In 1970 my friend Len Wilson, who has died aged 93, decided he needed a relaxing activity outside his work as a primary school headteacher, and joined Steeton Male Voice Choir. He recently celebrated 50 years with the choir, and was key to its success for the best part of those five decades. His leadership and organisational skills played a huge role in sustaining SMVC as one of Yorkshire’s and even England’s leading choirs. His choir tours were legendary. They were not so much singing holidays but more a European education with a Thomas Cook guide thrown in to help everyone.
Len was born in Barrow-in Furness, to Frank, a bank clerk who became an electrician in Vickers shipyard, and Mary (nee Stewart), a homemaker. He was very proud of his roots and claimed the right to wear the Red Rose of Lancashire. Len met Margaret Horton in his teens during the second world war, and they married in 1954.
After leaving Barrow boys’ grammar school, Len trained as a teacher at St John’s College in York. Once qualified, he did his national service with the Royal Army Education Corps in Germany. Len then entered the teaching profession, starting around 1950 at Barrow secondary modern. He took a year out from teaching in 1966 to study for a BEd at Leeds University and in 1967 Len moved to the Aire Valley in Yorkshire to be headteacher of East Morton primary school. Len was a stalwart of the East Morton community and a member of St Luke’s Church choir for decades.
He was a top quality amateur sportsman. In his 20s he played as goalkeeper for Barrow AFC’s reserves. Cricket was his main passion and he played amateur cricket until he was 50. He was club captain at Furness CC and was selected for the Northern League who played against overseas touring Test teams.
He had an impact on the education of hundreds of pupils over the years and instilled a love of music in many of them. He supported and influenced children, teachers, school staff and choristers. Those who knew him bear testimony to his charm and generosity of spirit.
He is survived by Margaret, their sons, Ian and Michael, five grandchildren, Rebecca, Robert, James, Jessica and Ben, and three great-grandchildren, Noah, Elliott and Matilda.