22 February 1928 to 20 January 2015
Eleanor was a loving, loyal and supportive wife, mother, grandmother, teacher and friend, who was always bustling and energetic, fiercely independent but non-judgmental and accepting of others.
This tribute is taken from the Service of Celebration and Thanksgiving on 30 January 2015, led by Revd Nick Bundock.
Born Eleanor Esther Pharaoh in Leigh, Lancashire in 1928, her parents were Isaac and Jane and she had a younger brother, John. She went to Leigh Girls Grammar School and loved sport, playing tennis and hockey. At one time, she walked to school every day to save the bus fare so she could buy herself a Dunlop Maxply racquet, the Rolls Royce of tennis racquets at that time. She even played cricket for her village cricket team during the 2nd world war because of the shortage of men for the team.
In 1944 her father retired to Beckermet in Cumbria where his family came from, but she stayed in Leigh to finish her 6th form education and lived with the Haslam family. Their daughter Brenda remained a dear friend throughout their lives. Brenda later married a Catalan called Jordi and Eleanor and Colin spent many happy holidays in Sitges near Barcelona with them.
Eleanor studied for a history degree at Westfield College, part of London University and then went to Cambridge to do teacher training. It was there that she met Colin. While in Cambridge, she played for the university women’s tennis team and was awarded a Cambridge blue.
Colin and Eleanor married in 1952 in Beckermet. Colin had joined the Colonial Service and he went out to Uganda. Eleanor followed by aeroplane, by then pregnant. She gave birth to their first daughter Catherine [on her own in Kampala as Colin was up country in Seroti] and Jane was born 3 years later. They spent 9 very happy and carefree years in Uganda away from the post-war austerity in England and they made many lifelong friends. Whilst there she learnt to speak Buganda (and was the 1st European woman to study and pass the exam) and she taught at the African school.
At the end of 1961, they decided to return to England. Colonial days were coming to an end in Uganda and Eleanor did not want to send Catherine, who was then 8 years old, home to England to boarding school. Colin & Eleanor settled in Manchester, first in Gatley and later in Didsbury.
Eleanor started teaching part-time at Sharston Secondary Modern School. In 1967, the comprehensive system was introduced into Manchester and a new school was built at Parrs Wood. The head of Sharston, Mr Iball, was appointed head and Eleanor went with him. We always describe her as one of Parrswood High School’s founder members. She loved her work there and was an enthusiastic, well respected and well loved history teacher for nearly 20 years and she was often greeted in the village by former pupils.
Eleanor retired in 1984, the year before the first of her 4 grandchildren, Sarah, was born. She embraced retirement and made the most of life. She and Colin were members of the Northern Lawn Tennis Club where they played very regularly all year round. She was once accosted there by a young man on a cold day when she was wearing her Cambridge blue scarf. He wanted to know if she understood the significance of what she was wearing and was quite taken aback when this little white-haired lady told him she did and she had earned it playing for the University tennis team.
She had always cycled to the schools she taught at and was very recognisable as she cycled round Didsbury on her ancient bike. She shared an allotment at Bradley Fold and spent many hours down there during the growing season. A close friend from Australia has reminded us that Eleanor would not go on holiday when it was time to harvest the produce.
She started leaning Spanish, so on her many visits to Sitges she was able to chat to Brenda and Jordi in Spanish, as he spoke no English.
Eleanor was a talented knitter and sewer – she made a lot of her own clothes – and she would often have a sampler or tapestry on the go.
Her love of sport continued: she played tennis well into her 70s and was a great armchair supporter of Man Utd. When in her 70s, Jane took her to her first match at Old Trafford and Eleanor commented on how small one of the players running on looked; the family roared and pointed out to her that this was in fact the child mascot.
Here at Emmanuel church, she played a leading part in the team providing lunches for the needy, which for many years were held every weekday. She was one of the organisers of an annual Christmas lunch and every year cooked an enormous turkey. She also served the audiences at the Coffee concerts here with their coffee and croissants in the interval.
When Colin retired they enjoyed wonderful holidays in many parts of Europe. They also made a round the world trip ending up in Australia where they spent time in Adelaide with Jane and Andy (who was a visiting lecturer at the university there) and in Perth with some dear friends from Uganda days.
They had trips to Nepal, Moscow and Eritrea when Colin was asked to help with the examination systems in those countries. They also made regular trips to the theatre and to concerts.
One of Eleanor’s greatest pleasures was spending time with her grandchildren. It was a delight for her to have Catherine’s children Sarah & Anna so close by in Didsbury where she was able to be involved in their daily lives and she made frequent visits to see Jane’s children Matt and Dan, latterly in Birmingham.
In 2012, she and Colin celebrated their Diamond wedding anniversary with a party at Catherine’s House. That is when the above picture was taken. By then Eleanor was increasingly immobile but Colin was still managing to care for her at home. In August that year she moved to live at Downing House Residential Home in Withington where Colin was able to visit frequently and she was looked after with great affection by the staff.
She enjoyed sitting in the conservatory watching the comings and goings of the other residents and the staff; she accepted her situation with great grace and never complained. She spent her final 3 months at Brocklehurst Nursing Home where the staff quickly became very fond of her and looked after her very well until she died peacefully last week.