Former head and country dancing enthusiast dies at 88

Arthur Barnett, who was a former head of Hodnet primary school, and in 2020 was made an honorary townsman of Market Drayton, has died at the age of 88.

Preparing for Hodnet's June fair in 1992 with pupils Catherine Kerr, Kristina Heath, and Emma Davies.
Preparing for Hodnet's June fair in 1992 with pupils Catherine Kerr, Kristina Heath, and Emma Davies.

Mr Barnett was at the helm when Hodnet's Victorian village school moved to a new building in the 1980s.

Arthur Barnett, left, inspecting progress on the new Hodnet primary school in 1985.

He was also a leading figure in country dancing circles, teaching country dancing for over 60 years, and acting for years as caller of the ceilidh band the Tern Valley Tinkers.

His wife Lily said: "He will be very sadly missed by all those with whom he came into contact. He was willing to help anybody do anything, and I was behind him wholeheartedly in everything he did."

The couple came to Shropshire on his appointment as head of Hodnet County Primary School in July 1967, and they lived in the school house.

Mr Barnett was promised that the 125-year-old school building would be replaced within five years of his arrival, but in the event it was not until May 1986 that Hodnet's new school was opened, with the official opening ceremony being performed that October by the Duchess of Gloucester.

He retired in August 1995 after a total of 38 years in teaching.

Preparing for Hodnet's June fair in 1992 with pupils Catherine Kerr, Kristina Heath, and Emma Davies.

Born in Dixton, Monmouthshire, in 1934, he first met future wife Lily on a train in Somerset in 1948 or 1949, and they married in Wincanton, Somerset, in October 1954.

Mr Barnett did his two years' National Service in the Army but his heart was set on a teaching career which after training began at St Laurence primary school at Cowley, Middlesex, in September 1957.

In 1961 he moved to St Mary's School at Thorpe, Surrey, where the famous humorist Frank Muir was a governor and became a great friend of the couple. After a short spell as head at the small village school at Preston Bissett, Buckinghamshire, they came to Shropshire.

Heavily involved in Hodnet church life, Mr Barnett was a lay reader in the village and surrounding areas, and personally conducted over 100 funerals. He was also chairman of Hodnet Garden Club. In 1982 he became president of the Shropshire Federation of Head Teachers' Associations.

The couple moved to Market Drayton and in a ceremony in 2020 he and two others were inducted as honorary townsmen, receiving medals and certificates for their achievements, and their names joining those of other honorary townsmen on a board at the town hall.

The honour recognised his local contributions and achievements, including as caller of the ceilidh band the Tern Valley Tinkers, as the leader of the Market Drayton University of the Third Age (U3A) country dancing group, and his contributions to the life of St Luke’s Church in Hodnet and then Christ Church in Little Drayton.

Mr Barnett, a member of the English Folk Dancing and Song Society, had a wide knowledge of country dances and a huge collection of country dance music and dance instructions.

Arthur Barnett taught country dancing for over 60 years.

The Market Drayton U3A Country Dance Group was formed in 2002 and was led by Mr Barnett until last November when, due to ill health, he could not longer continue.

The funeral was at St Luke's Church, Hodnet, followed by private cremation.

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