1931 – 2015
Eugene Raymond Billam was a distinguished research scientist who was also a founder chairman of the Rowlands Castle Association and editor of the RCA Village Magazine.
After attending Woodhouse Ashes grammar school in his native Sheffield, Eugene studied physics at Manchester University. He gained his Masters degree in astrophysics working at Jodrell Bank, Britain’s first radio telescope – where he played cricket for Sir Bernard Lovell’s team. For much of his career, Eugene was a research scientist at the Admiralty Research Establishment on Portsdown Hill – later known as DSTL. Here he led the team that developed Phased Array radar – the radar system that today is used on the current generation of Naval vessels. He spoke regularly at conferences and was granted a patent in his name. After he retired, he carried on working on radar to complete his PhD from Birmingham University.
Early in his career he met his wife to be, Herta. They married in 1960, and had three children, Catherine, Steve and Liz. They started married life in Waterlooville and Widley via San Diego California, before moving to Rowlands Castle in 1968.
Eugene gave a lot to Rowlands Castle. In 1972, a large housing development was proposed at the end of Wellsworth Lane and Uplands Road. Eugene was part of a group of people who successfully opposed the development. They then decided that Rowlands Castle needed a permanent organisation to protect its interests and the Rowlands Castle Association was born with Eugene as its founder Chairman. He also edited the village magazine for two long periods. The RCA bonfire and fireworks draw people from miles around, but the early fireworks displays were a much smaller affair with Eugene and Frank Philpot literally lighting the blue touch paper to let off fireworks in the Rec. Eugene’s involvement in the village didn’t stop there. The RCA was offered a sum of money to put on an event for the children of the village so the RCA committee organised the first Rowlands Castle Village Fair. He was one of the group who negotiated with the Parish Council to set up the tennis courts in the recreation ground and the Rowlands Castle Tennis club was born with Eugene as its founder Secretary.
Eugene also had spells as a parish councillor and St Johns School governor. Eugene was an active Liberal Democrat organiser and election agent for County Councillor Alan Drinkwater and District Councillor David Clegg. He was deeply interested in politics; a big fan of Barack Obama; he even got a letter published in the New York Times, defending his beloved Guardian newspaper. Eugene was a person who enjoyed life.
Living on the edge of the Village overlooking fields, he would sit in the garden with his family after a convivial meal and ask ‘Aren’t we lucky?’ Loved by his friends, Eugene was both interesting and interested. He had long made the discovery that if you asked the right questions, everyone had something interesting to say. He was open and curious about life. Latterly he and Herta travelled widely, including India, China, Syria, Jordan, and Armenia.
There is no doubt that Eugene was delighted when his daughter Catherine, having served on the RCA Committee herself, was elected as Chair of the Association Committee during the celebrations for its 40th anniversary in 22nd September 2012.”
He will be missed by many in the Village who remember him fondly.
(This article was originally written by Richard Milton as an obituary article published in the autumn 2015 issue of the RCA magazine)