Obituary tributes Leslie Sleight a ‘real gentleman’ who loved to play table tennis and was a former Wisbech headteacher

Leslie Sleight

Leslie Sleight - Credit: Archant

A well-known figure in Wisbech and King’s Lynn table tennis circles and a former headmaster of Elm Church of England Primary School, Leslie Percy Miller Sleight has died aged 86.

He was born in Walsoken on November 25th, 1929 to Clarice and Leslie Sleight. He attended Kirkgate Street School, Walsoken, until 10 years old and then Wisbech Grammar School from 1940-1948.

He did National Service in the Army with the Royal Engineers as a sapper, mainly in Elgin, Morayshire, from 1948-49.

From 1949-51 he was a student at the Methodist Westminster College, London, gaining his teacher’s certificate. He then returned to Wisbech and taught at St Peter’s Boys’ School from 1951-1964.

While studying in London, he met Pauline Fionna Marsay. They married in 1952 and had two daughters, Fionna and Moira. Pauline died in 2007 just short of their Emerald Wedding Anniversary.

Mr Sleight was Deputy Headmaster of Peckover School in Wisbech from 1964-66, then Headmaster of Elm Junior School until the early 1970s when it amalgamated with Elm and Emneth Infant School to become Elm Junior and Infant School under his leadership. He retired as its headmaster in September 1988.

A lifelong Methodist, he attended Kirkgate Methodist Chapel in Walsoken until its closure, after which he worshipped at Trinity Methodist Church, Wisbech. When at his much-loved holiday home at the Norfolk coast, he worshipped at Stanhoe Methodist Chapel and Burnham Market Methodist Church.

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At Kirkgate, he and Pauline served in many ways, including as steward. They chauffeured elderly and infirm members to the chapel for services and were also very involved at the MHA (Methodist Homes for the Aged) in Wisbech.

For many years the Sleight family, including his Uncle Cyril Sleight, took the first service of the new year at Wisbech Brotherhood which met at the Wisbech Working Men’s Institute.

He was the first-ever non-Church of England teacher to teach at both St Peter’s Boys’ School and Elm Junior School (being a Methodist used to bar you from Church of England school appointments as in those days governors could insist in appointing practising C of E communicants).

Mr Sleight was an active – and very good – table tennis player since 1942 and a founder member of the Wisbech Table Tennis Association. At college he represented his college and London University at chess and table tennis and was awarded his college half colours for both. Pauline took up table tennis, too, and also excelled at it and they were prominent members of the Wisbech and King’s Lynn table tennis scene. They both won countless trophies and medals.

He continued to play table tennis well into his 80s at league level. When the Wisbech Table Tennis League which he had founded celebrated its 60th anniversary he was still playing in it. He was delighted and proud to be made the Life President of the Wisbech Table Tennis Association. Along with his family and chapel, table tennis was his life.

Those attending his funeral in a packed Trinity Methodist Church, Wisbech, represented all aspects of his life and a flag hung at half-mast at Elm School.

He leaves daughters Fionna and Moira, their husbands Robert and Colin, brother Wilfred and three grandsons and their wives: Richard, James and Hannah, and Peter and Amanda.

His teaching career meant that he influenced generations of young people in the Wisbech and Elm area.

His daughter Moira said: “Many people have said what a kind and generous man he was and called him “a real gentleman”. In notes he left, he said that he endeavoured to keep up the family crest’s motto: “Serve all, slight none”.