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.

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

Recruitment Genius: Management Trainer

£30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Exciting career opportunity to join East...

Recruitment Genius: Senior Scientist / Research Assistant

£18000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An ambitious start-up company b...

Reach Volunteering: Chair of Trustees

VOLUNTARY ONLY - EXPENSES REIMBURSED: Reach Volunteering: Do you love the Engl...

Day In a Page

Mau Mau uprising: Kenyans still waiting for justice join class action over Britain's role in the emergency

Kenyans still waiting for justice over Mau Mau uprising

Thousands join class action over Britain's role in the emergency
Isis in Iraq: The trauma of the last six months has overwhelmed the remaining Christians in the country

The last Christians in Iraq

After 2,000 years, a community will try anything – including pretending to convert to Islam – to avoid losing everything, says Patrick Cockburn
Black Friday: Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

Britain braced for Black Friday
Bill Cosby's persona goes from America's dad to date-rape drugs

From America's dad to date-rape drugs

Stories of Bill Cosby's alleged sexual assaults may have circulated widely in Hollywood, but they came as a shock to fans, says Rupert Cornwell
Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

As fans flock to see England women's Wembley debut against Germany, the TV presenter on an exciting 'sea change'
Oh come, all ye multi-faithful: The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?

Oh come, all ye multi-faithful

The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?
Dr Charles Heatley: The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

Dr Charles Heatley on joining the NHS volunteers' team bound for Sierra Leone
Flogging vlogging: First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books

Flogging vlogging

First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books
Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show: US channels wage comedy star wars

Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show

US channels wage comedy star wars
When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine? When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible

When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine?

When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible
Look what's mushrooming now! Meat-free recipes and food scandals help one growing sector

Look what's mushrooming now!

Meat-free recipes and food scandals help one growing sector
Neil Findlay is more a pink shrimp than a red firebrand

More a pink shrimp than a red firebrand

The vilification of the potential Scottish Labour leader Neil Findlay shows how one-note politics is today, says DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Tenderstem broccoli omelette; Fried eggs with Mexican-style tomato and chilli sauce; Pan-fried cavolo nero with soft-boiled egg

Oeuf quake

Bill Granger's cracking egg recipes
Terry Venables: Wayne Rooney is roaring again and the world knows that England are back

Terry Venables column

Wayne Rooney is roaring again and the world knows that England are back
Michael Calvin: Abject leadership is allowing football’s age-old sores to fester

Abject leadership is allowing football’s age-old sores to fester

Those at the top are allowing the same issues to go unchallenged, says Michael Calvin