Norman Jones

Burton Grammar School Master (Chemistry 1945 – 1979)

Norman was born in Swinton, an area of Greater Manchester which was best known for its cotton mills and Rugby League team. His early school days were spent at a local Junior school where his father was Headmaster.

At age eleven, he won a scholarship to enter Eccles grammar School where his various successes, which included colours for athletics, culminated in him gaining entry to Manchester University to read Chemistry.

jones01When he graduated three years later, the second world war was quite well advanced and Norman’s knowledge was put to use overseeing the production at the Government Explosives Establishment in Drigg, south of Whitehaven.

After the war, Norman sought a post in teaching, and was successful in obtaining a post at Burton Grammar School, being appointed by the then Headmaster, Mr H.S. Moodey who was a Cambridge Chemistry Graduate and thus well able to assess Norman’s potential value to the school.

jones02.jpgFor the first years at Burton Grammar School, Norman lodged with the Binns family in Winshill. When his father began to suffer with his health, his parents moved from Manchester to Winshill and Norman moved in with them. Norman was though, soon to marry and move to Ashby Road where he was to remain for the rest of his life in a home still occupied by his wife, Sheila.

Initially, Norman worked under the departmental Head at the time, Mr E.C. Nicholson. This partnership enabled the department to flourish and many of their pupils performing with distinction in Open Examinations. In 1952 Mr Nicholson retired and Norman was promoted to take over the Chemistry Department. He was to hold this post for a further twenty-seven years until his eventual retirement.

sportsNorman was also heavily involved with school athletics in his early days, having earlier in his life been a promising sprinter. He working together with Victor Roebuck, the appointed PE (Physical Education) teacher, not knowing at this time that the two of them were destined to remain on the Grammar School teaching staff together for many decades to come.

At school, Norman was a keen but fair disciplinarian. He would not tolerate indiscipline in the vicinity of so many potentially dangerous substances. He was known to speak his mind but also, to be warm-hearted and was full of goodness; being generously helpful to anyone he felt he could assist. Under his leadership, the Chemistry Department continued to achieve high standards, and many of Norman’s pupils gained entrance Scholarships or Exhibitions to the top Universities.

LabsNorman taught at both Bond Street and Winshill and had considerable input into the design of the new laboratories. The original benches at Winshill proved to be too large and had to be hurriedly modified before school was back in session.

Hugh Wood, the French teacher whose time also spanned Bond Street and Winshill, became one of his closest friends and colleagues. Together, they ran the school Scout Troop. Hugh also wrote the scripts for gang shows that were held for several years in Bond Street Old Hall in which Norman was to appear. Ballroom dancing was another of Norman’s interests and he and a mistress at the Girls High School ran dance classes, held in the Girls High School. He was also involved with the annual Christmas dances held there which provided many happy memories.

In the nineteen-sixties, Norman and Hugh developed an association with the London University School of Economics and became two of the representative educationalists to travel overseas to study educational systems in other parts of the World. This included multiple trips to different parts of America and Russia. A later trip to China was abandoned. On one of the trips to America, Hugh Wood had a fall and broke his femur necessitating a special seat on the plane home.

With many photographic slides of his travels, Norman presented a number of illustrative presentations to the Grammar School Sixth Form Society, as well as many outside groups and societies which were very much appreciated by those fortunate enough to attend. The experience had given Norman the yearning to travel and subsequently he became a very keen caravanner, travelling very extensively on the continent with his wife and young son during the long school holidays.

Norman found it very difficult to adjust after the changeover from the Grammar School to the comprehensive system. He was very bemused at how much time he had to spend traversing between the three amalgamated sites and perhaps the final straw came when he was asked to go down the hill to Ada Chadwick and take Needlework for the afternoon.

jones03Norman requested early retirement and consequently retired in 1979. Post-retirement, Norman and Sheila led an active and enjoyable life together and made the most of their join love to travel. In what was to be his final year alone, he and his wife travelled to Spain, Africa, and South America. With only minor ailments, his death on June 10th, 2005 came as something of a sad surprise.

Norman is survived by his wife Sheila and his son Graham, who was himself a pupil of Burton Grammar School, and now works as a Consultant Anaesthetist at Preston Royal Hospital.


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