Geoffrey Findlay, beloved husband, father of three, and grandfather to seven, and well-known figure in the Ramsbury and Marlborough communities, died on Christmas Day 2020 following a short struggle with Parkinson’s.
Geoffrey was born in November 1945 in Whitleafe, Buckinghamshire, as the youngest of three. Geoffrey achieved academic success at boarding school at Wycliffe College, Gloucestershire securing a place at St John’s College Cambridge, where he followed his own father’s path and read Natural Sciences. This was followed by a PhD in microbiology at Imperial College, London.
Geoffrey started his career in 1970 as Commissioning Science Editor for Longman publishing. He then moved to the Civil Service, primarily working on government science policy and international scientific relations. This included two years working in Paris for the British Embassy, as a scientific advisor to the Diplomatic Service. This cemented Geoffrey’s love of both France and Europe, and kindled a lifetime’s interest European partnerships and international collaborations.
Geoffrey started working for the Research Councils in Swindon in 1981, which led to the family settling in Ramsbury. Over the next two decades he held a number of senior positions, including several years in Whitehall advising the Cabinet Office on scientific issues of the day, where he enjoyed being in the centre of the political world. He then moved to the funding of UK particle physics and astronomy research, taking on a new scientific field. Here he was involved in supporting European space missions with the European Space Agency and the British National Space Centre (as it was then called).
Geoffrey retired in 2001, but moved into charity work, maintaining the same levels of activity and energy as when in full time work, but with added enthusiasm for what he was undertaking.
Initially Geoffrey worked with the Royal Society on the enquiry into Foot and Mouth Disease, but then moved into more charitable and local endeavours.
In 2004 he became a magistrate sitting on the bench in Chippenham as well as being appointed a member of the Wiltshire Probation Trust Board in 2006.
In recognition of Geoffrey’s international leanings and his high degree of intelligence, in 1999 he became Chairman of the Marlborough Brandt Group (MBG) that twinned the town with Gunjur in the Gambia. This involved several trips to see the work that the charity was doing and indeed he paid for the installation of road signs at the entrance to Gunjur declaring “Gunjur linked with Marlborough, Wiltshire, UK”.
Based on his experience with MBG Geoffrey supported the creation of the national organisation the ‘UK One World Linking Association’ which brought together the increasing number of communities in the UK that were beginning to develop partnerships with communities in Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean. He subsequently became a trustee of UKOWLA.
In 2002 he played a key role in the creation of a Commonwealth accredited organisation ‘Building Understanding through International Links for Development’ (BUILD) which worked closely with the UK Government through an All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) ‘Connecting Communities’ to encourage schools, hospitals, local authorities, churches and mosques to create partnerships with counterparts in the Global South.
Geoffrey’s past experience of working with different Government Ministers was crucial in the many meetings BUILD members held with the APPG. One outcome of these meetings was, by 2010, the creation of partnerships between 4,500 schools in UK with schools in Africa, Asia and the Caribbean, relationships which ensured that children left school having some knowledge of the global context in which they currently live and would be working.
From 2014 Geoffrey was Chairman of ARK – the local Action for the River Kennet environmental group that does tremendous work for the protection of the river. During his tenure as chairman he greatly widened the scope and influence of the charity, and represented the group at a Commons Select Committee on the environment, lobbying for the interests of both the Kennet and British chalkstream rivers in general.
Geoffrey was also a keen volunteer at the Samaritans and became an integral member of the Swindon branch for a number of years, making many lasting friendships.
And until 2001 Geoffrey was vice-chairman of the Governors of St John’s Academy during the period of transition to its new single site.
Geoffrey was passionate about European culture, the theatre, especially Shakespeare, and classical music. For the last 10 years of his life he was learning Russian and together with his local language group he made several trips to Belarus and Russia – a country which particularly fascinated him.
In Ramsbury Geoffrey was a stalwart of the village, regularly ringing the church bells and mowing the churchyard, planting trees, sitting on the Scout Committee and helping at village film nights, amongst many other activities.
Geoffrey is remembered by friends and family as a generous and intelligent man, passionate about culture, a keen Europhile, and someone who took an enthusiastic and genuine interest in everyone he met.
His funeral was held at Holy Cross Church, Ramsbury on 13 January 2021.
Donations were made to Parkinson’s UK and Holy Cross, Ramsbury.