Frank was born in November, 1933, and grew up in Lever Grove, Bolton, in a “two up, two down” terraced house, close enough to hear the cheers from Burnden Park. He was the only son of Elizabeth and James ‘Jim’ Kenyon, a foreman at Walker’s Tannery. Having started his education at Holy Trinity School, where he met his future wife, Betty, Frank secured a place a Bolton School Boys’ Division at the age of 10. This was highly unusual for someone of his background in the years preceding universal secondary education, and it opened the way to a life of service to education.
His parents greatly encouraged and supported Frank in his academic and sporting endeavours. Jim had himself been a star of the Lancashire Boys’ football team, scoring 41 of the 67 goals in one season. Frank inherited his father’s sporting genes, excelling in football, athletics and cricket. In an early school report, his Form Master wrote: “Lively, keen and intelligent, he does very sound work all round, and is not at all spoilt by being ‘popular’. His work, games and personality are all showing very pleasing progress” – characteristics which continued to flourish. His experiences at Bolton School nurtured this rounded development of body, mind and personality. A School trip to Paris in 1949 was the first in a lifetime of travel abroad, first within and later beyond Europe.
Frank always spoke with great reverence of F R Poskitt, who was Headmaster throughout his time at School and clearly served as a wonderful role model. In 1952, Frank followed in his footsteps to Downing College, Cambridge, where he read Geography – a subject for which he had shown an early passion, having acquired a world atlas at the start of WW2. His sporting success continued: he played football for the University, and used to relate with chagrin that he would have received a Cambridge Blue, if an overzealous cleaner hadn’t tidied away his call-up invitation! He also played during National Service, as an officer in the Royal Artillery. He lined up against Arsenal at Highbury, and Spurs at White Hart Lane.
In 1958 Frank started his 35-year teaching career. His first job was as a geography teacher at Stretford Grammar School in Trafford, but he soon moved to The Derby School, Bury, which had recently opened under the headship of George Sawtell – previously a teacher at Bolton School. With his love of sport and outdoor pursuits, Frank spent many Saturday mornings refereeing schoolboy football matches, as well as playing a leading role in setting up The Derby School’s house in the Lake District, Lowfield.
He quickly rose to become Head of the Geography Department and later Deputy Headmaster, before leaving at the end of 1974 to become Head of the new Sharples High School (later Sharples School) back in his home town, Bolton. Frank remained Head of Sharples until his retirement, in 1993, growing the school through a number of amalgamations to over 1500 pupils. In the words of the current head, Rachel Quesnel: “Due to Frank’s outstanding leadership the school became a thriving community … Frank had a clear vision of expectation for the pupils and was instrumental in developing the loyalty of staff and governors to see that the vision was realised”. Alongside this clear strategic vision, he maintained the personal touch, knowing not only his 1500 pupils by name but also their parents.
Following his retirement, Frank finally had the leisure to visit many of the places he had taught about in his geography lessons – the USA, from the Utah Arches to the Badlands, being a particular favourite. In 2003 he and his wife Betty moved south to Hertfordshire to be nearer to their daughters (Judith Knott – Girls’ Division 1970-1978 and Susan Haslam – Girls’ Division 1973-1981) and grandchildren. Despite previous sporting injuries, he continued to enjoy running, up until Betty’s death in 2009. During his adult life Frank developed a love of classical music, especially Beethoven, Mozart and Mahler, and in recent years listening to music became increasingly important to him.
The tributes received when Frank died earlier this year were a testament to the inspiration he gave to his pupils and staff throughout his teaching career, and to the difference he made to people’s lives. To one former pupil he was “a modern headteacher when others were still in the dark ages, Bolton has lost one of its best”. The last word must go to a former colleague, Alan Griffiths, recruited by Frank from Bolton School to be Head of Modern Languages at Sharples, who described him as “very European and cosmopolitan in his outlook but very Boltonian in his fairness and altruism” – a great epitaph for an Old Boltonian.