Tributes to 'free-spirited’ Oswaldtwistle teacher who was ‘heart of family’ and dedicated life to kids

Tributes have been paid to a ‘free-spirited’ teacher who was ‘the heart of the family’ and devoted her life to enriching the lives of generations of children.

Jean Teresa Gavin, of Catlow Hall Street, Oswaldtwistle, passed away in hospital after an unexpected heart attack on May 7, aged 91. The mother-of-four was a devoted English, RE and sociology teacher at Holy Family school in Accrington in the 1970s.

She also was a well respected supply teacher at St Mary’s Roman Catholic Primary School in Oswaldtwistle. Her son, Sean, said: “She was very kind, intelligent, witty and independent, and she had a great sense of humour. No matter where we go people always remember her.

“Pupils remember her as being small and wearing a bun and high heels. They say she was always good with them and made them laugh.

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“She took schoolchildren on trips and she was very much involved in school life. She was a free spirit and this outlook on life earned her many friends both inside and out of the family. She was the heart of the family and, as such, a part of her beats in us all today. We will hear that beat whenever we need strength.”

Jean was born in Nelson to parents Joseph and (Mary) Jane. Her early memories were of the war, and she spent some time in the country with her mum and much-loved pet dog while her dad worked away in a munitions factory.

She particularly recalled a German plane being forced to land in the fields nearby and the pilot surrendering to the local Home Guard. Her mum worked as a cotton weaver and her dad would write poetry in his spare time, something that Jean was to show a great interest later on in life.

She moved to Accrington and continued her education at Paddock House in Oswaldtwistle where she would later take up work as a supply teacher. When Jean left school she went to work as a bank clerk but decided to pursue a career in teaching due to her creative passion for literature and reading.

She met her husband, Martin and they had four children – Paul, Michael, Jane and Sean. Her last teaching post was at Saint Augustine’s Roman Catholic High School in Billington where she taught English and RE.

Former students speak fondly of her on social media and have often told her children how they remember her as “the good teacher”. The sociology and English graduate went on solo trips to North Africa and Casablanca and took her two teenage children to Austria to see the famous Passion Play.

Jean, who was affectionately known as Nanny-bob, was also a very proud self-published author of three books which were featured in Oswaldtwistle Mills. She was inspired to write ‘A Journey Round My Cottage’ after discovering a hidden well underneath her Broadfield cottage in Oswaldtwistle.

The beloved grandmother-of-seven was gardening one day when suddenly the soil began to crumble and revealed a hidden set of stairs spiralling underneath the cottage leading to small cellar rooms. She also stumbled across a well.

The Historical Society came to have a look at her fascinating discovery.

Jean began to research who lived at the cottage before her and went to libraries and spoke with historians as well as former dwellers of the cottage.

She also published ‘Murder, Madness and Mayhem’ which explores crime and punishment in the Victorian times, as well as ‘From Fun to Felony in Nineteenth Century Hyndburn’.

The adored greatgrandmother-of-three was considered an expert in local history and she was invited to appear on the radio.

Jean loved animals and adored her dog, Charlie and cat, Rocky.

She enjoyed taking Charlie on walks in Rhyddings Park in Oswald-twistle and having family meals at the Game Cock in Great Harwood.

Every summer Jean and her family would enjoy adventures in Ireland where made many happy memories.

They would help out at a farm and milk the cows.

Jean had a great love for tennis and enthusiastically watched Wimbledon matches with strawberries and cream, with a cardboard cut-out of Rafa Nadal beside the TV.