obituaries William Rodger

At a time when local councillors are being denigrated and pilloried - often quite outrageously, as in the case of the Monklands councillors - it is salutary to be reminded that there is another side to the coin. There are men and women who, selflessly, and with little or no personal gain, other than the knowledge that they are serving the community, sweat it out in interminable meetings, making humdrum - but locally important - decisions. Such duties they often carry out in time which they could have happily spent with their families.

Such councillors were and are estimable men and women. Such a man was William Rodger. His life was steeped in public service.

Rodger was born into a mining family in Bo'ness - on the south shore of the Firth of Forth, and in late medieval times the third largest port in Scotland - during the First World War. Like many other families, they were determined that son should not follow father down the pit. So at the age of 14, after attending Kinneil Primary School, and Grange Secondary School in Bo'ness, William Rodger started work with Forth Chemical Company, Grangemouth. Apart from his war service as a signaller, attached to the Scots Guards, followed by a short spell as a specialist worker with John Brown's ship-yard in Glasgow, Rodger worked at the Grangemouth complex, with ICI and BP, for nearly half a century.

The mainspring of Rodger's life was to promote the well- being of Bo'ness and its community of some 12,000 people. Over the 30 years to 1990 Rodger was successively chairman of the Town Council, the District Council and the Community Council, chairman of ad hoc committees and innumerable sub-committees essential to civic progress, and prime mover in many a project.

One of Rodger's qualities was his sheer stamina in maintaining interest in schemes until completion, a rather rare quality in public life; many other councillors start schemes - rather fewer see them through to the finish.

Another quality was that elusive capacity of being perceived to be workable with. It was this which contributed to the decision of the Scottish Railway Preservation Society in 1985 to establish their museum, unique north of York, in Bo'ness, locomotives, track and all.

A third quality was willingness to back the unusual; for example when the proposal was made to open up the disused Birkhill clay mine to the public, people reacted, "Who'd be interested to visit a dark clay mine?" The fact that there have been thousands of visitors going into the bowels of the earth underground every year for a decade vindicated Rodger's backing for such vision.

Bo'ness - the medieval Borrowstouness - was the Roman settlement at the East End of the Antonine Wall, the "barricade" between the Forth and Clyde Estuaries, the ultimate northern boundary at the heyday of Roman occupation. The anthropologist Professor Frank Girling, of Leeds University, did a study in the 1950s of the various family lineages of Bo'ness: the Sneddens, the Sneddons, the Grants, the Robertsons and the Rodgers - and divided them into sub-lineages such as the "Bugle Sneddons", "the Monkey Sneddons", and "the Yellow Sneddens". Girling made a convincing case that Bo'ness people were perhaps the most ethnically Roman in Britain. Bo'ness is a much-intermarried community, though, given the vigour of its people in sallying forth as engineering and chemical industry experts all over the world, not in-bred.

Post-war, Bo'ness was in danger of becoming a "dump". The pottery, famous for its mass-produced white china, overtaken by new technology, closed. MacLellan's ship-chandlers found that the ships which it broke up in inter-war years ended their days in the Far East. The foundry, which had made most of the manhole covers for the sewers of Britain - look carefully walking along many a London pavement, and you will detect the letters Bo'ness Iron Company - closed, along with two neighbouring foundries, leaving only one, in a town where James Watt had worked at the birth of the Industrial Revolution.

That Bo'ness today is a vibrant community owes much to William Rodger, and to his fellow councillors. They created a sense of community, particularly through the Bo'ness Fair, the most elaborate children's festival in Scotland, established in 1897 and held at the end of June. Thirty years on, successful international businesswomen look back with pleasure to their Fair Day as a (usually goose- pimpled) fairy. Bo'ness Heritage was set up and, though no Beamish, let along Ironbridge, it commanded the interest of Sir Neil Cossons, the present Director of the Science Museum.

But Rodger's greatest achievement was those endless, unsung tasks which he carried out, like many a selfless councillor, over five decades, for his fellow citizens.

Tam Dalyell

William Rodger, chemical worker and local politician: born Bo'ness, West Lothian 8 November 1915; chairman, Bo'ness Town Council 1959-68, District Council 1969-76, Community Council 1977-90; MBE 1991; married 1944 Margaret Robertson (one son); died Falkirk 19 June 1995.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooksNow available in paperback
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

Recruitment Genius: HR Manager

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They are in need of a HR Manage...

h2 Recruit Ltd: Business Development Manager - HR Consultancy - £65,000 OTE

£35000 - £40000 per annum + £65,000 OTE: h2 Recruit Ltd: London, Birmingham, M...

Day In a Page

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas
La Famille Bélier is being touted as this year's Amelie - so why are many in the deaf community outraged by it?

Deaf community outraged by La Famille Bélier

The new film tells the story of a deaf-mute farming family and is being touted as this year's Amelie
10 best high-end laptops

10 best high-end laptops

From lightweight and zippy devices to gaming beasts, we test the latest in top-spec portable computers
Michael Carberry: ‘After such a tough time, I’m not sure I will stay in the game’

Michael Carberry: ‘After such a tough time, I’m not sure I will stay in the game’

The batsman has grown disillusioned after England’s Ashes debacle and allegations linking him to the Pietersen affair
Susie Wolff: A driving force in battle for equality behind the wheel

Susie Wolff: A driving force in battle for equality behind the wheel

The Williams driver has had plenty of doubters, but hopes she will be judged by her ability in the cockpit
Adam Gemili interview: 'No abs Adam' plans to muscle in on Usain Bolt's turf

'No abs Adam' plans to muscle in on Usain Bolt's turf

After a year touched by tragedy, Adam Gemili wants to become the sixth Briton to run a sub-10sec 100m
Calls for a military mental health 'quality mark'

Homeless Veterans campaign

Expert calls for military mental health 'quality mark'
Racton Man: Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman

Meet Racton Man

Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman
Garden Bridge: St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters

Garden Bridge

St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters
Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament: An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel

Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament

An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel
Joint Enterprise: The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice

Joint Enterprise

The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice
Freud and Eros: Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum: Objects of Desire

Freud and Eros

Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum