OBITUARY: Former head of Morley Grammar School fondly remembered

Ralph Carr, pictured in 1965 when he took up the headship of Morley Grammar School.
Ralph Carr, pictured in 1965 when he took up the headship of Morley Grammar School.

RALPH Carr, who was headmaster at Morley Grammar School and Morley High School from 1965 to 1991, has died after a short illness. He was 84.

A proud Yorkshireman, Ralph was born and brought up in Sheffield.

Head Master Ralph Carr pictured following the 1976 speech Day

Head Master Ralph Carr pictured following the 1976 speech Day

He attended High Storrs Grammar School in the city, and never lost his affection for the school.

He was then the first of his family to go on to university.

During the Second World War, he served as a Bevin Boy in the South Yorkshire coalfields.

He would have preferred the armed services, but grew to be proud of his contribution in the mines, and was among the first recipients of the Bevin Boys medal in 2008.

Mr Carr was a keen cricketer and footballer in his youth and beyond, and golfer into his 80s.

He remained loyal to Sheffield United and Yorkshire cricket through thick and thin, and he greatly enjoyed recent successes in the Ryder Cup and the Ashes.

After a BA in History at Sheffield University, Ralph moved to London to complete his teacher training qualification, bringing together the two great passions of his life – how understanding the past informs the present and the future, and a determination to ensure the next generations could have the best opportunities possible.

After teaching in the Midlands and London, he returned to the North in 1960 as principal lecturer at Matlock Teacher Training College in Derbyshire.

He enjoyed the job hugely but missed the day to day buzz of a school and in 1965 came back to Yorkshire to become only the fourth headmaster of Morley Grammar School.

In 1965, it was a traditional Grammar School, overseen by the West Riding Education Authority, with entry by exam at 11, and was based in the original buildings on Fountain Street, plus some space hired from the adjacent mill.

By 1976, after a decade of rising achievement at O and A-level, and in university admissions, it became the new Morley High School, with comprehensive admission and new buildings built by Leeds City Council on the land formerly used for hockey pitches on Fountain Street.

Mr Carr led this process of development and growth, driven by the goal of giving the children of Morley the chances that he was lucky enough to have for himself, and making sure that they were ready and able to take them.

The school’s latest mission statement, “that young people in Morley must have the best possible educational opportunities opened up to them”, sums him up perfectly.

As the school, grew, so did the staff complement, and Ralph was very proud of the strong and enthusiastic staff team he built up.

Many of them spent the bulk of their careers in Morley and several met their partners there.

Nothing gave him more pleasure than supporting a young teacher to develop and flourish, and he saw it as a privilege to guide and encourage them.

Mr Carr enjoyed the full range of school activities, including taking parts in school plays and concerts, and the annual challenges of setting the timetable by hand and finding an interesting speech day speaker.

He supported and encouraged teachers who wanted to try new ideas, and hugely enjoyed joining in history and geography field trips – so long as the educational content was up to his standards.

He loved the hall that was built in 1963, and was very saddened by its destruction by fire in 1996 – but thankful that the harpsichord and war memorial were saved.

Mr Carr was humbled when a sixth form group visited Berlin in 1990 and brought him a piece of the Berlin Wall.

For many years, he was a member of the Joint Matriculation Board which, overseen by Manchester University, set O and A-level exams for the north of England; he made sure that history exams did not get easier!

He was also active in the Secondary Headteachers’ Association.

Outside school, he was part of the wider Morley community, as a member of Howley Hall Golf club, of the Rotary Club, and as a regular at Scatcherd Lane for Morley RFC – where he was an Honorary Patron for many years.

Retirement in 1991 opened up new avenues for Mr Carr.

He was elected to the parish council in his adopted home at East Keswick and became a voluntary lecture organiser for the National Trust across West Yorkshire.

He also took time to indulge his love of music and travel and became a key member of the organising committee of the Leeds International Piano Competition, and travelled enthusiastically in Europe.

Throughout, he remained committed to his family, supporting them and urging them on, and taking delight in their successes – becoming a grandfather was a real highlight of his life.

Mr Carr is survived by his wife Joan, their three sons and two grandchildren.