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Obituary: Tom Barnes – former Priestlands School PE teacher

TOM Barnes, a well known former Priestlands School PE and history teacher, has died at the age of 90.

Tom was popular with pupils at the school where he taught for 24 years, having started there in 1968 before finally retiring in 1992.

He had joined from what was then Ashley Secondary School which later became the Arnewood School.

Tom and his wife Val shared a love of sailing
Tom and his wife Val shared a love of sailing

Tom was in charge of PE when he first joined Priestlands but went on to teach history and become head of the first year.

He was born in Plymouth in 1932 as one of twins, the other being a girl called Betty. Tom also had an older sister called Mary.

He spent his childhood in Plymouth and then Wales after his father, who served as an army captain, was posted there.

The family first lived in Nefyn, a remote, Welsh-speaking town on the Llyn peninsula, where Tom attended schools in Tenby and Brecon.

After VE Day in May 1945, the family moved to Barry, near Cardiff.

Tom had intended to follow his father into the army and was due to train at Sandhurst but a leg injury sustained while playing football at the age of 18 ended those plans.

Always very much a sportsman, he decided he would work in physical education and trained to be a teacher at St Paul’s College, Cheltenham.

During a holiday on the Isle of Wight he met future wife Val, who was from London, and the couple married in 1956. They went on to have daughters Julia and Sally.

In 1962 the family emigrated to New Zealand where Tom had secured a teaching job in Wanganui.

After what his family said were four “idyllic” years, they returned to the UK after the death of Val’s father at only 54 years old.

Settling in Hordle, Tom taught PE at Ashley Secondary School until 1968 when he joined Priestlands.

In his spare time Tom learnt to ballroom dance with Val at Betty Rayment’s School of Dance in Lymington which later led to him becoming an avid fan of BBC’s Strictly Come Dancing show.

The couple also shared a love of sailing and were members of Lymington Town Sailing Club, where Val was entertainments manager, and the Royal Lymington Yacht Club.

In 1982 they moved close to Hengistbury Head to be nearer to Twynham School where Val taught.

The couple joined Parkstone Sailing Club and were by now on their third boat, named Kipper. Tom also passed his yachtmaster exams during this period.

After retiring, the couple, who celebrated their diamond wedding anniversary in 2016, developed a love of travelling, visiting China, India, America and Egypt among other places.

They also liked to visit daughter Julia and family in northern Spain.

In 2017 Tom was invited back to Priestlands to help celebrate the school’s diamond anniversary.

His family said he was “impressed with the modern school and commented on how grown-up the students seem these days”.

In her later years Val developed Alzheimer’s and Tom became her carer, doing everything he could for her.

He died on 30th December. His family said he will be “greatly missed, especially by Val, daughters Julia and her three children and Sally and her three daughters”.

They said he had enjoyed a “life well lived”.

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