TONY Burgess, a former head of Westfield Junior School, in St Ives, has died after a long illness. He was 66.

Anthony George Burgess was born on January, 24 1946 at Hilton End farm with Geoff, Christine and Meg but as siblings, without running water or electricity. He lost his father at the age of five, which meant the family had to pull together and find their own paths. It was against this background that he emerged to dedicate his life to the education of others.

He was was educated at St Ivo School before A-levels at Ramsey Abbey School and taking a degree from Loughborough University before a working lifetime in the classroom, including 17 years as head at Westfield.

He played football and cricket locally, opening the batting for Fenstanton at Hall Green for many years.

He was also an accomplished musician, so it is fitting that one of his former pupils, the West End star Leanne Jones is understood to have agreed to sing at his funeral. (Details have not yet been fixed).

After retiring from teaching he was a governor at St Ivo, helping the school to become a specialist humanities college, fundraising over £50,000 which boosted government funding for the school.

He leaves a widow, Denise, three children, Matthew, Daniel and Clare, and six grandchildren.

Ian Dobson, who succeeded Mr Burgess as chairman of ACE, the friends of St Ives Corn Exchange, which he helped to save from dilapidation and sale by the then town council, said he would be greatly missed and fondly remembered.

“A member of the renowned St Ives Burgess family, Tony will be remembered long and fondly for his own very special contribution and service to the well-being of the people of St Ives,” Mr Dobson, a former Mayor of St Ives, said.

“He was a highly respected and very popular headmaster of Westfield Junior School. We must be thankful that Tony enjoyed a long and fulfilling retirement from that important position in our town.

“He became a prominent committee member of St Ives Civic Society, leading its project to provide the blue heritage plaques that now mark out and adorn the historic buildings of St Ives.

“And it was in first the saving and then restoring and re-opening of the Corn Exchange that Tony made such crucial contributions. His good standing in the community life of St Ives made his strong intervention to help prevent the commercial disposal of the building all the more telling,” Mr Dobson continued.

“When Action Corn Exchange needed to become a registered charity in support of the community management structure for the building, Tony drew on his skills and considerable personal charm to persuade the Charity Commissioners to enable that to happen.

“Tony was instrumental in attracting large donations and support from local residents and businesses, so that the fitting-out of the Corn Exchange was a considerable community achievement.

“When due to his illness Tony had to pass on the chairmanship of the Friends, he stayed always committed and was delighted to see the Corn Exchange now flourishing and well on the way to fulfilling its full potential at the heart of community life in St Ives.

“This summer Tony had a leading part in conceiving and organising the first and highly acclaimed ‘Bookjam’ children’s reading and illustrating event: the plans for next year’s event are already laid,” he added.

Gilly Jackson, who was at school with Mr Burgess and his wife, Denise, said: “He was absolutely the best of people, a multi-faceted man who did an awful lot for this town. And he was a devoted husband, father and grandfather.”

Mr Burgess’s nephew Simon King recalled hijacking a lift in the Burgesses’ matrimonial Rolls Royce when he was a pageboy at their wedding.

“My uncle always made you feel good being around him. He was always joking and laughing. He was charismatic, but gentle at the same time.

“He introduced us all to music, and at school every reception was a guitar singalong.”