Robert Bourke: Head teacher of Norfolk school for 25 years

Norfolk headteacher Robert Bourke, who has died aged 93, retired after more than a quarter of a century at the same village school.

The husband and wife team completed more than 50 years at Horsham St Faith Primary School, near Norwich.

Mr Bourke (pictured), who was head teacher for 27 years, worked alongside his late wife, who was clerical assistant and then secretary for 26 years at St Faith's. They both retired on the same day in July 1982.

Robert Cousings Bourke, known as Bob, was born in London and during his wartime service met and later married a Norfolk girl – Lilian, from Hemsby, near Yarmouth.

Born in Poplar, East London, he worked on the Stock Exchange before the second world war. He served for the duration in searchlights and radio location and later became a military instructor. Demobbed with the rank of sergeant, he applied to teach and joined the emergency training scheme.


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His first post in his 35-year teaching career was at Coltishall, where he stayed for seven years until moving to nearby Buxton Junior School for a year. Then he was appointed head teacher at St Faith's in 1955, where his three children were also pupils.

Mr Bourke caught the teaching bug during the war when he became an army instructor. He told the EDP shortly before his retirement that education was all about the joy of 'fanning the spark' of knowledge, hence the value of pre-school nursery education.

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'Play schools and groups have contributed greatly in helping to launch children into school life,' he added.

Speaking at his retirement, the Rev Jonathan Boston, then chairman of the governors and now living in Litcham, near Fakenham, praised Mr Bourke's professionalism. It went 'right through the school from teachers and ancillaries to the pupils,' he added.

Mr Bourke, who was a passionate gardener, lived more than half his life in Norfolk including about 25 years at St Faith's, where he also became a parish councillor and long-serving churchwarden. After retiring, they moved to Bowthorpe, where they lived for about 20 years.

His wife, Lilian (Bunty) died in 2002. He leaves daughters Bridget and Sally; a son, John, and six grandchildren.

A funeral service was taken by the Rev Boston at St Faith's Crematorium.

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