Inspirational Newick teacher dies aged 63

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Lewes man David Motley, who was a teacher at Newick C of E Primary School for 30 years as well as a local union activist and campaigner, has died at the age of 63.

He was born in Sharpthorne, not far from the tracks of the Bluebell Railway which would become something of an obsession later in his life.

He moved to Offham at the age of nine when his father became manager of Coombe Place Farm, and David attended Lewes County Grammar School for Boys.

His degree in French at Southampton University included a year as an ‘Assistante Anglais’ at a school in France. He trained as a teacher upon his return, taking up his first position at Manor Park Primary School in Uckfield.

But it was at Newick that he made his mark as a popular and inspirational member of the school community, particularly through his many dramatic and musical productions.

David, of Evelyn Road, Lewes, had an instinctive sense of justice and fairness which led to an involvement with the Trade Union movement, and his tireless work as local secretary for the NASUWT ranged from representing and supporting teachers locally to campaigning and shaping national policy at annual conferences.

He later became Chair of Lewes Trades’ Council where he was instrumental in bringing the leading lights of the Trade Union world to Lewes for the Council’s biennial festival.

Away from teaching and politics, David had been captain of Uckfield Rugby Club’s second team and his editorship of the club magazine ‘Stud’ demonstrated a talent for writing that vastly outweighed his ability on the field of play.

An early passion for blues and jazz morphed into a life-long obsession with the music of Frank Zappa, seemingly incongruous alongside his concertina playing on the local folk scene. He passed his enthusiasm for music on to his four children, and the family were eventually able to form their own ceilidh band.

David was a Lewes man through and through, and always gravitated back to the town that he loved. It was a place where he could indulge his fascination for history and architecture while surrounded by the fields and farms of his youth.

As his family became increasingly involved in the activities of Commercial Square Bonfire Society, David would often be seen dressed as a jester on ‘The Fifth’, shaking his collection bucket from one end of town to the other.

His membership of the congregation at Southover Church led to an involvement with the Lewes Passion Play, twice appearing as Chief Priest Caiaphas.

In 1984 David was found to have a benign brain tumour and an operation to remove it led to a stroke. He made an excellent recovery, albeit with reduced mobility and vision, and was able to return to work less than two years later.

However, nearly 30 years on he succumbed to the meningioma, passing away peacefully at St Peter and St James Hospice, Chailey.

David is survived by his wife Mary, their four children and five grandchildren. His funeral will take place on Wednesday, October 2, with a cremation at Woodvale, Brighton, attended by family at 10.30am, followed by a Service of Thanksgiving at Southover Church in Lewes at 2.30pm and a wake at The Elephant and Castle.

There’s no dress code and no flowers please, but donations can be made to St Peter and St James Hospice and the charity ‘Motivation’ by cheque to funeral directors Cooper and Sons at 42 High Street, Lewes, East Sussex BN7 2DD.