Sad news of passing of a St Thomas More stalwart

We heard via social media on Friday 3 July of the sad passing of one of the stalwarts of St Thomas More Mrs Judy Matkin (nee Lucas). This was confirmed when Anne Woosnam (nee Cochrane), another stalwart of the school and long-time best friend of Judy , contacted us on Monday 6 July.

Judy was educated at the Sisters of Mercy Grammar School (Wolverhampton) known locally as The Convent. From there she went to St Mary’s Catholic Teacher’s Training College, Strawberry Hill, Twickenham, London, where she trained as a PE and English teacher. Equal opportunities for women was only just coming on the agenda in the mid-1960s when Judy left school, and she was one of the first women to be admitted to St Mary’s College , and she was always very proud of this fact,. After graduating from St Mary’s she returned to her home town of Walsall, and worked at the Francis Martyn Catholic High in Forest Avenue , Walsall, teaching PE.

Francis Martyn was of course one of two Catholic High schools in the area, the other being the Venerable Frances Leveson Catholic High school in Willenhall. These two schools combined to form St Thomas More Catholic High School in 1973, and Judy joined the staff of the new school. These were difficult times for the school as students and staff had to move across three sites across the town until the building of the new Willenhall Comprehensive School was completed on Furzebank Way, and St Thomas More took over the vacant site eventually connected by the infamous “bridge” across the motorway, which for many years was known as the road to nowhere as it ended just past the school, before joining up with the new Black Country route in the late 1980’s

Judy continued to teach PE but her teaching commitment to English increased. She also became an integral part of the school pastoral system serving as Head of Year for many years before her early retirement in 1997.

The photograph shows Judy in her prime and where she liked to be most of all, amongst her students. It was taken in 1996 and marked the last lesson of the year for her A-level class. Judy is impeccably dressed in the photograph, as she always was. She maintained the highest standards of dress and appearance and demanded the same from students under her care. Similarly she expected the best of manners, and standards in English, both spoken and written.

Judy also had a great sense of fun and a sense of humour. On the annual mufti (non-urform) days she always borrowed a uniform from one of the students and wore it for the day. She invariably dressed as a St Trinian’s girl in the staff versus students hockey games.

Judy took early retirement from St Thomas More in 1997 and subsequently worked at Queen Mary’s School (Walsall) and then at Sutton Girls before retiring completely from teaching. She remained very active in her retirement, and as an avid tennis fan playing twice a week.

Unfortunately Judy was stricken with a devastating and debilitating stroke in 2014 and for the last six years she has been cared for in a residential home. She contracted Covid 19 in April and was admitted to hospital and typically fought the virus and returned to the home where she sadly succumbed to the disease on Friday.

The expression “old school” is often over and inappropriately used, but it is certainly not the case with Judy. Judy was old school in that she had high expectations for her students and colleagues, and retained a firm but fair approach to discipline and showed great compassion for the students in her

care. After nearly forty years of teaching in the area thousands of young people benefited from her lifelong vocation to teaching, and commitment to her profession, and this is her legacy.

Judy leaves her daughter Leah and two grandchildren, 4 year old son, Raef and a 7 month old daughter India. She is lovingly remembered by her best friend Anne Woosnam and by the community of St Thomas More Catholic School. Rest in Peace Judy,

Steve Burns

Friend and Colleague.

Deputy Head