Alfred Winton Goatcher was the son of Alfred Goatcher and his wife Mary Winton. He was an assistant at the Cambridge Observatory in England from 1892 to 1901. In October of the latter year he was appointed as (human) computer at the Royal Observatory, Cape of Good Hope, but sometimes also did the work of an astronomical assistant. For example, in 1903 he measured and discussed the lines visible in the spectra of Canopus and Sirius between 420 and 458 nm, finding that all the lines could be ascribed to twelve elements in the former, and eight in the latter. He also measured and reduced photographs of the spectra of several other stars. During the first half of that year he furthermore used the Victoria telescope (donated by Frank McClean*) to photograph star clusters and nebulae.
In March 1907 Goatcher was invalided out of his post. He had joined the South African Association for the Advancement of Science by 1903, shortly after its formation, and in 1911 was listed as living in Beaufort West. However, one A.W. Goatcher, presumably him, was employed in the Meteorological Department of the Transvaal Colony during 1909-1910, and in the latter year was also a temporary officer in the Department of Lands of the newly created Union of South Africa. By 1913 Goatcher had settled in Ceres, where the secretary of the newly founded Cape Astronomical Association wrote to him about the association's intention to undertake observations of variable stars. Goatcher supplied the secretary with specimen charts of variable star fields and a Variable Star Section of the association was formed soon thereafter. In 1916 he was still living in Ceres, practising as an artist photographer.
Goatcher was married to Edith Priscilla Musto, with whom he had a son.