Obituary - Rick Mosley

20th August 2010 at 01:00


War hero, football club director and charity fundraiser: Rick Mosley fitted a lot into his life, even aside from his work transforming schools.

The strict disciplinarian used the skills he learnt during the Second World War to enrich his community.

Mr Mosley grew up near Chesterfield, Derbyshire. When the Second World War began he was studying at Edinburgh University, and joined the army. After training at Sandhurst, he became a captain in the Glider Pilot regiment - the smallest British unit in the war.

He served from 1942 until 1948, fighting in the Battle of Arnhem (immortalised in the film A Bridge Too Far), and playing a part in the invasion of Germany and the liberation of Nazi concentration camps. However, he was always reluctant to discuss his military experiences afterwards.

After leaving the army, Mr Mosley returned to his studies, completing his history degree at Sheffield University before training as a teacher.

He married Jean, whom he had grown up with in Derbyshire - they had been born within 100 yards of one another. Their marriage was to be long and happy: married for 57 years, each considered it an "honour" to be married to the other.

Mr Mosley's first teaching post was Chesterfield Community College, where he taught until 1954. However, Mrs Mosley moved with her father to Devon, as he had bought an educational book company. Mr Mosley followed her south, and thrived, making the swap from mining to fishing communities.

Arriving in Paignton, South Devon, at Christmas, he found a teaching job within 10 days. This was at Brixham College, where he was able to take the ferry from work to his new home.

Within a couple of years, he moved to another small coastal secondary, Dartmouth College. Here, he moved up the ranks, becoming deputy head and eventually headteacher.

His army training had made him a disciplinarian, but he was widely respected for being "firm but fair". Mr Mosley told colleagues he didn't think his job as headteacher was to "win any popularity contests": he just wanted to get on with the job.

His strictness wasn't limited to his pupils - or even his teachers. An inspector who turned up in jeans was told off and told to come back the next day dressing as smartly as Mr Mosley insisted his staff did.

Despite this, he was a popular head. Teachers appreciated his honesty and support: he made them feel important.

Never afraid to take on new challenges, Mr Mosley set up a local Duke of Edinburgh's Award group, as well as running a Territorial Army unit. Not content with watching football as a fan, he became a director of Torquay United, travelling the country with his team. He was also a longstanding member of Rotary Clubs in both Paignton and Dartmouth, and a keen fundraiser for charity.

In 1969, he took over Paignton Boys' School. He knew that it was about to become mixed sex - an idea he supported - and he was chosen to become the first head of the new Paignton Community College.

The new school had challenges of its own: serving a deprived community, its pupils were those who had failed to get into the three local grammar schools. Yet under Mr Mosley's leadership, the school was named by the Government as one of the 10 best in the country. A recent Ofsted inspection rated Paignton Community College "outstanding". Current principal Jane English attributes this to Mr Mosley's well-laid foundations.

Running a 1,700-pupil school was demanding, but Mr Mosley still taught as often as he could. He was a well-known figure in the community, and even after his retirement in 1986 he was constantly being recognised and greeted by former students.

This included the two district nurses who looked after him towards the end of his life, a nursing sister at the hospice and the funeral directors. The nurses told him they fought over who sat at the front of his class because they loved his aftershave - Mr Mosley then asked his wife to buy him the scent so he could wear it for them.

After retirement, Mr Mosley helped his wife and daughter, Jacky, run the family business - the educational book company that had brought him to Devon in the first place. Jacky died two years ago. Mr Mosley is survived by Jean, and Jacky's sons Elliott and Callum; Elliott is a local teacher.

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