Fond tributes paid to former CRGS teacher

The late Mike Fielding.
The late Mike Fielding.

Tributes have been paid to a respected former Clitheroe Royal Grammar School teacher with a passion for American history who has died at the age of 77.

Mr Michael Fielding, who retired from CRGS in 2002 as head of the history department, had suffered for several years from dementia and died peacefully in the Royal Blackburn Hospital.

Michael (or Mike to his friends) was born in St Helens in July, 1939, to Henry and Agnes Fielding. An only child, he spent his childhood in St Helens, attending Cowley Grammar School. He went on to do six years at Manchester University, studying commerce, followed by an Honours degree in history, and a teaching certificate.

In the early 1960s, he created the “Railway Ramblers”, a group of like-minded university friends with a passion for steam trains and good beer. A typical day involved travelling great distances to spot and photograph steam trains – with a few pub visits thrown in.

While at university, he met Valerie and they married in December, 1966, in Manchester.

He and Valerie enjoyed travelling together immensely and one of their first holidays was a six week road trip to Turkey, where they crossed Europe in a Mini on a £50 Government imposed travel allowance.

Mike began teaching at CRGS in 1965. His first job, he remained here throughout a career which spanned more than 35 years.

With a passion for American history which developed during his time at university, Mike went on to introduce the American history A Level to students and he also taught government and politics and law.

As a keen sportsman, he coached cricket, football, rugby and squash at school. He also kept goal for many years for the staff football team, the Clitheroe Academicals, and in 1983 ran the London Marathon with fellow CRGS colleagues.

During his teaching career, he initiated the “Iowa Exchange” programme which brought together students and teachers from both sides of “the pond”. Over a period of 10 years, he organised several trips to the US which combined visits to major tourist attractions and a two week family stay in West Union, Iowa, where both teachers and pupils gained a hands-on experience of American school life.

Mike retired in 2002 as head of the history department.

As newlyweds, Mike and Val settled together in Great Harwood where they welcomed their first child, Andrea, in 1971. They moved to Clitheroe a few years later where their second daughter, Louise, was born in 1977, and where Val still lives today. Mike had four grandchildren, Jack, Ben, Emma and Mattias, now aged between six and 14.

A passionate collector throughout his life, amassing extensive collections of books, playing cards, crown-cork bottle openers and breweriana, Mike’s travels enabled him to enhance these collections with unusual specimens.

He was also keen on general knowledge, making several television appearances – first with daughter, Andrea, where they were series runners-up on “Today’s the Day” and then as a contestant on “Fifteen to One”.

He was a lifelong Everton supporter and often took his daughters to Goodison Park to see them play.

Tributes have been flooding in for Mike, with former teacher and colleague at the grammar school Mr Edward Murphy one of many with fond memories.

“When Mike arrived at CRGS he immediately threw his boundless energies into developing and enhancing the reputation of a strong history department,” said Mr Murphy. “He was a genuine academic with a profound love of study and a strong desire to pass on this passion to those students who were fortunate enough to be taught by him. He set very high standards for himself and for others and he was a genuine innovator. He specialised in American history and in the early 1970s he established the A Level politics course, again specialising in US politics, which has become a mainstream tradition at CRGS with his legacy continuing to this day.

"Outside the classroom he was an inspiration to so many. He was a keen sportsman who gave freely of his time in so many areas including rugby, football, squash and cricket. He famously led very many school trips to London and even an overland trip to Moscow at the height of the Cold War! He was a regular and enthusiastic participator on school ski trips and he was responsible, together with Val, for developing the school exchange programme with North Fayette High School in Iowa, USA, which became such a feature of school life in the 1980s and 1990s.

“Mike was an excellent teacher with a genuine passion both for his subject and a desire to pass this on to those whom he taught. Generations of Clitheronians have been privileged to have learnt the lifelong skills needed to equip them for work and life, from Mike.”

A celebration of his life will be held at Accrington Crematorium on Friday at 11am.