Camden New Journal - by PAUL KEILTHY Published: 3 May 2007
Dr Allan Woolley - hit by a train in Wembley
School’s grief for teacher killed in train tragedy
Housemaster ‘ran onto line’ after ‘perfectly normal day’ at work
PUPILS and staff at a leading independent school in Hampstead were shocked this week by the suicide of a popular housemaster.
University College School (UCS) chemistry master Dr Allan Woolley, 52, was hit by a train in Wembley on Monday, hours after spending what his headmaster described as a “perfectly normal day” at the school where he had taught for 27 years.
He is understood to have left a suicide note. Police said yesterday (Wednesday) that the death was not being treated as suspicious.
Dr Woolley, as the school’s longest-serving Deme Warden or housemaster, had nurtured generations of boys,
UCS headmaster Kenneth Durham said the death had left the school in deep mourning.
He added: “I still cannot understand what has happened. It is, frankly, incomprehensible. “I spoke to him on Monday and he was full of his usual enthusiasm, talking about a future trip to the Ten Tors (in Dartmoor). “He was fit, he was not suffering from any depression. As far as I can remember, he had never taken a day off sick in his life.”
The son of a coalminer in his native Yorkshire, Dr Woolley joined UCS as his first teaching role after going on from grammar school to take a PhD in chemistry at York University.
Mr Durham said he had been inundated with tributes from past pupils and parents recalling Dr Woolley’s love of cricket, cross-country running, music and adventure training expeditions.
He said: “Schoolmasters like Allan are few and far between. Allan meant a great deal to the school and he meant a great deal to us. “He was a really enthusiastic teacher of chemistry. He had a really boyish love for his subject, and his students loved that and loved him for it. The response of the boys and the staff at the moment is the best tribute there could be to how loved and respected Allan was.”
Mr Durham said the school had written to inform parents of the death, to avoid “gossip or rumour”.
He added: “The death was completely unexpected. He had nothing preying on his mind.”
School governor and former pupil Tony Hillier, one of whose sons was coached at cross-country running by Dr Woolley, said: “Whenever I met him as both a governor and a parent he was absolutely charming – and he was highly respected and well-loved. This is a great shock.”
Dr Woolley, who lived alone in West Hampstead, is survived by two sisters in Yorkshire. A celebration of his life at the school is planned following his funeral next week.
A British Transport Police spokesman gave details of Dr Woolley’s death under a Silverlink train at North Wembley station at 8.25pm on Monday.
He said: “The train was approaching the station when the driver saw a man run onto the line. The driver sounded the alert and applied the emergency brakes. The train was travelling at 5mph when it hit him.”
An inquest into Dr Woolley’s death is expected to open this morning (Thursday).