Anthony V Edwards: ?– [Heath 1971–1985]

Head and shoulders of Tony Edwards in casual wear
Tony Edwards

Tony Edwards’ funeral was held on Friday, at Macclesfield Crematorium. The following is the tribute paid by Nick Edwards, his son:

I posted on my Dad’s Facebook memorial page a couple of weeks ago some words to the effect that no-one forgets a good teacher.

In retrospect I was only half right; he wasn’t just a good teacher; he was a great teacher, and more importantly an inspirational man.

My Dad is probably best described as what he called an ‘Old Fashioned School Master,‘ that is to say someone who saw it as his responsibility not just to teach his subject, but to ensure his pupils had the opportunities and experiences outside the classroom to ready them for their next steps in their lives after school.

Whether organising school trips around Europe, coaching rugby teams or lending a helping hand or encouraging word, he was generous with his time and happy to help out behind the scenes, never seeking personal reward or the recognition of others.

Teaching was his vocation. He never thought his responsibility ending when the school bell rang, and if he’d taught you he’d retain a personal interest in what you were doing and the direction your life had taken.

His enthusiasm and interest in others was reciprocated by those he had taught.

Reading the cards and letters we have received over the past month, a common theme has been how he inspired people both in and out of the classroom.

Inspiration is something we all need. Each of us has role models and mentors in our lives who influence and inspire us.

I read with some poignancy this week in Stephen Hawking’s obituary that he attributed much of the greatness he achieved to the influence of a former school teacher.

In my Dad’s case, a great influence in his life was his junior school teacher, Mr Reed, whose enthusiasm fired young imaginations and inspired my Dad’s life long love of learning.

When he arrived at the Kings School, he discovered he had, amongst other things an aptitude for languages. This might have ended up as in interesting footnote in his life story — something to impress his friends with when ordering a round of drinks on holiday — had it not again been for the inspiration of his another good teacher, in this case a Mr Dickie Hairside.

Suitably inspired to pursue a career in teaching, and through his own hard work and dedication he excelled at school, eventually winning a place at Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge, becoming the first person in his family to go on to higher education.

At around the same time he also became the first member of his family to travel abroad in peacetime, attending a language course in Geneva at the tender age of 16. Quite an achievement for someone who’d barely left Macclesfield at this point.

Life at Cambridge was tough, and he never shied away from the fact he needed to work much harder than some of his more naturally gifted contemporaries.

But once more, his determination saw him through and after graduation he set out to follow his vocation in to the teaching profession, which led him, via Petersfield, to Halifax where he taught for 31 years up to his retirement.

He taught with good humour and enthusiasm and his classes were always known for being fun. A good friend of mine summed this up recently. He said, ‘I hated German, but I loved your Dad’s lessons.’

Though blessed with a keen intellect, and having had the opportunity to study in the ivory towers of Cambridge, he remained down to earth and true to himself.

He was equally comfortable discussing the nuances of Nineteenth Century French literature, as he was discussing the nuances of Coronation Street and the X Factor. He held no airs and graces, and was comfortable in his own skin.

As Simon said, he had an eclectic range of interests, and a curiosity about the world around him.

A typical Edwards’ family holiday in the 1980s involved a couple of sulky kids reluctantly traipsing round a First World War battle fields or a French chateau.

At the time, we used to complain how boring this was, and how it was unfair that we couldn’t spend more time playing video games or watching cartoons. Thirty five years on, I find myself having similar complaints from my daughter. All I can say is, ‘Dad, you were right’ and as an adult I’m grateful for the rich experiences we had.

My Dad had itchy feet from an early age. For example, in the mid 60s he, along with my Mum and couple of friends, took an unusual decision to embark on three week road trip to Francoist Spain. He organised numerous school trips and family holidays to France, Germany and Austria. I lost count of the number of times I’d been up the Eiffel Tower by the age of 10.

When Simon and I left home, and he found himself somewhat better off financially, he began to embark on adventures further afield: to the Mediterranean, Middle East, Scandinavia, Japan, the United States, South Africa four times and to Australia six times.

His enthusiasm rubbed off on us. From an early age, he encouraged us to head off and explore the world and was supported of our travels and studies abroad, and giving us the confidence to live and work on the other side of the world.

On a personal level, when I emigrated to Australia, he was nothing but supportive, and despite his disappointment that he wouldn’t get to see as much of his granddaughter as he’d like, he never let this show.

The last day we spent together as a family was a trip to London on 19th June 2017.

Due to my Dad’s ill health, we decided to take an open top bus tour. What we didn’t realise was that it was to be one of the hottest and most uncomfortable days of the summer and that, on this particular day a bus had broken down somewhere in London, sending the city centre in to gridlock.

We ended up sitting on the open top deck of the bus for two hours outside St Paul’s Cathedral. Hot, uncomfortable and irate I mention this for two reasons:

Firstly, as last days together go this seems to be fitting.

Being stuck together in discomfort, unable to get off and going nowhere fast seems on the surface to be a good metaphor for family life. As the saying goes, you can’t choose your family…

However, if you scratch under the surface there is a better metaphor.

You have no influence over the hand you are dealt, but how you play the cards is up to you.

We may have been stuck on a bus, in blistering heat, agitated and wanting to scream at each other, yet we stuck together. Our anger quickly passed, and we quickly forgave each other for the things we’d said in the heat of the moment. Not long after we were laughing and joking about the absurdity of the day.

That to me is what our family life was really all about, and I’m glad our last day together reflected this.

Secondly, I heard a quotation many years ago that stuck with me.

When thinking about what to write about my Dad, this quotation seemed appropriate and by coincidence it comes from the Epitaph on Sir Christopher Wren’s tomb, the architect of St Paul’s Cathedral, where we’d spent those final hours together stuck on hot bus.

The quotation in its original Latin is ‘Lector si monumentum requiris, circumspice’, which roughly translates as ‘Reader, if you seek a monument to this man, look about you.’

So why do I feel this is appropriate for my Dad?

Well, on the surface quoting an epitaph of the man who designed one of the finest buildings in London, may seem a little ostentatious — after all no-one builds a monuments to Modern Languages teachers from the North of England.

However, anyone who achieves anything in this life does so through the influence and inspiration of a good teacher. Wren was influenced his friend Dr William Holder; Stephen Hawking was inspired by his maths teacher, Dikran Tahta.

My Dad inspired and influenced a lot of people in his life.

  • He inspired his students to study, and to broaden their horizons.
  • He inspired his family to learn and see to the world.
  • He influenced his friends with his enthusiasm for his hobbies and his general love of life.

Everyone in this room, and countless others has had their lives touched by him for the better in some way. He leaves a huge hole and the world is a worse place without him.

So, back to the Wren quotation: if you’re seeking a monument to my Dad, you’ll find this in the bearing he has had on all our lives, and how much he has meant to so many people.

I take great comfort in knowing that in the same way that sixty five years later my Dad never forgot Mr Reed, somewhere in the distant future, someone will be sitting down and telling their grandson or granddaughter what a wonderful teacher Mr Edwards was, and how he had inspired them to achieve something with their lives.

What a fitting legacy to the man that will be.

Nick Edwards, son of Tony Edwards