Dr Sheila Cameron writes:
MICHAEL GOODMAN, who died on 17 May, just two weeks after his 87th birthday, was ebullient, multi-talented, hard-working, warm-hearted, a good listener, a devoted husband, father and grandfather, and overall a man with an irrepressible joie de vivre. His adult years were spent with a mind constantly open to new ventures, into which he threw himself with such enthusiasm that he inevitably became a leader in whatever opening came next.
In the days before word processors and emails, handwriting was the norm. Michael adopted green ink as his hallmark, and sometimes his pen leaked so that his unique scrawl received more green than was intended, and the ink spattered on to his hands and even on to his shirt cuffs. Was he fazed by this? Not at all! Deciphering his writing was a challenge for all who dealt with him but was accepted out of respect and affection for him.
Being a barrister, and then a judge, suited Michael’s temperament, in that there were lots of people to meet and lots of problems to solve. He was really interested in his fellow human beings from whatever walk of life.
Practising as a barrister can be stressful, and becoming a circuit judge in 1983 was a boon for him. His 16 years on the Bench did not seem to cause him the angst that had sometimes taken hold of him at the Bar. As he said, “Well, now I just make up my mind and leave it to clever judges in the higher courts to tell me I got it wrong.” So far as I am aware, this rarely, if ever, happened.
His set hours of work as a judge did not mean that he took life easily. Outside court, he was President of the South-East London Magistrates Association from 1989 to 1996, and then of the South-East London Family Mediation Bureau from 1999 to 2010. This overlapped the time when he was becoming ever more closely involved in ecclesiastical law.
To many people, the ecclesiastical law of the Church of England is a complete mystery, and they are amazed to be told that there is a large volume of Halsbury’s Laws of England devoted to the subject.
Michael was beckoned into this mysterious world, and it can fairly be said that Michael revelled in it all, and rapidly made his presence felt in many quarters. By 1971, he was Chancellor of three dioceses, well dispersed through the country: Guildford, Lincoln, and Rochester. He derived great delight in visiting some of the churches and churchyards, and presiding over contested proceedings in his Consistory Court.
As I had joined the ranks of the diocesan chancellors, whom he affectionately referred to as the “Brethren”, I was quite often used as a sounding-board on the phone; “Michael here: can I just try this point out on you?” It was impossible not to respond willingly to his enthusiasm.
In 1977, he became Vicar-General of the Province of Canterbury, an august title for a post that principally involved presiding at a ceremony, introduced by a statute of Henry VIII, requiring the confirmation of the election of a new diocesan bishop. This position made him ex officio a member of the General Synod of the Church of England, but when he became a circuit judge he had to relinquish the office.
The then Lord Chancellor, Lord Hailsham, did not approve of one of his judges’ being also a member of the Synod, which is often called the Parliament of the Church.
When Michael put my name forward as his successor, he explained rather apologetically that I would not be in post for long, as the Synod was passing a Measure to abolish the antiquated ceremony. But neither Michael nor the Synod bargained for Enoch Powell’s being in top form when the Measure came up for debate in the House of Commons. In one of his vigorous and persuasive speeches, Powell argued that the Church of England was trying to destroy a constitutional right of the people to object to the confirmation of the election of the new bishop.
Although this was an exaggeration, because the ability to object is very constrained, the MPs followed Enoch’s lead and rejected the Measure. So, much to Michael’s amusement, I served as Vicar-General for many years afterwards, and the ceremony is still being performed today by my successor in a rather grander form than it was in Michael’s day.
Michael was successively secretary and chairman of the Ecclesiastical Judges Association, which brought the diocesan chancellors throughout the country together, not just for an annual dinner, which Michael always thoroughly enjoyed, but also to wrestle with matters affecting the administration of the faculty system. For example, he put a great deal of work into ensuring that the grant system for historic churches introduced by English Heritage would operate in a manageable form.
In 1994, after a change in the law, a newly constituted appeal court for faculty cases, consisting of the Dean of the Arches and two chancellors, was due to hear its first appeal. Michael was delighted to become a member of this court. He participated in the hearing of St Luke the Evangelist, Maidstone, and in writing the judgment, with his usual gusto. He was always open-minded to change, but was also conscious that this was an important break with tradition after centuries of a one-man Court of Arches.
Another venture that gave Michael great pleasure was editing the Ecclesiastical Law Society’s journal. He was present at the inauguration of the Society in 1987, and later recorded modestly in the Journal in its 25th year (2012): “Somebody said that we needed an editor for the new journal, and they all looked at me. I had never edited anything before, not even the school magazine, and certainly not a learned and academic tome such as those present hoped to see, but I thought it would be interesting and good fun and so agreed to take on the task.”
He performed the task admirably for 15 years, until 2002, but not without excellent help at home. Here we get a glimpse of the hard work that his wife, Pat, did to help him on his way. In the same anniversary issue, he wrote: “I well remember my wife deciding to give up trying to confirm the accuracy of footnotes in Latin at about 1 a. m., saying that her brain could not cope any longer!”
Life for Michael was not limited to his judicial and other functions. He was musical, and had a good singing voice, enjoying madrigals and choral music. He was in turn President of the Madrigal Society and of the Festival Choir at St Pauls’, Knightsbridge.
Though music was for him an excellent recreation and relaxation, sport also played its part. When other sporting activities were no longer practicable, he took up the vicious game of croquet. Notwithstanding two hip operations, he regularly turned up at the Hurlingham Club, dispatching the opposition with skilful shots and coming victorious through the hoops.
Convivial dinners were much to Michael’s liking; so Nobody’s Friends, a dining club with an equal number of clerical and lay members, was just up his street. He enjoyed “catching up with everyone” as he put it, and, as Vice-President of the club for nine years (2000-09), he was well positioned to do so. He proposed many friends for membership.
Michael was incredibly fortunate in persuading Pat to marry him. For 50 years she not only supported him as a loving wife, an excellent cook and hostess, and mother of his two delightful daughters, Sarah and Catherine, but also as his mentor. She was his invaluable proofreader. In his later years, when he had accumulated a plethora of dinners in his diary, she frequently collected him to drive him home. Eventually she rebelled, and decided to ration the number of dinners he should go to in a week. He knew she was right. “Pat says” held sway, despite the odd protest from him.
Watching his daughters grow up and seeing them embark on their respective careers in the theatre and science gave him immense pride and joy, as in later years did the progress and activities of his two grandchildren.
So many people have gained so much from knowing this amazing man, so bubbling over with enthusiasm and exuberance — a very full life, joyously lived by a devout Christian, who has left lasting happy memories for us all.