Dock worker’s devotion to caring for disabled son

Reg McGoun and his wife Doris

Reg McGoun and his wife Doris - Credit: Susan McGoun

In the 1950s, cerebral palsy was a little-understood condition.

Reg and Doris on their wedding day

Reg and Doris on their wedding day - Credit: Susan McGoun

That didn’t stop docker Reg McGoun from dedicating his life to caring for his son while also working to help other disabled people in the borough.

The former charity chairman’s funeral was held last month after he passed away on New Year’s Eve aged 94, but his legacy still lives on.

Reg was born in Bow but moved to Johnstone Road, East Ham, after his house was bombed.

While living there he fell in love with the Doris, who was quite literally the girl next door.

Reg McGoun during the war

Reg McGoun during the war - Credit: Susan McGoun

During the Second World War, he served in the RAF, mending planes that were damaged over the skies of Britain and Europe.

He was kept away from east London, going to wherever he was needed in the country, but one visit home in particular was a memorable occasion.

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“We got married during the war,” said Doris, 91.

“He had 48 hours leave so we got married at St Mary Magdalene church.”

After the war, the couple started a family. Susan, now 70, was born first, followed five years later by Michael.

But in an era where disabilities were rarely understood, it took until their son was four years old for him to be diagnosed with cerebral palsy.

Reg juggled his job as a ship’s clerk at the Royal Albert Dock with caring for Michael until the dock closed in 1982.

He and Doris joined the Newham Association for the Disabled, of which Reg became vice-chairman and later chairman.

They also helped to set up a second organisation, Newham Joint Charities for the Adult Handicapped.

“It raised money to provide respite care in a hostel, Cundy House in Custom House,” Doris said.

Both charities no longer exist but the legacy of their work lives on.

“Michael’s now 65, and he wasn’t expected to live beyond his 20s,” said Susan, who lives in Swiss Cottage.

“It’s testament to the care and love my parents provided that he has.”