SHIRLEY, eldest daughter of Ernest and Edith Alker was born in Salford. Growing up in war time she was evacuated but the family returned during the phoney war only to experience the Manchester blitz and having to sleep in an air raid shelter.

She was educated at St John’s CE primary school and Pendleton High School. In 1949 she went to Ripon Teacher Training College, returning in 1951 to take up her first teaching post at Marlborough Rd Junior School, Salford, a large inner city school with many challenges.

Shirley was an innovative and dedicated teacher with a quiet firm control. Twenty years on Shirley moved to Winwick CE School, a rural village school in Cheshire.

A very different environment with smaller classes of different ages. Here again every child was drawn into the excitement of education and discovery. Music and singing were always a part of her life and she would produce plays and musicals with the whole school. She was offered promotion and headships during her career but always preferred to remain with the children in a classroom.

Shirley was also a very active in the Guide Movement. She was a Brownie and Guide leader with 1st Height (St John’s) Salford running many camps and pack holidays. She brought large campfires to life and conducted a choir of Brownies and Guides at the Free Trade Hall in Manchester for 65th birthday of guiding. She ran training sessions for other brownie and guide leaders.

After retirement Shirley moved to Great Thirkleby, North Yorkshire taking on a new challenge at HMP Northallerton. She was employed part time to teach literacy skills and craft sessions to young offenders. A colleague from the prison tells the story of a lad who said he would like a photo of Miss Alker which he would take out in the pub and say: "This is the woman who taught me to read, and she’s a Manchester lass as well!"

Shirley immersed herself in village life in Thirkleby and All Saints Parish Church where she was church warden. She was instrumental in converting the church hall from what had been an old school room into a modern village hall including an extension with toilets, store room and kitchen. She acquired grants and oversaw the building work.

She ran a three-parish choir and a sewing group. She put on a production of Joseph with local children. She wrote and published two books on the history of the village.

In 2002 Shirley moved to Kendal, Cumbria to be nearer her family. Here she joined Kendal Parish Choir and was an active member of the church and started a bridge club. She actively campaigned for better parking for blue badge holders in the town centre.

Throughout her life she served her community and inspired and enriched the lives of many young people.

She is survived by her brother David and sister Janet.

Miss Elizabeth Shirley Alker, died May 23, aged 87.