Lucy Torode obituary

Other lives: Teacher and social historian who made history come alive for her pupils

My mother, Lucy Torode, who has died aged 99, was a teacher and social historian who spread her enthusiasm and knowledge among pupils, the local history society she initiated and her family worldwide. Her teaching reflected a strong sense of social justice learned from her parents, the Moravian church that she grew up in, and the Manchester Guardian, then the Guardian, newspaper that she read for most of her life.

Born in Oldham, Greater Manchester, Lucy was the daughter of GW (Willie) MacLeavy, the local minister (he later became Bishop MacLeavy of the Moravian church), and Dora (nee La Trobe), a music teacher. She attended nearby schools and was well aware of the poverty of those around her. As her father frequently moved between congregations, she later went to the Moravian boarding school at Fulneck, near Leeds. She did not like being away from home and later explained her support for Amnesty International by saying that she knew what it was like to be held in an institution for no reason.

Attending the sixth form at Clifton high school, Bristol, she won a history scholarship to St Hilda’s College, Oxford. As an undergraduate during the war, she took part in night-time fire-watching on the roofs of Oxford’s historic buildings. In 1944, at the end of her time at Oxford, she met Roland Torode on a day out to ring church bells in the Cotswolds. He pulled out a map, as he always did, and she asked if she could have a look. They married in 1945 and went on to have four children.

The family settled in Kidderminster, Worcestershire, in 1953 and Lucy taught at several schools before becoming head of history at the new comprehensive Wolverley high school in 1972. Former pupils have told of how she made history come alive for them, and she successfully coached some students through the Oxford entrance exams.

Shortly before she retired, she introduced a series of walks around Wolverley with older pupils to explore the history of the area, rich in the early, more rural, stages of the Industrial Revolution. She developed this into a talk for the local community, which was oversubscribed and led to Wolverley and Cookley Historical Society being formed. She was chair, journal editor and, subsequently, president of the society. Committed to social issues, she was also active in Amnesty International, the Labour party and CND. When CND was formed, we all joined the early marches to or from Aldermaston, and Lucy later attended the Greenham Common demonstrations.

On retirement in 1983 she travelled more widely, meeting relatives, particularly from her mother’s La Trobe family, throughout the world, notably in France, Australia and the US. She always stressed the need to study the female, as well as the male, line.

Roland died in 2012. Lucy is survived by her four children, Brian, Susan, me and Laura, 11 grandchildren and 10 great-grandchildren.

Roger Torode

The GuardianTramp

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