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News > Obits > Richard 'Dick' Widdowson

Richard 'Dick' Widdowson

26 May 2023
Written by Cait Spencer

Richard Wolfe Widdowson.1927-2023. BGS 1941-1945

Eulogy provided by Richard's daughter, Charmian Widdowson

Richard (Dick) Widdowson was born in the Kingswood Reformatory School, near Bristol on 15th June 1927. His parents, Billy and Molly, were the Head Master and Matron of the school. They instilled into him at a very early age that the only difference between him and the boys in the school was that he had secure home, and they did not, and that they therefore had no-one to guide them through their adolescent years.

His parents were very left wing politically, and so his first school was the local elementary. One day he walked in on his mother entertaining some local ladies, and started swearing without realising the meaning of such language. He was removed from the school overnight and enrolled in a private prep in Bristol.

From there he went on to Bristol Grammar school, where he discovered the joys of science, but detested all languages, ancient and modern. He could not see the use of Latin, Greek, English literature or grammar had any value in helping him reach his desire to go ‘into farming’.  He used to relate with glee the time, during the school certificate exams, when his chemistry class was decanted to the Latin master’s classroom. Jimmy Harrison, his chemistry teacher, decided that day to do experiments with sulphur dioxide, which smells of rotten eggs!

The war had a major impact on his life. During the Bristol Blitz a bomb landed in the grounds of Kingswood, which terrified him. At 17, he left school and was called up, joining the RAF. He was told he could become a cook or a policeman.. no way was he going to cook, so he went to police school, where he was selected to join Special Investigation Branch. Much of his time was spent going to West End central police station to pick up RAF personnel who had fallen foul of the law.  The barracks were a block of luxury flats which had only been completed in 1939, 2 minutes from Hyde Park and 3 from the Albert Hall, and a ‘73’ bus ride to the West End. Nearby was the Nuffield Centre where any service man or woman could go free for a hot meal, a quiet room for reading, or tickets for West End shows, provided by the generosity of Lord Nuffield.

Demobbed, he went to the Royal Agricultural College at Cirencester which he loved. He worked hard, and played hard, and being post war with mainly ex-servicemen as students, discipline was relaxed. He was top of his year and awarded the Ducie Gold Medal. On graduating, he was offered 2 jobs: one as a farm manager for the author A.G. Street salary £500pa, the other with a Unilever company BOCM, at a salary of £450pa… but with a car! He took this latter one and was based in Cornwall before being promoted to Pig Food Sales Manager for BOCM western region. This was based in Bristol, spending 3 days a week helping field staff. One such visit was to Devon, where the rep’s wife invited him to dinner. At the same dinner was a girl called Sonia, and, as they say, ‘the rest is history’; they were married in March 1955.

In the same year, he was involved in developing the use of ultrasound to assess the amount of fat in a pig. That same process was further developed by a gynaecologist and is now used with every pregnant woman to check the baby in the womb.

He also researched blood groups in pigs, and was often asked to travel to lecture with his work. Often to Holland, but also Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia, Romania, and even, in 1967, to the States.

In 1971, he was made redundant, and he and his family  moved to Scotland, to Aberdeenshire, where he bought a smallholding; mainly pigs, but also a cow, some hens and some arable land. Some years later he returned to agricultural advisory work, with a particular interest in looking at the issues holistically. He and his wife moved back to England, finally settling in Lincolnshire. He was very much influenced by E.F. Schumacher who wrote “Small is Beautiful”, and by the work of Lady Eve Balfour, and wrote a book “Towards Holistic Agriculture”, which was also translated into Spanish for the South American market.

During his whole working life he writes that he was “supported most loyally and wonderfully by my darling wife Sonia. We had two children, Charmian, and Roderick.”

He retired in the 80s, and he and Sonia started doing embroidery on a commercial basis, finishing off embroideries, started enthusiastically by people, and then abandoned. When Sonia’s eyesight and health deteriorated Dick had to spend more time caring for her, and they had to stop the embroidery. Sonia died in 2005 and Dick moved to West Lothian from where his mother hailed, thus moving closer to his children and sister. Last August, he moved to the Livingston Care home where he settled really well.

On Tuesday 14th February he had a fall, and was taken to A&E at the Royal Infirmary, Edinburgh. By midnight he’d been admitted, and on Friday evening he passed away.

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