Agony aunt Claire Rayner dies at age 79

Claire Rayner

Claire Rayner

The agony aunt, broadcaster and medical campaigner Claire Rayner has died at the age of 79.

Mrs Rayner, who died in hospital near her home in Harrow, north London, had been suffering from cancer and underwent surgery earlier this year.

A pioneering voice in discussions about safe sex, she spent years as a journalist and wrote several novels. In 1996 she was given an OBE for services to women's and health issues.

Claire Berenice Berk Brandon Chetwynd Rayner was born in the City of London in 1931. She was educated at City of London School for Girls and spent a brief period living in Canada.

Having trained as a nurse, she was a vocal campaigner for patients rights and served as also president of the Patients' Association.

She had three children with her husband Des Rayner, who she met at Maccabi in Hampstead and married in 1957. He said: "I have lost my best friend and my soulmate. I am immensely proud of her.

“Through her work she helped hundreds of thousands of people.

"Her death leaves a vacancy which will not be filled."

In 2003 she published an autobiography “How Did I Get Here From There?” which revealed details about her “thoroughly dysfunctional” family and her mother’s social climbing.

The chief executive of the Terrence Higgins Trust, of which Mrs Rayner was a patron, paid tribute to her "irrepressible enthusiasm for life."

Sir Nick Partridge said: "Claire was one of the first people to recognise just how serious the impact of HIV and AIDS would be, from the early eighties, and she worked tirelessly to raise awareness of the condition.

"We have been immensely fortunate to have Claire's backing and involvement. We're incredibly proud of Claire and all the fantastic work that she did for us."

A prominent supporter of the National Secular Society, she served as president of the British Humanist Association and will have a humanist funeral.

In March she told the JC: “Belief is a bad habit.”

From the archives: Nursing for Jewish girls, by Claire Rayner, December 1958

Last updated: 2:11pm, October 12 2010