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
  • Get to the point
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: Production & Quality Control Assistant

£19000 - £21000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An excellent opportunity for a ...

Ashdown Group: Group HR Advisor - Kettering - £32,000

£28000 - £32000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Group HR Advisor with an established...

Guru Careers: HR Manager / HR Generalist

£40 - 50k (DOE) + Bonus: Guru Careers: We are seeking a HR Manager / HR Genera...

Recruitment Genius: Human Resources Officer

£24000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This role will cover all areas ...

Day In a Page

Inside the Kansas greenhouses where Monsanto is 'playing God' with the future of the planet

The future of GM

The greenhouses where Monsanto 'plays God' with the future of the planet
Britain's mild winters could be numbered: why global warming is leaving UK chillier

Britain's mild winters could be numbered

Gulf Stream is slowing down faster than ever, scientists say
Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Donation brings total raised by Homeless Veterans campaign to at least £1.25m
Oh dear, the most borrowed book at Bank of England library doesn't inspire confidence

The most borrowed book at Bank of England library? Oh dear

The book's fifth edition is used for Edexcel exams
Cowslips vs honeysuckle: The hunt for the UK’s favourite wildflower

Cowslips vs honeysuckle

It's the hunt for UK’s favourite wildflower
Child abuse scandal: Did a botched blackmail attempt by South African intelligence help Cyril Smith escape justice?

Did a botched blackmail attempt help Cyril Smith escape justice?

A fresh twist reveals the Liberal MP was targeted by the notorious South African intelligence agency Boss
Tony Blair joins a strange and exclusive club of political leaders whose careers have been blighted by the Middle East

Blair has joined a strange and exclusive club

A new tomb has just gone up in the Middle East's graveyard of US and British political reputations, says Patrick Cockburn
Election 2015: Meet the top 12 wacky candidates seeking your vote in May

Election 2015

Meet the top 12 wacky candidates seeking your vote in May
Countdown to the election: Operation Save Danny Alexander shifts into high gear as the SNP target his Commons seat

Operation Save Danny Alexander shifts into high gear

The Chief Secretary to the Treasury didn’t forget his Highland roots in the Budget. But the SNP is after his Commons seat
The US economy is under threat because of its neglected infrastructure

The US is getting frayed at the edges

Public spending on infrastructure is only half of Europe’s, and some say the nation’s very prosperity is threatened, says Rupert Cornwell
Mad Men final episodes: Museum exhibition just part of the hoopla greeting end of 1960s-set TV hit

New Yorkers raise a glass to Mad Men

A museum exhibition is just part of the hoopla greeting the final run of the 1960s-set TV hit
Land speed record: British-built hybrid rocket car aims to be the fastest on Earth

British-built hybrid rocket car aims to be the fastest on Earth

Bloodhound SSC will attempt to set a new standard in South Africa's Kalahari desert
Housebuilders go back to basics by using traditional methods and materials

Housebuilders go back to basics - throwing mud at the wall until it sticks

Traditional materials are ticking all the construction boxes: they are cheap, green – and anyone can use them
Daniel Brühl: 'When you have success abroad, you become a traitor. Envy is very German'

Daniel Brühl: 'Envy is very German'

He's got stick for his golden acting career and for his beloved restaurant - but Daniel Brühl is staying put in Berlin (where at least the grannies love him)
How Leica transformed photography for ever: Celebrating 100 years of the famous camera

Celebrating 100 years of Leica

A new book reveals how this elegant, lightweight box of tricks would transform the way we saw life on the street and in fashion, on the battlefield and across the world