Barbara Hope WHITING 1917 - 2006

Barbara Whiting
Born in 1917, Barbara was the youngest of the seven surviving children of G.W.R. employee Harry and Mabel Whiting of Old Town, Swindon.

She grew up in a loving family where hard work, joy, self discipline, fun, and developing one's talents to the full, were instilled at an early age. The Congregational Church, Victoria Road was the family's place of worship. Her independent and questioning spirit shone through even at this age when attending Sunday school.

After infant and junior school she won a free place at Commonweal School. Here she developed further her enthusiasm for the arts. Music was encouraged by her mother; ballet and drama gave her great pleasure, and her painting and drawing showed real promise. Her father and brother Gilbert's involvement and academic success in the Workers' Educational Association in Swindon and Oxford interested her too, and gave her a sense of the enjoyment that learning for learning's sake can bring.

After a successful General Certificate, Matriculation and Higher Certificate of Education, Barbara was lucky enough to win a coveted place at Gipsy Hill Training College in 1935, where she trained as a nursery and infant teacher. The College was unusual at that time in that it instilled the Montessori and Froebel 'modern' ideals that learning is, and should be, a joyous adventure in a search for knowledge and skill. This 'joyous adventure', through self activity and self discipline, became the hallmark of Barbara's teaching methods for 40 years.

Barbara loved children, especially 3-7 year olds, where the enthusiasm for the task in hand shines through. From 1937 Swindon Education Authority employed her in many schools including Rodbourne Cheny Junior and Infant School before eventually, in 1947, she came to Highworth Junior and Infant School where she remained until her retirement in 1976. As Deputy Head and reception teacher, she had ample opportunity to put her own stamp of the love of learning on generation after generation of Highworth children.

Her success in teaching gave her the means and opportunity to indulge her passion for the arts. She travelled, painted, visited museums, took part in amateur dramatics and dance, spent many musical evenings with her sister Norah and cousin Judith, and was a member of Swindon Musical Society. She developed an eye and love for antique furniture and furnished her House in Victoria Road with choice pieces and the colour peacock.

A small scooter for her journeys to Highworth became an object of admiration for her many nephews and nieces;- this was later replaced by her beloved Triumph Herald which, like Barbara, was still going strong in the 1990s!

In her latter years, her garden at Marlborough Road and her cat became very important to her. Her love of plants, flowers and colour was perhaps only eclipsed by her love of her family and her fond interest in her friends. She held family 'get togethers' for which members from all branches of her mother and father's families descended armed with food, photographs, babies and conversation. Of course the organisation for these was one of Barbara's talents and her gardener, hairdresser and cleaning lady were all roped in to help prepare for the day.

Until the year 2000 Barbara remained fit, healthy and independent, making good use of her bus pass, sailing forth to shop both in old and new Swindon and being nicknamed 'The Duchess' by the bus drivers who got to know her well.

After her accident on a bus, when she broke her leg and was confined to a wheelchair, she was greatly supported by her friends for shopping and company, and particularly by her neighbours and her gardener who all gradually, and sensitively, took over more and more of the running of her house while allowing her to keep her independence.

She spent her last few weeks in the new Great Western Hospital, lovingly cared for by an excellent medical and nursing team, and to these and to her friends and neighbours the family extend their grateful thanks.

Last Updated: 31 Mar 2013