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Wednesday, 20 August 2014

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Hundreds attend funeral of inspiring Barrow PE teacher

HUNDREDS of people attended an emotional and uplifting service celebrating the life of a popular and inspirational Barrow teacher and Kirkby community figure.

Alison Whillance, a popular PE teacher at St Bernard’s Catholic High School, Barrow, died last week.

The 49-year-old passed away peacefully at St Mary’s Hospice. Mrs Whillance had been diagnosed with secondary cancer in May. She had overcome breast cancer in 2007.

The much liked and well respected Kirkby resident is survived by her husband Pete, and their sons, Jake, 15, and Matthew, 11.

At today's funeral service St Cuthbert’s Church, Kirkby, was decked with Welsh flags in tribute to Mrs Whillance’s proud Cardiff roots. Some family and friends also wore daffodils.


Many of her friends from Kirkby had connections to the village’s Burlington CE School where Mrs Whillance was a parent, governor, fundraiser and sports coach.


Colleagues, students and former pupils from St Bernard’s and the former Thorncliffe School, were also there to pay their respects.

Mrs Whillance was a PE and religious education teacher at the former Thorncliffe School, Barrow, before joining St Bernard’s 11 years ago.

She was passionate about dance and netball and promoting their take up in South Cumbria. She brought numerous dance companies from around the country to Barrow and she helped set up the netball leagues in Barrow and South Lakes.

Mrs Whillance was a great supporter of Burlington CE Primary School as a parent, governor, Friends of Burlington fundraiser, breakfast club volunteer and football coach.

Most recently she spearheaded the launch of a new campaign to get the A595 upgraded, leading a packed meeting in November.

Mrs Whillance’s loving husband and sons have thanked their family, friends and St Mary’s Hospice for their overwhelming support.

Speaking last week, Karen Griffiths, head of PE at St Bernard’s said: “Alison was a treasured member of St Bernard’s and a highly valued member of the PE department. The impact Alison has had on young people’s lives in the Barrow community is immeasurable and so many youngsters have benefited from the dedication and passion she put into her work over the years.

“When Alison joined St Bernard’s she was the schools sports co-ordinator, a role she both enjoyed and loved. Alison was in her element working with St Bernard’s primary schools and was instrumental in providing and leading a wide range of sporting opportunities and improving the quality of physical education.

“Alison also loved working with Young Sports Leaders at St Bernard’s and was very proud to see them develop into confident young adults. Alison’s belief in those pupil’s alongside the amount of time she was prepared to give to see them flourish, had such a positive impact on their lives.

“As colleagues we could not have been more privileged to have worked alongside such a lovely person. Alison was kind and caring always putting others before herself.

“She brightened up our day with her drive and enthusiasm and we as a department and the whole of the St Bernard’s community, will miss her dearly.”

Jan Bath, a retired Burlington school head, said: “Ali was a very, very special person, a wonderful woman. She was involved in so many aspects of school life. She really gave everything for others.”

Burlington headteacher Sarah Powell, said: “Our thoughts are with Pete and the boys. Ali’s involvement with school was not just as a mum, she was a friend to many and a very valued member of our school community.”

More tributes in Saturday's Evening Mail. 

Have your say

Mrs Whillance was my form teacher for the last two years I spent in Thorncliffe and was a Wonderful strict teacher who always hAd a wonderful smile. A very sad day when I was told the day of her funeral that she had passed away and may god give her husband and two beloved children strength and hope in the light they carry for there beloved wife and mum and give them peace of mind that she no longer has anguish or pain and hopefully finds solitude and peAce in a higher place. God bless you. And find hope in your loss to carry on her fight for everything she stood for lovingly and thank fully Mr Lee hill and I can probably vouch for the rest of Form H 1994-1995

Posted by Lee Hill on 7 March 2014 at 12:40

May Miss Whillance Rest In Peace. St. Bernard's School has lost a great teacher and friend to many pupils as well as members of staff. I hope her family can take some comfort from that knowledge. God Bless them all.

Posted by KAY STEVENS on 2 March 2014 at 22:09

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