GLOWING tribute has been paid to a popular former teacher who spent four decades at South Craven School in Cross Hills.

David Birks, who was hugely well known in the community, has died aged 71.

He started work at the school in 1972, as a probationary teacher, and over the years held a number of posts.

He was appointed deputy head in 1986, and had two spells as acting headteacher – in 1994-95 and 2001-02.

For the final couple of years before his retirement in 2012, Mr Birks – whose main subject was geography – served in a part-time role as bursar.

Friend and former colleague, Dr Andrew Cummings, said the school owed Mr Birks “a tremendous debt of gratitude”.

“He made a massive contribution to the school,” said Dr Cummings, who stepped down as headteacher at South Craven last year.

“David was tremendously well respected and hard working.

“He was a prolific reader and loved his historical quotations.

“I was very proud to have worked with him and count him as a friend, and I learned so much from him.”

Mr Birks also managed the school’s first XI cricket team for 14 years and set-up a table tennis club.

“We shared a love of cricket,” Dr Cummings added.

“David was committed to providing extra clubs for the students.”

When Mr Birks retired, he commented that he’d been “very fortunate to have had a career in such a marvellous school and to live in a great area to bring up a family”.

Mr Birks was born and raised in Sheffield.

He moved to the South Craven area when he started work at the school, initially living at Cowling before settling in Glusburn.

Mr Birks served on the then Glusburn Parish Council in the 1980s, including a spell as chairman.

Following his retirement from the school, he played a central role in carrying out research and fundraising for the creation of a war memorial in Cross Hills and he published a book detailing his own father’s wartime exploits.

Mr Birks is survived by his wife, Gill, sons Malcolm and Andrew and three grandchildren.

A celebration of his life will take place at Glusburn Institute on Saturday, June 8, at 2.30pm. Everyone is welcome.