STAFF and students at Old Swinford Hospital school have been mourning the loss of retired RE teacher Michael Priestman.

Mr Priestman, who taught and led religious education and worked for many years as a residential tutor in Witley House, died last month at the age of 61.

He had retired from the school in January after 12 years there and he passed away at Russells Hall Hospital in Dudley on October 29, having been unwell for some time.

Headteacher Paul Kilbride described Mr Priestman, who had spent much of his teaching career in the southeast before he moved to Stourbridge, as “a valued teacher and member of our community”.

He said: “We will remember him with great fondness.

“Michael was a bachelor and he had perhaps a smaller family than some. This might in part explain why for Michael, OSH was very much another family for him.

“He lived, whilst working at OSH, in a flat owned by the Foundation on Danford Close, so he was only a hundred metres or so from Prospect gates. His proximity to OSH, and his affection for it, meant that he was always to be seen at concerts, memorials, sports days and rugby fixtures as well as his favourite, the inter-house tug-of-war. He was hard to miss.

“His collection of ties was eclectic at best and bordered on the iconoclastic. From Scooby Doo and ancient Hebrew and from the Sistine Chapel to his Griswolds Christmas themed musical apparel, Michael had a tie for absolutely every occasion.”

Mr Kilbride added: “Michael’s singing was something of OSH legend. A keen musician and performer, his enunciation was precise and his ability to hold the note for longer than anybody else in the assembly hall or the congregation at church – and by some distance - was eagerly awaited by our pupils. ‘Ye Holy Angels Bright’ is not the same without him. But for Michael, singing hymns was also prayer. Beyond this, his understanding and love of the liturgy made him a wonderful companion to have at any service, and especially at our annual Founder’s Day and the service of lessons and carols at Great Witley.

“His commitment to our pupils was total. He created, for our Muslim students, a quiet space for them to pray and also fast during Ramadan. Michael was also instrumental in getting together the first inter-faith forum to take place at OSH.

“Here, he created a safe space for our pupils to question representatives from the faith communities and gave them the opportunity to see how religions ask important questions that disciplines from the other branches of knowledge simply cannot. Michael could take this further, of course.

“His A-level students became familiar with Anselm’s ontology and Aquinas’s cosmology whilst his GCSE RE short course students marched off to the final exam (post-Priestman revision breakfast) with clear direction. But Michael was far more than a teacher of exams. He encouraged debate. He demanded that our pupils question. He was quick to encourage pupils to sow doubt where there is dogma and to see the place to disagree, respectfully but robustly. He told them to be excited about the great knowledge which is their inheritance.”

Mr Priestman was also a local Explorer Scout leader.

His funeral will be held at 11am on Tuesday November 19 at Stourbridge Crematorium.