Outstanding Burnley athlete who went on to become one of the most respected teachers of his generation has died

John Connolly
John Connolly
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An outstanding athlete who went on to become one of the most respected teachers of his generation has died at the age of 81.

John Connolly was born in the Briercliffe Road area of Burnley and was a naturally talented footballer who played at town and county level and was even called up to the England Schoolboys squad on one occasion.

Excelling in many sports he achieved the rare distinction of being victor ludorum – the leading sportsman – at Burnley Grammar School for two successive years.

A devoted follower of a number of sports he was a good golfer and loved watching cricket at county and Test match level.

He attracted interest from a number of football clubs, including Burnley, Manchester United and Spurs, who wanted to sign him on schoolboy terms, but his parents wanted a different career path for him and persuaded him to go to teacher training college in London.

Returning to his home town he met and subsequently married his wife of 56 years, Jean, who died last year.

John’s family had a life-long connection with Burnley Football Club and it was no surprise that the couple honeymooned in London to watch the Clarets play in the FA Cup Final. The couple spent their married life in Reedley.

He went on to teach at Walverden School in Nelson and when schools in Pendle went comprehensive he became the deputy headteacher at the new Walton High School – a post he held until retirement.

At Walton he had a reputation for fairness and helping students make the right decisions – and he was so well-respected that it was no surprise when people would stop him in the street anywhere in the country and offer him thanks for his help in their formative years.

After retirement John and Jean became successful Dalmatian breeders, several of their dogs showing well at Crufts.

He is surivived by his three sons – Paul, Jonathan and Justin – and three grandchildren.

His funeral will be held on Monday at Burnley Crematorium at 11-20am.