- Helen Harker (1928-2013)
- Jim Andrews (1932-2013)
- Shirley Baldry (1934-2013)
- Gillian (Jill) Bonsall (1925-2013)
- Dr David Younger (1943-2014)
- Richard Laws (1926-2014)
- Zena Marjorie Scoley MBE DL (1931-2014)
- Ian Lewin (1942-2014)
- Rosemary Jackson (1952-2014)
- Joyce McAughtry (1921-2015)
- Bill Mackey (1925-2015)
- Ron Shuttleworth (1932-2016)
- Edward (Ted) Baldry (1932-2016)
- Colonel Alexander Kirk Johnson MBE (1918-2018)
- Jeff Hamblin (1945-2018)
- Christine Straker (1948-2019)
- Gordon Robinson (1942-2020)
- Professor Leo Strunin (1937-2020)
- Tony Allan (1937-2021)
As Helen Rayner, Mrs Harker studied geography at Neville’s Cross College, Durham, graduating with her BSc in 1949 and staying in Durham to train as a teacher and then work at Durham High School for Girls.
She joined Dame Allan’s Girls’ School in January 1954 as head of the geography department and quickly enthused her pupils, using the afternoon set aside each week for projects to drive a minibus to the Derwent Valley and study the river from its source to the Tyne noting the geographical features along its course. At the time of the geography dinner in 2006, she vividly recalled Dame Allan’s in the 1950s, from the girls she took on field trips in North Yorkshire, to daring to go into the boys’ school along the top corridor!
Having left DAGS to start a family, the Harkers were blessed with three boys and moved to the Midlands where Helen led the geography department at Leamington College for Girls. In a foretaste of a future career, she also lectured in biogeography and teacher training at Coventry College of Education. Always drawn to the beauty of the natural world, Helen taught for four years at Gordonstoun and then moved to teach St Anne’s School in Windermere for nine years, leading the geography department there and developing her interests in bell-ringing and orienteering.
Her insatiable desire to travel was fuelled further and farther afield with a Commonwealth Teacher Exchange to Frensham in Southern Australia, which enabled her to travel across Australia seeing features she had studied long ago whilst a pupil at Manchester High School.
In her own words, “retirement at 60 came too soon” and Mrs Harker joined a student working party serving remote villages in Himachal Pradesh. She was then accepted by VSO to work at a Medical Training Centre in the Maldives where she also joined a government sponsored geography teachers’ panel “rubbing shoulders” with the President of the Maldives. After two years she returned to the UK for long enough to complete her TEFL diploma before heading out to rural Mongolia. “Here was confirmation of activities only dreamed of; fat-tailed sheep pulling little carts… felt covered gers (yurts) being dismantled in 20 minutes flat when fire threatened, huge fields of mountain flowers, wide open steppes with marmots, horses and, in the semi-desert, camels stepping through heat-induced mirages of vast lakes on these, in reality, waterless plains.”
A nasty accident resulting in a fractured pelvis as well as twenty careful stitches sewn in her face by a vet, led to a return home before working for two years in China with groups of English teachers.
At 70, Mrs Harker faced up to retirement again, and again found it wanting: she continued to travel for pleasure and started studying with the Open University, completing all their geology modules and graduating with a BA in 2010. She spent this active retirement near Elgin and, on her death, the book group she was part of have created an award for “endeavour” to be given at Hopeman Primary School in her memory.
Mrs Helen Harker 1928-2013
DAGS Head of Geography January 1954- April 1956
Passed away aged 84.
Jim Andrews joined the Boys’ School in 1957 teaching chemistry and being active in the RAF section of the Cadet Force. On leaving DABS, he become Head of Chemistry, and later Head of Science, at Millom School in Cumbria. In 1970 he became the inaugural Headmaster of Alsager School, a newly created comprehensive.
He was a true Lancastrian, born in Bolton and retaining a lifelong passion for Bolton Wanderers and Lancashire Cricket Club.
Mrs Shirley Baldry, who died tragically whilst on holiday in Brazil, was a tireless supporter of the schools for over half a century. She was an inspirational art teacher at Church High School, and, in the early 1970s, she briefly joined the staff of the Girls’ School.
Her connections with Dame Allan’s went back further as her husband, Ted Baldry, was Head of Biology in the Boys’ School. She had met Ted when studying fine art at Newcastle, which was then part of Durham University, and Ted, who was a student in the Durham division, invited her to a dance. He later reflected, “By the time we got down to the bus station she had not stopped talking and I just thought, ‘I am going to marry this girl’.”
During their sixty years of marriage, Shirley supported Ted wonderfully, assisting with dances and ski trips and opening up their home to show hospitality to many colleagues. In later years, she attended Allanian Society functions and meetings of The Gallery.
As Gillian Patrick, Jill went up to Somerville College, Oxford in 1944 to read mathematics. In her final year she met her husband who had returned to his own mathematical studies after six years of military service. They were married in 1947 and Jill’s vocation for teaching saw relocations to facilitate her husband's academic career.
Jill taught at Lansdowne House School when Frank took a temporary lectureship in Edinburgh, and when he was recruited to a permanent post at the Newcastle-based King’s College of Durham University, Dame Allan’s Girls’ School had the good fortune to recruit Mrs Bonsall to the maths department.
Jill loved the mountains and whilst on the staff, Mrs Bonsall accompanied the school expedition to the Lake District. There, she and her fellow teachers were unfazed by the appearance of tin openers and hair brushes placed in their beds, but the errant girls found that their “pyjamas and sheets were mysteriously sewn up with black thread” on the final night.
Sadly Jill’s time at Dame Allan’s was to be all too brief as she was appointed to a Visiting Assistant Professorship at the Oklahoma State University in 1950, again following her husband who had secured a Visiting Professorship there. McCarthyism was at its height and, as university employees, the Bonsalls were required to avow loyalty to the United States. Refusing to do so on principle, their salaries were suspended and the remainder of their stay was funded from savings.
Jill’s successful teaching career continued back in Newcastle at Heaton High School and later in Edinburgh where her husband took up a professorship in 1965. They retired to Harrogate in 1984 and were crossword enthusiasts, together being multiple winners of the Observer’s Ximenes puzzle.
Her husband died in 2011 with accolades ranging from FRS and FRSE to DSc (Oxon), but none held more dearly than 64 years of happy marriage. They shared passions not only for mathematics and mountains but also for gardening, with impressive gardens at their homes in Morpeth, Edinburgh and Harrogate: when Jill died in 2013, she left a generous legacy to enable the Flower of the Dales Festival to be celebrated in 2014.
Mrs Gillian (Jill) Bonsall (1925-2013)
Passed away aged 87
After four years as Head of the Life Sciences division of the British Antarctic Survey, Richard Laws succeeded Sir Vivian Fuchs as its Director in 1973 and held the position until 1987.
He was also Master of St Edmunds College Cambridge (1985-96) and Secretary of the Zoological Society of London. He was awarded the CBE and was a Fellow of the Royal Society.
Richard Laws died in October 2014, aged 88.
Zena was educated at Dame Allan's during the 1940s and was evacuated to Cumbria during the war years. A graduate in Agriculture at Reading, Zena eventually settled with her family in Lincolnshire.
She was elected to Lincolnshire County Council in 1981, becoming Vice-Chair in 1985 and Chair of the council in 1987 - the first woman to do so in the council's history.
After leaving Dame Allan's Ian obtained a Doctorate in Illuminating Engineering at Newcastle University before moving to America. He became a world expert in all aspects of illumination and his work included lighting systems for NASA on the International Space Station and the original development of traffic lights using LED systems.
Ian Lewin died in November 2014, aged 71.
We regret to announce the recent death of Joyce McAughtry. Joyce attended Dame Allan's Girls' School from approximately 1933 to 1938. During the war she served in the ATS and ran a searchlight squad during the Blitz.
After a spell in Malaya, Joyce returned in 1959 with her family to settle in Kent where she was a councillor for 15 years including a year as Chairman of Sevenoaks District Council.
Joyce Mabel McAughtry died in March 2015, aged 93.
Bill attended Dame Allan's Boys' School from the mid 1930s and, on leaving in 1942, became a sub-lieutenant in the Royal Navy.
After the war, Bill qualified as an accountant eventually rising to the position of managing partner at Ernst & Whinney. He became well known to TV viewers in 1982 when he acted as the receiver overseeing the winding up of Laker Airways.
Bill Mackey died in May 2015, aged 90.
The Boys’ School was fortunate to secure Ron Shuttleworth in 1962 as Head of Physics. He was to lead the department with distinction for a decade. The then-headmaster summed up Ron’s contribution to the Schools in the Allanian of 1972, celebrating the “high academic standards” that he maintained – indeed three boys from that period went on become professors in physics across three continents. Just as importantly, he noted that Ron’s “obvious concern for all his pupils, whatever their ability, his liveliness of mind and kindly sense of humour, his keen interest in both science and humanity, have won the respect of boys and colleagues alike.”
Such pastoral commitment was shown well beyond his workplace and Ron was a leading figure in the Newcastle Samaritans for many years as well as putting his considerable practical skills to great use as a volunteer handyman at a local care home.
Ron left Dame Allan’s to become Head of Science at the newly created Ponteland High School, and stayed there until his retirement while maintaining contact with his friends at Dame Allan’s, later being a regular attendee of “The Gallery” retired staff group.
He was a great sportsman and at Dame Allan’s his “reputation stands high on the games field too” in both rugby and cricket, being an “opponent to be respected and a colleague to be welcomed in any company.” As a true Yorkshireman, brought up in Leeds and staying there to study physics at the university, Ron had represented Yorkshire as well as the RAF on the rugby field. He was a stalwart of the Ponteland Cricket Club, captaining the side for two seasons and scoring three centuries. In retirement he was a great bowls player even in the face of the onset of Alzheimer’s.
With typical concern for others, Ron and his wife spoke out about coping with the disease. Ron served with grace and humility throughout his life, being dedicated to family, teaching, sports teams, church work and voluntary services and many have cause to be thankful for his constancy, patience and compassion. His modesty and calm was evident and admired right to the end. Our thoughts are with his wife and the family.
Ron Shuttleworth died in May 2016, aged 84.
Ted Baldry arrived at Dame Allan’s in 1957 from Hull Grammar School and, as Head of Biology, created a department that has consistently been one of the most distinguished and successful departments in the school. Not only did he have a deep knowledge of Biology, but he had the ability to communicate with children from the reluctant 11 year old to the aspiring medical student in the Upper 6th. Many have gone on to distinguished careers in Medicine or related disciplines. Those who were taught by him comment on his kindness and generosity, his inimitable and inspirational style of teaching and above all his enthusiasm.
His contribution to the life of the school went far beyond his teaching of biology however. The Boys’ School tennis team enjoyed much success under his leadership. Stories of his ski holidays would fill a book in themselves whilst his love of the hills was shown to many by his leadership of the Pedestrians’ Society. He was also a very accomplished photographer, another skill which he passed on with his trademark enthusiasm through the Photographic Society.
Ted was hit very hard by the sudden loss of his wife Shirley in 2014 who had taught for a time in the Girls’ School. Together they were a formidable source of care and support for many over the years. His knowledge of former students was phenomenal - he was a key figure in planning and organising the Science Dinner in 2007, which also marked his 50th year connected with Dame Allan's. He was the organiser of The Gallery, the retired staff lunch group, and kept contact with many colleagues stretching back across decades. He was also a man of extraordinary generosity, sometimes masked by a bluff exterior, a loyal friend and a man of conviction and integrity - he will be sorely missed.
Edward (Ted) Baldry died in June 2016, aged 84.
Born in the village of Barlow, County Durham, on 13 November 1918, Alexander Kirk Johnson was the middle child of three boys. His father was a miner and he had a poor, but happy, upbringing.
At 11, he attended Blaydon Secondary School for one year with a five-and-a-half mile walk to school and completed his schooling at Hookergate Grammar School when he only had to walk two miles!
Before setting up Linden School in 1951, Colonel Johnson taught at Front Street Primary School in Wickham for 13 years, where he instructed football, cricket and athletics. Speaking to the Chronicle in 2009, he said: "I also had a Nature Club and a Puppet Club, which gave enjoyment to the school and to the children in local hospitals – many will remember the wicked witch!”
You can find a lovely article about his time in the army during WW2, here.
Colonel Alexander Kirk Johnson MBE died in January 2018, aged 99.
Jeff Hamblin OBE passed away on 26th December 2018, aged 73, at his home in Canada.
His career, which was predominantly in tourism, spanned senior positions in Northumbria, the East Midlands, Europe and North America, and finally as Chief Executive of Visit Britain (formerly the British Tourist Authority).
Christine Straker was a superb ambassador for the schools and The Allanian Society, motivated by her deep love of the people who made up the schools past and present: we all have much to thank her for and we will miss her.
A former teacher at St Cuthbert’s, in her retirement Christine embarked upon another school career as an invigilator at Dame Allan's Schools. As an ‘Old Girl’, she was already an enthusiastic supporter of the school and, keen to maintain links with other alumnae, she became involved with the Old Girls' Association, eventually becoming President. Christine was an enthusiastic supporter of the merger with the Old Boys' Association to form the Old Allanians and served as President for three years from the tercentenary until the association became The Allanian Society. She then served for 11 years as Vice President, only stepping down at the September 2019 AGM.
Across all these years and roles, Christine was an energiser and a moderniser, upholding the core values and high standards of the schools and seeking to help current students engage with their heritage as Allanians. It was Christine's idea to frame old school photographs so that pupils and staff in the dining hall could be connected to previous generations. She also wanted previous generations to connect with the current pupils and was delighted that the reunion of her year group resulted in the establishment of a bursary fund for pupils today. It was fitting that Christine should be elected as a Life Vice President in 2019, an office used very sparingly by the Society for those who have served the schools with dedication. Unstintingly she gave us her wise counsel, her no-nonsense pragmatism, her infectious enthusiasm and her sense of fun.
Her former Geography and form teacher, S. Angela Crossfield, pays tribute: “I have known Christine for a long time. Arriving as a new member of staff at DAGS in 1963, she was one of several 14 year old girls in my first form class. The fact that she opted to take my subject (Geography) at A level meant that I knew, from an early stage in our relationship, her heart was in the right place!
Both living at the coast, where Christine and her husband Trevor raised their two sons Robbie and Reece, our paths have often crossed over the years and I have been able to keep up to date with her life's adventures and cement a friendship which I have valued. Christine never forgot or lost touch with her alma mater, Dame Allan's, and this prompted her to take a leading role, at first in the Old Girls' Association and then, more recently, the Allanian Society. She gave generously of her time and energy. My last memory of her was when she attended the reunion of the 1968 leavers and addressed the group, speaking most persuasively and encouraging them to make donations to the School's Development or Bursary fund.
Christine was a humble person, prone to self-deprecation, often assuming (wrongly) that the expertise of others exceeded her own. She embarked on a career as a tour guide in Italy when this was much more of an adventure than it would be today. I suspect that she had a good working knowledge of Italian, but it is typical of Christine that she never told me this. As a result, we loved her for herself: a genuine person, with no artificial front and whose enthusiasm for life was infectious. In all the years I knew Christine she remained constant. She possessed a wealth of qualities that endeared her to all who knew her and we shall always remember her with love and great affection.”
Christine Straker died peacefully following her battle with motor neurone disease. Our thoughts and prayers are with her husband Trevor and her sons Robbie and Reece.
Gordon Robinson, who sadly passed away aged seventy-seven, was a passionate supporter of the Allanian Society, serving as treasurer, secretary and president during a long association with the Schools.
His long association with the school started as a pupil in 1953, following in the footsteps of his father William, who attended the school during the First World War, and continued with his sons David and Paul. At Dame Allan’s he was a keen sportsman, representing the school at rugby and cricket, and always found time to encourage the next generation of sportsmen, most recently seeing the First XV play in 2019.
As a parent, Gordon would often be found on the rugby touchline, proudly looking on and offering his son David the benefit of advice as he lined up a conversion. He also loved music, and as a pupil in Fenham he sang in the choir at the church of St James and St Basil, continuing his interest in later years through attending speech days and carol services. Leaving school at the end of the fifth form to pursue a career with Barclays Bank, he was a particular champion of pupils who left the school before the Sixth Form.
A marvellous organiser of events, he served as the first social secretary, organising many of our annual dinners, with his characteristic efficiency and good humour, always ensuring the bar was well stocked. He was also very supportive of the merger of the Girls' and Boys' Associations, and gave generously of his time to help with the one of the first joint events to celebrate fifty years in Fenham in 1985.
Gordon was a generous man with a wonderful sense of humour, who really loved and supported the Schools, and the Allanian Society will miss his friendship, sound advice and encouragement.
Professor Leo Strunin, former president of the Royal College of Anaesthetists, had a distinguished career in anaesthesia. Professor Strunin attended Dame Allan’s Boys School and left in 1955, having completed A levels one year before most of those taking A levels, to study medicine at Durham University.
To read his obituary, please click here.
Tony Allan attended the Boys’ School before studying geography at Durham University in 1958. Following a short period of national service, he returned to academia at the School of Oriental and African Studies, now SOAS University of London, where he completed his PhD.
Tony went on to transform 'the way governments and businesses think about water, with implications for everything from eating breakfast to international trade. He did it through devising the concept of virtual water – the water “embedded” through being consumed in the production of food, clothing and industrial goods.'
Allanian Keith Atkinson has, together with a colleague, written an obituary to Tony. Please click here to read it.