|17 Mar 2023|
Jean’s father, Nathaniel Taylor, and mother, Winnifred Meakin, met in London while he served as a Grenadier Guardsman. Jean was born on 13 July 1940 in her father’s ancestral village of Epwell in Oxfordshire, but grew up near Worthing, on the south coast, where Nathaniel was a policeman.
Jean passed the eleven plus and went to Worthing High School, where she blossomed, enjoying drama, music (playing the piano and singing) and art. Her talent and determination gained her a place at St Anne’s College, Oxford to study history in 1958. The ‘history girls’ at St Anne’s formed a close-knit group of friends with whom she stayed in touch all her life. At Oxford, Jean also met Simon Bannister (St John’s College, 1958) and they were married on 12 August 1961.
In marrying Simon, Jean took on the role of a clergyman’s wife, which she threw herself into, while being quite prepared to defy conventional expectations as a working mother. During Simon’s theological training in Lincoln, Jean started her career in teaching. Later they moved to Prestwich in Greater Manchester where Catherine was born in 1963 and Stephen in 1965. After a brief time in Orpington, Kent, from 1966 to 1970, they moved back up North to Bury where they lived from 1970 to 1977 and then Oldham from 1977 to 1986. For most of that time Jean taught history at Bury Grammar School for Girls, where she is remembered with great affection as an inspirational teacher. She helped to give many of her pupils the confidence to be the first in their family to go to university and coached a number through the Oxford entrance exam.
Jean and Simon moved down South again in 1986 where Jean was headteacher, first at Sir Frederick Osborn School in Hertfordshire and then at St George’s C of E School in Gravesend. Simon died in 2003. Jean had by then retired and was a lay reader in St Giles’ Church, Farnborough, Kent. There she met her second husband, John Reber, whom she married in 2007. John died in 2019 and Jean moved into a care home in Wimbledon in 2021. Although living with dementia, Jean continued to enjoy life and to give joy to those around her. It was a great grief to her family and friends when she died suddenly on 14 August 2023.
Jean was an energetic, positive, bright and loving person. As well as being an inspirational teacher and headteacher, she taught adult education classes, wrote a book on the history of Bury and gained two master’s degrees (an MEd from the University of Manchester and an MBA from Leeds Metropolitan University). She served the community as a magistrate and as an inspector of schools. She also brought great fun into people’s lives, running clubs for young and old and putting on pantomimes and shows at church and school. Jean had a strong competitive spirit, but everything she did was done with grace, imagination, and creativity.
Catherine Jenkins (née Bannister, Class of 1981)
Stephen Bannister (Class of 1983)
 From Parish to Metro: two centuries of local government in a Lancashire town (Bury: Bury Times, 1974).