Eminent academic, accomplished sportsman and musician, Alan Mitchell was a long-serving and hugely respected member of the Boys’ Division common room for 35 years, whose Bolton School career culminated in a year spent as Acting Headmaster from 1982-1983.
Alan passed away, aged 92, in September 2015, weeks before the Grand Reunion held at School, which he had planned to attend. Below is his obituary, published in the Spring 2016 Bugle.
Although he lived in Bolton for 65 years, Alan originally came from Wolverhampton. Encouraged by his father, regular attendance at Wolverhampton Wanderers matches began when Alan was only five. Aged 11 he went on to attend St Chad’s Catholic School in Wolverhampton, not because of any religious affiliation, but because they had first class football and cricket teams which he quickly joined and then captained – a theme was developing! He was also appointed the school’s Head Boy.
After Higher School Certificate Alan went to Sheffield University to study Latin and English. Aside from developing a life-long passion for his subjects, here he also further honed his sporting skills, captaining the University football team. He also captained the Sheffield University cricket XI and his prowess as batsman and bowler was still evident in the School Staff teams of the 1960s.
He broke off his university education to go to War, serving for two years in India where he attained the rank of Captain, and also trained as a cipher officer.
Alan’s teaching career began in Woking but, after a couple of years, he and future wife Diana, whom he had met at university, moved north to Bolton in 1950 when he landed a role at Park Road. Alan transferred to the Senior School in 1957 where he taught Latin and Greek, attaining the role of Deputy Headmaster in 1969. His command of language ancient and modern, extended through reading, enabled Alan to be the successful teacher of Classics and English he became. He was precise in explanation, careful in preparation and had a ready understanding of the needs of his pupils. Similar qualities were evident in his early role as Master in Charge of the lower block. His abilities and achievement recommended him as Deputy Headmaster, where more was required than he had already given. Even-handed and humorous in his dealings, always ready to listen, never absent from duty he was affectionately admired by teaching, administrative, maintenance and catering staff, by the headmasters he supported, by everyone. His personality, his integrity and good manners pervaded the School.
Socially he was very active and played an important part in musical events, particularly Gilbert and Sullivan. On two occasions he initiated staff soirees, where teaching staff entertained parents , and he was consistent and resourceful in support of the Old Boltonians’ Association, becoming President and, after retiring from the staff, creating the role of Liaison Officer. Old Boys’ lunches, still regular and well-attended, were his original inspiration. He knew everyone and everything about every feature of Bolton School. As a close colleague said – Alan Mitchell is Bolton School.
Alan was a gifted and hugely enthusiastic sportsman: in the earlier years of his career he coached a number of School football teams, regularly refereed football and umpired cricket matches. For eight years he played football in the Lancashire League for the Old Boltonians, captaining them between 1951 and 1955. During the time Alan was playing, the Old Boltonians won the cup (which, after many years, they recently won again). He was selected for the Lancashire Amateur XI.
Having stepped down from his Old Boys’ Liaison role in 1997, Alan enjoyed a full and very active retirement – this included membership of Bolton Rotary Club to which he devoted many hours raising money for deserving causes, and through which he made many deep and lasting friendships. Alan’s other free time was spent in his much-loved garden, listening to music, regularly tackling cryptic crosswords in the national press (and winning prizes), as well as following the fortunes of both sets of Wanderers: Bolton and Wolverhampton. He also revelled in being a grandfather, even though distance made contact with his Australian grandsons less frequent than he would have liked.
As Diana’s health failed, Alan took on the role of her carer and bore the terrible sadness of her loss after 61 years of happy marriage with great dignity and courage. He moved to Beechville Care Home, Lostock, in 2014 where he settled well, but sadly his failing health necessitated a move into nursing care in the summer of 2015.
Alan was a wonderful husband, father and grandfather; he had an intelligent mind, a great sense of humour and a deep love of his family. He was a gentle man and a gentleman. He leaves two daughters and two grandsons.