A REMARKABLE bench has been unveiled in memory of popular Saddleworth School teacher John Atack thanks to fundraising by former pupils.
Mr Atack, a retired science teacher and head of Year 5 at the school, passed away in March this year aged 85 after suffering a heart condition and complications.
On hearing of his death, ‘Saddleworth School Friends’, a 3,000-strong Facebook group of past pupils, set up a Just Giving page and raised over £2,000 to buy a memorial bench.
The idea was the brainchild of former pupil Kathy Wander, and the bench was hand-crafted by former pupil Simon Hodgson.
It bears a picture of Mr Atack as well as symbols of alchemy – the art of turning metal to gold – and will be on show in the school foyer, and eventually moved to the new school.
A science prize was also dedicated by the former pupils in Mr Atack’s name and will be presented annually to the student who has improved the most.
Around 50 former pupils and staff attended the unveiling of the bench at the school, joined by Mr Atack’s wife Pamela, daughters Christine Vucak and Sue Mair and other family members.
Kathy said: “Mr Atack might not have approved that I am back here at school as he expelled me on my last day for smoking in the toilets! But hopefully this will mean I am forgiven.
“When I heard Mr Atack had died I was really sad, and I just thought, after a few glasses of wine on a Friday night, that getting a memorial bench would be a lovely thing to do.
“I never imagined it would come to anything like this! Thank you all for incredible generosity to help to make this possible.
“He was clearly a very loved man and an admired and respected teacher. He took us leaden lumps and with his input and energy he turned us into gold.”
A carved box of memories written by former pupils and staff, and beautifully recorded on scrolls, was presented to Mr Atack’s family.
Christine said: “We’re overwhelmed. Dad retired 23 years ago so when he passed away we thought no one would remember him!
“It’s unbelievable to think there will be permanent, lasting reminder of our dad at the school. We are so proud of him. The bench is beautiful and we’re delighted.”
Pamela said: “We had a wonderful 60 years with him and have got lots of happy memories,” and Sue added: “We feel very lucky to have had him for so long.”