Warm tributes to 'kind and caring' retired Burnley primary school teacher

A kind and caring retired teacher who taught generations of children in Burnley has died at the age of 89.

By Dominic Collis
Friday, 15th January 2021, 3:45 pm
Updated Monday, 18th January 2021, 10:02 am
Mrs Sheila Morrisroe
Mrs Sheila Morrisroe

Mrs Sheila Morrisroe was born, lived and worked in St John the Baptist’s Parish in Burnley all her life. She was the daughter of Burnley borough police Inspector Robert Winkley and his wife Edna.

She taught for many years at St John's Primary School in Burnley after beginning her career at Barden Primary School in the 1950s.

After attending St John’s Infant and Junior Schools, she passed her 11+ and continued her education at Burnley High School for Girls, where she decided that she would pursue a career in teaching.

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She won a place at Notre Dame Catholic Training College, Mount Pleasant, Liverpool, where she graduated with a class 1 and a distinction in history.

She took up her first teaching post at Barden Primary School in August 1952. During her time at Barden she led the school to sporting successes, especially in netball, swimming and lifesaving. As a young woman, she and a group friends from High School days made the headlines in the Burnley Express as each summer they spent a month of the school holidays touring Europe, long before package holidays had become available. She left Barden to have her first child in 1962.

Her eldest son David said: "My mother was a very kind and caring person who would always look out for the underdog. She wanted everybody to succeed and was highly regarded by colleagues and pupils, many of whom kept in touch for years afterwards."

A devout Roman Catholic, faith was also central to Mrs Morrisroe's life and she was very proud in January last year when she received a Papal blessing to mark 75 years singing in her church choir.

Mrs Morrisroe intended to take a break from teaching until her own children had started school, but with her excellent reputation, she was regularly head-hunted as a supply teacher.

After a visit from the headteacher of St John’s Junior School, she was eventually persuaded to return to teaching earlier than planned and accepted a part time post at St John’s in 1968.

She continued teaching there until retirement in 1992. She was active with the Burnley Primary Schools’ Sports Committee and ran a successful netball team. After retirement, she remained in high demand for supply teaching and didn’t put down her red pen until she was 70.

Mrs Morrisroe worshipped at St John the Baptist’s all her life and always played an active part in parish life. As a teenager she joined the church choir which she served for over 75 years, becoming the longest serving member in the choir’s history.

As a young teacher at the request of the curate, she ran and trained a successful parish netball team. She also instructed a number of people to become Roman Catholics. Together with her parents Bob and Edna Winkley she was much involved in parish social and fund-raising events.

It was at one such parish event that she met Patrick, her husband to be. They married in 1961 and were a devoted couple going on to have three sons, David, Liam and John. In 2011 they celebrated their Golden Wedding and were looking forward to their Diamond wedding next July.

The couple enjoyed a long retirement, travelling widely on the continent and in particular to the family holiday home in France where they became respected and popular members of the village community.

As well as her husband and surviving sons David and John, Mrs Morrisroe leaves a daughter in law Andrea and two granddaughters, Ellen, who has followed in her footsteps as a primary school teacher and Elizabeth, who is a doctor in New Zealand.

Mrs Morrisroe’s funeral took place on Wednesday January 6th at St John the Baptist’s RC Church. Mass was celebrated by her cousin Father Robert Livesey. She was interred at Burnley Cemetery.