Obituary - Joan Pinner 1930-2012

Kerra Maddern

Joan Pinner was forced to abandon her youthful teaching ambitions in order to support her family. Such were the expectations of the time. But her childhood dream came true years later when her talent for working with children was spotted; she finally entered the profession in her late thirties.

Joan Speak was born and grew up in Burnley, Lancashire, the youngest of three children. Her father had been in a gas attack during the First World War and, as a result, he suffered from poor health and pneumonia for the rest of his life. He died young, having worked as a weaver and then a labourer for a textile machinery company.

Despite this loss, Joan excelled academically, winning a scholarship at what was then called Burnley High School for Girls. This meant she could stay on at school for longer than was common at the time - and it was here that she decided she wanted to be a teacher. But when Joan turned 16, her family could no longer afford for her to remain in education and she left school to earn a salary, taking up a position as a telephonist at the local post office and town hall.

At the age of 19 she married Vernon Pinner, who worked with her sister at a textile machinery company. The couple had two children: David in 1953 and Beverley two years later.

Mrs Pinner took on a variety of jobs while her children were young, including leaflet delivery and working on a fruit and vegetable stall. But when she became a dinner lady at Worsthorne Primary in Burnley, the school attended by her children, everything changed. James Clitheroe, the headteacher, was so impressed by her ability with pupils that he told her she had the potential to be a good teacher.

Inspired by this, she enrolled at Manchester College of Education, making the long journey by public transport every day for three years until she graduated in 1967. When she qualified, a vacancy opened up at Worsthorne, an opportunity she leaped at. She ended up working at the school for 22 years.

Very popular with children, with whom she shared many a lighthearted moment, the new teacher also maintained an air of authority. Mrs Pinner soon became known for her extracurricular work. She was central to the success of many school plays - including the production of costumes - while also running the netball and rounders teams.

Mrs Pinner retired in 1989 after injuring her back and becoming disillusioned by the increasing amount of paperwork involved in the job. But she continued caring for others, most notably her husband's aunt and mother. The end of her school career also allowed the couple to return to one of their chief passions: travel. The family had begun taking foreign holidays in the 1950s, when long-distance travel with children was unusual.

Mrs Pinner was diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer's five years ago and her husband cared for her as her health deteriorated, despite his failing sight.

She died last month at the age of 82.

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Kerra Maddern

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