With a membership which includes a number of aged engineers it is inevitable that we lose some. Few however can match the record of George Court of my own South Herts Panel who died on the 27th of Dec 2009.
George trained and worked throughout his life as a mechanical engineer and designer. In his house was the drawing he did as a junior engineer for a Belling Lee electric fire – the production model of which still worked in his fireplace. He joined Remap some 20 years ago in the late 80’s after his wife died. For some years he had been using his engineering skills to make devices to make her life easier and her Occupational Therapist suggested that George join Remap to allow others to benefit from his ability. I am very grateful she gave him that simple piece of advice and that he took it.
George was a tireless champion for Remap. An active member of many clubs and organisations as well as his local church George was always telling others about Remap and recruiting both new members and new clients.
One of George’s major projects in 1999 was in the manufacture of a motorised chair/bed for John Prestwich, a polio victim. As John later said of George and his co-workers “I shall never, ever be able to repay them all for giving me such a feeling of liberty. I can often be heard to say the following – “Technology has liberated me from the prison of dependency to which polio condemned me.” And how true that is! “
George carried out hundreds of jobs for Remap ranging from the simple to the very complex. There are numerous stairs in Hertfordshire protected by various innovative designs of stair gate made by George. He made furniture of her size (and matching the design her parents had) for a young girl with restricted growth and any number of chair raisers, window opening aids and complex ramps. The last task he completed was in November and he was then I believe the oldest active member of Remap in the UK. He meticulously documented each job he did and submitted neat comprehensive handwritten notes on every task. Although a natural organiser George had no interest in running anything. He simply got on, very quietly, with solving problems and making things.
At some point he had obviously decided age was no longer relevant so he ignored it. Last winter he asked for my help in making a ramp for a local resident who was in Georges words “getting on a bit and finding it difficult to get out”. The client who was “getting on a bit” was actually young enough to be George’s son and I still have the photographs I took of George in his “work” clothes (a terrifying sight in its own right) happily wielding a power saw while building the ramp for the “elderly” client. His approach to technology was similarly enthusiastic. Unfortunately we never got around to installing the computer he wanted because he thought “it time he learned a bit more about the Internet”. However, he helped produce a web site dedicated to the poems and life of his sister who died in 1927 and was an enthusiastic user of e-mail albeit by the slightly eccentric method of writing his messages by hand and giving them to me to send on his behalf. Georges writing and his sister’s work can be found at http://www.edithcourt.org.uk/
As a devoted proponent of Remap for many years George carried his Remap slide show to clubs and organisations throughout the county to explain what we did. In the last few years he accompanied me to many more such presentations, the last being on the 10th of November in the theatre opposite his Church.
In many of my presentations I commented about Remap members love of “skip diving” – extracting useful scrap from skips – and invariably George would proclaim with some dudgeon that he had never been in a skip in his life. Unfortunately he broke that record last summer when he saw a particularly useful bit of aluminium he needed for a project in a skip up on a local industrial estate. The look on the security guards face as he came out to apprehend the miscreant only to find a skinny pair of legs attached to George, aged 90 sticking out of the skip as he retrieved his piece of metal was unrepeatable. Shaking his head in disbelief he made his way back in to his office without a word leaving a grinning George in uncontested possession of his goodies.
George was unusual in that he didn’t say much – he just did it. He didn’t talk about how things should be done – he just did them. He didn’t aspire to run things, he did them. His influence for good was not in what he said but what he did. In going around the county giving presentations to various groups it didn’t matter where we went, no matter how remote the village or obscure the group someone would invariably say “Hello George” as we walked through the door. In any collection of people mentioning Remap was invariably followed by “Ah – you must know George then”. For someone with no ambition for any form of position of authority and who had no public presence that was a remarkable achievement and testament to the vast amount of work he so tirelessly did and the high regard in which so many held him
He was deeply committed to his church but unlike many he showed that commitment not by empty words but by quiet deeds. He did not follow his faith – he gently lived it every day in everything he did. At his funeral were many who at some time had been recipients of George’s quiet unassuming and selfless generosity. He did not read the parable of the Good Samaritan; he lived it every minute of every day in what he did for others.
He helped me considerably, firstly by encouraging me to become secretary and later chairman of the South Herts Panel (anyone who has been subject to Georges “encouragement” would know how irresistible it could be!) and later to become a trustee and subsequently chairman of Remap nationally.
Secondly he helped with his amazing ability to organise. Writing this I realise how much I will miss that ability. Whenever I needed dates, numbers or references a call to George and a look through his tidy filing system would produce them faster than any computer. I know somewhere George will have kept not only a record of how many presentations on Remap we did in the last 5 years but where they were, the date and how many people attended each. He collected facts as some collect stamps.
One of the pleasures he got from doing jobs for Remap was the avenue it gave him to “recycle”. Long before it became fashionable George was recycling everything in sight. His diaries were invariably from the 1960’s and 70’s, as he had discovered there are only 14 possible calendars so with careful choice the dates and days in past calendars repeated in the current year. For those who did not know this they could get quite disconcerted when they saw this elderly gentleman meticulously recording a future meeting date in a 1974 diary.
Similarly for each Remap project he could give you a list of the other projects each component had been used in previously. Any request for an item by another Remap member would invariably lead to George not only saying he had it in his “stock” but finding it within a very short time.
We will miss his friendship, loyalty and quiet good humour. He was a good man.