Tributes pour in for headteacher who saved his school from demolition

The name Harry Eccles is synonymous with Ashton High School.

Tuesday, 7th January 2020, 11:45 am
Updated Tuesday, 7th January 2020, 11:58 am
Harry Eccles launched a campaign to save Ashton High School from demolition after there were problems with the building

He was headteacher at the Preston school for 21 years - and deputy before that.

Tributes to the much loved “Gentleman” have flooded in to his family following his death .

During his long career Harry Eccles touched the lives of thousands of people.

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Harry Eccles handed the reins over the his deputy Graham Hewetson once the new building was approved

His individual approach to teaching, based on pride and reward, has been highlighted in the many tributes sent both to his family and posted on social media.

Daughter Kathryn Girven said the family was overwhelmed by the incredible response by former pupils, colleagues and others who knew him.

Harry, 84 when he die d on December 22, retired 25 years ago. But never lost his love for the school.

Kathryn says: “He spent most of his life at Ashton High and was so proud of everything the school achieved. He just loved it.”

Harry retired as the current Aldwych Drive building was about to open after he had led, and won, a campaign to spare the highly respected 750-pupil school from closure when education bosses had decided that the cost of repairing the crumbling building was too high.

They got a £4.5m new school and Harry handed over the reins to his then deputy Graham Hewetson.

Harry himself had moved to Ashton as deputy head in January 1971 after leaving his job as head of modern languages at Balshaw’s Grammar School in Leyland.

Born in Blackburn, he attended Queen Elizabeth’s Grammar School and despite spending several years in Wrightington Hospital with TB, went on to study languages at Oxford University. He did a PGCE and his first job was at Wallasey Grammar.

He spent four years there before moving to Preston, via Leyland.

All who knew him said teaching was his life - he even married a teacher. Wife Margaret taught at Moor Nook and Roebuck Primary Schools.

The couple had three children, Kathryn, Andrew and Christopher and seven grandchildren, Emily, a music teacher, Alfie, Jamie, Harry, Robert, Alastair and Iain.

After retirement Harry and Margaret travelled a lot but he had battled cancer for several years and was in hospital in July 2019, before going to St Catherine’s Hospice and then Moor Park House where he spent the last three months.

Kathryn says her dad wrote his own memoirs and added: “ He still talked about school and knew everyone’s names. He was full of memories. “People have said the most lovely things about him. He thought everyone would have forgotten about him.”

A statement from the School said: "Without doubt everyone that knew Harry Eccles would say he was a gentleman with a capital G. Without Harry there would be no Ashton. When the issue with the fabric of the building came to light the authority proposed that the school would close, Harry was the force behind the campaign to have the school re-built. He was so focused on his mission that “save Ashton” stickers were distributed, newspaper / media campaigns began, the education committee was canvassed. He was driven and passionate about saving the school and he succeeded! He was so PROUD of the school and everything that it stood for; a truly comprehensive and inclusive school. He knew EVERY child’s name, he would learn the new year 7 students over the summer holiday. He was a fair and honest boss."

The funeral will be held at Preston Crematorium on January 10.