Peter Pickersgill

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PETER Pickersgill who as a dedicated teacher inspired both colleagues and students during 32 years at one of the country’s pioneering comprehensive schools, has died aged 81.

A modest and unassuming man with a dry wit, he was devoted to sport and as head of physical education at Colne Valley High School, Huddersfield, helped to produce many English schools’ athletes as well as talented young players of rugby union, soccer and basketball, and cross country runners.

As an all-round athlete, he took great pride in passing on his knowledge and encouraging young sporting talent and was proud to be a top rated head of PE at a West Yorkshire school.

He was born in Birstall, near Batley, the younger son of Leonard Pickersgill who worked as a carding engineer, and his wife Edith.

He was educated at Batley Grammar School where he was in the 1st X1 at soccer, and also played as an inside forward for Ossett Albion.

After leaving school in 1948, he did two years National Service as a physical training instructor in the RAF, during which time he took part in the Royal Tournament as a member of the fencing team.

He then went to City of Worcester teacher training college where he studied PE and social studies. While there he met Monica Horton who was later to become his wife.

From Worcester he went to Loughborough College to do a third year, which at the time was very hard to get into. While there he played 1st X1 soccer, basketball and athletics in which he was very close to the top flight.

In 1954, he spent a year at Barnoldswick Secondary Modern School as master in charge of PE before moving to Royds Hall Grammar School, Huddersfield, for three years as head of the department of boys’ PE where he produced successful English schools’ athletes and soccer players.

He then moved to Colne Valley High School, the first purpose built comprehensive school in the then West Riding, as head of the physical education department.

There he introduced rugby union and as a non-playing member of Huddersfield Rugby Union Football Club and a selector for Yorkshire schools rugby the school acted as a feeder for the club producing a lot of young talent.

As an all round athlete, Mr Pickersgill was a member of Leeds Athletics Club, Yorkshire Amateur Athletics Association and Northern Counties Athletics Association. He was a sprinter for Yorkshire and a member of the county sprint relay team. He also won many prizes in races organised by local companies in the days when many large firms had their own sports fields.

When his own athletics career ended, he took up judging at field events, working his way through the ranks to become a top grade judge and then a referee at international events. He was also involved in Olympic and Commonwealth events, but only in the ones in Britain as he would not fly. As a judge and referee he could often be seen in the background at televised events.

Mr Pickersgill was also well known in hockey circles through supporting his wife who, as a talented player had been a reserve for the England team. She was later national president of the All England Women’s Hockey Association.

“Without his support I could not have done all the things I did,” said Mrs Pickersgill.

After he retired in 1990 he and his wife supported Leeds Tykes Rugby Union team, later known as Leeds Carnegie, following them to matches home and away.

Mr Pickersgill is survived by his wife of 55 years. His brother predeceased him.