Sheffield headteacher who taught hundreds of children in a 40 year long career dies ages 91

A former Sheffield headteacher who saw hundreds of children go through his schools in a 40-year career and was given an MBE for services to education has died aged 91.

Wednesday, 27th February 2019, 3:48 pm
Updated Wednesday, 27th February 2019, 3:57 pm
Gilbert Bashforth.

Gilbert Bashforth MBE was headteacher at Beck Road School in Shiregreen for more than 25 years, after becoming one of Sheffield’s youngest-ever heads while still in his 30s.

Born in Conisbrough in 1928 and educated at Doncaster Grammar School, the young Gilbert overcame disability to reach the very top of his trade, but always said he owed his career to the time he spent teaching illiterate men to read and write while on National Service.

Collecting his MBE at the Palace.

His son David, aged 59, who now lives in Dorset, said: “Hundreds of children must have known him. He saw children come through his school and then taught their children after them, which doesn’t happen very often anymore.

“We had a mirror dinghy sailing boat and he used to take children from the school out in it at weekends. Beck Road was in the middle of a council estate so he wanted to give the kids opportunities they wouldn’t otherwise have had.

“The other love of his life was church, which he devoted a lot of time to. He was busy but he always found time to take us swimming on Saturdays and invested a lot of time in our education.

“He never taught me but he had connections with pretty much every headteacher in Sheffield so we couldn’t get away with anything.”

Gilbert in the army in 1948.

Gilbert moved to Sheffield in 1950, living in the same house in Norton with his wife Marguerite for more than 60 years.

From grammar school, Gilbert had intended to pursue a career in engineering, but his time on National Service changed his life completely.

Being one of the better educated recruits, he got the job of teaching some of the other men to read and write – and instantly felt he was doing something worthwhile.

When he came out of the army he did his teacher training and began his career in Attercliffe, before moving to Ecclesall Juniors and then Beck Road.

Gilbert and wife Marguerite on their wedding day.

David said his dad’s achievements were made all the more remarkable as he was born with a cleft palate, and was not initially expected to survive infanthood.

Not only did he survive, he went on to have a successful career as a headteacher and education adviser, and also addressed conferences of the National Association of Headteachers.

“All his life struggled with and was conscious of trying to speak clearly so to be suddenly addressing a conference was a big challenge for him,” said David.

His MBE, which followed in 1987, came ‘completely out of the blue’ and meant a memorable trip to Buckingham Palace.

Gilbert with his first grandchild Abigail in 1992.

After spending most of his retirement in Sheffield, Gilbert moved to Dorset with Marguerite in 2012, where she died in 2016. He is survived by his sons Stephen and David, as well as two of his siblings, John and Joyce, and four grandchildren.

His funeral will take place at Poole crematorium in Dorset on March 6 at 11.30am. Flowers or donations to The Prince’s Trust or Operation Smile may be sent via funeral director A E Jolliffe and Son, Ferndown, Dorset, BH22 9HT.

Gilbert with wife Marguerite.