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Friday, 19 September 2014

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First head of St Benedict's dies at 77

HE was the last head of St Begh’s Secondary School and the first of St Benedict’s High School, John (Jack) McCarren has died, aged 77.

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Head: Jack McCarron outside St Benedict’s when it opened in 1971

Born in Thurnham, Lancaster, Mr McCarren began his teaching career at De La Salle, Sheffield, then moved to St Gregory’s, Kirby, Liverpool before becoming head of St Begh’s Secondary in Whitehaven in 1969.

Two years later, when the new St Benedict’s High School was built at Red Lonning, he became its first head teacher. He was instrumental in securing the sixth-form for St Benedict’s, something that was very important to him.

Deacon David Skillen, chaplain to St Benedict’s, was an 11-year-old first year at the school in 1986 when he first experienced “Sir’’.

“I remember him as a very tall man with an air of authority but with a gentle, caring manner,’’ said David. “I recall his assemblies – he didn’t have to shout, you sensed he had the authority of a head teacher and you respected that. He was well liked by his fellow staff too.

“He was certainly motivated by his Christian faith. His vision of education was informed by his beliefs.’’

Ralph Lewthwaite, who taught history under Mr McCarren’s headship, said: “He was a sincere and hard working headmaster and family man and his life was driven by his deep-rooted and Catholic faith, which guided his decision making. He achieved a great deal and the school, its pupils and staff gained a lot from his time in office.’’

Mr McCarren had been educated at Preston Catholic College and later De La Salle School, before studying modern languages at Durham University.

He was a fantastic cricketer – some of the batting records he set for his school still stand, and he also played for his university, for De La Salle Old Boys and for several club and village sides.

He was married, first to Evelyn (who died in 1982) with whom he had five children, a son and four daughters. He re-married in 1991, to Valerie, an old family friend from Liverpool who had also been widowed. After their marriage Jack moved to Formby and became step-father to Valerie’s four children. Between them the couple had 18 grandchildren.

Mr McCarren remembered his time in Whitehaven very fondly, say his family. He continued to take The Whitehaven News and would enjoy reading of his former pupils and about the school’s progress.

He loved hiking and climbing in the Lake District and climbed every one of Wainwright’s mountains.

His daughter, Clare Langan, said: “For Jack, it was always about doing the very best he could for his pupils. He wanted them to achieve the absolute best they were capable of, and he would go to any lengths to help them and nurture their talents. He was also very proud of his staff, and fiercely supportive of them.

“He loved Whitehaven and admired the spirit of its people.

“All of us will miss him so much but we are thankful for many happy years with him and for the inspiration he has provided to his family and to so many of his former pupils.’’

Have your say

Mr McCarren was a great head. He was wise with his words, authoritative and fair. I got sent to see him once and it never happened again, I had a lot of respect for the man. A pity I never saw him again after leaving school in 1986.

Posted by DaveW on 1 December 2011 at 13:01

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