Tributes for Jacky, a headteacher for 30 years

Jacky Pickersgill, head of Lightcliffe Preparatory School
Jacky Pickersgill, head of Lightcliffe Preparatory School

THE former principal of Lightcliffe Prep School has died.

Jacky Pickersgill was head for almost 30 years and was well known in Calderdale and beyond by parents and pupils.

She took over at the school from her father, Philip Watkins, in 1979 when he retired.

He had taken over from his father – so Jacky was the third generation to run the family-owned school.

She continued as principal when the prep school merged with the closely-linked Hipperholme Grammar, under the umbrella of Hipperholme Schools Foundation, in 2004.

The family’s 60-year link ended in 2008, when she left.

Hipperholme Grammar has flown its flag at half-mast in memory of Jacky, 58. In her early life she was involved in the housing sector but she soon found herself back at the school she had attended as a girl.

Later she admitted the school had been a much bigger part of her life than she had realised and she relished the chance of taking over and following the family tradition.

Shortly before Jacky left, an Ofsted report commended her on “a school with a style of its own which works so successfully”.

She later said: “That, for me, says everything about the school.”

Although an unassuming person who shied away from attention, Jacky went out of her way in the school and the community to make a fuss of everyone else.

Her son, Chris, and daughter, Rosie, recall Jacky going into school a dressed for some of her “theme days”.

“She even went into school once on Red Nose Day dressed as a clown with, of course, a red nose,” said Rosie.

Chris added: “I’m not sure many school heads would do that, but Mum always entered the spirit of things.” After leaving the school, Jacky took up her earlier business skills, including that as a technical writer, when she worked closely with her brother, Anthony.

She also undertook PA work and set up her own company, mainly involved in virtual assistant services.

She was also a volunteer for HomeStart, helping underprivileged families in Calderdale.

Jacky enjoyed going to the ballet and visiting Cornwall, where her family came from, and loved walking in the countryside and trips to the coast with her partner, Michael.

“She loved being near the sea and we went whenever we could,” he said.

Jacky was diagnosed with cancer 10 months ago but lost her fight on January 16.

A celebration of her life took place at Huddersfield Crematorium.