RAILWAY enthusiast and amateur geologist and archaeologist George Hallett, who died five days short of his 93rd birthday, had been headteacher of four Church of England schools in Leeds.
Active in his local church, he was a churchwarden and co-editor with Michael Brown, religious affairs correspondent for The Yorkshire Post, of a history of that church. Noble and Spacious tells the story of Saint Matthew’s in Chapel Allerton.
Born in Grimsby and one of three children, Mr Hallett lived nearly all his adult life in Yorkshire.
He was 10 when his father, a veteran of the First World War, died. He had signed up despite being beyond normal soldiering age, believing that by doing so he would save his sons from having to fight in years to come.
He taught his younger son to play the organ by ear, and a devout Methodist, he passed on to him his love of hymns.
Mr Hallett went to Winteringham Grammar School and from there to what was then the City of Leeds Training College at Becketts Park.
By now the Second World War had begun and the college being evacuated to Scarborough, he completed his training there.
He took up his first teaching post at Colton Village School just outside York, but was called up within two weeks of starting.
He joined the RAF as a flight sergeant wireless mechanic, and was sent to Egypt and Iraq, which introduced him to adventure and travel. Fascinated by their ancient civilisations, he took up archaeology, an interest that lasted the rest of his life.
Having already begun a small collection of ancient artefacts, at the end of the war he managed to arrange a trip to Greece, successfully putting off his demobilisation so as to be able to make it.
Back in England in 1946, he joined the staff of All Saints CoE School in Leeds and taught there until 1953.
In 1950 he met Jean Pyke at a bus stop outside Leeds Town Hall. They were the only two who had turned up for a planned NUT hike, and discovered they lived just round the corner from each other in the Roundhay area of the city. Two years later they were married.
In 1953 he moved to Newton St John’s CoE school and from there to Buslingthorpe School but after a year came promotion to the headship of Kirkstall St Stephen’s.
Subsequently he was head teacher at Headingley, then Moortown and finally Beckett Park Middle School.
He was a headteacher for 27 years, from 1955 to 1982, yet he once confessed that teaching was not his first choice of career.
As a young schoolboy, he not only trainspotted with his elder brother Edward, but he went off to his local railway station on Saturday mornings to assist the booking clerk with issuing tickets – unpaid.
He longed to become a railwayman, but his mother absolutely forbade it. She was unable, however, to stifle his interest. In later life he found a substitute by building a model railway in his attic, and seemed to know just about everything there was to know about the real thing: he never turned down the chance to travel by train, and took great delight in providing a running commentary during a St Matthew’s parish expedition some 30 years ago on the Settle and Carlisle railway.
In his garden he installed a railway signal, acquired with some difficulty but – as he was able to re-assure a police officer more than curious at seeing it on the back of a truck – acquired legally and properly paid for.
He delighted in taking his school on a trip by train, and on one occasion caused a sensation by riding on the footplate.
He is survived by his wife Jean, their children Margaret, Anne, John and Elizabeth, and five grandchildren and one great-grandchild.