Norman Goodland

Writer, broadcaster and nurse
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The Independent Online

Norman Goodland was a pioneer male nurse and a writer. His first book was a novel. He then progressed from writing nursing textbooks to writing about the countryside, and became radio and television's "Mr Hampshire". In the 1960s, the Department of Health sent a despatch rider each month to collect the commentaries on the NHS which Goodland (and others, but mainly Goodland) wrote in Hampshire, the county magazine.

Born in Southampton in 1918, he was initially brought up by beloved foster-parents, then, from the age of five, by his grandparents and aunts at Timsbury, a village where he later took a great interest in village life and found many of his stories. At Barton Peveril Grammar School, in Eastleigh, Goodland excelled at two things - the high jump, setting a record which was not broken for two decades, and writing, in which he began his second career by contributing to the school magazine.

On leaving school, he started theological studies at Kelham College, Nottinghamshire, but returned to Timsbury and drifted from job to job. It was at a local inn that Goodland learnt of the possibility of the job that was to launch him on a career in nursing. He was told about Tatchbury Mount, a home for boys with learning difficulties, classed in those days as "mentally defective". He joined the staff.

In the shadow of Munich and in anticipation of the Second World War Goodland also enlisted in the Territorial Army, joining the Royal Army Medical Corps. When war did come, he was evacuated from Dunkirk. During his army service as a corporal he became a specialist in dysentery. He wrote amusingly of his experiences, in a book which he entitled Christian Soldiers. It remained unpublished but his children read it to him in his last illness.

After the war, he became a dairyman, married, and wrote a novel. Garnett Daubenay's Pipe (1948) was described as "one of the most faithful descriptions of workhouse and vagrant life ever written". Goodland found farming did not allow him enough time for writing, so he returned to nursing at Tatchbury Mount. Then, at the age of 30, he went to train as a state registered nurse, at a time when male general nurses were a rarity.

He rose to be a charge nurse - equivalent of a sister - at both Southampton General Hospital, where he trained, and at the Royal South Hants Hospital. He was in charge of first a coronary care unit, then an intensive care unit. While in post he wrote Coronary Care (1970), the first British textbook for nurses on coronary disease, and General Intensive Care (1978).

Apart from his novel, he had already started writing books about the countryside. In 1953, with My Father Before Me (based on the story of his foster-father, a thatcher), he collaborated with the artist Frank Martin, who also illustrated Old Stan's Diary: autumn and winter on the farm, in 1963. Sexton's Boy appeared in 1967, then Norman Goodland's Book of Country Craftiness (1981), Down on the Farm: his second book on country craftiness (1982) and Thicways and Athirt: a countryman's diary (1984). On his ancient typewriter Goodland wrote for over 80 publications. For 21 years he was monthly columnist for Hampshire, the county magazine created by a larger-than-life Fleet Street character, Paul Cave. "He had a dry sense of humour and keen perception, but his humour was never cruel," says Cave.

Goodland started broadcasting on the BBC's as the "Hampshire Farmer" on The Farmer programme in 1949, launched his "Countryside Tales" on Radio Solent's Saturday Breakfast Show in 1982, and was a regular contributor to Woman's Hour. He continued recording his countryside tales in his rich Hampshire accent up to the end of last year. Southern Television - the region's first independent TV company - brought him on its evening news programme, Day by Day, in 1958.

Goodland took early retirement from the NHS in 1981, helping his wife (as she became increasingly frail), his wife's mother and aged aunts. He was also disillusioned with the NHS, complaining of "centralised gigantism" and "bosses who certainly don't know you from a stick of chalk". "Had it not got like that," he said, "I might have carried on."

After writing well over a thousand articles for Hampshire magazine he decided to stop when the room where he worked was filling up with past issues and he could "no longer hear himself typing".

Goodland presented an archive of photographs of country life to the Museum of Rural Life at Reading University. He was a keen cyclist and could cycle more slowly than most people could walk.

Laurence Dopson