John Gould, MBE
Updated 20 March 1999

This page is dedicated to John Gould, MBE. He is well-known for his efforts in the restoration of the Kennet & Avon Canal. This page is under construction. John was a member of The Newbury Society. Check out this site to find out more.

John died on 19th March 1999. Below is a short appreciation I wrote for the March edition of "St. Nicolas News" which was going to press as the sad news broke.  Click HERE for the Funeral Order of Service.

(Click on a picture to ENLARGE it.)

John Gould, MBE
8th June 1913 - 19th March 1999

John's favourite word was "unique" - there is only one Newbury waterways environment, one St. Nicolas church, one life...
The parable of the lost sheep epitomises John's life. As a lad I remember seeing John clinging to the canal bank releasing a trapped duckling and reuniting it with its mother and the rest of her brood on their first aquatic outing. How many of us would have spotted the problem let alone risked a soaking to solve it?

John had another expression: "not pretty, pretty". Not only did John opened eyes about what needed to be done, he also had positive views on how it should be done. He strived for the authentic, rather than the "catalogue" or "off-the-shelf", solution. Many restoration and enhancement schemes have been modified due to John's attention to, and knowledge of detail: of what actually makes the here and now unique.

His MBE, the plaque at Newbury lock and the bust proposed for the new library are public acknowledgements of John's contribution to society. Typically, John's acceptance of  these was not for himself, but symbolic and on behalf of all of us who are stewards. John was a master-steward whose perseverance during long "wilderness years" paid off.

Robert F. Willis

Photo Gallery

(Click on picture to ENLARGE)

At Newbury Lock (c. 1987)

At Tree Planting Ceremony (Autumn 1997)

John Gould MBE pictured in 1997

John explaining the working of Newbury lock to Mrs. Elke Holden-Bell, the Newbury Society's Public Relations Officers.

The plaque on Newbury Lock Island.


In February 1998 my wife and I took John Gould on a tour of the dried-up Northcroft Ditch. The picture shows John in his wheelchair on the footpath bridge near the Recreational Centre car park. The stream ran from near the slipway by "Red Locks", west of the swimming pool, along the boundary of Northcroft and Goldwell Park, through Elliot's furniture works (where it served as an emergency water supply), under Northbrook Street to Victoria Park (who remembers the stream by the tank trap?), and beyond. There was branch running along the east side of Northcroft, then culverted under Northcroft Lane until it re-entered the Kennet by the travel agents opposite the Salvation Army citadel. John has shown me large-scale old Ordinance Survey maps which clearly show the route. Click here for pictures taken on the tour.

The re-watering of the Northcroft Ditch is a project dear to John's heart. Seeing it partially re-watered recently during the prolonged rain it occurred to me that this might be a better way to remember John. Certainly I get the impression speaking to John that, whilst flattered by the sculpture idea, the re-watering of Northcroft Ditch would please him more.

Even a partially re-watered Ditch would greatly enhance Northcroft - so much of it has now been lost to car parks and formal, organised recreation. Whilst it is nice to see the more active playing football and cricket their presence does deny access to the areas occupied by the pitches for "quiet enjoyment" during the games, and, moreover, generates additional vehicle movements before and after each match. A re-watered ditch is likely to attract aquatic life, flora and fauna. I well remember the frogs and the minnows which I saw as boy in the 50s, near the spot where John is pictured.

Robert F. Willis
February 1999

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