John Wellings obituary

Simon Wellings
·2 min read

My father, John Wellings, who has died aged 88, was a primary school head who began his career in education as a PE teacher.

John was born into a working-class family in Luton, Bedfordshire, to Hilda (nee Odell), a hat factory worker, and her husband, Ralph Wellings, a police officer. At Dunstable grammar school he excelled in all sports and after national service as a sergeant at the Army School of Education in Beaconsfield, Buckinghamshire, where he learned to box, he did teacher training at St Luke’s College, Exeter. From 1957 to 1966 he was a PE teacher at Kingsbury Technical grammar school in Dunstable, during which time he married Esther Walton, a bank cashier.

John then switched to primary school teaching, becoming headteacher at Little Munden primary school in Hertfordshire. Subsequently he was appointed headteacher at Corner Hall primary school (1970-74) and then Tudor primary school (1974-77), both in Hemel Hempstead, Hertfordshire.

A union member and moderate Labour party supporter, he was always progressive, opposed to corporal punishment at a time when it was widely accepted and committed to modern approaches to schooling and the comprehensive system.

In 1977 he accepted a move to Stalham, Norfolk, so that he could become headteacher of the new Stalham middle school. He remained there until his retirement in 1989.

A gentle and caring man with a positive attitude, he did a lot for me and my brother, Paul, in terms of our cultural and educational development.

When we were children he would always go to the park for a game of football at night, despite having had a hard day teaching – and he would regularly take us to the cinema, football matches and the zoo.

In his spare time he was a model railway enthusiast and in later life won awards for his miniature train displays. A lover of music – in particular Bob Dylan, Steeleye Span, Ralph Vaughan Williams and Bob Marley – while in Norfolk he was president of the Stalham brass band, and his favourite film was Brassed Off (1996), about the troubles faced by a colliery band following the closure of their pit.

He was a keen chess player, folk dancer, reader of Dickens, watcher of the comedian Tommy Cooper and a sports fanatic.

Esther died in 2017. He is survived by Paul and me, and five grandchildren, Eve, Nathan, Ebony, Gabriel and Grace.