Celebration of life for inspirational teacher

John Errington in his native Seahouses.
John Errington in his native Seahouses.

A celebration is being planned for the life of an inspirational teacher, who died late last year.

John Errington, who was born in Seahouses, died at the age of 65 after suffering from cancer.

A former pupil at the Duke’s Grammar School in Alnwick, he toured the world on a shoestring as a young man, funding his travels by taking on jobs ranging from tobacco farming in Canada to fishing in Belize.

He went to Sheffield to read botany and geology at university, settling down in the city and becoming a biology teacher. He taught for many years at Aston Comprehensive School, now Aston Academy.

He was diagnosed with mouth cancer in March 2017 and died on December 21.

Family and friends are set to fulfil his dying wish by organising a party rather than a funeral, at which uplifting banners he designed himself are due to be unfurled.

The celebration of life is being held next month in Sheffield.

John, a father-of-four, was made an MBE in 2004 for his work forging links between his school and the seaside village of Makunduchi on the island of Zanzibar, off Africa’s east coast.

That involved exchange trips, raising funds for much-needed facilities from farms to new classrooms, partly through the sale of villagers’ handmade crafts in the UK.

John Whitton, a close friends and former colleague, said: “John was an unorthodox teacher but his methods paid off and he was incredibly well-respected by pupils and staff.

“He had a knack for inspiring people, especially his students, and the work he did setting up the Makunduchi link changed lives both over there and here. I think his former students would say they’re better people because of it.”

John campaigned tirelessly on issues ranging from preventing fracking to saving Sheffield’s trees, and his plethora of placards were a familiar sight at demonstrations across the city and beyond.

He was also a keen musician, playing guitar and ukulele.

His ex-wife Sue Wallis described him as a ‘true eccentric’ with ‘boundless energy’, who was never one to turn down an adventure.

She told how his memoirs, written after his terminal diagnosis, are packed with tales of madcap escapades.

John is survived by children Lily, Crewe, Daisy and Farne, and granddaughter Phoebe.