19th January 2023
We are saddened to share the news of the passing of Neil Calvert, who diligently and compassionately served the borough as a Labour Councillor, for 12 years, in Norbiton.
Donations can be made in his memory to the Trussell Trust here.
Words by Phillip Cooper
Neil Calvert, who has died at the age of 78, was born in Burnley, Lancashire, and studied chemistry at Manchester University where he obtained a first class honours degree. He went on to gain an MSC in the subject and also a doctorate in medicinal chemistry from the University of London in 1968.
With the exception of a brief spell between other jobs when he served as advertisement manager at the Catholic Heraldnewspaper Neil devoted his professional career to teaching.
He taught chemistry to secondary school pupils in Malawi and, returning to the UK, at Richard Challoner before, in 1977, moving to the Ursuline High School – a Roman Catholic school for girls – in Wimbledon where he taught for the next 27 years, becoming head teacher from 1999 till his retirement in 2004.
During this period he was also a part-time physics tutor for the Open University and served as a governor of Kingston College, St Joseph’s and Corpus Christi primary schools.
A stalwart member of Kingston Labour Party, Neil was first elected to the borough council in 1978 representing Norbiton. He was re-elected in 1982 and again in 1986.
By now he was Leader of the Labour Group that, held the balance of power between the Conservative and the then Liberal/SDP group. Neil’s fellow Labour councillors for this hectic period were Steve Mama, Robin Hutchinson and Phil Cooper. During the 18 months that the hung council existed the Labour Group successfully tempered some of the excesses being proposed by the other two groups – for example, preventing a Liberal/SDP plan to cut back on library provision. The Labour councillors also succeeded, albeitbriefly, in establishing the Royal Borough as a Nuclear Free Zone!
The council reverted to Conservative control following the loss of a Liberal/SDP seat to the Tories.
In more recent years at his parish Catholic church Neil led discussions to set up arrangements for the congregation to collect donations for a local food bank. This concern is reflected in his family’s request that, following his funeral, donations can be made to the Trussell Trust.
One of Neil’s abiding passions was opera and he would often watch dvds for relaxation and could occasionally be heard humming an aria to himself.
For services to local government the council conferred on him the title of Honorary Alderman of the Royal Borough and he was to receive another, wholly unexpected, accolade in 2003 when, in recognition of supporting an Ursuline pupil who was the daughter of a Brazilian diplomat, he was officially recognised as an Amigo (Friend) of the Brazilian Navy!
Neil leaves a wife, Liz, four children and six grandchildren.