A TEACHER and charity champion from Witney has died aged 59.

Robert Marchbank, known as Bob, was a headteacher at Chilworth House School for Special Education, in Wheatley.

As well as having led a distinguished career in teaching, he was also known for his fundraising sports challenges, which included a 500km cycle ride from Scotland to his home in Witney, canoeing, cycling and sailing around Jersey in 24 hours and completing the Three Peaks Challenge on a bike.

It is believed his exploits raised more than £10,000.

Robert James Marchbank was born in Liverpool on June 19, 1954, to parents Francis and Jean.

His father was an electrical engineer and his mother a personal assistant.

He grew up in Liverpool and attended Waterloo Grammar School for Boys from 1965 to 1970, before going to Kirkby College for two years.

At Liverpool University he read business and did a PGCE in physical education until 1976.

After leaving university he took teaching jobs around the country, in Liverpool, Kent, Shropshire, London and Buckinghamshire, teaching sports and outdoor pursuits at special needs schools.

But it was in 2004 that he came to Oxfordshire with the task of opening up such a school, given to him by the Witherslack Group – a leading provider of specialist education and care for children and young people with special educational needs.

This became Chilworth House Lower School, which was soon followed by Chilworth House Upper School, as well as a vocational training centre. Mr Marchbank was at first headteacher of both and became known for his zest and commitment.

A colleague would later write: “We never give up on a child, because Bob never gave up on a child.”

He took over as principal in 2009, a role that saw him take on the responsibility for Witherslack’s education in the south of England.

In 2012 this was followed by another promotion to business development advisor in the south of England.

He lived in Witney since 1983, with his wife Maureen (nee Anderson). The couple met at a party in Liverpool in 1977 and wed in 1983. The ceremony took place on a beach in the Cayman Islands, on August 8, and was organised as a surprise for their 30 guests — who thought they were just attending a sports tour for Bob’s friends from the Waterloo Grammar School Old Boys.

The unusual event became the subject of attention in the national news media upon their return to Britain. The couple had their first child, Kirsty, in 1986, who was followed by Robert in 1990.

Mr Marchbank was a passionate sportsman who enjoyed skiing, cycling, golf and mountain climbing.

He was an active member of Witney Lakes Golf Resort and also found time to mow the lawn at St Mary’s Church Cogges, near his home, for 30 years.

Bob Marchbank died peacefully on April 27.

He is survived by his wife, two brothers John and Peter and his two children.

A funeral service took place on May 9 in St Mary’s Church (Cogges), Witney.

A memorial bench in his honour was unveiled near his family home, in Cogges Hill Road, on Sunday, June 15, provided by friends and neighbours.

His wife, Maureen, said: “There are many who will live longer lives than Bob, but few who will do as much.”

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