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John 'Jack' Neill, first headteacher of Woodcroft Primary School in Leek, has died

By Leek Post and Times  |  Posted: March 13, 2014

By Abbey Buxton

John Neill and his wife Joan celebrating their 60th wedding anniversary.

John Neill and his wife Joan celebrating their 60th wedding anniversary.

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THE family of a former headteacher have paid tribute to him following his death.

John Neill, also known as Jack, was the first headteacher of Woodcroft Primary School, Leek.

Mr Neill, who was 85, will be remembered by many in the Staffordshire Moorlands through his 24 years working and leading local schools.

In 1969 Jack was appointed headteacher of the new Woodcroft Primary School, leading it from its initial 37 pupils to 240, 13 years later. In 1982 he moved to Cheadle County Primary School, at the time the largest primary school in Staffordshire with more than 600 pupils.

His family said: "Jack loved his vocation of teaching and his career as a headteacher.

"He was dedicated to seeing all children develop their skills and knowledge and he gave freely of his time and energy.

"He was always happiest in the classroom, teaching a full range of subjects and organising sports events, including football and cricket matches.

"He was very much a hands-on headteacher, taking children out to learn beyond the classroom with nature walks along the River Churnet, youth hosteling or on trips abroad to Paris. He was always busy, never able to sit still for long. He had a vast general knowledge and was an avid reader throughout his life, particularly enjoying works of history and geography."

Mr Neill was born in 1928 in Beverley, then in the East Riding of Yorkshire.

He won a scholarship to the Beverley Grammar School for boys and attended there throughout the Second World War.

On finishing his schooling, he completed two years of national service in Germany with the Education Corps.

On his return to Britain, he spent two years at a Leeds teacher training college, before taking up his first teaching post at Spencer Primary School in Beverley. He later moved to a school in Cottingham, East Yorkshire, were he taught for 13 years. At the Beverley Regal Ballroom Jack met Joan, the daughter of a local grocer, and on Boxing Day 1953 they were married in Beverley Minister – 2013 saw them celebrating their Diamond Wedding anniversary.

They set up their first family home in Cottingham, where their children Valerie and Richard were born.

It was here that he studied part-time in the evenings for his degree in geography with the University of London. In 1965 he came to the Staffordshire Moorlands as deputy head at Westwood Road Primary School, Leek. His previous visit to the area had been on a tandem cycling holiday with Joan in the early 1950s. They particularly liked the Moorlands and found the people to be extremely welcoming and friendly.

Jack and Joan made their home in Endon where their second son, Michael, was born.

Mr Neill was very active in local groups such as the Endonian Society; the Endon well-dressing committee; and the village hall committee, by raising money through writing and running quiz nights.

He was a governor at St Luke's Primary School in Endon; an active member of the fellowship society and the bowls club; and for several years worked for the Women's Royal Voluntary Service (WRVS) with their meals-on-wheels service. Jack retired from teaching in 1989 but continued to lead an active life.

His lifelong passion for Geography saw him travel to America, Australia, Canada, the Caribbean, China, Croatia, Egypt, Iceland, Peru, Russia, the Shetlands and South Africa.

Jack is survived by Joan and his three children, and eight grandchildren. The funeral is on Friday, March 14, at 1pm at the Methodist Chapel in Endon.

Donations to Save the children.

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