"Mr Canvey" Ray Howard has reached 50 years of service to the island.

Mr Howard’s long career as a Tory councillor has seen him rubbing shoulders with Royals and Prime Ministers but his favourite times are on the island he loves and the people he has dedicated his life to.

Councillor Howard, 76, was born on his father’s smallholding in Deepwater Road.

He said: “The one and only doodlebug to fall on Canvey fell on our property in 1944, killing my two brothers and cousin and leaving me badly scarred all over my body.

“I was in hospital for six months, and at school, kids used to make fun of me.”

Mr Howard, who represents Canvey Island West on Castle Point Council, has seen his island change considerably over the years.

Growing up, he recalls Canvey being “all farms, with a small population and lots of holiday bungalows.”.

He said: “The population has grown out of all proportion since then, and improvements to the infrastructure have been slower than I would have liked.”

In 1953, 59 people on Canvey lost their lives to floods, including boys and girls he knew well.

A decade on, while also managing a farm, Mr Howard got roped into local politics by joining a campaign for a school crossing patrol.

He joined Canvey Island Urban District Council in 1968, and in 1974 served on Castle Point Council.

In 1985 he was elected onto Essex County Council, and stepped down from there last year after 32 years of service.

Mr Howard has only ever lost one election.

He said: “It was when Tony Blair came along, by 22 votes, but I wasn’t concerned.”

Although he’s a loyal member of the Tory party, Mr Howard claims he’s not very political.

“I try to stick to issues rather than party politics,” he said.

Those issues include flood and waste matters, and the issue of education is dear to his heart.

He has been a governor for Canvey Junior and Infant School since 1966, and for Northwick Park School since 1969.

And he is passionate about the next generation and all the generations he has helped through his work.

Mr Howard was given the “great honour” of opening Canvey’s flood defences with Princess Margaret in 1983.

He was made an MBE and received his award from Prince Charles last year.

During his time representing Canvey he has met Prime Ministers including Ted Heath, and Margaret Thatcher, and “lots of secretaries of state”.

But such dedication to the community comes at a sacrifice.

“It has been hard work, and it certainly affected family life,” admitted the father-of-three.

“I was never about, and sadly divorced because, in all fairness, I neglected my woman.”

Whether or not Mr Howard will step down next year when his term ends depends very much on his health, which he admits is not at its best.

“Some discs have gone in my spine and I’m in a lot of pain,” he said.

“It’s been a pleasure to serve the community and I hope I can carry on.

“Canvey is very dear to me.” His achievements were marked with a community event at the weekend.