Languages teacher (58) loses cancer battle

Ruth McKiernan (s)
Ruth McKiernan (s)
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The family of teacher Ruth McKiernan paid tribute to a ‘generous lady who was proud to pass on her love of the French language.’

Ruth (58), of Woodgrove Road, lost her battle with cancer on Sunday after fighting the disease for 14 months,

Ruth loved languages. She loved teaching French and her great pleasure was watching her students go onto study languages at colleges, universities and beyond

Husband Pat McKiernan

Ruth taught at East Lancashire schools for 36 years, starting her teaching career at Mansfield High School before moving onto St Theodore’s and Thomas Whitham Sixth Form.

The modern languagues teacher was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer 14 months ago, just as she retired from teaching, and spent her last few weeks in Pendleside Hospice.

Her husband of 34 years Pat McKiernan, a former Deputy Head at St Theodore’s, said: “Ruth loved languages. She loved teaching French and her great pleasure was watching her students go onto study languages at colleges, universities and beyond.

“Two of her former students now teach French in schools and she was so proud she had passed on her love of the French language.”

Pat continued: “Ruth was a generous, feisty lady and she knew what she wanted. She had a lot of friends from teaching and out of school.

“She was actually one-eighth French-Canadian which is where we said she got her love of languages from.”

Ruth was born in Greenwich but moved to Newcastle, where her parents were from, when she was six months old.

She moved to Lancashire in 1978 where she taught at Mansfield from 1978-80 and then moved onto be Head of Modern Languages at St Theodore’s, which later became Blessed Trinity. In 2006, she held the same position at Thomas Whitham before she retired in 2014. The couple have two children Joseph (32) and Beth (28) and two grandchildren, twins Joseph and Isabella.

Blessed Trinity’s Deputy Headteacher Phil Thompson said: “Ruth devoted many years to the education of children in Burnley and was much-loved by pupils and well-respected by colleagues.”

Thomas Whitham Assistant Headteacher David Warren said: “Ruth was a vibrant, larger than life character who touched the lives of everybody she met whether as a colleague, a teacher or a friend. A straight talking Geordie she radiated love and energy whenever you crossed her path.”

Ruth was a Burnley FC season ticket holder and a spokesperson for the Clarets said: “All at the club are saddened to hear of Ruth’s passing. She was an immensely popular and special woman.” Pat now works at Burnley FC looking after the educational needs of the younger players and he added: “The football club have been extremely supportive.”

Ruth’s funeral will be next Thursday at St Mary’s RC Church at 10am followed by a burial at Burnley Cemetery.