Tributes roll in for Chris Cowell, former headteacher at Whitby's Caedmon School

Tributes have been flooding in for a popular former Whitby headteacher who passed away on Sunday.

By Duncan Atkins
Wednesday, 8th December 2021, 8:15 pm
Updated Wednesday, 8th December 2021, 8:16 pm
Former Caedmon School headteacher, Chris Cowell.
Former Caedmon School headteacher, Chris Cowell.

Since the family of Chris Cowell, who was the head at Caedmon School for 16 years, announced his death at the age of 76, touching tributes have rolled in from friends, former colleagues and ex-pupils who held him in high regard.

His teaching career began as a history and special needs teacher at a high school in Louth, Lincolnshire, before moving onto posts at schools in Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk.

But it was at Caedmon where he became a mentor and friend to many, as well as being the school leader.

His wife Pam said: "He felt very close to Whitby from the day he was interviewed for the job.

"He set high standards for staff and pupils but never forgot that life is not always easy and he cared for the needs of all helping by supporting families through difficult times.

"He set pupils' expectations high and a lot of them exceeded those and had success beyond any that they might have had for themselves.

"He thought that education wasn't just about teachers and children, he believed in the trilogy - parents, teachers and pupils; each to be involved as much as possible."

Although his death was quite sudden, despite a period of ill health, Pam said the many messages and tributes were offering the family a lot of comfort.

"He didn't suffer and it was very peaceful in the end," she said.

"It's very comforting to think that so many people thought so much of him."

She said that many ex-students would remember "his absolute humanity" and added: "There wasn't anyone he turned his back on and he was a man of great faith."

Among the tributes, Whitby's Rich Hebden said: "So sorry to hear you’ve passed away sir, you really did care about all your pupils.

"We didn’t realise it at the time, but they were in so many ways the best years of our lives.

"So glad we kept in touch, see you in the next life."

Former pupil, Robert Winspear, was saddened to read about Mr Cowell's passing.

"A true gentleman who always had time for his pupils (past and present)," said Robert.

"He was what every pupil needed and we were blessed to have him."

Another ex-Caedmon pupil, Jon Pearson, added: "RIP to the best headmaster anyone could have wished for, the embodiment of passion and caring, an absolute legend."

Mr Cowell was involved with St Hilda's Church on Whitby's West Cliff and helped to get the church choir going, as he had a love of church music.

In his retirement, he set up Dr Martin Clarke Young Organ Scholars' Trust (YOST) which encourages and provides the opportunity for young people to play the church organ.

"He was very aware that churches were having trouble getting organists and he felt that young people were not as highly valued as they should have been and that there were opportunities for them," said Pam.

"There was one young organist who's going to Salisbury Cathedral who could hardly reach the pedals when he started but he has since played at York Minster and colleges in Cambridge where he studies "

Mr Cowell was also a member of the Dalesmen Singers and did a lot of travelling with them - Steve Maltby of the Dalesman was, in fact, Mr Cowell's music teacher at Caedmon School.

Although he moved away from Whitby in 2006, Whitby never really left his heart and he stayed in touch with former pupils and colleagues up to his death.

Mr Cowell leaves behind wife Pam, two daughters, Louise and Sarah, and five grandchildren and a legacy that is summed up by the words of a former pupil and family friend;

“Mr Cowell was my headteacher, my mentor, my hero, my friend and the closest thing to a father I will ever have.

"He is the greatest man I have ever known and will ever know.

"He changed the course of my life and the lives of countless others.

"I will miss him every day but his legacy will live on through the immense good he did throughout his life.

Rest in peace Sir, I will always try to make you proud.”

Mr Cowell's funeral will take place at Selby Abbey on Thursday December 16 at 11.30am. Family flowers only please.

The family would like to express their gratitude for the care and support given by the staff at Pinderfields Hospital.