded but it was the unstinting support of, and love from, his wife, Angela, and his children, Loretta, Bernadette, Colin, Robert (deceased), and, foster daughter, Patricia, which enabled Terry to give so much of himself and his time to the Deaf world.

He signed truth to power. His work in raising the profile of British Sign Language is a significant legacy – one which his friends and colleagues treasure and which future generations of Deaf children and adults will appreciate.

Terry’s funeral service was held at St Teresa’s RC Church at Ashford, Kent on 7th November 2019, and, a special Deaf Mass service will be held at St Patrick’s RC Church in Manchester on 1st December 2019.