Valerie Gane, formerly Valerie Boyes and then Valerie Doodson, passed away at the Wirral Hospice St. John’s on 7 September 2021 following a short illness. Val was an important member of the Bidston community in many ways. (We believe that she preferred to be called Valerie but many people called her Val).
First, she was a leader of the tidal prediction group at the Observatory, meticulously checking that the predictions delivered to customers were correct. Val expected, and got, the very highest standards from her prediction team. Second, on a personal level, she provided a link to one of the most famous names in tidal science after marrying Tom Doodson in 1957: Tom was the son of Arthur Doodson CBE, a pioneer in many aspects of tidal research and the Director of the Observatory. After marrying, Tom and Val lived in a caravan in the grounds of the Observatory before finding their own house. (Although married to Tom, Val continued to be called ‘Miss Boyes’ during office hours.) Third, Val made a mark in Bidston history by being one of the first women to take part in a research cruise, in this case on the RRS Challenger, and even in that restricted environment she managed to maintain her usual high standards of dress and quality of work; something that she firmly believed was part of the Bidston ethos.
Finally, one can point to Val’s more recent involvements in Bidston and its surrounding area, by chairing a committee to ‘Save the Observatory’ when it came up for sale, and as a trustee and former chairperson of the Friends of Flaybrick Cemetery (see flaybrick.org/events/). She was awarded an MBE for services to science in 1996. One could go on, by pointing to Val’s commitment to the church and the community in general. Val may have been well into her 80s when she died but, as many people have remarked, looked about 20 years younger and had an active retirement and was always ready to give her opinions on things that she felt were important.
Even many years after retiring, Val (together with other Bidston ‘computers’ including Sylvia Asquith and Joyce Scoffield) continued to take a great interest in the work of what was by then called the National Oceanography Centre. In particular, she gave invaluable help to Steve Newman and his team at the World Museum in Liverpool who refurbished two historical tide prediction machines (one called a Doodson-Légé machine), now on display at NOC.
In December 2019, Val married David Gane whom she had met through their membership of the West Kirby Methodist Church, moving nearer to the coast (and the tides) which had been a focus of her life. One of the last things she was able to do was transfer the remaining records of Arthur Doodson to the Museum in Liverpool, thereby adding to an archive of tidal research material that will be useful to many in the future.
– Valerie’s friends at Bidston Observatory
Below we enclose two photographs of Valerie followed by the excellent (slightly edited) eulogies for her at the Thanksgiving Service at West Kirby Methodist Church on 22 September.
Valerie Eulogy Part 1 by her niece Davina
I would like to celebrate Valerie’s life and share a little of her with you.
In the last year, the message
Be Kind, has been shared on many media platforms. But Valerie was always ahead of the game in this respect. I don’t know anyone else who dedicated so much of their time to being Kind.
Whether it be to her family, her colleagues at the Bidston Observatory and latterly House of Hilbre. Her work with the Red Cross, Abbeyfield Care Home, The Bidston Preservation Trust, The Soroptimists, Friends of Flaybrick, the many other charitable organisations she supported or here at the church, she was someone who could always be relied on, even if she was sometimes a little late. In the family there was the right time and then Valerie time.
Valerie was born in 1936 in Wallasey, with the family moving to Sutton Coldfield for a few years before returning to Bidston Village where she and her sisters spent the rest of their childhood. She was one of 5 girls, but with the surname Boyes the irony wasn’t lost on people and they were known as the Boyes Girls. My gran had been the matriarch of the family and on her death Valerie took up the mantle and has been at the heart of the family ever since. Over the years we have all gone our own way but she was the lynch pin that brought us back together.
Valerie spent her whole working life at Bidston Observatory as an Oceanographer, part of the team predicting Tide Times and Height, this information was used all round the world. Many of you might not know but Valerie was one of the first women to volunteer for and be allowed take part on a research trip to the North Sea on the RRS Challenger, an opportunity she embraced. It was her dedication to her work at the Observatory that in 1996 lead to her being awarded the MBE for Services to Science.
I was chatting to one of Valerie’s long-time friends Nadina last week, who worked with her at the Observatory. She was new to the job and had had an accident at work on her moped and woke up in hospital with Valerie sitting next to her. Valerie had been shocked to find out there were no first aiders at work, so she set about changing that and enrolled with the Red Cross to become a first aider. Nadina made a full recovery but at the time didn’t realise that Valerie’s initial training would lead to a passion and dedication to first aid and the Red Cross. Valerie didn’t stop there though and took more advanced courses as a demonstrator, trainer, in nursing proficiency, higher nursing, ambulance driver, welfare officer and eventually became District Co-ordinator for the Red Cross on the Wirral. She even had me take courses with her and I went on to be a first aider at work.
It was at that Observatory Valerie met the boss’s son Tom, who she married in 1957 and was happily married to until his death in 2002. Initially they lived in a caravan at the Observatory before moving to their home in Sandstone Drive, where she lived for 60 happy years.
After she retired from the Observatory Valerie was instrumental in keeping the legacy of the work undertaken alive and was a key player in getting the Doodson-Légé Tidal Predicting Machine rebuilt, which is now on display in the National Oceanography Centre in Liverpool. This was one of the last, and probably one of the most accurate, analogue computers that could predict a year of tide times and heights anywhere in the world. She was interviewed many times about it, including appearing on the TV programme Coast to share her knowledge and also the vital work undertaken at the Observatory in the war, where the tides were predicted by her father-in-law Dr Arthur Doodson for the D-Day landings. Doodson was instrumental in the days chosen for the landings.
Valerie never had children of her own but her nieces, nephews, great nieces and nephews, godchildren and latterly her stepson Philip and his partner Mar meant the world to her and she delighted in spending time with us all.
I know I speak for my family, when I say, we all share happy memories of our times with Valerie. When her older sister Elaine, who lived in Africa died, Fiona and Hazel who were still very young had to come home, Valerie and Tom stepped in and looked after them, giving them the love and support they needed.
As children we all were taken on many camping holidays to Shell Island, near Harlech in Wales, where we went sailing in Uncle Toms boat, the famous one he built in the dining room and boarding down the sand dunes, at speeds our parents would be terrified of if they knew. Trips to the beach with her famous picnic basket were never complete without them building us a boat in the sand. When we would pack up and head home, other children still on the beach would race to claim our boats, they were that good. Her favourite treat for us was Choc Ices and I can never see one without thinking of her.
Once, when Valerie was away on a trip, my Uncle built some ships steps up into the loft to replace the loft ladder. These steps were near vertical and as children we all loved climbing them, always begging to play in the loft. They had a snooker table up there for at least 50 years that I know of and as children it was such an adventure to go and play in the loft. When the house was eventually sold, that was the last place I went to, to soak it in one more time.
Those of you who visited Sandstone Drive will know that the garden was mainly paved at different levels, but many of you won’t know that at the bottom of the garden there was one sunken part that had a secret use. On hot days Uncle Tom would line it with a sheet of plastic and fill it with water, with Valerie running back and forth with hot water to warm it up and it became a small pool for us to splash around in.
When I married and had my own children, Valerie became an honorary grandmother to them. She would pick them up after school once a week and take them to swimming lessons. We went on holiday every Easter with her and it was lovely to see my family enjoying her company as much as I had as a child.
David came into her life 5 years ago and it was lovely to see them fall in love and be so happy together. They packed a lot into the time they had and in the most part Valerie’s time keeping did improve, she definitely became more organised. David, Phil and Mar are now firmly wrapped in the warm embrace of our family.
I know you will all agree with me when I say, that Valerie really was one of the kindest people. I would like to leave you with these words, that I think sum up Valerie “To know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived – that is to have succeeded” and I hope you will agree Valerie succeeded.
Part 2 David’s tribute to Valerie
The photo on the front of the order of service [up on the screen] was taken on Valerie’s 85th birthday, 28th June this year whilst we were on holiday in Torquay. She was full of life and vigour with all her faculties. Just 10 weeks later she went to meet her Savour, the One who inspired and motivated her. I heard Valerie say, when receiving the prognosis, “Don’t get me wrong doctor, I don’t want to die, but if it is curtains don’t let me hang around”. Valerie was a decisive lady, confident in her Savour’s promise, but yes she admitted shedding a tear at the thought of leaving her beloved family.
Davina has already outlined much of Valerie’s life from which you will have gathered we only started sharing our lives 5 years ago, but those 5 years were magical, a bonus beyond our wildest dreams and we both gave praise for them. Picking up the previous 80 years of Valerie’s life has come from stories told and little gems that Valerie let slip.
I will start with a card from one of Valerie’s God Daughters who is currently away on holiday overseas. I quote an extract, “Valerie was an incredible woman who touched many peoples lives, and always in such a positive way. She will be greatly missed by us all …”
Davina described Valerie’s work at the Bidston Observatory, and I would just like to read an extract from an email received from Graham Alcock who knew Valerie from the time he joined Bidston in 1972. Valerie was responsible to him for the production and distribution of all Bidston’s tidal predictions world-wide. He with his wife Iona have since emigrated to New Zealand. He writes,
Valerie set, expected and got very high standards of work from her team, maintaining and upholding the highest standards that Dr Doodson and Dr Rossiter had set from the very beginning of the Tidal Institute at Bidston. Valerie was one of the first women to volunteer for, and be, “allowed” to go on a Bidston research cruise, on the RRS Challenger under the enlightened Directorship of Brian McCartney. I was on that cruise and even in such a restricted environment, Valerie maintained her usual smart and elegant appearance, which was her hallmark at Bidston. Valerie’s work ethic and dress sense went together! Iona and I are very sad to hear the news and send you our condolences. We value the good memories of knowing Valerie.
I can confirm that Valerie was very meticulous, all her work had to be perfectly laid out [Phil adds, including our dining table!] I can see now that this came from her work experience with figures. There could be no mistakes. Valerie was an excellent proof-reader, and she could zip through sudoku puzzles in a flash. She also excelled at Codeword puzzles – always helping me out. I called her a walking dictionary.
Davina mentioned the Red Cross and I have found 36 certificates of courses attended. Valerie told me of her experience once of driving a Red Cross ambulance through the Grand National crowds at Aintree following a police car. Valerie would have enjoyed that as she was an Advanced Driver being a member of the Institute of Advanced Motorists for 38 years where she volunteered to sit alongside drivers, listen to their commentaries as they drove and provide constructive feedback.
I think it was also in connection with the Red Cross that Valerie either organised or took part in taking disadvantaged, or disabled children on holiday to a special centre in Southport. If someone who knew Valerie in that role would like to add to her story we would very much like to hear from you.
Valerie was also quite heavily involved in local politics and I am sure many retired local councillors and MPs would testify to her help and support. It was for Valerie all about helping people to make a difference in the lives of others.
Valerie’s late husband Tom developed leukaemia and after some time in hospital she brought him home and nursed him until the end. It brought out the best in Valerie, but it was exhausting. Following that she did her bit for what is now called Blood Cancer UK raising funds to help research. Valerie made quite special shortcakes.
These cakes also came in useful at church events where Valerie was never far behind in providing support for other people’s initiatives. Valerie took her turn as a church steward at a particularly difficult time when we were without a regular Minister and George Palmer stepped into the breach. George told me he found Valerie very supportive, efficient and of great value. As many here will know, Valerie served on the Worship Committee and produced the rota for readers and door stewards since it seems from when Adam was a boy.
Valerie said to me before she died, “If my death can bring people closer together, then it has not been in vain.” Valerie never liked to see anyone out in the cold. Her instinct was to draw them in and make them feel at home. Above all else that she did or achieved, Valerie was intrinsically kind, caring, understanding and full of empathy even where she thought people should take greater responsibility for their own lives. And this was underwritten by her faith in Jesus Christ.
Valerie [with I think Tom] renewed their faith, being baptised at New Brighton Baptist Church on Palm Sunday 13th April 2003. An Alpha Course at Greasby Methodist Church sometime previously set Valerie on that path. There was already a strong Christian tradition in the Doodson family. We all know the saying, “the proof of the pudding is in the eating”. Well in Valerie’s case, the proof of her faith was in her living and she proved that emphatically.
It is a difficult concept for me to explain but the grace Valerie possessed came from an acknowledgement that her gifts really were, just that, “gifts”, gifts from God, and she was motivated through gratitude and love to put them to best use. As the world moves into difficult times we urgently need that sense of purpose more than ever.
I would like to end by thanking all those who have sent cards of condolence and personal letters. All have helped me enormously. Also, a special thankyou to Yangsun for singing favourite hymns to Valerie shortly before her Saviour took her. I like to think Valerie was aware of Yangsun’s voice. It was the best possible departure.
We have put together just an outline of Valerie’s life and we would welcome any contributions that would help to fill in some of the detail. Please either raise your hand for the roving microphone so we can all hear or come and chat with us afterwards.
Thank you Valerie for a life well lived and may more flow from it than you could possibly envisage. I am certainly a better person for knowing you and I love you more than words can convey.
– David Gane