He will be remembered as a kind and fair teacher who cared deeply about the many children who passed through his schools.

And now tributes have been paid to Barry Thomas, who has died aged 77.

Mr Thomas was a headteacher in London and North Walsham, before returning to classroom teaching later in life at Fakenham.

Former pupils have shared their memories of Mr Thomas on the North Walsham High School Memories Facebook page.

One read: “Such a kind and caring headteacher. I remember sitting in his office once and being very upset, in the first year, after getting told off by a certain library teacher after being late because I had a music lesson. He was a treasure.”

Another former student said: “Mr T was an absolute diamond. He was an amazing man."

Mr Thomas was born in 1945 to Bruce, a joiner, and Vi, a Blackpool boarding house landlady. 

He attended and played football at Baines Grammar School and the Blackpool Town youth team, before moving on to sixth form at Goldsmiths’ College in London.

After studying education, he started his career as a geography teacher at Roan Boys Grammar School in Blackheath, London, where his love of football developed. 

Sarah Thomas, his daughter, said: “Alongside his teaching he took on football at the school and in 1971 he led his team to a memorable win in the prestigious English Schools Trophy competition in a thrilling game played at Charlton Athletic’s ground – quite possibly his proudest achievement.

“This was won on another occasion under his leadership and the school then attracted talented football boys enabling further competition success.”

Mr Thomas then undertook a master's degree in education, achieving a distinction, and moved into school management.

He became deputy headteacher at Trinity School for Boys in Newham. After the headteacher died in Mr Thomas's first term, he was appointed acting head and then permanent head, while he was still in his early 30s. 

Fakenham & Wells Times:

He met his first wife, Catherine, at Goldsmiths' and they married in 1968. They had two children, Daniel and Sarah. 

Sarah said: “In time, the family wanted to leave London and head for the countryside.”

They moved to Southrepps and later settled in Aldborough.

Mr Thomas was headteacher of North Walsham High School from 1984 to 1990.

Sarah said: “For the first time, he had the opportunity to run things as he wanted to, and his impact at the school was big.

“Having worked at large schools in London, he knew the importance of promoting tolerance and acceptance, and led by example with a calm, fair approach, especially with discipline issues.”

But Sarah said her father eventually sought a change.

Fakenham & Wells Times:

She said: “He felt frustrated by changes to budgets and increased administration, which he felt swallowed his time, making him an ‘accountant’ rather than a teacher, and took away his time working directly with young people.”

After a brief stint in business, he returned to teaching, but this time as a class teacher. He worked at Fakenham High School in the early 1990s, where he enjoyed working directly with young people again.

Mr Thomas and Catherine divorced in 1993. He met his second wife, Judy, through a mutual friend in Fakenham and they married in 1996. 

After taking early retirement, they embarked on a new life in France’s Loire Valley.

Fakenham & Wells Times:

Sarah said: “He settled into life in the sun, learning new skills and getting hands-on with renovating properties and gardening.

“In time, they bought a house at Colkirk near Fakenham, and he spent the last years of his life between Norfolk and France.”

Playing, watching and coaching sport were lifelong passions.

Sarah said: “Football, cricket and squash were all important to him, and he was always involved in local sports teams in London, and also when he moved to Norfolk.

"He playing football at Southrepps, then football, cricket and table tennis at Aldborough, and squash at Cromer.”

He had been unwell for a number of years with a lung condition called COPD and he was diagnosed with lung cancer in 2019.

Mr Thomas's funeral will be at Colney Woodland Burial Park on Thursday, December 1 at 1pm.

Family flowers only, but donations can be made in his name to Cancer Research UK.

As well as his children, Mr Thomas is survived by three grandchildren – Rose, Casper and Thomas.

-To pay tribute to a loved one email norfolktributes@archant.co.uk

-To read more obituaries and tributes join the Facebook group Norfolk's Loved & Lost.