If you ask Google the question ‘What is a teacher?‘, the site Career Explorer will affirm that ‘A teacher doesn’t only teach. They also inspire and encourage their students to be their best version of themselves’. As a teacher myself, I feel I must add at this point what all pupils will already know. That this does not necessarily apply to all teachers. Very sadly. But we all know it absolutely did apply to Jill Mortiboys.
The photograph above – included by Jill’s niece Imogen in the Funeral Order of Service – would have been taken before I joined Church High School. I like it a lot, because it perfectly captures the warm, outgoing woman who greeted me with a firm handshake when I attended for interview on Ascension Day in 1985, the School’s Centenary Year. Ditto the inspirational Head of Dept. who guided me in my first teaching job and would become my mentor.
I’d like to think that Jill recognised a soulmate in the young Miss Chapman, but she always did see the best in everybody she met. I owe her a lot, because she clearly saw potential in me I didn’t know was there myself, applying for the job on the back of three years coping with depression whilst at University and through my P.G.C.E. too. She must have fought hard for me, as, unbeknownest to me, my mental health was not the only question mark hanging over me. The eagle-eyed Miss Davies had spotted an ankle bracelet under my tights, I later leaned. And only certain types of women wore them!
Sarah Timney, taught by Jill in Sixth Form, recalls the impact she had on the Church High of the time: ‘What a breath of fresh air she was!’ There was no pretence about Jill. What you saw was what you got. She also made it easy for you to be yourself in her presence too. You always wanted it to be the ‘best’ version of yourself, of course, but also knew that ‘all would be fine’ as long as you had tried your best.
And so we get to the nub of this particular post: to enable me to share the live video stream of Jill’s Funeral Service with you all. It was meant to be the best footage possible to achieve, I promise you, as a fitting tribute to Jill’s ‘life well lived.’ And in a way I’m really quite proud of the finished product, because I did do it all myself. But, despite all my preparation in advance, there were gremlins to contend with when the actual day and time arrived – not least the fact I had just had the clips removed the day before, two weeks after my left knee replacement! Factor in also a desktop PC for some reason refusing to reveal the relevant link in Outlook at the last minute, forcing me to swap over to my iPad and film the video from its screen with a mobile phone! I didn’t make too bad a job of it, all things considered, but I could have done without the phone battery draining 2/3 of the way through the Service, it has to be said. Sorry.
But, determined not to be deterred, I hopped across to the nearest mains plug – fishing out a charger cable enroute across the room – and, in the end, only lost a small segment. Luckily for me, this was not ‘original copy’ but a letter from one of Jill’s ex pupils being read out by her nephew, Richard. I hope enough is there to glean the gist
And by the time Plan B took shape, I’d also missed the coffin’s arrival to the accompaniment of The Kinks’ lyrical, quirky ‘Time Song’. [Click on the YouTube link I’ve just created if you want the full experience.] Towards the end of the video stream – at an apt point in the Service, I must admit – you will meet one of my cats, Atticus Finch. Jill would greatly approve of that! She would also want you to be able to put a face to her dear friend and life-long soulmate, Amanda Arrowsmith, when her name is mentioned. The picture below was taken in 2015. Jill lost Amanda about a year and a half ago. And it was a big loss. Amanda’s death wasn’t COVID related, but Jill was still one of those poor people who last saw their loved ones going into an ambulance. She rallied, of course, being the fighter she was. I take some solace too in knowing that Jill’s last day in her own house was spent with Wimbledon on TV, listening to Test Match Special on the radio too! That’s the Mortiboys’ full on engagement with life I knew and loved.
Imogen did really well in the send off she gave her Aunt. It was very, very Jill. The Service below lasts just under 40 minutes. Simple, yet moving and profound. Its uplifting ending was pure joy. Just like Jill.