A Tribute to
Headteacher of our School (1968 – 1980)
and Local Historian
I met Cyril Ward in August 1964 when, as a young college leaver, I took up my first teaching post at Butts C.E. Primary School (the previous name of our present school). Cyril was working in the same Year Group and he quickly took me under his wing.
During the Summer before I joined the school, Cyril had married Carol, who was also working in the Junior Department of the school.
I have many fond memories of those early days working alongside Cyril. One Wednesday morning, in particular, stands out. Each week, on Wednesdays, our two classes went to Bedford Church for a Communion Service, conducted by the Vicar, John Lowe. We went every week – whatever the weather. Both classes walked together, along Battersby Street, and through Bedford Square.
On this particular Wednesday morning, May 1st, I hadn’t noticed the significance of the date. Obviously Cyril had !
I was surprised when we came out of the classroom to find that Cyril’s class had already gone ahead of us. We set off on our own. As we walked through Bedford Square I was surprised to see that the gates at the top of the Square were closed. I had never seen this before on our previous journeys to church.
A man was standing in front of the gate. He explained that, by tradition, the owners of the square, Courtaulds, were allowed to charge a toll of one old penny to any person using the square on May Day.
I had 40 children with me and very little money in my pocket – certainly not the three shillings and five pence I needed to pay the toll. I contemplated asking for a bill to give to Mr Davies, our Headteacher. That was a daunting prospect !
It was then that I saw Cyril, with a huge grin on his face, looking round the church wall. He had arranged it all !
In 1968, when Howard Davies retired, Cyril was appointed as Headteacher of the school. At the same time he and Carol were bringing up a young family – their two sons David and Tim.
The staff still remember the occasion of the Queen’s Silver Jubilee. Cyril was determined that every child should be presented with a gift to celebrate the Queen’s visit to Leigh. He had quite a production line going making commemorative mugs for the children in the cellar underneath the school !
When Cyril retired, in Summer 1980, I was appointed Headteacher of the school as his successor. Shortly afterwards he suffered a heart attack. When he had recovered he threw himself into his other great passion – the history of Leigh.
His photograph collection of old Leigh is totally unique. He was determined to record the old buildings of Leigh before many of them were lost. He not only took photographs himself but also collected them from other local sources. His collection is now stored in the Leigh archives. He worked with his Leigh History Society colleagues on several projects about the history of Leigh.
His book, ‘The Ghosts of Leigh’ was illustrated by pupils from our school. It became a best seller and is soon to be reprinted. You can hear a recording of Cyril being interviewed, for local radio, about the book, on this Website.
Cyril’s overwhelming pride was his family. The house was always full of music and David and Tim now both have successful music based careers.
Cyril, sadly, died in February, 1988. I know that he is remembered, with great affection, by the many children he taught, by the staff he worked with at Butts C.E. School, and by his colleagues and friends in the Leigh History Society. His photographs, which are now kept in the Leigh Archives, are a wonderful legacy to the town he loved.
I hope that this record, of just a small part of his collection of photographs of Leigh, is a worthy tribute to his life and work.
Many of the following photographs are taken by Cyril Ward.
Some others come from the collection he made of
existing photographs of old Leigh
The originals of these photographs are now held in the Leigh Archives.
They must not be copied for commercial purposes.
Play an extract of an interview given by Cyril on local radio. This is the story of 'The Bombardier' from his book 'The Ghosts of Leigh'