Doreen gretton, first head teacher of tollerton primary dies aged 104

Last updated on 10 January 2022

It is with a heavy heart that we heard the sad news of Mrs Gretton’s passing

Doreen had been a deputy head in West Bridgford and applied to be head at Tollerton School before it had even been constructed. Steve, her son, remembers going with her to have a look at the time the school was just a field with some marker sticks.

Doreen said that the only reason she got the job was that it might have been ‘just’ an
infant school and no men applied! But it was a job made for her, and she for it. She was there from 1959 to 1976.

The school grew rapidly and during her time it grew from two classes (one class in what
is now the entrance area) to about 6-7 classrooms, and the main hall and kitchens.

She was a great lover of trees and the countryside and encouraged the children to take
an active interest in all things natural. There were lots of pets inside and outside,
breeding chickens, rabbits and even a chinchilla! Steve remembers it escaped one night
and nibbled quite a lot of the maths teaching equipment! Countryfile was her favourite
TV programme, it was very exciting when her eldest grandson featured in it last month
in the piece on Mountain Rescue Teams.

Steve comments that she was an active teacher and she was thankful she was
there before head teachers became mainly administrators – she was very much a hands on teacher.

She was a great lover of classical music and introduced the children to a wide range of music, but she said the children’s favourite was Saint-Saens Carnival of Animals – particularly the Aquarium. She used this to stimulate them to imagine what the music was about before giving them the titles.

On one occasion she commented that the children were always talking about ‘Millions’
and the whole school was set the task of making 1,000,000 dots on sheets of paper and
laying them out on the school floor so they could understand the number.

Here are a couple of photos taken last year when she was 104 in Christadelphian Care Home in Coventry (Eden House) where she spent her last two years.. In the first she is explaining fluently her understanding of God and creation and the delegation of responsibility for His creation to
mankind. Her audience are the fellow residents and carers at the home. One of the carers told Steve they were just spellbound. She still had the headmistress touch still there 44 years after she retired! She was very happy at the home and very popular. 

Not bad for someone born in 1916 at the time of the Battle of the Somme. Her mind
was alert to the end.

Doreen took a great deal of interest in everyone and listened intently. You always felt
you were being listened to carefully. From the feedback Steve had from some of her
pupils, it was clear that she was a great encourager and they have fond memories
After she retired she was involved in the National Association for Gifted Children.

At the age of 82 she went with her cousin on a world tour, and in preparation she took
extra driving lessons for an automatic transmission car, so she could help with the
driving in New Zealand! She continued driving until she was 95 and thought nothing of
driving 150 miles from Nottingham to Bath where Steve lived.

Steve has set up a tribute site at so If you have any stories or special reminisces you would like to share, please go to

We pass our condolences on to Steve and his family, and to all those that knew Doreen. Two of our members were fortunate to interview her in February 2018. You can read that interview here