Headteacher with extraordinary memory

Date: Monday 11th February 2019

A FORMER Penrith headteacher, who had helped educate the children of Eden since the 1960s, has died.

Edna Sharp, who was head at Wetheriggs School (now North Lakes) for 22 years, was 87.

Born on Walney Island, Barrow-in-Furness, she and her older sister, Irene, had a frugal upbringing when her father was out of work for some time, but her mother had high standards despite this, which rubbed off on Edna.

She was educated at Barrow Grammar School for Girls after moving to the town at the age of 10. She completed her teacher training at Padgate and started her career at Abbotsmead Junior School, Barrow, before undertaking a diploma in primary education at Leeds University.

She met her husband, the late Ken, at a dance in Barrow in 1956 and they were married in 1961. Ken secured a job in Penrith and Edna tendered her resignation. The Lancashire Education Authority tried to retain her services with the offer of a nearby headship, but this offer was quickly withdrawn when she said she was leaving as she was to be married — as the LEA employed married women only on a supply teacher basis.

Edna and Ken set up home at Holme Riggs Avenue, Penrith, and Edna took up the offer of a job at Penruddock School, despite not being able to drive.

She also stood in for head teachers at nearby village schools when they were off. She was also asked to judge at sports days and village fetes.

In 1964, she took up her first headship at the Girls’ National School, Penrith, followed by a move to the much larger County Girls’ School, while she was pregnant with her first child, Nicholas. It was somewhat frowned upon by some male colleagues, particularly as she planned to continue that role after he was born. This only encouraged her to prove others wrong.

During this time, she also started writing articles for educational journals, lecturing student teachers at Lancaster, Durham and Newcastle universities, and writing some of their curriculum, but though successful, she chose not to pursue this side of her career, always putting the family first. The couple’s daughter, Vanessa, was born in 1969.

Just after her 40th birthday, Edna became head at Wetheriggs, where she remained for 22 years. She had an extraordinary memory and remembered most of her former pupils and all their family members. Throughout her career, Edna continued her schoolwork after the children had gone to bed, so as not to disrupt their family life.

Edna and Ken were members of Penrith Ramblers and the golf club when they first came to Penrith. Edna also joined the Penrith and District Soroptimists and Inner Wheel, becoming president of each.

While she was head at Wetheriggs, the family moved to Pele House, Brougham, and became a great part of the community, including involvement in the horse trials and Penrith show.

Family holidays in Swanage, Dorset, became a regular event and Edna became a strong supporter of Brougham Chapel. She organised the cleaning and flower rota and took part in many fundraising events, including home-made lunches. She adored her grandchildren, Adam, born in 2003, and Olivia, in 2006.

Edna’s love of travel began when she first went abroad in 1995, to Austria, and over the years, the family visited Majorca, France, Italy, Germany, Poland, Hungary, Vietnam, China, Sri Lanka, Bali, Australia, Russia and the USA. They also visited World War I and II battle fields in France and Belgium.

After Ken died, she continued to travel, going on a Caribbean cruise and coach trips in the UK. She also joined the luncheon club in town and the U3A (University of the Third Age), and regularly met friends for coffee and lunch, until she went into hospital in November last year.

In recent years, she spent a lot of time working in her garden and researching her family tree. She used diaries from her childhood to write a book about her life for the family, so they understood her upbringing and life in Barrow during the war.

She is survived by her children Nicholas and Vanessa, daughter-in-law Jos, son-in-law Jason and grandchildren Adam and Olivia.