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News > Fondly Remembered > Neville Goldrein CBE, OH 1932-41

Neville Goldrein CBE, OH 1932-41

Intrepid Tory council leader who fought factory closures in Liverpool during the 1981 recession.

Extract taken from the obituaries section of The Jewish Chronicle

One of the first solicitors in England to sit as a Deputy Circuit Judge in the Crown and County Court, Neville Goldrein, who has died aged 95, was elected to Crosby borough council in a marginal seat, in the hope of improving the quality of local services.

It was the early 1950s and Goldrein was discontented with the way his local borough was run. He was elected mayor in 1966-67, the youngest in the borough’s history, and was also a member of Lancashire County Council, the higher tier of local government. 

The Local Government Act of 1972 brought the metropolitan counties into being and he was elected to Merseyside county council. He served on the Conservative benches and was appointed deputy leader of the opposition.

In 1977 the Conservatives won a landslide victory and he was appointed leader of the county council. In 1981, when Labour again took over, he became leader of the opposition, until the demise of the metropolitan counties in 1986.

It was in this role that he wrote to then prime minister Margaret Thatcher in 1981, denouncing the closure of the Liverpool-based Tate & Lyle Sugar Refinery and the Courtaulds factory in Merseyside. Acknowledging that the recession had hit all parts of the UK, he told the former PM that: “nowhere is being hit to the extent of this county, which continues to take the constant hammering with no respite.”

He was elected chairman of the Crosby Constituency Conservative Association, which had more money in the bank than at anytime in its history, due to his novel fundraising methods. He would invite a cabinet minister to speak at a free lunch. The party faithful turned up in large numbers and from this captive audience Goldrein successfully sought donations. He was appointed CBE in 1991 for public services in Merseyside.

When his autobiography, 'Life is Too Serious to be Taken Seriously', was published in 2010, he told the JC: “Having led an interesting life with all its ups and down, I realised that one had to look at the lighter side of things, as otherwise one could go round the bend.” The memoir charts his colourful journey through school, university, the army and his professional legal and political life.

Commissioned into the East Yorkshire Regiment, he was posted to East Africa in early 1945, and learned Swahili during the convoy journey out to Burma. He was sent to Italian Somaliland to serve in the Somalia gendarmerie, where his Swahili was vital. As he had Italian warrant officers he also taught himself Italian. He prosecuted for a time in the criminal court in Mogadishu, run by the British military administration and then went to Villagio, a small Somali village, to command a company of Somali troops.

When his father died in 1946, he returned to the UK on a compassionate posting, serving the remainder of his time based in Liverpool, where the family now lived, as the adjutant at a transit camp. A mistaken phone call led to his coincidental meeting with a young doctor, Sonia Sumner, whom he subsequently married.

Demobbed in 1947 he took articles of clerkship and passed his solicitors’ finals after 18 months instead of the usual two years. He opened his own practice which grew into one of the largest firms in Liverpool with a staff of some 200. He was appointed a deputy circuit judge in the crown and county courts, Sonia, meanwhile, built up her own medical practice.

After retirement he attended lectures at the Liverpool University law faculty, purely for interest. His wife was busy with freelance journalism and doing locums for other doctors. He chaired various committees within the Liverpool chamber of commerce and also the Liverpool Royal Court Theatre, which was transformed from a derelict unheated barn to its original beauty, when first built in 1937.

He made video documentaries of the various holidays he and Sonia had taken. As Sonia already spoke fluent Hebrew, he decided to learn it as a language and not just as a means of prayer and pursued its study with serious vigour.

He was a very committed Jew. As mayor of Crosby he insisted that all the banquets were kosher and that his chaplain, Rabbi Stanley Wolfe, should make Hamotzi in Hebrew before formal dinners, which the mainly non-Jewish visitors clearly appreciated. He also held a special ceremonial service for alderman and councillors at Princes Road Synagogue. He became warden and subsequently senior warden at Princes Road Synagogue, where he introduced the Sephardi pronunciation in the service - and continued to serve until 2011.

He was a member of various committees, including Shaare Zedek and The Technion and the Liverpool Old Hebrew Congregation sub-committee and select committee.

He continued to hold senior positions at Princes Road and also the Southport Hebrew Congregation and was for some years a member of the Merseyside Jewish Representative Council. In 2004, he and his wife made aliyah, dividing their time between Liverpool and Jerusalem, where they bought a flat.

Sonia pre-deceased him in September 2016. He is survived by their two children, Iain, a QC and Nadine, an educational psychologist, five grandchildren and 13 great-grandchildren.

Neville Clive Goldrein: born August 28, 1924. Died April 2, 2020

His older brother was Major Eric Goldrein, OH 1930-39, who died in December 2023 at the age of 101 years old.

Neville, visiting Hymers College with his son Iain in 2020 and meeting Headmaster, Justin Stanley

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