Goulding, Sir William Basil (1909–82), 3rd baronet, businessman and modernist, was born 4 November 1909 at Earlsfort Terrace, Dublin, the elder of two sons of Sir William Lingard Amphlett Goulding (qv) and his wife Nesta Violet (née Wright). Educated at Winchester College and Christ Church, Oxford, Basil graduated Bachelor of Arts (BA) in 1931. Although his wish was to study architecture, he was persuaded to pursue a career in business and reluctantly joined the family fertiliser firm, W. & H. M. Goulding Ltd, after taking a business studies course in London. Following his father's early death the chairmanship of the company (1935–72) was thrust upon him; although he accepted the post, he did so largely as a figurehead. After a brief stint with the Air Raid Precautions (ARP) in Dublin in 1939, he joined the Royal Air Force (RAF) volunteer reserve (1939–45) and served with the rank of wing commander in England until the end of the war. Returning to Dublin, he resumed his titular management of the family business.
His other directorships included the Bank of Ireland, Hibernian Insurance Co., Rio Tinto Zinc, Irish Times Ltd, Independent Newspapers, Irish Pensions Trust, Johnston Mooney and O'Brien, Massey Waterford Ltd, Irish Metal Industries and the Kilkenny Design Workshops. During the 1960s, the market for fertilisers declined and he attempted to diversify the firm's interests into unwisely eclectic ventures that ranged from the manufacture of jewellery to the production of pianos.
Despite his being born into a conventional background the unorthodox appealed to him. He entitled his annual report, the ‘Chairman's bones’ and would often wear a fake frog on the lapel of his dinner jacket. On one occasion he attended a board meeting wearing a pair of roller skates. In 1972 Con Smith (qv), head of the Smith Group, approached Goulding to suggest a merger of W. & H. M. Goulding with the Smith Group. At first instance they seemed odd bedfellows in that W. & H. M. Goulding was a fertiliser company and Smith was primarily in the motor car business. However Smith's company was earnings rich but asset poor while Goulding's was the opposite, leading Smith to believe that they would complement each other. Goulding was excited by the prospect and on the announcement of the merger, which would have created one of Ireland's biggest companies, the share price of each firm rose significantly. Unfortunately disaster struck when Smith and a number of other prominent Irish businessmen perished in a plane crash outside Staines, near London, on 18 June 1972.
Goulding then turned to Anthony O'Reilly and in 1972 the Goulding companies were involved in a reverse takeover by Fitzwilliam Securities, Goulding becoming chairman of the new firm, Fitzwilton Ltd (1972–6). During his tenure he oversaw the construction of new corporate headquarters at Fitzwilton House, Wilton Place, in Dublin 2. Given his passion for architecture and design, he was deeply involved with every detail of the building and its fixtures and fittings. Shortly thereafter the fertiliser business collapsed, as a result of the oil crisis of 1973–4, a 500% increase in the price of phosphates and heavy borrowings. Goulding was removed from the Fitzwilton board by the Bank of Ireland and replaced by Michael Dargan (qv). In his retirement he devoted his time largely to gardening and writing. His best known publication was Alpha Basil – A business alphabet (1976).
Although his primary career was nominally in business, he was deeply involved in the arts as a collector, sponsor and benefactor. His passion for modern art was an extension of his love for the unorthodox and in his desire to promote modernism he co-founded the Contemporary Irish Art Society with James White (qv). He had one of the finest collections of modern art in the country, including work by artists such as Jack B. Yeats (qv) and Camille Souter. In addition he supported many artists at crucial stages of their careers such as Souter, Oisín Kelly (qv) and Patrick Scott (qv). In 1961 the Dublin Metropolitan Gallery (latterly Dublin City Gallery the Hugh Lane) displayed a number works from his collection in a show called One Man's Meat, the phrase he used to describe his collection. In 1972 he commissioned Ronnie Tallon (qv) of architects Scott Tallon Walker to design a summerhouse for his home on the river Dargle in Enniskerry. The result, a rectangular box that cantilevers out over the river, was a testament to his romantic modernism and remains a modernist icon, having been restored by a later owner.
Goulding possessed boundless energy. As well as being a keen gardener, he was a talented sportsman. As a young man he played international cricket and squash for Ireland and was an Oxford blue at soccer. He was also a keen skier and continued to ski until near the end of his life. In August 1939 he married at Carrigart, Co. Donegal, Valerie Hamilton Monckton (qv), daughter of Sir Walter Monckton, confidant of King Edward VIII and afterwards a British cabinet minister. She was co-founder (1951) of the Central Remedial Clinic and served as a Fianna Fáil senator (1977–81), having been nominated by the taoiseach Jack Lynch (qv). They had three sons and lived at Dargle Cottage, Enniskerry, Co. Wicklow. He died 16 January 1982 in Enniskerry.