No. 188

OSB Logo The Old St Beghian
  Autumn 2015


William F. (Bill) Gough (SH 51-56).

The following is an edited version of the tribute delivered by
John Hewitson
(SH 52-57) at the funeral service.


Growing up, as I did, in Calderbridge, the adjoining village to Beckermet, I knew Bill from a very early age as we went down the coast as boarders to Seascale Prep. School. I still have some grainy photos from those days, including one showing us both queuing up with our mess tins at the annual school camp at Wasdale Head. The year was 1951 - the year that Bill came up the coast here to St Bees. We were both on School House. Although, after school, we were often located very far apart, we always kept in touch.

By his own admission, Bill was not a leading light in the academic firmament. However, he always buckled down and applied himself - as indeed he did at games, where he was an enthusiastic and invaluable team player. I remember vividly our partnering each other on the fives court to great effect!

It's often said, isn't it, that every child has a latent talent and, in a sense, the job of education is to find out what it is. In Bill's case, that job was really quite easy. From his earliest school days, he revealed two particular talents that were to be a feature, not to say a hallmark of his life. First, Bill was someone with a tremendous flair for making and mending things. Although he spent his entire working life as a lawyer, I've often wondered what the world would have seen if, instead of law, Bill had chosen engineering as a career path. He was always at his happiest when tinkering with machinery - and what machines some of them were! There was a hovercraft, and also go-karts designed and made by himself, which he then proceeded to race with relish round the go-karting circuit at Rowrah.

And who will forget all those other machines that were made at that wonderfully hospitable family home at Beckermet?
Bill Gough (SH 51-56)

The other talent that quickly came to the fore at school (and made him so popular) was, as everyone here knows, Bill's supreme talent for telling a good yarn. He could always see the funny side of things. He was one of the best raconteurs you could ever meet, and he loved to share that infectious and, sometimes impish, sense of humour of his with anyone he met. In fact, he shared it nationally. Listeners to Radio Cumbria will be familiar with ‘Harry of Calderbridge’, the listener whose wry and amusing comments about bureaucracy and officialdom were a regular and keenly awaited feature of that programme. Harry, of course, was the pseudonym for Bill of Beckermet!  What I especially admired about Bill was the way he could appeal to young people. They adored his storytelling and his unique command of the English language.

It's well known that Bill was a pillar of the legal community in Whitehaven. There must be many of the staff and clients of HFT Gough & Son who will recall that Bill was not only an extremely able lawyer, but also was someone who took such
great care to come up with sound, practical advice and to communicate it to his clients, simply and effectively. Most important of all though, he possessed in abundance that priceless quality - that quality not given to all lawyers - common sense. Whenever Bill was confronted with a particularly knotty legal problem, his immediate instinct was to ask himself the simple question, I wonder what the Common Sense Act would have to say about this? And if the provisions of that particular Act didn't accord with the laid down canons of English law, he would then strive to try and find a legal way to deal correctly with the problem in a practical and sensible way.

In later years Bill spent much of his time managing the practice in Whitehaven. He was well suited to this; he was extremely methodical and he was an exceptionally good organiser. However, he was also one of the most sensitive of men. He cared deeply about other people's welfare and well-being. You never saw Bill consciously offend anyone. He always gave his clients all the time they needed.

Away from work and the office, Bill's organisational skills really did come to the fore. You saw this time and time again whenever something needed to be done in the local community. Whether it was the Gosforth Show, the Calderbridge Plant Sale or any community project for that matter; if Bill were involved, and invariably he was, the whole event could be guaranteed to go like clockwork and with a sense of fun. He was indeed one of life's born organisers.

Looking back on Bill's life there can be no doubt that St Bees was a part of the world that meant so much to him.  His life was deeply fashioned by his schooling here. His own children were all educated here. He followed in his father's footsteps here by becoming Clerk to the Governors - and holding that post with distinction for over 20 years. And, even after he stepped down as Clerk, it was always apparent how much St Bees meant to Bill and how much he yearned to see the school prosper. I know only too well how saddened he was by the recent turn of events. But, let us perhaps remind ourselves, and let us perhaps draw some strength from the fact that, if Bill were Clerk today, his fertile mind would be busy dreaming up some scheme or other to try and safeguard the educational heritage of this special part of the world. 

Bill himself was a special person - witness the huge congregation here today - but he was also, above all else, a tremendous example to us all of how to be a family man. Tricia was the centre of his life for over 53 years, and you only had to speak to Bill for a few moments about Belinda, Sara and Nigel and their families and you quickly realised how proud he was of them all and how much the whole family meant to him.

We join them in giving thanks for Bill's life and for the sheer joy that he brought to all in that special and inimitable way of his, in a way that was truly all his own.




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