TRIBUTES have been paid to a long-serving teacher who was also a talented rugby and cricket player.

Len Rowe died at his home in Western Hill, Durham, on Wednesday of last week, following a battle with cancer.

He was 71.

Mr Rowe taught English at Durham School, Ferryhill Comprehensive and Durham Johnston School. He was head of English at Ferryhill and then Durham Johnston until he retired in 1994.

Outside of school, he played centre for Durham City rugby club and opening batsman for Durham County when Durham was a minor cricket county.

Born in Northampton, Mr Rowe played for Northampton Rugby Club and Northamptonshire County Cricket Club, before representing Oxford University in both sports while studying there.

He was active in coaching sport to children.

John Dunford, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders trade union and formerly headteacher at Durham Johnston, said: “Len was a truly great teacher.

“He was an inspiration to his students and imbued them with both a lifelong love of learning and a wide range of linguistic skills.

“Len’s kindness, wisdom and sense of humour were memorable. He was an inspirational person who really cared about others.”

Carolyn Roberts, the current headteacher at Durham Johnston, said long-serving staff remembered him with great affection as a wonderful Head of English and a respected colleague.

She said: “I first met Len when he was still involved with our Japanese exchange even after he retired.

“We are all very sad that he is gone.”

Mr Rowe was a keen squash player, theatregoer, golfer and walker who twice completed the Pennine Way and Coast to Coast Walk.

He married his wife Margaret in 1960. They have four sons, Alistair, 48, Duncan, 46, Michael, 44, and Mark, 42; and 11 grandchildren.

Mr Rowe’s funeral was held at Durham Crematorium yesterday from 10.30am, followed by a celebration at the family home. Donations were given to the chemotherapy unit at the University Hospital of North Durham.