Wednesday, 20 September 2017

Henley school honours former dinner lady

A NEW classroom at a Henley school has been named after a former dinner lady who died last year.

Margaret Keane was a kitchen assistant and playground supervisor at Sacred Heart School from 1964 to 1989 and continued to visit the Catholic primary in Greys Hill until her death in February last year, aged 93.

When her family and friends made donations to the school in her memory, it was decided to name the larger of two new classrooms “Margaret’s Room” as a tribute.

The new single-storey timber outbuilding, called The Lodge, will be used as a classroom and as a quiet space for meetings and one-to-one tuition.

Members of Mrs Keane’s family attended the official opening ceremony together with the schoolchildren, staff, parents and governors as well as Swiss financier Urs Schwazenbach who contributed towards the £46,000 building.

Headteacher Karen Edwards gave a speech and Mgr Anthony Wilcox, parish priest for Sacred Heart, made a dedication.

Mrs Keane’s son Michael, who attended the school from 1964 to 1970, said he was proud of his mother’s contribution to the school.

He said: “Sacred Heart School was a great part of her life — she always referred to it as ‘my’ or ‘our’ school. She truly loved everything about it but mostly the children.

“She was never prouder than when her grandchildren became head girl and head boy in their last years at the school — something I never came close to!

“Margaret kept her connections with the school after she left by working at Sacred Heart Church, firstly for Canon Denis Toplass and later for Father Wilcox.

“On her trips into town she would divert via the school playground as she knew exactly what time the children would have their break and playtime and she would be able to see them. This was something she would do nearly every day after her retirement.” Mr Keane’s wife Jackie said that all the children used to call Mrs Keane “Granny”.

She recalled: “Her fridge used to be full of chocolate, which she never ate but used to give to the children. She was like the female Father Christmas. The children loved her and she loved them.

“The fact that the school has dedicated a room to her was very touching — just perfect. She will now be remembered forever, which is great.”

The couple, who live in Greys Road, were married at Sacred Heart Church 22 years ago and have two children who both attended the school. Mollie, now 19, was a pupil from 1998 to 2005 and Brendan, 17, from 2000 to 2007. Mollie now works with her mother at a consultancy firm in Henley and Brendan is a student at The Henley College. Their cousin Jack Summerwill, 10, of Nicholas Road, Henley, is currently in year six at Sacred Heart.

Mrs Keane, who was born in Ireland, was the third eldest of four brothers and a sister. She moved to England in the mid-Fifties and married John in 1956 in Old Eton. Their son was born in 1959.

The family moved to Henley in 1962 and lived above a corn merchant’s in Market Place which was Mr Keane’s business.

They later moved to Gainsborough Crescent. Following her husband’s death in 1980, Mrs Keane moved to The Close. Mrs Edwards, who became headteacher in 2006, said Mrs Keane used to come to the school’s cream teas, fairs and other events.

“She was lovely,” she said. “Margaret lived in Henley for more than 50 years — she was Henley through and through.”

Mr Keane added: “She always said that if she won the lottery she would give it all to ‘her’ little school so it was very apt that all the donations at her funeral would go towards the new classrooms. Now Margaret will forever be at ‘her’ school.”

? There will be a mass for Mrs Keane at Sacred Heart Church on Sunday at 10.30am.

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