Eric Webster: –2005 [Heath 1932–1938]

Eric Webster was born in Halifax and brought up in one of the terrace houses between Parkinson Lane and Hopwood Lane. He started school aged five at Parkinson Lane School from which he moved to Heath in 1931. His favourite subjects were history and geography, interests which remained with him throughout his life. He also enjoyed some sports, but regretted that his physique did not allow him to be more active. Eric was touch judge and ‘orange boy’ with the School Rugby XV. He also participated in the school camps held in St Helen’s on the Isle of Wight in 1936, 1937 and, even though he had left school, in 1938.

At the time that he left after taking his School Certificate, few if any of his class stayed on at school and went to University; maybe, Eric said, when recalling his schooldays at Heath, we were all dim!

He added that there was a group of about sixteen of us who didn’t even get a job for a few months, and we were accepted back at school as an ‘Extra VIth’ form. Three mornings a week they attended the Technical College for business studies. He paid tribute, in his contribution to our Newsletter, to D.J.D. Smith as the best of headmasters who had made all the arrangements.

Working first in the machine-tool industry on leaving school, Eric then joined the Fleet Air Arm of the Royal Navy as an engineer in 1940. He served on aircraft carriers, and in India and Sri Lanka towards the end of his service, returning to Halifax on demobilisation in 1946. He trained as a teacher and taught in several secondary schools in Halifax and Sowerby Bridge for twenty years. He was then appointed the first Warden of the Teachers’ Centre, which he helped to set up in Horton House, and later at Bermerside. He retired in 1980 but continued using his teaching skills by lecturing for the Workers' Education Association (The W.E.A.).

He specialised in the history of Halifax, and was heard on radio being interviewed by Brian Johnston in Down Your Way and later appeared on television in the BBC series History on Your Doorstep. He wrote a number of books: Halifax, the Town we live in and Halifax — an Industrial Town were written before he retired, and afterwards he produced a number of works covering various aspects of the history and development of the town, such as the Market, the industries and transport. He held a number of positions in the Halifax Antiquarian Society, including that of President, and contributed many articles to their transactions. For Heath School he was instrumental in carrying out research into the names on the World War II War Memorial, so that the achievements of the scholars who gave their lives should not be forgotten. The results of his work were featured in this Newsletter, and the documents were deposited with the Headmaster for the school archives, office bearers of the Old Boys’ Association, with the Teachers’ Training Centre offices — outside of which the memorial gates stand — and with the Central Reference Library in Halifax.

At the celebratory dinner to mark the 400th Anniversary of Founder's Day, held in the main hall of Crossley Heath School on 4th July 1997, it was Eric Webster who proposed the toast to the memory of the Revd Dr John Favour and to the School. In 2001 he contributed an interesting item to this Newsletter remarking that, although retired, he had been asked to accompany a group of German teachers studying the industrial history of Halifax to the Teachers’ Training Centre by then based in the Heath School Buildings. Eric thought it strange how he as a lad had gone to school there and then much later had set up the first Teachers’ Centre in the town and then returned to his old school, Heath, at the age of 80 to make a small contribution to the work going on there as a Teachers’ Centre!

Heath Old Boys' Association wish to offer their sympathy to his widow, Hazel and to his family. His knowledge of and interest in the history of the school and town have been much appreciated, and will be sadly missed.

David Bottomley