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Remembering Freda Yates

Last week, I was browsing in a second-hand bookshop near Lancaster. In among the rows of old paperbacks and manuals for Ford Escorts, there was a threadbare copy of 'Cornertone Mathematics'.

I could hear her as clearly as though she was standing next to me, 'Morning Remove E. Get your Cornertones out'.

It's true that nobody ever forgets a good teacher; but Freda Yates was so much more than that. I would like to share with you all a little of what she meant to me.

Freda was my first form teacher at Elmslie. Nobody who was there before their demolition will ever forget the infamous 'huts', or Rooms five, six and seven as they were also known. The last two were art rooms, but Room 5 was Freda's fiefdom. She swept through its battered orange door, always immaculately dressed and in full make-up, looking more like a film star than a teacher.

Some of my fellow pupils found her a little intimidating, but I was always fascinated by her and she became my favourite teacher. When I left Elmslie, I went to the staff room to say goodbye and to give her a gift. She was delighted and made me promise to stay in touch with her.

Freda and her lovely husband, Jim, lived a short walk from me and I was often invited round for cake and coffee. Not many people may be aware that Freda was one good baker! As the years rolled by, we fell into an easy, warm friendship that lasted until her death in 2006.

My own mother died when I was barely in my twenties and it was Freda who comforted me then and in the years to come. She became a sort of surrogate mother to me; Freda was always the first person I called with any news, good or bad, that I had. I was living in London then, but we were in regular contact and when Freda and Jim visited the Houses of Parliament back in the 1990s, they made sure that I was invited to join them. It was a wonderful day.

We shared a lot of giggles over the years, often crying with laughter. It was a side that was rarely seen in class and that, perhaps, was a shame. Because without doubt, Freda was one of the kindest, most generous and funny people I have ever known. She wasn't just a teacher; she was my much loved friend. And I will always miss her.

Beverley Bannister

Freda and me at Wyecoller Village

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