BESSIE Watkin, chairman of the governors of Skipton Girls’ High School throughout the headship of Muriel Kent and known to many in Craven, has died at the age of 98 in a care home in Cross Hills.

Her legal expertise was instrumental in saving Skipton Girls from being pressurised into becoming a comprehensive. She did the same service for Ermysted’s Grammar School in her role as a co-opted member for education on North Yorkshire County Council - an appointment which arose from her wide experience of education in both in the independent and state sectors.

Having taken a degree in law from Leeds University and being called to the Bar in the early 1950s, it was never her intention to pursue a career in education.

However, once her own children were at boarding school, she taught English in a broad variety of schools, including Mount St Mary’s College, a direct grant grammar school run by a French order of teaching nuns; a small private school, St Philips in Burley-in-Wharfedale; Aireborough Grammar school, in fact a comprehensive school, and the Skipton Convent School for girls.

Mrs Watkin must have been one of a very few women living on into the 21st century to have accompanied her husband, Philip, a fellow lawyer, and his entourage on tour of his district in Northern Nigeria, when he was a colonial officer in the 1950s.

She spent several weeks at a time on horseback, sleeping either under canvas or, as on one occasion, in a village headman’s “JuJu” hut, lined with his ancestors’ skulls. She took charge of paying the porters, carrying the money in her handbag, and purchasing food, en route for both men and horses.

During the war, she became a member of the Mechanised Transport Corps, driving Whitehall officials from factory to factory while at the same time completing her degree course. She drove herself every day in her own car from her home in Liversedge to Leeds University. On taking her degree she joined the Auxiliary Territorial Service (ATS) and was commissioned quickly.

Unusually, she did not spend her entire war in “Y Group” but transferred to the Royal Army Ordnance Corps enormous Depot at Chilwell where colossal amounts of war material, everything from shrouds to tanks, was collected and dispersed to military units in every theatre of war. As as Junior Commander (Captain) she enjoyed a level of responsibility and authority which was uncommon for a woman in those days.

Throughout her life she was a committed Conservative and passionate animal lover.

She leaves two daughters, a granddaughter and two great grandchildren behind. To them, it is as if a wind had passed. Her funeral has taken place.