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Death of popular former Spalding Grammar School headmaster John Fordham

Former Spalding Grammar School headmaster John Fordham has passed away at the age of 87.

Mr Fordham, nicknamed Skid after his middle name Skidmore, was head at the school from 1972 to 1987.

John was born in Swansea in 1931 and was an ardent Welsh rugby fan. He died just days after the Welsh Grand Slam victory.

A biology teacher, he had taught in Appleby, Bristol, Sheffield and Yeovil before arriving in Spalding, where he preached at the Methodist Church.

Former Spalding Grammar School headmaster John Fordham. (8009570)
Former Spalding Grammar School headmaster John Fordham. (8009570)

He was also a member of Spalding Squash Club.

He supported academic excellence but also extra curricular activities including drama, music and sport.

He enjoyed a happy
retirement in Cumbria (with hobbies of beekeeping and sailing), and then Wantage, where he died after a long illness.

He leaves Margaret –who taught for many years at Pinchbeck East Primary School – and children Mark, Michael, Kathryn and Christine.

Dr Peter Gorton was Head of Chemistry at the school when Mr Fordham was headmaster.

He said: “I always regarded him as a source of great wisdom. His boundless energy put me to shame – he always got so much done. A task would be complete while I was still thinking.

“Under his guidance the school prospered, he always made sure that my whole family was happy and settled.

“Every day he would walk his children to school. A clear message to the rest of us how important the children were to him.

“If I were to be put on a spot, a highlight would be some of his assembly announcements, which were brief, witty and memorable.

“His passing is a great loss for all who knew him and all of us would want to share in sending our sympathy to his family and friends.”

Another former colleague, David Jones, said: “I look back with gratitude to John Fordham for taking the risk, when there was an over-supply of teachers of German, of taking me on at Spalding Grammar School with my mere O-level on paper.

“I was even more fortunate to work under the leadership of such a
remarkable and admirable headmaster.

“He was a towering figure, not only in his physical height - he took on the burden of pastoral work, which is now spread over many shoulders, he ably led wide-ranging staff meetings with firmness, sympathy, wit and intelligence.

“He read every single
report of every single pupil and added a comment; he led the assembly each Friday; building on the content that individual forms had presented from Monday to Thursday; he ran sports teams; he spent Hobbies period going round the school with a team of pupils repairing damaged lockers and other furniture items and he did all this - and more - with a kindness and serenity.

“He really cared about his staff and his pupils and warmly supportedeverything musical, dramatic and sporting. His skills in squash and tennis were respected in school and in the town, and indeed he put himself and Spalding Grammar School at the heart of the local community.

“He led inspiring worship services in the Methodist Church.His home, the Grammar School House, was a place of warmth, welcome and hospitality, in which he was well supported by Margaret.

“John has been away from Spalding for over 30 years now, but many conversations I have had in the last few days have demonstrated to me the high regard in which he is still held.

Current Spalding Grammar School headmaster Steven Wilkinson said: “I was saddened to hear about the death of John Fordham.

“Although I never met him, I am aware that the school developed considerably in his time.

“There are a number of people still associated with the school – either as parents or current or former staff – who remember ‘Skid’ as their own headmaster and the school will, in due course, find a fitting form of tribute to the memory to Mr Fordham, to which those who wish to attend will be invited.”

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