Tributes have been paid to a teacher who during her long and illustrious career, taught English for over 20 years at Darul Uloom Islamic College in Holcombe near Bury.

English teacher Mrs Barbara Smethurst, 82, died on Thursday 1 July. Her funeral will be held at East Lancashire Crematorium in Radcliffe on today (Thursday 8 July).

She was described by the Darul Uloom school as someone who was 'special, resilient, typically unfazed' by the all-male school environment, and went on to motivate hundreds of students at the boarding school with her 'enthusiasm, ingenuity and sheer genius'.

Mrs Smethurst joined the school in the late 1980s, initially teaching students whose first language was not English, and eventually becoming head of English. She was the first teacher of another faith at the all-boys Muslim boarding school, and the only female member of staff.

Mr Omair Aziz, her former student and current head of English at the school, said, “The students took to her immediately. Her commitment, dedication and enthusiasm were infectious, which naturally drove many of the boys to realise their un-tapped potential in English. Her character was firm yet gracious, pedantic but also imaginative, creative and noble. The result was that those around her were compelled to try their level best and reciprocate her generosity, often exceeding expectations at GCSE.”

Mrs Smethurst, who was from Greenmount near Bury, was a familiar face at the school for many years. Many of her students went on to study at university, completing undergraduate and even postgraduate studies at leading higher education institutes.

Teachers and former students reminisce how she became an integral part of the ‘Darul Uloom family’ and would be invited to many of the staff’s family weddings and other social events.

Mr Aziz said, “Her impact reverberates globally, as she had many national as well as international students. A number of them kept in touch with her, long after she had retired, often visiting her, particularly when she had recently fallen ill.

"Her noble work transcends the lives of her students, many of whom have chosen to send their children to our school. Her legacy will live on in the memories of her students and all whose lives she touched.”

One of her former students, Dr Mufti Abdur Rahman Mangera, an academic and published author, remembers Mrs Smethurst as someone whose “firmness tempered by a motherly compassion were what drove her and won the boys over… the boys became her children and she fussed over them as their English teacher.”

He said, “The Islamic tradition teaches us to honour and respect those who teach us. The students never forgot her.

"She was elated when my brothers and I visited her at her home about six years ago. She recounted all our exploits as though they had happened just the month before. She has now passed on but has left many of the students with fond memories, as they continue to profit from the hard work she had put behind them all those years ago.”

Mrs Smethurst was a three-time University of Manchester graduate, where she gained her Certificate in Education, followed by Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in education.