Michael Stuart Whitworth: [Heath 1958–1966]

Head and shoulders of Michael Whitworth
Michael Whitworth

Michael Whitworth died peacefully at Huddersfield Royal Infirmary on Monday , aged 74 years.

My Dad was born at Lower Skircoat Green, Halifax in 1946. His Dad was in the merchant navy and away at sea for most of his early years and his Mum worked on the production line at Mackintosh’s. He went to All Saints Infants School, then Holy Trinity Junior Boys and then passed the Eleven Plus to go to Heath Grammar School in 1958. His younger brother David (‘Our Dave’) also went to Heath five years later.

He thoroughly enjoyed his time at the school and had plenty of tales to tell. The most frequent one involved variations on him and a friend (Keith Riley-Gledhill, I think) starting the weekly cross country run in games, hanging back for a while, then ducking off to the Halfway House café on the moor, or to the cinema, or worse, then re-joining the tail end of the group as they headed back into school ...

I also remember a tuck shop run by ‘Sweaty Betty.’ And Oxo sandwiches. Sometimes with crisps. And rugby. And a love of English Literature. And being Deputy Head Boy in his final year.

He passed his A Levels and went to Leeds University to study English Literature — the first in his family to do so. There he met and got engaged to Christina, studying on the same course. After finishing his degree, and not entirely sure what do to next, he followed some of his friends onto a PGCE course to train to become a teacher.

In 1970 he married my mum and worked briefly as a Personnel Officer with an engineering company in the north east. He knew nothing about personnel, had no relevant skills or experience and didn’t really have a clue what the job entailed, but the hiring manager had played rugby for Bradford Grammar School, was a huge rugby fan and remembered vividly the games against Heath Grammar School. On the simple basis of having played rugby for Heath, my Dad was offered the job! Following that he moved to Peterborough to take up a Personnel Manager role with GEC, at a factory making Hotpoint products. I came along in 1971.

In 1973 he fancied a career change and decided to go into teaching, initially at a school in Peterborough, then at Abbey Grange school in Leeds teaching English and Games. In May the following year my sister, Emma, was born.

Always on the lookout to better himself he saw a job advertised as Head of English at Holy Trinity Senior School in Halifax — he applied for it, got it and, in winter 1976, as a family we moved to Savile Park, Halifax. He progressed to the dizzy heights of Senior Deputy Head and retired in 2005, aged 59.

He enjoyed his retirement, going hiking with his friends, having days out, and spending time with his wife and grandchildren, until summer 2017 when sadly he suffered a major stroke. He was alone in the house at the time, but had the presence of mind to walk round to the next door neighbours and ask them to call an ambulance. By the time the paramedics arrived he was unconscious. He spent the next few weeks in a critical condition, but eventually made a partial recovery.

Sadly he lost the power of speech and had only limited mobility; so his final years were spent mainly at home but, with his usual strength of character and determination, he looked after himself as well as he could, and stayed positive throughout this period.

On Sunday he went into hospital with breathing difficulties, was diagnosed with pneumonia and passed away on the , surrounded by his family.

I like to think he had a positive impact on the lives of the thousands of children he taught over the years — one of his former pupils from Holy Trinity, on hearing the news, texted me to say “Mr Whitworth was an absolute legend at school, albeit a slightly scary one!” — I think that would have tickled him no end.

He was the much loved husband of Christina, loving father of Jonathan and Emma, father-in-law to Justine and Paul, dear grandfather to Olivia, Isabel, Florence and Lucy, son of Doreen and brother to David.

Jonathan Whitworth

Our condolences to the family.