Roland Castro's Memorial Website - Miranda Castro

Roland Castro

January 6th, 1923—September 8th, 2006

My father, Roland Charles Castro died unexpected and peacefully on Friday the September 8th, aged 83, at home.

Obituaries were published in The Times and The Telegraph on Wednesday 13th, September.

The funeral service was held at Mortlake Crematorium on Monday, September 18th at 1.00 pm.

The ceremony began and ended with a selection of Chopin piano pieces played by Vladimir Horowitz from a selection of Roland’s favorite DVDs.

Flowers were optional and if not sent then donations could be given to The Soil Association, Roland’s favorite charity.

A reception was held afterwards at Roland’s favorite restaurant The Gate, in Hammersmith.

Funeral directors: JH Kenyon, 74 Rochester Row, London SW1P 1JU (020 7834 4624).

The Order of Ceremony

Introduction by Sally Wilby, British Humanist Association


I ‘interwove’ each of the following Tributes with Vignettes of my own

Perrott Phillips
Yolanda Joseph
Roger Lambert
Jackie Bell
Judie Knight
Hoda Lacey
Dave Richardson
Dominic Le Foe

Summary & Conclusion
Biographical notes & Awards

Introduction by Sally Wilby, British Humanist Association

Hello, everyone.  It’s good to see you here, offering comfort to one another, bearing pain together, certainly, but above everything, celebrating, reflecting upon and marking with love the life of Roland Castro. This occasion is for him – and for all of you, whose lives were so enriched by knowing him. Roland was brother to Yolanda and Guido, and he had three children – Miranda and Jeremy, from his first marriage to Pamela and Natalie, from his second marriage to Fleur – and a grandchild, Daniel. Jeremy, as many of you will know already, died in May of 1999. Miranda, Natalie, Yolanda, Guido and Daniel are here today.

I am Sally Wilby and I represent the British Humanist Association. Some of you may never have attended a humanist ceremony, so perhaps it would be good if I explain just a little about the essentially non religious form this one will take. This ceremony is designed to give you time together, time for your thoughts, a while away from the usual routine. There will be a quiet pause at the end of everyone’s remarks, for reflection and for each of you to make your own personal farewell to Roland silently, according to your own beliefs. I aim to help you make your farewell with a calm spirit and hope very much that you’ll feel comfortable with all I say.

Humanists view life on earth as the only life we can be sure of. We believe that, as everyone’s life is unique, it’s good to strive to have full and happy lives and also, vitally, to make the best use of theirs. Each one of you is here because of your own special view of, and knowledge of, Roland.

My work as a humanist celebrant usually involves learning a good many details from friends and relatives about the person whose ceremony I’m about to conduct. I then weave these loving reminiscences and scraps of information into a sort of portrait in words – a celebration of that person. In Roland’s case, so many people gained so much, in so many and such different ways, from Roland’s life that it is appropriate that they themselves should talk to you about him. So presently I shall hand over the main part of our ceremony to them. This is entirely as it should be.

The first person from Roland’s family and friends to speak today is Perrott Phillips.

Tribute: Perrott Phillips, travel journalist

Roland was a close friend of mine for more than 30 years. It was a roller-coaster ride. Or maybe it should be “Roland-coaster”.

But I suppose it wasn’t until one day in 1988 that I realised the depth of everyone’s affection for him. It was Time Off’s 21st birthday party. Roland had hired the old Players’ Theatre in London, whose Victorian music-hall show he adored. There must have been 200 of us there, singing along with the acts and afloat on a sea of champagne. Roland never did anything by halves.

At the end, the audience rose as one and called for Roland to take a bow.  To tumultuous acclaim, with people actually standing on their seats, he briefly appeared in the spotlight and bowed modestly.  I’ve never heard an ovation like it before or since.  They really loved him.

So what generated that affection? Well, above all, he was a character, a multi-character. Quirky, cranky, eccentric, stubborn, worldly, educated, intellectual, infuriating, argumentative, courteous and civilised. All at the same time.

On top of everything he was generous; whether it was free Time Off holidays for his staff or full refunds to clients who voiced the slightest complaint. In any company, Roland was the first person to pick up the bill.

He was a true pioneer.  You can tell that by the number of tour operators who later copied his ideas.  Remember those elegant little brochures with water-colour illustrations?  Those distinctively quirky giveaways … the currency wallets, the GB stickers, the meticulously marked city maps.  Time Off did it first. And did it best.

Time Off became a byword for scrupulous honesty and a unique sense of style.  For Roland was a perfectionist.  And perfectionists can sometimes be uncomfortable people to work for.

Arguments with Roland could be cataclysmic. But an hour later, he would be buying you lunch. He never bore a grudge. And he didn’t expect you to bear one either.

In a similar and rather old-fashioned way, Roland was fiercely protective of his staff.  Woebetide any travel agent who upset one of his counter clerks. Roland would snatch the phone from her hand and treat the agent to a volley of invective that would render the man speechless.

My wife was his rep for a short time.  Whenever she introduced herself as “from Time Off”, travel agents would reel back and say, “How can you work for that terrible man?”

As a writer, I saw a different side of Roland. A lot of his early background was in magazines and newspapers, as an advertising executive. This gave him a lifelong interest in publishing. And a profound love of words. Deep down, Roland was a journalist manque, an embryonic Editor, a putative Publisher.

So it was no great surprise that Roland said to me one day, “I’ve got this brilliant idea for a travel magazine”. And so we produced Time Off, a glossy magazine distributed free to clients. It was miles ahead of its time and an enormous success. Artistically, that is. It lasted four issues and cost a fortune.

Undaunted, Roland had another wheeze: the Time Off city guides. Not conventional guidebooks but extended essays illuminating some unusual aspect of a city. In his inimitable way, Roland commissioned some of the top names in journalism, Jilly Cooper, Mrs Graham Greene, the historian Lynn McDonald, the legendary foreign correspondent, Sefton Delmer. The booklets became collectors’ items. And they cost another load of money.

But the important thing was that Roland was back in publishing and, to him, it was worth every penny.

There was never a dull moment with Roland, and he leaves a space that cannot be filled. For there will never be anyone remotely like him again. He was a true one-off.

Last week, it was my sad duty to write an obituary for the late, lamented Anne Gregg. In it, I said that her natural element was laughter. Roland’s natural element was mischief; mischief of an impish and gleeful kind. I’m willing to bet that, somewhere up there, he’s making mischief again.

[If so, I have a word of warning for St. Peter. Don’t let him talk you into starting a celestial magazine.]

                               Anne (Gregg) & Roland

Miranda Castro

He loved books and read widely. He died in his office with a book in his hand. So fitting.

These are the books by his bed when he died: The Wisdom of Zen, Edward VII and his Jewish Court by Anthony Allfrey, Your Erroneous Zones by Dr Wayne Dyer, L’Etranger by Albert Camus, Maupassant’s Contes du jour et de la nuit, Fasting for Renewal of Life by Herbert Shelton, Blink by Malcolm Gladwell, Answers to Questions on the Ocean of Theosophy by Robert Crobie.

On his desk were Keith Joseph’s Biography by Denham and Garnett, Petite Histoire de la Litt erature Francaise (by Emile Faguet), and Suite Francaise by Irene Nemirovsky in French with reviews inside the front cover from his favorite papers the Herald Tribune and The Week.

Yolanda Joseph

Many of you remember Roland as a hugely successful businessman, but I’d like to talk about my red-headed, tousled-haired brother as the hugely successful man that he was.

Roland was a thoroughly decent man and had eyes through which integrity shone. As many of you know he was highly intelligent, principled and serious, but he had a wonderful sense of fun and charm and was always ready with a chuckle.

He made lasting and good friendships and was kind to people who needed help. If I can to him for help with something, he would always sort it out with creativity and originality and occasionally a touch of nuttiness … that was Roland!

As a father he was stupendous. His affection and loyalty to his children were absolute and he spoke of them often and always with tremendous pride.

His understanding of children undoubtedly came from his own mischievous childhood. As teenagers, he once took me out after a party to go camel racing at 5.00 am around the pyramids. My camel, if I remember correctly, was named Churchill.

Roland’s originality extended to all things and I’m sure that all of us here were touched by it. That’s the Roland I want to remember: the carefree, laughing Roland. The man who created the little gem in Chester Close, and the man who always had a bottle of champagne in the fridge to celebrate something or other.

Miranda Castro

When my brother and I were young – really young – we would drive to the seaside on a sunny Sunday. Along with a million other Londoners. Except that we never drove WITH them. We’d drive down in our little Austin at 5 in the morning and be digging holes in the sand by 7. We had the whole of Littlehampton beach to ourselves. At 2 or 3 in the afternoon we’d sail back on our own laughing at the horrendous traffic jams piling up in the opposite direction.

That was a specialty of Roland Castro – to go against the flow and come out ahead full of impish glee.

Roger Lambert, Old Abtarian

I had met Roland at many travel trade functions over the years but it was shortly after I joined the A.T. Mays Travel Group that I had my first business meeting with him some 20 years ago. As the ‘new boy’ on the board and responsible for our development in the south of the country I was despatched to meet Roland in an endeavour to negotiate credit terms for the sale of Time Off Holidays through our travel agencies. At this stage it must be said that my company did not have the best reputation in the travel industry for the swiftest payment of monthly accounts and Time Off at that time operated a commission payment system of 12.5% for agents operating cash payment terms and 10% for those who enjoyed credit facilities, but quite naturally we wanted both credit terms and 12.5% commission!!

I duly went along to Roland’s office in Chester Close and met both he and Jackie Bell and after just a few minutes of discussion Roland brought out a bottle Chanpagne and some Cassis and asked if I would like a Kir Royale and this led to one of the best business meetings I have ever had and started what became a very firm friendship. I am also pleased to say that I came away with both monthly credit facilities and 12.5% commission.

Several years passed by and I then retired and Roland and I then renewed our friendship through the Old Abtarians Association which had recently been formed and Roland became our first Chairman. He was an excellent Chairman and his diplomacy skills certainly shone forth at many of our meetings! He was a tower of strength and always managed to guide us through our various discussions. He was meticulous in everything he did and and quite rightly an absolute stickler for detail – a man small in stature but with an enormous heart. Roland will be sadly missed not only by all his Old Abtarian colleagues but also by everyone who had the good fortune to know him. Roger Lambert

Miranda Castro

I worked at the nation state of Time Off on and off from the very beginning. Working there was a bit like boot camp. The work was carried out with precision and speed. People low down on the totem pole were called Slaves. And we loved it! Efficiency was fostered at every level. Errors were not tolerated. Systems prevented errors. I have taken those systems into my life and they have stood me in the most marvelous stead in every area of my working life. I am not alone

People who traveled more than once were called OCs and those who chose Time off repeatedly were called Multiple OCs. Veronica Noach was one such and I found many letters and cards from her this week in my father’s papers. This is from a long letter written at the end of 1996.

“Is it true?” she wrote, “Can it be possible that your wonderful unique Time Off has been sold to the giants? I hope that you are well Mr Castro and that the reason for selling wasn’t because of illness or personal tragedy. … Your agency was the last vestige of a civilized time when personal intelligent service was important … There was such a strong personal element … One felt valued and known by you, though never met.”

People cared about him. Extraordinary. Our world has become increasingly impersonal. This kind of caring in business is rare. And incredibly precious.

Jackie Bell, Time Off

I worked with Roland for over 25 years and got to know him very well and he became a good friend, as well as a generous and inspirational boss. With a fabulous team we built his 4th baby – Time Off – into the most respected Short Breaks Company in the country at its time.

I would therefore like to say a few words on behalf of Time Off and all its past employees, many of whom are at here today. It’s a tribute to him and his style management that we all worked for him for such a long time and remained friends and kept regularly in touch. Roland played a great part in all our lives and we will always remember him. I therefore thought I’d hang my presentation around our experiences at Time Off by taking each letter of the Company name and find words which described Roland the person as well as giving some insight into the way he ran his business.

T = for Travel

Roland was an innovative travel pioneer and one of the first to develop citybreaks for Individual Travelers. Our strapline was ‘Specialist in Individual Travel’ and this was what he and his team worked so arduously to achieve. Roland started the company in 1967, I joined in 1969 and together with a dedicated team, we built up Time Off Travellers to number a stunning 50,000 clients by 1989. This was done by creating a wonderful and innovative product with outstanding customer care which grew through word of mouth and recommendation – quite an achievement when you consider how much more complicated Travel Marketing has become today with website/google etc.

I = for Integrity & Intellect
Roland was an educated person (went to Oxford, accomplished pianist and exceptionally well-read).
He had scrupulous principles which he embodied in his business. He always sought to get the best for his clients, paid out generous compensation to our clients if things went wrong, even if it was not our fault.

M = Meticulous – attention to detail –
You’ll remember the marked up city maps, gave out sewing kits/wonderful city essays complimentary drinks in local bars.

O = Original & Outrageous

F = France his love and enthusiasm for France and the french lifestyle. Claudine, who worked closely with Roland finding new special hotels and who can’t be here today  reminded me that he loved Paris,the bustling cafes and brasseries and always marvelled at the efficiency and friendliness of french waiters. One of his favourite places was the Terminus Nord Brasserie opposite the Gare du Nord where, in the young days of Time Off we stopped for a glass of Chablis and a plate of oysters before catching the train back to London. Roland had exacting standards, it was tough working with him but also immensely enjoyable and fun and we learnt invaluable lessons – least of all how to avoid any establishment with plastic flowers! Paris was the first city and remained the most popular even when we had added another 20.

F = conjures up…. Finicky, Fussy & FUN!
Roland had exacting standards. It was tough working with him but also immensely enjoyable and fun and WE ALL learnt invaluable lessons.


We all feel very privileged to have been part of the great Time Off adventure and will miss Roland enormously. This man who told us many times that he did not smoke or drink was often to be found in the pub around the corner form the office surrounded by his young staff with a cigarette in one hand and a bottle of Budweiser in the other, excusing himself that THEY had led him astray!

Miranda Castro

Roland had a confusing relationship with food. He absolutely loved it. When he was in an eating mood he could scoff vast quantities of excellent food with great gusto. He taught me to eat the strangest things some of which I love to this day. Cheese sandwiches without bread – slabs of cheese with slabs of cold butter. Yum.

For the first 5 years of my life my grandfather would send mangoes from Egypt. Magical boxes of velvet lusciousness, we’d wait until they were scented and ripe, and then he would ensconce my brother and I in the bath so we could eat them like little savages. My whole life the bath has always seemed like a perfectly good place to eat things whether they made a mess or not. I was babysitting for a friend’s 8 year old once and got frightfully behind with everything so I popped little Leah in the bath with her dinner thinking absolutely nothing of it. She thought a lot about it and so did her mother when she heard about it. They were both tickled pink.

Roland loved food. He would call his long time friend Claudia Roden for culinary advice and never failed to offer advice of his own about food, about cooking, about eating. As he did with us all. Advice that was often confusing and contradictory.

When Roland wasn’t in an eating mood he would eat nothing. Those moods increased in recent years but I do know that he used every visit with friends and family to indulge and enjoy. Moderation in nothing was one of his favorite mottos.

Judie Knight, friend

Everyone here today will have their own memories of Roland Castro – memories of a very special man. For my part I recall with gratitude and affection 20 years of true friendship.

A friendship that was unconditional, ever reliable, and free of any sense of implied obligation. We enjoyed each other’s company, we shared many interests; in some ways he could almost have been a father figure-tolerant, non-demanding, a figure who was the most generous and reliable of friends.

Over the years we attended concerts, frequented The Players; took in the cinema, went for long walks to the Fitness Club. Always’ he was wonderful company — informed without being dogmatic, blessed with impeccable taste, a wicked sense of humour, and clear sighted wisdom.

I feel privileged to have been his friend, enriched by his company and generosity of spirit, encouraged by his interest and spurred on in my studies by his unfailing encouragement and counsel.

I know that in our crowded world such people are rare. With all my heart I thank him for enhancing my life. The pain that I feel from his loss is a price worth paying for the happy years I spent as one of his friends.

Miranda Castro

From the ages of 11 until 16 we lived in a big house in Dulwich. Fancy neighborhood. Cutting edge American-style house. All the neighbors had big cars to match. And manicured laws and flower beds.

Roland filled most of the huge garden with fruit trees. At one end he planted a woodland copse to encourage wildlife. Oh what consternation all around us. What would it attract. Foxes. Snails. Dear oh dear. At the other end he dug a vegetable plot. But it wasn’t until he installed chickens that the neighbors went berserk. They complained a lot and the chickens had to go.

I’m not sure if it’s still frowned upon to grow free range chickens in Dulwich but I do know that all over the country – suburbs included – people are going back to growing it themselves. I’m so sorry he didn’t live long enough to see the little apple tree he planted in his garden bear fruit.

Hoda Lacey, Chartered Institute of Marketing, Travel Industry Group

I never thought I would, one day, speak at Roland’s funeral. I honestly believed he would outlive us all.

Roland and I hit it off immediately when we met in 1984 as we both shared an Egyptian background. He called me “Baraka”, which means good luck. We talked endlessly about Cairo and the days and years gone by.

Roland’s family lived in a lovely big villa on the Western bank of the Nile in Giza, Cairo. So gracious was it,that President Sadat claimed it as his private residence and Jehan Sadat lives there still. I went to look at the house some years ago for Roland, and spoke to some locals. Roland took great pleasure in knowing that the house was still remembered as “Beit Castro”, even after all these years.

Some years ago, Roland’s sister Yolanda visited Cairo and went to their old house again. Jehan took her around and was fascinated to hear how it had been laid out and furnished in its heyday. Roland had the pictures and we often brought them out to look at again and reminisce.

I worked for Roland at Time Off for a short while in 1992. He was involved in every aspect of his business and often took bookings. When speaking to travel agents he would politely say he was “Reference Roland,… pause…, as in rat”.

Time Off was an open plan ground floor office, next to Roland’s own home. Roland’s desk was at the back, next to a window looking on to his garden. You couldn’t immediately see his area but he had a clear view of the entrance. If ever someone that he didn’t want to see came to reception, he would climb out of the window and leg it back to his house. This meant that we could tell the visitor, in total sincerity, “Oh, I’m so sorry, Roland has just popped out for a while”.

For the past few years, Roland has been a valued member of the Chartered Institute of Marketing, Travel Industry Group.

Roland was a great supporter and never missed a meeting or event unless he was abroad. He was never obtrusive but you always knew he was there. At meetings he would quietly observe and then phone the next day with comments and suggestions.

He was the co-writer of our constitution, he was involved in researching our membership database, and was a member of our steering committee. He had only just agreed to help out with some administrative tasks.

Four years ago, some of us went up to Cookham Dean, the CIM headquarters for a meeting with the data base co-ordinator. When I wrote to let her know the sad news, imagining she would not even remember Roland, she sent me an email saying how much she would miss Roland’s chats and visits. Apparently, one of his favourite walks was up the river near Cookham and he would take the opportunity to visit! And that was so typical of Roland. He forged so many relationships with different people and he diligently kept in contact with us all.

I learnt a lot from Roland. I learnt what to do and I learnt what not to do. Roland was an early bird. He used to phone first thing in the morning. Personally, I don’t do mornings so I often woke up to a message on my answering machine. My mornings are strangely empty these days. Roland, we are really going to miss you.

Miranda Castro

My fondest childhood memory is of waking in the morning to beautiful music. Roland loved playing the piano. We had a concert grand in our big house and he got up at 5 every morning to play for a couple of hours before going to work.

As long as I woke after 6-ish I would hear Chopin nocturnes, Bach etudes, Beethoven sonatas, Debussy preludes. Beautiful, beautiful music. He was a romantic, sentimental man who loved beauty and beautiful things. The endless repetitive scales from 5 until 6 were interesting in a meditative kind of way. It always amazed me that he would practice those damn scales so hard when he didn’t really need to – in order to play the pieces he loved. Another metaphor. This was a man who worked hard for the beautiful things in life. Sometimes too hard but that’s another story ….

Dave Richardson, Reporter

There are two words that sum up Roland for me, and the first is – champagne. Pink champagne, at that.

We first met about 30 years ago when Time Off was already established as a very distinctive tour operator, and I was a young(ish) reporter looking for a story. I came to see him in Chester Mews and found a small, intense, highly intelligent man sitting there like a queen bee, as his workers buzzed around. He didn’t like the look of me. Here was a tour operator who actually didn’t want publicity, and I went away empty handed.

But I went back, and this time a bottle of pink champagne was produced from the fridge. How decadent was that, to enjoy pink champagne during the working day! Only later did I realise that Roland sometimes worked around the clock.

I became a regular visitor. Later I discovered Roland had a young wife, and young child. He must have been in his 60s by then and I was impressed. He was a stickler for detail, and the care he showed for his staff, his friends and his clients was legendary. I once went with him on a working visit to Barcelona, and as we travelled from the airport to the city centre by train, I asked him why Time Off did not provide a taxi transfer for clients, like other tour operators. Oh no, he said – here was a detailed map, but people had to start thinking for themselves. That’s what Roland did. He provided maps for people to find their own way in life.

He visited me regularly in Oxford, where he went to university, and the last time we met a couple of months ago was another celebration. Roland ate heartily that day, and we downed champagne, and then wine, and then dessert wine. I didn’t get back to work that afternoon. I’ve a feeling the same will happen today.

But he was still a stickler for detail, and that day he pulled me up again for my sloppy journalistic ways, and for my use of the other word that sums up Roland for me – unique. I described a journey I was about to take as really unique. ‘No, old mate, ‘ he said, ‘It can’t be really unique, very unique or quite unique. It’s either unique, or it isn’t.’

Roland was unique, in the travel industry, in his outlook on life and in many other ways we all remember. He was a small man, but he was also a giant.

Miranda Castro

Roland had a great number of favorite mottos and quotations. The following are a few of his favorites:

On ne voit bien qu’avec le coeur, l’essentiel est invisible pour les yeux.—A. de St-Exupery

I would live all my life in nonchalance and insouciance, were it not for making a living, which is rather a nouciance.—Ogden Nash

People before profit.—Roland Castro

Moderation in nothing.—Roland Castro

Nothing succeeds like excess.—Oscar Wilde

Candy is dandy, but liquor is quicker.—Ogden Nash

As we are nearing the end of the tributes now seems like a good time for this one by Tommy Kelsall. A good speech should be like a woman’s skirt – long enough to cover everything but short enough to be interesting.

Dominic Le Foe, The Players’ Theatre

Everyone here today will carry in their hearts something special about Roland. I don’t think he would be particularly surprised because he had a great capacity for absorbing and understanding what happened around him and I think it applied to knowing those who were his friends and I’ll tell you the secret of that. It was because he chose us. Anyone who wanted to be Roland’s friend had to find out first that Roland wanted them as a friend. If you were selected you had actually won a very, very valuable prize because Roland understood friendship: he nurtured it, he polished it, he burnished it, he cherished it and he made no demands, which of course best friends don’t.

Several people today mentioned the Players’ Theatre with which I have been connected since 1954. I used to see him at the theatre sometimes with companions, occasionally on his own.

I think he decided he’d make a friend of me after our 60th anniversary. I happened to say him ‘I think honestly Roland you could say we are unique,’ and he said ‘You’re the first chap I know to get use the word ‘unique’ correctly.’ From that moment I would look for him and he would look for me.

And fast forwarding to about 5 years ago during the great shake down in the travel industry and everything else and 9/11 and so on – you can imagine Roland’s reaction when he heard that the committee of the club managed to lose the player’s premises. He was horrified and absolutely thrilled when I announced to him that I was going to certainly keep the club going. We set up a new committee and in fact we now own the premises.

From that moment I would get the unexpected phone call – often when I was in the dumps because it has been a real uphill battle. He would always say something constructive, something interesting, something amusing and something very, very sensible. As a result the loss of Roland is the epitome of what a loss should be. Something that hits you here (heart) and hits you here (head) and leaves a void where you don’t know what’s going to hit you next, and I shall miss him enormously.

I was asked to say a few words and I’ve said them. The player’s introduced us. We close with a song that epitomizes all that the players and music halls stood for: Dear Old Pals. * We are going to hear it today and I hope that Roland hears it too. With his love of Chopin and his love Beethoven and I think his acknowledgement of Mozart he still had time Victorian music hall and understood what we were about. People like that are very, very rare.

I shall miss his generosity of spirit. His wisdom when needed – it was always available but he never felt he had to tell us as a duty. His integrity you all know – straight as a die – no trimming or ducking. His tolerance for other people’s points of view. His clear-sighted objectivity. And, as I said in the beginning and I said in the middle and I at the end, his unbelievably golden gift for friendship.

Roland. We shall all miss you. We are grateful to have known you. We are very, very disappointed to lose you.

Dear old pals, jolly old pals
Sticking together in all sorts of weather
Dear old pals, jolly old pals
Give me the friendship of dear old pals

* ‘Dear Old Pals’ has been sung at every Players’ Theater performance for 64 years. I found a Players’ Theatre DVD next to Roland’s computer in the pile of music to which he had been most recently listening.

Miranda Castro

Roland loved life – he didn’t want to leave it – for him life itself and all the work and people in it were the journey.
Excuse me – there’s the phone. Oh Monsieur Castro – how lovely to hear from you – unexpected.
Yes I’d love to take your reservation. Yes of course – Paris – no no you can leave straight away.
You’d like to stay at l’Hotel Celeste this time – excellent choice.
You’re not sure how long you are staying. An open return. That will be fine.
Ahhhh – you are taking time off at last – we couldn’t be more pleased.
Of course you know you are welcome to return any time.
In any case, let me be the first to wish you an wonderful trip.

We are all shocked by what feels like an untimely death. He told us all he was going to live forever and we all believed him but as my literary father said to me … “we are such stuff as dreams are made on and our little life is rounded with a sleep.”
We wish him peace.

The Kaddish: Yolanda Joseph

The Mourner’s Kaddish expresses the mourners’ love of God and acceptance of God’s will, even while the mourners are feeling great loss and sorrow over the death of a loved one. This Jewish prayer is an ancient Aramaic poem except for the last line which comes from the Book of Job.

Let God’s name be made great and holy in the world that was created as God willed.
May God complete the holy realm in your own lifetime, in your days, and in the days of all the house of Israel, quickly and soon.
All: Amen.
May God’s great name be blessed, forever and as long as worlds endure.
May it be blessed, and praised, and glorified, and held in honor, viewed with awe, embellished, and revered; may the blessed name of the Holy One be hailed, though it be higher by far than all the blessings, songs, praises, and consolations that we utter in this world.
All: Amen.
May Heaven grant a universal peace, and life for us, and for all Israel. All: Amen.
May the one who creates harmony above, make peace for us and for all Israel, and for all who dwell on earth.
All: Amen.

Summary & Conclusion: Sally Wilby

Please stand now, as we prepare to make our final farewell to Roland.

We’re remembering with joy the effect for good that Roland has had on so many lives.  Each of you is now holding on to an image of this complex person, whose character was full of fascinating contradictions.  Those images won’t fade with the years and neither will you forget the impact Roland had on your life and that made him special for you.  He has been described as a “perfect gentleman” and in many ways, that phrase could scarcely be improved upon.  A man of infectious joie de vivre – he so loved life – sometimes sentimental, though undeniably having a sharp intellect – immensely bright, with a fast, original mind, a man of the highest standards and expectations.  Original, stylish and a thoughtful mentor for many people, it has truly been observed that Roland was not a tough act to follow – to attempt to do so would be impossible.  We say our goodbye now to Roland, with respect and with great love.

Now, I wish you all peace of mind, strength and understanding as the pattern of your own lives continues to unfold ahead of you.  As you leave, to re-enter the sunshine, you’ll hear some more music that was chosen with loving care by Roland’s family. 
Thank you all for showing today how very much Roland Castro meant, to you.

Biographical Notes

January 6th, 1923 born in Alexandria, Egypt.
1932 – 36: Bickley Hall School, England.
1936 – 39: Oundle School, England.
1940 – 43: American University, Cairo. BA in Social Sciences.
1946 – 49: Oxford University. MA (Hons) in Law.
1950 – 55: Managed a small family export business.
1955 – 56: Salesman then Assistant Manager, Austin Motor Export Corporation.
1956 – 66: A variety of jobs in magazine and newspaper publishing, both on the advertising and on the editorial sides.
1966 – 67: Freelance Sales Promotion consultant. Engaged as such by Bon Voyage who specialized in holidays to Paris. The agency was sold in the same year.
1967: Started Time Off. Paris was the first destination promoted and the basis of the company for many years. In 1993 Time Off promoted 26 cities with Paris being the most important destination.

A Selection of Awards . . .

1957: Kirkland Bridge Silver Tankard for the most original direct mail letter, using Silly Putty as a promotional ‘gimmick’.
1995: Odyssey Award from the Institute of Travel and Tourism.
1990s: Various Travel Trade Gazette and Observer Newspaper Travel Awards for best brochures and best specialist short break tour operator.
1990s – present: Awards given by the French and Belgium Governments for his invaluable contributions to their country’s tourism.
2006: To be nominated for the 2007 Travel Industry Hall of Fame.

View Additional Tributes


Published in The Guardian Newspaper (London), October 20th, 2006
Roland Castro

Tour operator who popularised citybreaks

Roland Castro, who has died aged 83, created one of the most distinctive tour operators in the UK travel industry, Time Off, with its attention to detail and high standards of customer care. He was a hard taskmaster with an impish sense of humour. When someone he did not want to see came to his office he would jump out of the window – it was on the ground floor. Those who did get to meet him were often rewarded with a glass of kir royale. 

Castro was born into a wealthy, merchant family in Egypt when Cairo was a cosmopolitan city with many European influences. He came to England for his education, read law at Wadham College, Oxford, and managed a family export business in London in the 1950s. His family suffered after the coup which brought General Gamel Abdel Nasser to power in 1952, especially after 1956 when all Jews were expelled. Castro’s childhood home at Giza, on the banks of the River Nile, was sequestrated and became the private residence of Anwar Sadat, president from 1970 until his assassination in 1981. Sadat’s widow, Jehan, still lives there.Castro showed early signs of his creativity when working in publishing, winning an award for most original direct mail letter in 1957. But when he set up Time Off in 1967, that creativity really flourished. He claimed to be the first true citybreak specialist and grew to handle 50,000 customers a year by 1989, sending them to cities all over Europe.

What made Time Off stand out was Castro’s sense of style. Other tour operators would produce bland brochures extolling a city’s beauty and attractions, but Time Off produced pocket-sized leaflets adorned with watercolours, and essays written by leading journalists. Hotels were inspected by Castro personally. Customers were given a voucher for a snack or meal in a typical cafe or restaurant, and a map with their hotel and cafe clearly marked. No taxi transfers from the airport or railway station were provided: Castro insisted that customers had to start finding their own way around.

His formula was a great success, and in 1995 Time Off was voted Best Travel Company out of 60 tour operators in the Observer Travel Awards. But times were changing, and bigger tour operators happy to sell on price had overtaken Time Off. Castro was tiring of the competition and the increasing financial demands of the Civil Aviation Authority, so in 1996 he sold his company to Thomas Cook. A customer wrote that year: “Can it be possible that your wonderful, unique Time Off has been sold to the giants? Your company was the last vestige of a civilised time when personal, intelligent service was important. One felt valued and known by you, although we never met.”

He had high hopes for Time Off under Thomas Cook’s ownership, but he was disappointed. A consultancy role failed to materialise and he had to watch as most of what made Time Off unique was stripped away. Thomas Cook closed it down in 2003.

Travel industry affairs and many personal interests took up Castro’s time in retirement, including the Soil Association (to whom he requested funeral donations be made), the Players’ Theatre music hall, and his beloved London. He is survived by his second wife, Fleur, from whom he was divorced, his daughters Miranda and Natalie, sister Yolanda Joseph and brother Guido.

Roland Charles Castro, tour operator, born January 6 1923; died September 8 2006

Click here to view photos that span Roland’s life.

Mortlake Crematorium
Soil Association
The Gate Restaurant
Humanist Association
Association of British Travel Agents
Player’s Theatre

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