• on 22nd April 2023

Viscount Shane Gough RIP

Revd Liz writes

The sad news reached us last week of the death of the Patron of St Luke’s and St Thomas Churches (along with the Bishop of Southwark), Viscount Shane Gough. He died peacefully after a short illness. Despite being largely resident in Scotland since the start of the pandemic, he has always retained an active interest in the benefice. It’s good to know that Shane has been blessed by the supportive friendship of Cyril and Felicity Young.

Lord Gough’s funeral will be a quiet affair, which I am told is what he wanted. There will in time be a memorial service and details will be shared here.

May he rest in peace and rise in glory.

Cyril Young shares an obituary he wrote for the Charlton Society

Shane, 5th Viscount Gough was born near Inverness and spent his early years there. His mother was a Maryon-Wilson and her family were the last to live at Charlton House. Her brother died unexpectedly from appendicitis in the late 1930’s before the discovery of antibiotics, so it was she who inherited the patronage of St Luke’s Charlton, taking matters very seriously. She passed that sense of duty on to her seven year old son, Shane, who accompanied her on visits to the parish. He himself would later inherit the responsibility and show great interest in the historic building, the worship and the music. He developed a heart which beat for Charlton.

After Abberley Hall School he went on to Winchester College, spending a gap year travelling around the world prior to Sandhurst and a commission in the Irish Guards. Six years later he went into stockbroking and was involved with his Scottish estate.

Throughout his life he had a particular affection for Charlton and as well as taking an interest in what happened at St Luke’s Church, he also inherited a number of properties in The Village which meant that he was interested in the local environment around the house he never lived in: Charlton House which had been his mother’s ancestral home before being sold by the Maryon-Wilsons to the council in 1925.

He was thrilled to be associated with The Charlton Society and took his Presidential duties seriously. He was a fount of local knowledge and a very generous benefactor through his family Trust to many charitable organisations. He has been a Founder Trustee of The Woolwich Garrison Church Trust and in all his associations he has quietly supported and, when necessary, helped by getting himself personally involved. He could be expected to be around for Horn Fair, St Luke’s Day, Charlton House Art Exhibitions and Charlton Society meetings. Although he may have lived elsewhere he made himself an honorary Charlton resident with his quiet reserved character which will be greatly missed from local events.

As the millennium approached he learned about a national grant for establishing peals of bells. Those at St Luke’s Charlton, which were a motley group of four or five bells, had been taken down during WWII and, surprisingly, could not be found afterwards so the church only had a single calling bell. Shane Gough decided to apply for a grant for which he then had to match the considerable grant-funding himself so as to be able to commission The Whitechapel Bell Foundry to cast a peal of 8 bells to hang in the church tower. He attended, alongside parishioners, at the factory and watched the glowing molten bell metal poured into the casts. He gave each of the bells a locally related name which is cast in perpetuity on each bell. The largest (and lowest sounding) is named “Res non verba” the motto of his grandfather. Translated it means ‘Deeds not words’ and that sums up this kind and quiet man who has showed his love of the special nature of Charlton and whose bells will now act as a fine memorial to be heard throughout the village, and into the distant future.

Gwen Zammit shares her memories of Lord Gough

I first met Shane back in 1948 when he used to attend St Luke’s on occasions with his Late Mother and his Nanny. I was in the ‘all girls’ choir which sang for the Eucharist on a Sunday. We did not have robes but used to wear white veils which we donned in the Baptistry ready to start the service. Shane was fascinated by this because he could see us getting ready when he arrived. I remember him asking about the 3 bell pulls which then existed in the corner. He was always shy, so did not find it easy to ask questions. 

As the years have gone on, Shane took over the running of things shortly after his mother passed away.  She was a widow. 

He visited St Luke’s as often as he could and supported our church in very many ways.  In my lifetime he has donated great sums of money towards repairs of the building and other things.  For instance, in the 1950s the organ was completely cleaned and renovated, with the pipes occupying the Lady Chapel pews for several weeks! The organ was one of Shane’s pet projects. Even up until he died we were putting together cash towards the repair of the leather bellows inside the organ. We had reached £7000.  He had done a ‘deal’ with Walker’s, the makers of our organ, to get a discount!

In the 1980s he donated a large sum of money to the repair of the stairs in the tower which were all replaced. When it came to the Millennium, his giving never stopped because this time Shane provided our church with a new set of bells, which incorporated the only original one left. Unfortunately they are hardly rung now.

When it came to the Perceval event in 2012, he escorted the Duke of Gloucester to the Squire’s pew and I watched them from the choir as they entered it. Going through my head was, “Would Shane manage to get his own seat”, which was in the front pew closest to the aisle. He always sat there and used to do secret waves to the children who sat in the middle pews. Yes, he did by asking the Duke to go before him. It really made me giggle!

Shane had attended most of the Concerts I have put on in aid of the organ (Music for a Summer’s Evening) since 1973 when I started them. He always paid ten times the cost of a ticket, so was allowed a few extra glasses of wine during the interval! His last attendance was before Covid when he was 75. 

However, his interests in Charlton were not just our church but The Village and environs too.  He attended quite a few of the Charlton Society meetings. 

The Assembly Rooms, our church hall, had been in his ownership until 1972 when St Luke’s handed the building back to him because the costs of the upkeep became too much. He subsequently sold the Rooms to Greenwich Council, who were going to pull them down to extend the car park, but the Community were not having any of it and hence the formation of “Save Charlton Assembly Rooms Project”  which he also supported

More recently, when I was doing the grants for the works at St Luke’s, I approached Shane to get some help with the cost of the replacement roof and tower repairs. He was generous enough to give us £50,000 plus the tax saving which came to over 70K. This went a long way to the £250,000 that was needed, which luckily I was able to get through other mediums.

Lord Gough never married and with his death the line will come to an end. He was a descendent of the Maryon-Wilsons on his mother’s side which, as you will see the many plaques on the church walls, were a very active part of our previous history. 

We were good friends and I personally will miss Viscount Gough greatly and I am sure a lot you will too.

God rest his soul and I know he will rise in Glory because he was such a generous and kind man.

Photo taken in 2012 at the service to mark the 200 anniversary of the death of Spencer Percival. (From left to right: Lord Gough, Bishop Michael Ipgrave, Duke of Gloucester)

1 Comment

  1. Major General Sir Robert Corbett

    I first met Shane Gough in the Army in 1962. We were fellow subalterns in the Irish Guards, at that time serving as an Armored Infantry battalion in the Britsh Army of the Rhine. We were in the same Company and, being close in age, became friends. Despite the inevitable absences that military service causes, our friendship lasted until his death and it may be that I was one of the last to be able to speak to him. I am glad to have this memory of a true gentleman whose loyalty, integrity and great, but always unsung generosity were an example to us all. May he rest in peace. Robert Corbett.

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