Obituary - Ian King

30th October 2009 at 00:00


From country dancing to badminton, there were few endeavours that sports-mad Ian King would not try - or at which he did not excel.

The so-called "action man" who delighted in doing headstands also trained world-class athletes, but was known as much for his friendliness and generosity towards staff and students.

At the time of his death in early October, Mr King was head of boys' PE at St Christopher's High School in Accrington, Lancashire. He was a top-rated badminton and basketball player and a single-handicap golfer who wanted all his pupils to share the same drive for excellence.

Known as a workaholic, Mr King, who celebrated his 50th birthday shortly before his death, was often in school so early that he had eaten his lunch by 8.30am. His competitive nature was demonstrated even in his daily commute by bicycle when he strove to outpace colleagues who cycled past his house on the journey to school.

His dedication to children did not stop when lessons had finished - he also ran sports clubs for the community. His teams often won district cups, and when every other school in the area gave up swimming competitions, Mr King continued to organise an annual gala.

He was also a strict referee - even during fun staff matches. Teachers remember his joy at sports days when he would preside over events with a starting pistol.

Colleagues benefited from his infectious enthusiasm, too. It was well known that the best way to improve a golf swing was to go out on the course with Mr King. He was also in charge of teaching them how to drive the school minibus, and everyone who learnt had to take a test with him.

Ian King grew up in Accrington and attended the town's former grammar school, which was next to St Christopher's. His sporting talent was soon evident, along with his competitive nature.

He went on to train as a PE teacher at the Alsager College of Education, now Manchester Metropolitan University, and worked as a supply teacher before landing his first job at St Christopher's 27 years ago.

In school, Mr King, a Manchester United supporter, wanted every pupil to share his high ambitions for their future. He had an eye for spotting talent; among his discoveries were Justin Davies, who went on to represent England in badminton.

Mr King was admired for his relationship with the children in his care and for inspiring respect. He treated pupils in a mature way and expected the same back.

His main aim was to help them to enjoy sport. But his efforts for the PE department did not mean that he neglected the rest of the school. He was well liked by staff and friendly with everyone while always remaining professional. Although quiet, Mr King was always able to tell a joke.

Most noted was the fact that he was happy to speak to everyone in the school without being aloof. This was particularly appreciated by kitchen staff - Mr King was always willing to do duty at break and lunchtimes even though he had a full timetable.

Mr King started many traditions during the course of his long career at St Christopher's, in particular the annual Christmas country dance. Although known as a "man's man", Mr King took great pleasure in teaching pupils dancing steps in the weeks before the dance, and in leading it and taking to the floor with 100 children.

Another tradition was the annual activities day, when children were given the chance to try an enormous range of activities, from abseiling to sailing, skiing, sail-boarding or golf.

He had no ambitions to teach anywhere other than St Christopher's and was pleased to be working in a productive environment where pupils achieved the best exam results in the town.

Mr King retained his agility throughout his years at St Christopher's and was always willing to demonstrate gymnastics, including headstands. In one memorable Christmas pantomime, he double somersaulted on to the stage. He and his badminton doubles partner played annual matches against students and never lost.

Mr King was diagnosed with a brain tumour in July and given a good prognosis after a successful operation. But during his course of chemotherapy - which leaves the immune system weakened - he contracted pneumonia.

He leaves a wife and three daughters.

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