Obituary: Neville Goodger

From daughter Karen Kendall, on behalf of her mother Shirley, sisters Lynne and Kathryn, grandchildren Richard, Bethany, Jamie and Charlotte, and other members of Neville’s family.

Ronald Neville Goodger
Ronald Neville Goodger

Neville was a remarkable man who was loved by his family and friends. He was born on 29th September 1926 in Fallings Park in Wolverhampton. He was the younger of two children and born into what history now calls the silent generation. It was commonly understood and expected that children should be seen and not heard, this was likely as a consequence of the serious times and everyone’s pre-occupation with ongoing world events

Neville was a very bright child, on going to school his eager mind found a thirst for knowledge and he was an accomplished student. He achieved easily and won a place at grammar school where he soon gained the respect of his peers and his teachers alike.

As the country entered into hostilities with Germany, Neville was still at school; however, by 1944 he was old enough to be conscripted into the expeditionary forces and was posted out as a radio operator in Jubbulpore in Bengal, India. Whilst out there like many of the troops he contracted rheumatic fever and was desperately ill in hospital for some time. However, when he eventually recovered he remained there helping his fellow soldiers through their illness.

To say Neville suffered his service to king and country would be an understatement. He hated every minute of the army and was more than pleased when he demobbed after hostilities ceased. On returning back to civilian life he went to work at Weldless Steel Tube, a job he kept for his whole working career, some 49 years.

He would speak lovingly to his family about his skills at chess. Neville was invited to play for England against the Soviet Union during the later 1940’s. He was also a keen table tennis player and around the same period, he joined the newly formed Wolverhampton Astronomical Society. Neville had a passion and hunger to explore the universe and its wonders. He was totally immersed in the day to day running of the group, and would become President of the Society during the 1970’s. He remained an active and committed member of the society for some 55 years. Only poor health prevented Neville from continuing with his involvement in the group. In his later years, he spoke proudly of his time and the friends and acquaintances he made.

For Neville, a perfect evening would be to gaze at the ‘heavens’ from his bespoke observatory in the garden at 55, Dovedale Avenue. Unfortunately and on many occasions, the skies over the Midlands offered very little in the way of celestial clarity. Neville would be often heard to comment as he trudged back toward the house, that he longed to live near to the coast for clearer unobstructed views. On one particular occasion, he was stopped by a local policeman at 2.00 am with telescope in hand and politely asked what nocturnal activity he was undertaking. Neville replied; “I’m looking for a rare constellation.” “Seriously?”, enquired the officer? Neville retorted; “No, Sirius isn’t visible tonight officer.”

This showed his remarkable sense of humour which he maintained until his passing on the 11th January 2018. He will be sadly missed by all.

Neville Goodger: A personal remembrance by Phil Barnard

A dwindling number of members will remember Neville, who preferred to be known by his second name. He was a long-standing member of the Society and an active member of Council, from 1967 being elected President on seven occasions and the same number as Vice-president. His interesting lectures were delivered with an in-depth knowledge and he was never afraid to challenge conventional wisdom. They would also be spiced with his inimitable wit, which included the occasional risqué joke.

Neville was in addition a practical astronomer. He makes several appearances in the Society’s 16mm cine film completed in 1975, one of which shows him very hard at work grinding the profile of a mirror intended for use in a self-built reflector. He is seen being advised by another member, so it was probably intended in part to be a tutorial, on a skill which many amateur astronomers at that time had to learn, in order to obtain a decent instrument at a relatively low cost compared to a commercial one.

His stories about interactions with people less knowledgeable about astronomy were legendary. Both Malcolm Astley and myself remember one in similar vein to the example given by his daughter Karen. He met another ‘officer’ whilst out in the early hours, returning home from a night’s observation. To the question about what he was doing out so late, Neville replied, “I’ve been meteor watching.” To which the officer replied, “Oh, so you work for the Council?” In reality, I doubt that Neville had a great interest in parking meters.

Neville contributed many articles to the Society’s magazine Lyra, on a variety of subjects over many years. Sometimes written using his own name, but as he had a particular love for puns, it was probably his pen responsible for the articles written under the pseudonym of ‘Gaynor O’Level’.

Neville was well-versed in both Greek and Latin, and he had a schoolmasterly approach to written and spoken English, his eye and ear being forever on the watch for an incorrect spelling, punctuation or pronunciation. I was reminded by Neville of my shortcomings on several occasions, especially during the time I was careless enough to use some free word-processing software that was bereft of an active spell-checker! Members of his family confirmed to me that they were treated in just the same way.

However, you would forgive Neville for that. I remember him now as the person whose humorous lectures, more than those of anyone else, would make me laugh out loud. Neville will be sadly missed by his former friends and colleagues, but in their minds never to be forgotten.