“He was the caretaker, she managed the office. Alan and Heather John were the spirits of Buckholme and they both played a huge part in making it the place we know and love today,” says Iain Robertson, Headmaster for Buckholme Towers School in Lower Parkstone.
The married couple dedicated a combined 30 years to the independent school which provides education for children from two years and nine months, up to 11 years old. Sadly Heather passed away in 2010 and Alan’s death followed three years later. To keep their memory alive, a plaque was placed in the hall, and was named ‘The Alan and Heather John Memorial Hall’.
Iain reflects on how they made a difference to the school. He said: “Every morning when the children arrived, pupils’ laughter would echo around the playground and you always knew it was because Alan was chasing them and winding them up into frenzy. This always irked the teachers as they were tasked with calming the children down before the morning’s lessons.
“Heather was a great inspiration to the children and we even had a trophy named after her – ‘The Heather John Can-Do Cup’. She would always put 100 per cent into every task and if she couldn’t do something, she would find out how.” Heather had many hats including school nurse, office manager and assistant to the headmaster. She hated technology and everything Buckholme related was written down on “little pieces of paper”.
Heather’s passing shocked the school and had a huge impact on Alan. Iain continued: “Alan worked as caretaker for two reasons, to be with his wife, who he adored and for the pupils. He wasn’t the same after Heather died. He was still upbeat and continued with his work but you could see that he was missing her hugely.”
In March 2013, a fire devastated 80 per cent of the school building and lessons we’re moved to the neighbouring Parkstone United Reformed Church. Iain added: “When the fire struck Buckholme everyone felt a huge loss. It was the end of an era. The news hit Alan hard as it was the place where he shared many happy times with his wife and he had fond memories there. He could see the children were upset and this unsettled him. In an attempt to cheer them up he would put on a hard hat and search through the rubble to find items and clean them off. He found pencil cases and soft toys and gave them back to the pupils.
Months after the fire Alan passed away. Iain commented: “His death overshadowed the fire and the children suffered another overwhelming loss. Lots of tears were shed, especially with the youngest children as they associated Buckholme with him.
“Alan wasn’t your typical caretaker, he was outspoken and some jobs irritated him – he vowed to never pick up a paintbrush. This wasn’t a problem, it added to his charm.”
The newly built Buckholme Towers School opened to pupils on the first day of term in September and has many modern features and upgraded classrooms. Iain added: “The new building is a huge improvement on how it used to be, but much of its homely charm still remains. Alan and Heather were never known to dwell on situations and would be proud that the school is up and running and that the pupils are happy in their new surroundings. They have left a wonderful legacy and it is one that we will cherish dearly.”