Ramadan Huseyin Guney was born in Cyprus in 1932. After leaving school, he served in the British army and police on the island. In 1958 he emigrated to Britain and set up a music publishing business which continues to sell recordings of ethnic music to the Turkish communities in London. He helped found and run the first Turkish Cypriot Mosque in London, and worked on a variety of social and community projects, arising from his work with the UK Turkish Islamic Centre.
Mr Guney acquired Brookwood Cemetery in 1985 from its then owner, Mr D.J.T. Dally. The purchase evolved from Mr Guney’s role as Chairman of the UK Turkish Islamic Trust, which wanted to identify suitable burial facilities for its members.
Mr Guney’s ownership of the cemetery was initially contentious but ultimately successful. He cleared some areas of trees and undergrowth, partly to correct the problem of a rising water table (which was causing areas to flood), and partly to create new burial space. Brookwood was never designed to be the dense woodland it reverted to in places due to the years of neglect by previous owners, who had sold off land under the terms of the 1975 Brookwood Cemetery Act. Profits from these land sales were meant to be reserved for restoration purposes, but this never happened.
Mr Guney’s maintenance programme was a slow and frustrating process, and was undertaken without any external funding support whatsoever. It included the restoration of the Muslim and Catholic sections (where the majority of burials are now taking place), whilst working on key areas of the wider cemetery as funding and staffing levels allowed. He also undertook the digitization of the burial records.
Mr Guney’s vision for Brookwood Cemetery was to recreate its beautiful park-like setting. The highlight of Mr Guney’s ownership was undoubtedly the special celebration he arranged for the 150th anniversary of the cemetery. This took place on 5th September 2004. Attended by over 100 guests from around the world, it was a truly multicultural celebration. At the same time Mr Guney launched his own restoration fund for the cemetery he owned, admired and loved.
His vision remains unfinished. Two major projects now left in the planning stages include the restoration of the lake in the Glades of Remembrance, and the restoration of selected mausoleums. His 1994 comment that “Brookwood Cemetery is safe … as long as I live” is as true now as it was then.
Mr Guney had 2 sons and 4 daughters with Suheyla, who passed away in 1992. All of his children survive him.
Following a service at his Mosque in London, Mr Guney was buried in a vault at Brookwood on the evening of Friday 10th November.