Obituary: Rawdon Goodier, tireless conservationist and committed Zen Buddhist
Rawdon Goodier was born in Upminster, Essex, the only child of Grace and Rawdon Snr. Outdoor pursuits featured strongly in his childhood – he spoke of building a tree house and skating on the frozen lake in what was then an almost rural environment. Goodier also made a lifelong friend in Alan Corbett, who he would continue to visit until they were both in their 80s.
An academically gifted child, Goodier gained a scholarship to study at Brentwood School. He was a keen participant in sports and outdoor activities, captaining the school rugby team and also a very strong middle distance and cross country runner. At Brentwood, Goodier fostered his lifelong interests in science and nature which he further pursued at University College London, taking an honours degree in Zoology. Goodier exuded a form of coolness which his children would later find hard to explain – he rode around London on a Lambretta scooter and wore a ‘fishtail’ parka more than a decade before Mod became fashionable.
It was also during his student days that Goodier first encountered western Buddhism and began his lifelong study and practice. Always an adventurer, as a student, Goodier cycled around Ireland, his photographs capturing both its natural beauty and political complexity. He was an avid photographer, starting with a box brownie and later purchasing his first Leica and Rolliflex cameras.
During his military service, Goodier followed his father into the Royal Marines. After basic and officer training, his time with the cliff assault wing allowed rock climbing on sea cliffs in Cornwall, a continuation of his undergraduate mountaineering passion.
In 1955, Goodier was an early pioneer of cliff climbing routes near Bosigran with fellow marine John ‘Zeke’ Deacon. ‘Raven Wall’, is still regarded as one of Bosigran’s extreme test pieces. ‘String of Pearls’ was another of Goodier’s favourites – a name inspired by the linkage of several routes in this traversing climb. Clearly recognised as an academic and referred to by his fellow Marines as ‘the professor’, Goodier later told of his Marines adventures, including the time when the group went adder hunting on Dartmoor after a visit to the local hostelry!
Climbing and mountaineering became another of Goodier’s lifelong pursuits. He was a member of the Climbing Club and was highly regarded amongst the UK climbing community. An experienced Alpine mountaineer in his early years, this pursuit continued in later life. In 1983, Goodier was a member of an expedition to the Andes with his former Marines commander Mike Banks, Mike and Sally Westmacott and Sir John and Joy Hunt, reaching heights of more than 19,000ft on Jontunhuman3.
In 1955, Goodier obtained his first job working in Africa for the then Southern Rhodesian Government’s tsetse fly control programme. In addition to his disease vector control duties, Goodier was a keen botanist and ecologist. He spent a great deal of time with his colleague Jim Phipps exploring remote regions, including studying the ecology and geology of the Chimanimani mountain range and cataloguing its unique and diverse flora and fauna.
Very recently, Goodier was happily communicating with a research team at Kew about his and Jim’s work which was much quoted in a recent report – a testimony to its lasting impact. It was also in Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) that Goodier developed further a musical ear, building up his record collection and listening to new repertoire with Jim and his good friend Rhys Lewis. His lifelong love of classical music was passed on to his family. Music was a constant feature of the Goodier household and was always played with sufficient volume to reverberate throughout the house.
Goodier took a sabbatical in the UK in 1958/59, studying for a postgraduate diploma in applied parasitology and entomology at London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. It was during a return visit to his parents, now living in Cheshire, that Goodier met and became engaged to Judy, who was at that time training to be a teacher. Judy later joined Goodier in Africa. A bit of an action man, Goodier saved Judy from a puff adder in the nick of time and prevented a rampaging elephant from destroying a local village. Many of these tales remain with us, including the one where their resident galago (bush baby) came crashing down from the rafters after sampling some gin and orange! Goodier and Judy’s first son Mark was born in Zimbabwe, after which they returned to live in the UK.
Goodier pursued his love of nature and commitment to protecting the environment, taking up a post as regional officer for the Nature Conservancy Council in North Wales. The family home was in Llanfairfechan, a rural village not far from Bangor and the coast.
It was here that Martin and Anthony were born and the three children were introduced at an early age to the wonders of walking in the local hills with their parents and grandparents and roaming free in the local countryside.
It was with the NCC that Goodier took the opportunity to move to Scotland, as a regional officer based in Edinburgh in 1969. Goodier continued to work tirelessly on protecting the environment, negotiating complex protections in many regions, including the Cairngorms. In the late 1970s, Goodier’s skills were tested on an international level, now working for the Scottish Office where he was involved in negotiations on biosphere reserves with the then Soviet Union.
Goodier’s love of nature and spirit of adventure combined in inspiring family holidays in Cornwall, Ireland and the Orkney Islands. Most notably, in 1972, Goodier took the family on a three month tour of nature reserves throughout northern and southern Europe, a journey of some 7,000 miles in a campervan, for which he received a Churchill Fellowship.
Goodier was an avid reader and could often be found in the second-hand bookshops on Causewayside, Edinburgh, seeking out philosophical or scientific tomes but also reading the odd novel! Aside from his scientific and report writing Goodier also contributed to popular books, most notably his 1990 collaboration with the photographer Colin Baxter, writing the descriptive prose for The Cairngorms: The Nature of The Land.
As a committed practitioner, Goodier played a pivotal role in the introduction of Zen Buddhism to Scotland. He meditated at the Edinburgh Salisbury, regularly went on retreat at Throssel Hole Buddhist Abbey in Northumbria and later helped to found the Portobello Buddhist Priory, where he was a lay minister. He continued to practice at the priory until very recently. Goodier was the first chairperson of the Scottish Inter Faith Council (former name of Interfaith Scotland).
Goodier was a lifelong devotee of nature and philosophy, but above all he was a dedicated husband and father who always found time for his family. He is sadly missed by Judy, the three boys and their families and children.