Former Spalding Grammar School secretary was a strong woman from a gentle age

Pam Monroe photographed at Spalding Consti Club 1998.
Pam Monroe photographed at Spalding Consti Club 1998.
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Last week Spalding lost one of its most notable characters with the death of Pam Munro at the age of 96. She meant much to me, as she did to so many in Spalding and beyond.

Most will know her from her life’s work, in which she took such great pride. As the school secretary at Spalding Grammar, for a remarkable 45 years, she was a redoubtable figure, remembered with respect bordering on awe. She took the job straight from finishing a secretarial course at Peterborough Technical College in 1939, the year war broke out. A constant, devoted presence in the ever changing post-war grammar school, she worked there until she was 65 – five years past the then retirement age. Generations of local lives were touched by the formidable Miss Munro who was said to wield at least as much authority as any school master.

Spalding born and bred, Pam lived locally all her life. An only child, she took care of her mother, Ida, for many years and, devoted to her 
family, she was a loving aunt to Anne, Hilary and Claire, and great aunt to Kate and David.

In her youth, Pam loved to play badminton and tennis and, whilst a pupil at Spalding High School, won the Lincolnshire Junior Tennis Championship in 1936. Later in life she was instrumental in setting up the Spalding Badminton Club. I remember too that her passion for sport extended to cricket, for she was a regular visitor to Moulton to watch, in its early years, my annual charity match.

She was Pam to those who knew her, except for the Grammar School boys to whom she was always ‘Miss Munro’. It was often said the boys feared her more than their headmasters – of which she outlasted several – and she is particularly remembered for thoroughly examining pupils’ exercise books; she was not fooled by blank pages hidden away, no new books were issued until every page was used up; in Pam’s view that was the way it should be, and that was the way it was.

Though the school boys would undoubtedly have found her a force to be reckoned with (her rumoured nickname, presumably in reference to Mrs Thatcher, was Maggie), Pam was the kindest of souls. She was one of those rare people who would readily put others’ interests before her own. A devout Christian, Pam attended evensong as often as she could, and was especially fond of Father Bernard.

Her politics were just as devout; a stalwart of the South Holland Conservatives for decades, her half century’s worth of dedicated service being formally recognised by the then party leader William Hague. Pam would travel, each year, to whichever seaside town hosted the annual party conference.

So, in 1984, when the IRA bombed the Grand Hotel in Brighton, she was to be found handing out cups of tea to the shaken guests, as selfless and considerate as ever. This simple act of kindness resulted in a hug from Margaret Thatcher.

Closer to home, come election time Pam gained local renown for –having attaching loudspeakers to her car– driving around South Holland loudly extolling the virtues of voting Conservative. She took the trouble of constructing a loud speaker system to mount on my car with the instruction that I should do the same! I remember well, as a new prospective MP, as she took me round Spalding encountering, by chance, numerous middle aged men who greeted her with the demeanour of the young boys they had been when they first knew Miss Munro. She became a friend of my wife Susan and cared for my sons with the well-honed skills of a lady who knew and understood children.

Miss Pam Munro who marked so many lives certainly made a lasting impression on mine. She typified a generation of strong women born in a more gentle age. She saw boys who had been in her care – shaped by the school she loved – go to war, make the peace and prosper.

Thank goodness for Pam Munro and all like her.