Sydney Richardson

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SYDNEY Richardson, a well-respected Leeds teacher who grew up in Kirkby Stephen, has died, aged 81.

Mr Richardson was educated at Appleby Grammar School where he won a scholarship to Queen’s College Oxford.

Before going up to Oxford, he performed two years’ National Service. After basic training in the Royal Army Medical Corps, he was commissioned into the Royal Army Service Corps, where he gained his driving licence by driving a Bedford three-tonner for half a mile, passing a hay cart on the way.

While attending a subsequent summer camp in 1953, his platoon was sent to assist the victims of the Linton and Lynmouth Flood Disaster.

At Queen’s College, Mr Richardson studied history, attending lectures by A.J.P. Taylor and Hugh Trevor-Roper, among others.

He also played hockey for the College. In Oxford on the day Roger Bannister broke the four-minute mile, he regretted having that afternoon gone to watch the cricket instead of athletics.

Graduating in 1955, Mr Richardson obtained his Teaching Certificate from Leeds University the following year. He recounted with amusement how he spent the summer term of 1956 at Kirkby Stephen Grammar School teaching domestic science.

He married his childhood sweetheart, Rhoda Jackson, also of Kirkby Stephen, in August of that year. She was the daughter of two well-known local shopkeepers, William Jackson who had the cycle shop and Margery Jackson who ran the Wool Shop two doors from the Midland Bank. Miss Jackson was at the time of her marriage teaching at Warcop School.

The couple decided to make their home in Leeds, where Mr Richardson became first a history teacher at Leeds Modern School, then from 1961 Head of History at Allerton High School for Girls.

History soon became a popular A-level option, as Mr Richardson displayed both a thorough knowledge of and an infectious enthusiasm for his subject. One former pupil described him as probably the best teacher she ever had, because he taught her to think.

Unusually for the time, Mr Richardson was promoted twice within the same school, firstly to Deputy Head in 1971 (when the school became co-educational) and then again in 1977 when he was appointed headmaster, a post which he retained until his retirement in 1989.

Alongside his busy professional life, Mr Richardson was heavily involved in church activities. He had attended church since being a young boy, when his mother took him along to the Primitive Methodist Chapel in Kirkby Stephen.

After his mother died tragically young at the age of 34, Mr Richardson continued to attend Chapel with his grandmother. After her death, he attended the Congregational Church, but in his teenage years he began to attend services at the Parish Church. While there, he became a member of the Boys’ Brigade, the Youth Club and the Church Youth Fellowship, being some time Treasurer of the latter.

For the whole of his 50 years in Leeds, Mr Richardson was a member of St Barnabas’s Church, Alwoodley. He was the committee secretary for many years and was instrumental in the planning of the new church building, constructed in 1962. He was also for a long period the Christian Aid Area Organiser for Leeds 17 and, later, a member of the Rotary Club of Leeds Elmete.

Continuing his sporting interests, Mr Richardson played badminton for recreation and enjoyed turning out for the annual Staff-v-Sixth Form hockey match at Allerton High School.

He also took up golf and was a member of Sandmoor Golf Club, Alwoodley. There he was able to combine two of his interests by writing a history of the club to mark its 75th anniversary.

After retirement, Mr Richardson was able to develop his interest in local history, taking an external course at Lancaster University.

Widowed in 1999, Mr Richardson subsequently moved back “home” to the former county of Westmorland, settling in Kirkby Lonsdale. There he made many more friends and became a member of St Mary’s Parish Church, where he illuminated Remembrance Sunday by researching the lives of all the servicemen who are commemorated on the local war memorial.

Mr Richardson is survived by his son Jonathan and daughter-in-law Fliss of Temple Sowerby, his brother Keith and sister-in-law Phyllis of Fingall, near Leyburn, and his granddaughter Jenny of Leyland, Lancashire.