Pamela Johnson – Girls’ Division Staff, 1963-1998
Pam Johnson was a much-loved member of the Girls’ Division teaching staff for 35 years, during which time she had a significant impact on a variety of aspects of School life. Her influence continues in the Girls’ Division to this day.
Following Pam’s passing earlier that year, a service celebrating her life was held in June 2013. Tributes were paid to Pam by a number of former colleagues from both Divisions, and the service was attended by her brother, Brian, close friends and Old Girls and Former Staff.
The tribute paid to Pam following her passing, printed in the March 2013 edition of the Old Girls’ Newsletter, can be read below.
Pam was appointed by Miss Higginson to the Physical Education Department in 1963 and was Head of PE from 1970 to 1985. She showed flair and style in the management of the department and the various sporting achievements of the school continued to grow under her leadership. If I had to select just one sport to illustrate the point it would be lacrosse because it is thanks to Pam that the school’s fine tradition in this sport and its reputation nationally and internationally went from strength to strength. When she arrived in 1963, the school had just won its first Schools’ Tournament by beating Moreton Hall in the final. The school went on to maintain an unbroken run of successes in the North West Championships and by 1970 students were being selected for the North Junior Territorial team which went on to win the London Tournament. Many of Pam’s students continued to play lacrosse after leaving school with a significant number being selected to play for national teams.
But it wasn’t only in school that Pam was making her mark in lacrosse. During her years as Head of PE, she captained both the Lancashire Lacrosse Team and the North Reserves. She then became a national umpire and an international umpire for Great Britain in the 1978 Tour of Australia. In the 1970s and 1980s Pam acted as something of a roving ambassador between this country and the United States. She had an affection for the country and was invited by the American Women’s Lacrosse Association to coach lacrosse during the summer holidays. She took our Senior Lacrosse team on a tour in the USA and organised Lacrosse tours in this country for visiting American teams.
Pam was a teacher who believed in bringing out the best in all her pupils, including those who struggled with sport. One of her former students writes “Although I was hopeless at most forms of sport, Miss Johnson spent time with me, helping and encouraging me, and I know that she did a lot for pupils like me! She was one of my favourite teachers…full of energy and enthusiasm, capable, humorous and, ultimately, very kind.”
With the onset of osteoarthritis Pam had to re-think her teaching career which resulted in a complete change of direction for her. Having been part of the General Studies team for some time, she was offered the post as Head of General Studies. She then embarked on a degree course in Business Studies and also gained qualifications in Marketing and Human Resources Management. It was these courses which led to her teaching Economics and Business Studies with her colleague, Ken Henson. Pam was also involved in Careers Education and was actively involved in special events to mark Industry Year when she helped to forge links with the business world. Former students will also recall that Pam ran the Midbank and was committed to the school’s Community Service programme where she helped to organise placements for senior students.
I always felt that one of Pam’s most challenging responsibilities during the 1980s was arranging the walking in and out of the Hall for Speech Day and the Carol Service. This was no mean feat for two such important formal occasions. The seating arrangements – particularly for the Carol Service – were complex and it took several days of whole school practice to get the processing in and out of the Hall just right. But Pam had worked it out with military precision. She used colour-coded cards to help us lead in and out in the correct order and these were discreetly delivered to the people concerned during the first seating rehearsal. Oh, the agony of finding yourself the recipient of one of those cards. Pam made it all seem so simple, but the responsibility of being one to lead in or out was terrifying – and you ran the risk of losing face with your form if you got it wrong!
Pam was heavily involved in the school’s rich and varied extra-curricular programme. A proficient skier, she was the party leader for many joint trips. She was involved in outdoor pursuits at Cautley and Patterdale and participated in visits to a variety of venues in Austria, France, Germany and Holland.
Mention must be made of Pam’s prowess in the theatre. Only she could have steered her colleagues through the Staff Revues she directed. She was firm but patient with us and used her great sense of humour to good effect. The pinnacle of her achievements in theatre work was surely in 1995 when she produced ‘Guys and Dolls’, a joint venture aptly described as “a sparkling production” and “a feast of colour and movement”.
When Pam retired, she enjoyed the opportunity to meet the people whose friendship she valued so much and took the opportunity to travel extensively. She also continued to provide accommodation in her home to students who came to study in Bolton from abroad. Several joined our Sixth Form to take A-Level courses and came to regard Pam as a mother; she, in turn, felt privileged to meet and get to know these young people and frequently accompanied them to Parents’ Evenings.
Sadly, Pam was diagnosed as having pancreatic cancer about eighteen months ago. She was supported throughout by her close friends and it was a great comfort to her that her brother, Brian, who lives in the USA, was able to visit her frequently during her last months. We extend to him and his family our deepest sympathy in their loss.
The Minister who conducted the funeral service captured the essence of Pam when he commented:
“When she knew that she was close to death she told her friends that she didn’t want a fuss, she didn’t want any sentimentality. She was satisfied that she had had a good innings and she had achieved so much in her life.
When she was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer she never complained, simply went with the flow and did her best – right to the end. One of life’s characters.”