Barbara Wilcock

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BARBARA Wilcock, daughter of the cricketer Herbert Sutcliffe, has died at the age of 89.

She was born in Lynwood House, Armley, Leeds – opposite the gates to Armley Park – in June 1924. The family moved to Southroyd House in Pudsey after 18 months.

In the fields opposite Southroyd House, a new council estate was built and Barbara watched the children playing there. Many of them were too poor to have shoes and the younger ones had bare bottoms. Barbara lay in bed thinking how she could help them. She decided that when she grew up she would like to help underprivileged children.

Ironically Barbara did not enjoy cricket but loved most other sports. Barbara found it difficult to deal with such a famous father.

Barbara attended Fulneck School in Pudsey and found it too strict and far too ladylike for a tomboy like herself.

Barbara’s friend Joan started at Hunmanby School for Girls near Bridlington and Barbara badgered her father until she too was sent there. She thrived in the boarding school environment and never felt homesick. She loved climbing the endless trees in the school grounds and galloping horses on Filey beach.

After the commencement of air raids in the Second World War, the school often had to take refuge in the cellars while dozens of German bombers flew overhead. Eventually the school was evacuated to Ilkley and Barbara’s year were billeted in the Craiglands Hotel. The food was so bad and came in such small portions that one morning the girls went on strike and stood on the moor until tea time, whilst the teachers negotiated better provisions.

Now aged 17 Barbara applied for a post as a nursery assistant at Hunslet Nursery School, contrary to her parent’s wishes. The school was evacuated to Sickling Hall Grange near Wetherby. The children came from a very deprived area and, aged from two-years-old, usually arrived covered in scabies, impetigo and head lice. 
They were given a special Disinfectant bath, which terrified them as they had never seen a bath.

Barbara recalled many air raids with the family all terrified, sheltering under a large stone table in the cellar.

After six months Barbara moved to Whitehall Road School in Leeds. When the headteacher went off sick with diphtheria, Barbara, still a trainee, was left to teach a class of 56 youngsters aged four and five. It was sink or swim but Barbara thrived on this new challenge.

Barbara was sometimes sent out to visit the homes of pupils to find out why they were absent. At one house she was threatened with an axe by an irate father.

During this period, she applied for teacher training at St Katherine’s College, Liverpool. This had been evacuated to Keswick where the senior school and her friends from Hunmanby Hall had also been evacuated.

Barbara entered St Katherine’s College in September 1942 and was billeted with the vicar of St John’s Church, Keswick. Barbara was often in trouble for being an exuberant, noisy teenager.

The college had a Compline service every evening. For this and for school practice the girls wore their uniform of navy cloaks with purple hoods, purple skirts, striped purple blouses and purple blazers. They were known to the people of Keswick as the “Purple Virgins”.

In the evenings Barbara and her friends would walk to Friar’s Crag, which was magic in the moonlight with views of the Jaws of Borrowdale, Causey Pike & Catbells. This is one of Barbara’s most beautiful memories and she has asked for her ashes to be scattered on Catbells.

Barbara had school practice first in Carlisle and then in Whitehaven, where the school inspectors were so impressed with her work that she was declared a Class A teacher – the first at the college for four
 years.

Barbara left her beloved Keswick with a heavy heart to return home and teach in Leeds and then in Bradford where she met her future husband Albert.

Barbara attended Pudsey Parish Church and became friends with the vicar Ted Manby. Ted married Barbara and Albert and also christened their children Richard and Jim. Just before her marriage, Ted said to Barbara: “Thank you Barbara for being just you. From your background, you could have been so different!”

The family loved life in Cummersdale, just outside Carlisle, with trips to the northern lakes, particularly Keswick a regular occurrence. 
In Cummersdale, Barbara
 taught children with Downs Syndrome.

In 1959 the family moved to Appletreewick and then Skipton. Dog walks in Aireville Park were a regular event and kept Barbara fit and healthy for many years. She loved dogs.

Barbara started work at Water Street Primary School in 1960 and eventually became deputy head. During her retirement Barbara enjoyed trips to see old friends and to visit old haunts. She enjoyed her prayer groups and loved being part of the Holy Trinity family in Skipton.

One final observation – Barbara was a true Yorkshire woman who served her Yorkshire puddings as a first course with gravy. But how on earth did she manage to get them to rise so high?

A celebration of Barbara Wilcock’s life will take place next Thursday at 11.45am at Holy Trinity Church in Skipton.

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