TRIBUTES have been paid to a much-loved retired East Lancashire headmaster who died at the age of 83.

George Anthony Quirke, of Clayton-le-Moors, husband of the late Pat Quirke, leaves six children and six grandchildren, along with a legacy as one of the county’s most innovative and popular secondary school headmasters.

Mr Quirke was the youngest headmaster in Lancashire when he was appointed head of St Edmond Arrowsmith, Blackburn, in 1974 at the age of 37, a role to which his personality couldn’t have been better suited.

Daughter Anne-Marie said: “He was quite a fiery character, he had a lot of spirit and he liked a laugh.

“He liked films with happy endings and he just laughed very easily.”

She added: “He didn’t follow rules much and a fell out with some of the governors at the school because he didn’t like legislation that separated teachers from the kids.”

Mr Quirke was born in 1936 the elder of two children by Irish immigrants, his father from County Tipperary and his mother from Dublin.

He grew up in Woolton, South Liverpool, where he first developed his lifelong passion for Everton Football Club, attending his first game at the age of seven in 1943, which he would later pass on to his children and grandchildren.

Anne-Marie said: “He used to take a milk crate into the ground so us kids could stand on it and see what was going on, you’d never get away with that now!”

Mr Quirke also developed a love of rugby league, particularly Leeds Rhinos, while studying to become a teacher at Leeds University, where he met his wife Pat who also became a teacher at St Edmund Arrowsmith.

After university, the couple lived in Clayton for the rest of their lives.

It was, however, during his time as a headteacher that Mr Quirke made his greatest impact, overseeing his school’s integration into the comprehensive system, becoming St Bede’s Roman Catholic High School as it is known today.

As a committed Christian Socialist, he strongly supported the Catholic Church’s educational mission and was keen to welcome children of all ethnic and religious backgrounds into his care.

This was especially important in a town as ethnically diverse as Blackburn was to become.

Following retirement in 1994 Mr Quirke dedicated himself to his family and to regular trips to Ireland and Spain, where he developed a love of Spanish culture.

Though he eventually died in Herncliffe Care Home in Keighley, West Yorkshire, where he had been living since last July Mr Quirke maintained a lifelong love of the county of Lancashire.

Anne-Marie said: “Even though he died in Yorkshire, we made sure that now he’s back in Lancashire.”

She added: “He was an upbeat, kind and generous man and if ever you were in any kind of trouble, he’d be there.”

Donations in memory of Mr Quirke will be happily received by the Alzheimer’s Society, to donate visit: