Memories of Lancashire teacher who died a hero at Dunblane

It is 25 years since Lancashire teacher Gwen Mayor and 16 of her children were killed in the Dunblane massacre

Friday, 12th March 2021, 3:45 pm
Gwen Mayor as her family remember her

Gwen Mayor is remembered as an “intelligent, elegant, vivacious and artistic” person.

She was just 45 years old when she was murdered trying to protect her class of five and six-year-old pupils from a gunman who walked into their school on the morning of March 13, 1996.

Gwen was brought up in Lancashire the daughter of Preston policeman Ken Hodson and his wife Edna.

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Gwen Mayor with her class of Primary One pupils at Dunblane Primary School

Born in Preston, Ken served in the RAF until 1939 when he joined the Blackburn division of Lancashire Constabulary. He would later be posted in Bury, Widnes and Bolton,before moving back to Lea, Preston.

Throughout his time with the force the family lived in Great Harwood where Gwen and her sister Joan were raised. She moved to the small Scottish town of Bridge of Allan, north of Stirling, after marrying childhood sweetheart Rod Mayor.

The couple had been together since they were teenagers and would have celebrated their 25th wedding anniversary in August 1997. Gwen was the first victim of the massacre at Dunblane Primary School and her injuries indicated she had been trying to protect her pupils when she was shot six times.

Ken and Edna were on holiday in Clitheroe and only found out the terrible news when they turned on the six o’clock news that evening.

Speaking at the time Rod said of his wife, “It is difficult to explain but if you went into one of her classrooms you could sense what she had done because she had this instinctive flair.’’

The family received thousands of letters in the aftermath of the shooting including one from a former colleague forced into retirement through ill health.

She spoke about how much Gwen’s regular visits had meant to her. The Mayor family had no idea Gwen had given up her lunch hour in this way.

Other letters spoke of her sense of humour, her style and kindness and sense of fun which she brought to everything she did.

After his wife’s murder Rod found a sheaf of humorous poems written by Gwen including one to a neighbour whose car she had reversed into for a second time.

Eight days after her murder more than 500 mourners turned out for the popular teacher’s funeral at Dunblane Cathedral.

Local shops and businesses closed out of respect and parents of some of the dead and injured children joined former pupils for the service.

A neighbour of the family described Gwen as “a person who stood out in a crowd. Intelligent, elegant, vivacious, artistic, musical. She loved to dine and dance and visit the theatre and keep herself fit with swimming and aerobics.’’

After qualifying as a teacher at Nottingham University in 1971 Gwen taught at a number of schools across Scotland before settling at Dunblane Primary School.

She had spent eight years there and at the time she was killed and had been looking after a class of 28 Primary One age pupils.

Gwen and Rod, a mechanical engineer, had two daughters, Esther, who was 21 at the time of the tragedy, and Debbie, who was 19.

Gwen Mayor was posthumously awarded the Queen’s Commendation for bravery.