Former Burnley headteacher dies - tributes

John Wilson, former headteacher of St Stephen's Primary School
John Wilson, former headteacher of St Stephen's Primary School

A WELL respected former headteacher whose primary passion in life was helping others has died.

Mr John Wilson (93) affectionately known by family and friends as Jack, died in Royal Blackburn Hospital.

Described by his sons as “fiercely independent” with a real sense of humour, he will be fondly remembered by the hundreds of pupils he taught while at St Andrew’s and St Stephen’s primary schools.

Born and bred in Burnley, his teaching career started at Red Lion Street Senior Boys’ School in 1938 before he served during the war as a technical instructor in the RAF.

Upon his return he taught at St Stephen’s before being appointed headteacher of St Andrew’s in 1953.

His son Andrew said: “He loved teaching. His whole life revolved around those children and it was something to which he was very dedicated. He was also an active member of the National Union of Teachers and the National Association of Headteachers.”

In 1961 he became headteacher of St Stephen’s, a post he retained until he retired in 1980. Even in retirement though his desire to assist others never waned working as footpaths secretary for the Ramblers’ Association for 22 years where he helped to reopen 85 obstructed footpaths and replace 263 missing signposts.

“The figures really don’t show the work he put into it,” said Andrew, “It was a real passion of his and something he became obsessed with.

“He was always out taking pictures and it became a full-time job for him.”

Despite his many work commitments, his family was never far from his thoughts or heart.

He met his wife Elsie, who is 91 years old, in 1935. The couple married in 1943 and after 67 wonderful years together were still living in their home in Thanet Lee Close, Cliviger, shortly before his death.

He was also a talented painter and pianist and his son Philip said he would definitely be remembered as someone who put everything into what he was doing.

“We mention ‘doing a Jack Wilson’, which is doing something properly. He really did have a sense of humour though, a real intelligent wit, which he had right up until the end.”

A service for Mr Wilson was held at Burnley Crematorium on Tuesday. He leaves his wife Elsie, sons Paul, Mark OBE, Philip OBE, Andrew, Simon and Nicholas, 13 grandchildren and nine great-grandchildren.