WITH all the recent talk over the future of Christopher Whitehead High School, it's perhaps timely to remember the Worcester worthy who gave his name to this educational establishment.

I was set on the trail of Alderman Christopher Whitehead by my old friend Councillor Derek Prodger, who was anxious to know precisely how the school came to be christened after him.

Luckily, I was soon able to trace details of the alderman through our bound archives, including a lengthy report of the opening of the first phase of the Christopher Whitehead School in 1934 and his obituary in 1936.

It was all a revelation for me too. I suppose I ought to be ashamed that it's taken me until almost my dotage to discover anything about the man whose name graced the school I attended for more than four years back in the early 1950s!

Christopher Whitehead, originally from Yorkshire, came to Worcester as a youth in the 1860s and later set up in business on his own as a tailor, first at The Cross and then in Foregate Street.

He was elected to the City Council in 1893, and remained a member for more than 40 years, until his death.

He was High Sheriff in 1901 and Mayor of Worcester in 1902-3. He was elected an alderman in 1903, but then suffered a crippling illness which nearly cost him his life.

He battled back and survived, but was confined to a wheelchair for some years and then could only go about on his council duties with the assistance of others in supporting him as he walked.

In 1903, Alderman Whitehead was elected chairman of the City Education Committee, and it was in this post for more than 30 years that he really distinguished himself. He spearheaded education reform in Worcester and also the building of new schools.

In 1924, a group of leading citizens felt it important to recognise his great service to education locally, and they subscribed to provide a bust of him. This was placed in the Victoria Institute.

Fittingly, he was guest of honour in June 1934 when the first portion of the "new Christopher Whitehead Senior School" was opened in Malvern Road. He was presented with a gold key to officially open the buildings.

The Evening News report of the event stated: "It was particularly fitting that the ceremony should be performed by Ald Whitehead in view of his devoted service to the cause of education over many years and as he was the prime mover in the erection of the school. The first buildings will initially take 160 boys and girls."

Ald Whitehead was a staunch Tory and chairman of the Worcester Conservative Association for a good many years. He was a regular churchman too, being Rector's Warden at St Nicholas Church. His wife died in 1927, and his son, A C Whitehead took over the reins of his tailoring business when he retired.

Christopher Whitehead died on December 18, 1936, aged 83.

The Evening News obituary said of him: "His life was one of great public service, carried out patiently and cheerfully in spite of much physical disability and pain.

"He had a happy disposition, indomitable spirit and a keen sense of humour and, in all sorts of weather, was to be seen being pushed through the streets in his wheelchair by a faithful servant, cheerfully greeting his friends and smoking his pipe.

"He had no narrow vision of education and was at the helm during a period of considerable change and advancement on the schools scene in Worcester."

Coun Prodger says he has gained renewed encouragement in his own lengthy public service from the life story of Christopher Whitehead. "It's uncanny how much we have had in common."