Death of inspirational CRGS English teacher

Garth Sutcliffe. (s)
Garth Sutcliffe. (s)

Tributes have been flooding in for much-loved former English teacher at Clitheroe Royal Grammar School and respected local sportsman Garth Sutcliffe, who died aged 69.

Born in Blacko, Garth, who was the only son of Ada and Harry Sutcliffe, attended a local grammar school, before studying at Manchester University for degrees in English and French.

After completing his teacher training at Chester College, Garth secured his first job at Clitheroe Royal Grammar School where he would devote the next 30 years of his life teaching English.

Never one to sit still, during the summer holidays, Garth was a redcoat at Butlins holiday camp at Filey, where he met fellow redcoat and future wife Gladys. Within 12 months the couple were married, tying the knot in 1974 in Gladys’ home town of Motherwell. They subsequently moved to Bleasdale Avenue, Clitheroe, before buying St James’ House in St James’ Street, Clitheroe, which would later become dance teacher Gladys’ studio as well as the family home.

To Garth’s great irritation, from his mid-40s he was plagued by ill health, first battling Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, for which he was treated with radiotherapy, then skin cancer, Bell’s palsy and, more recently, heart and lung problems. In the last 12 month Garth was diagnosed with bladder cancer.

“Despite everything life has thrown at him, Garth got on with life and has been an inspiration,” said his wife Gladys, who, in 1979, had the couple’s only daughter Gaynor, who Garth has always been immensely proud of.

Gaynor recalled her father’s influence in her joining The Swing Commanders, for which he would become “voluntary secretary” – a full-time job which helped with the band’s rise from the pub and social club circuit to theatres and festivals worldwide. This summer, Gaynor cycled from Land’s End to John O’Groats in 10 days and raised £1,500 for East Lancashire Hospice.

Other than teaching, one of Garth’s other great passions was sport, particularly badminton and cricket.

He played badminton in the Nelson league before playing for Clitheroe and was a left arm spinner for Clitheroe Cricket Club, winning awards for his bowling skills. Garth also religiously followed Burnley FC and was a devoted season ticket holder.

After leaving the grammar school, Garth, who became a grandfather eight years ago with the birth of Maisie-Jo, was a regular contributor to The Clitheroe Advertiser. He wrote many local history features for the paper’s The Valley magazine under the pen names of Gerald Searle and Maggie Bell, the latter of which is Gladys’ middle name.

A funeral will be held at Accrington Crematorium at 11am on Tuesday, followed by a celebration of Garth’s life at Clitheroe Cricket Club during which The Western Valley Hotclub trio will play. Any donations can be made to East Lancs Hospice.

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