Mary Sparks, my mother who passed away at 82, was an incredibly well-regarded teacher at various schools in Manchester. She had known from a young age that she wished to pursue a career in teaching, and started her training at Sedgley Park college when she turned 18. Just two years later, she began working in education and jokingly mentioned that when she began, she was charged half price on the bus as the conductor thought she was a student. The first school she taught at was the Hollies convent grammar school for girls in Fallowfield, which she had actually attended herself. She then spent 25 years teaching reception at St Catherine’s school in Didsbury until her retirement in 1994.
Born in Didsbury as the eldest of three children with parents Kathleen (nee Lenaghan), a nurse, and Frank Worsley, a motor mechanic, Mary was raised in a supportive but financially challenged home. However, her mother strongly believed in the power of education and supported her daughter’s desires to become a teacher. In 1958, Mary met her future husband, Henry Sparks, at a dance at the Holy Name church in All Saints. Henry was previously employed by an electricity board. They were married in 1961 and together ran a small shop in Moss Side, all the while Mary continued teaching. She paused full-time work in the mid-60s to care for her children, but continued teaching English as a second language at night school.
Mary’s love for St Catherine’s and her Catholic faith played a massive role in her life. She participated in choir singing, running the book shop and volunteered for charity events. In her free time, she actively pursued a range of interests, which included family history, alternative medicine, travel, meditation, French, and personal finance. She was an avid reader and a vocal advocate for libraries, with a particular fondness for the Carnegie Library in Didsbury.
Mary is survived by Henry, myself, and my sister Kate. Additionally, she leaves behind three grandchildren, her sister Anne, and brother Anthony. My sister and I have fond memories of Mary bringing clothes and sometimes food into school to help pupils who were struggling. She always did what she could, reflecting on her own childhood experiences.