Obituary - Gladys Good 1900-2011

25th November 2011 at 00:00

Before she died in a North Wales nursing home last month, Gladys Good was, at 111 years and seven months, the second oldest person in the UK, and had been retired from the school where she spent her entire 42-year career for over half a century.

Born in Burslem in Staffordshire in March 1900, when Queen Victoria was still on the throne and the Labour party had only just been formed, Ms Good was one of nine children born to William Wilberforce Good and his wife Marion.

Her father was a descendant of politician William Wilberforce, leader of the anti-slave-trade movement, and her mother was part of the famous Alcock pottery family.

At the age of 18, towards the end of the First World War, Ms Good had been due to attend college in Derby to study maths like her eldest sister, and started working at Packmoor Senior School to gain experience. But when her mother was taken ill, the family did not have enough money to send her to college, so she took a job at Packmoor Infants.

Unable to teach maths, she focused on making sure her pupils could read, a mission she approached with an almost religious zeal. "She thought that reading was the most important thing and she spent most of her financial allocation on books for the kids," her niece, Mary Tagg, remembers. "She had every child reading for at least 10 minutes a day. She would say if they could read they could cope with any other situation in life."

During her four-decade-long career at Packmoor, Ms Good became almost the de facto headteacher of the school, although she could not be named as such because she lacked formal teaching qualifications.

In a newspaper report on her 110th birthday, former pupils remembered her as strict, bossy, and in one case terrifying.

But Ms Tagg insists it was all in the interests of the pupils in her care. "She was strict, but she was fair. You always knew what she was thinking. (The pupils) did as they were told and they knew that. But in other ways she was extremely kind and generous, especially with her time."

When she retired in 1961, Ms Good moved to Conwy in North Wales with her mother, who was born in the area. Her father had died of bronchitis in 1940, but her mother lived to 94.

Ms Good claimed never to have drunk alcohol or smoked, but enjoyed long walks and tending to her garden - activities that she said contributed to her remarkable longevity.

At the age of 93, she was knocked down by a car, but was determined to walk again and astounded physiotherapists with her perseverance.

It was only last year, at the age of 110, and after a few tumbles at home, that she decided to move into a nursing home, where she celebrated her 111th birthday in March and received her 12th card from the Queen. She died on 24 October.

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