Tributes are paid to former deputy head of Water Street School in Skipton

Barbara Wilcock

Barbara Wilcock

First published in News

Warm tributes have been paid to a former deputy headteacher of Skipton’s Water Street Primary School who has died at the age of 89.

Barbara Wilcock, daughter of Yorkshire and England batsman, Herbert Sutcliffe, started at the Water Street school in 1960. When she retired as deputy headteacher in 1984, she received a glowing letter from the Chief Education Officer, thanking her for her years of dedication to teaching, caring for hundreds of young children.

Barbara was born in Lynwood House, Armley, Leeds, and her family moved to Southroyd House in Pudsey after 18 months.

In the fields opposite Southroyd House a new council estate was built and Barbara watched the children playing there. Many of them were too poor to have shoes and she decided that when she grew up, she would like to help underprivileged children.

She attended Fulneck School in Pudsey but found it too strict and too ladylike for a tomboy like herself, so she badgered her father to send her to Hunmanby School for Girls near Bridlington where her friend Joan attended. She thrived in the boarding school environment. She loved climbing the endless trees and galloping horses on Filey beach.

Barbara excelled in sport, biology, English and French and won many prizes – often presented by her mother Emmie.

After the commencement of air raids in the Second World War, the school often had to take refuge in the cellars. Eventually the school was evacuated to Ilkley and Barbara’s year were billeted in the Craiglands Hotel.

At 17, Barbara took a job as a nursery assistant at Hunslet Nursery School. The children came from a very deprived area and usually arrived covered in scabies, impetigo and head lice. They were given a special disinfectant bath, which terrified them as they had never seen a bath.

After six months, Barbara moved to Whitehall Road School in Leeds. When the headteacher went off sick, Barbara, still a trainee, was left to teach a class of 56 four to five year olds. She thrived on the challenge.

Barbara entered St Katherine’s College to train in teaching in September 1942 and was billeted with the vicar of St John’s Church, Keswick. She was often in trouble for being an exuberant, noisy teenager.

Barbara had school practice first in Carlisle and then in Whitehaven, where the school inspectors were so impressed with her work that she was declared a “class A teacher” – the first at the college for four years.

She left her beloved Keswick with a heavy heart to return home and teach in Leeds and then in Bradford.

During the holidays Barbara and her friends would cycle from Pudsey to Appletreewick to camp.

Barbara attended Pudsey Parish church and became friends with the vicar Ted Manby.

The family loved life in Cummersdale, just outside Carlisle, with trips to the northern lakes. In Cummersdale, Barbara taught children with Downs Syndrome.

In 1959 the family moved to Appletreewick and soon after moved to Skipton.

Dog walks in Aireville Park were a regular event and kept Barbara fit and healthy for many years.

Barbara started work at Water Street Primary School in 1960 and eventually became deputy head. She enjoyed her prayer groups and being part of the Holy Trinity family in Skipton.

She eventually moved into a flat at Town End Close Care Home in Cross Hills and quickly called this home and had a great time until dementia started to claim her and finally she moved to a dementia unit at The Dales, Draughton.

A celebration of Barbara’s life will take place at Holy Trinity Church, Skipton at 11.45am on Thursday, April 10.

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