Former Isle of Wight headteacher, David Charles Harrison, has died at the age of 78.

He was born in Liverpool, where at school he excelled in sport, holding many records and ranking ninth nationally in the 100 yards.

He left school and after a ‘false start’ working for the Blue Funnel Line, decided he wanted to teach.

He attended Borough Road College, studying maths and physical education, and was awarded the college teaching prize.

During his first teaching practice he met Judith Gustar, and they married in 1965.

After further studies, teaching posts and the birth of daughters Sarah and Rachel, the family moved to the Isle of Wight, where, in 1973, he was appointed headteacher at the new Sandham Middle School in Sandown.

He spent a very happy 11 years there before moving to Newport Church of England Middle School on Wellington Road in Carisbrooke, in 1984.

Pupils — and sometimes staff — loved to receive ‘red letters’ from him, personally handwritten and signed. These were given not only for achievement, but for personal qualities, so all were eligible.

Mr Harrison left the school in 1994, and after a short time working at County Hall, took early retirement.

Retirement for him meant directing his efforts and energy to help others.

He became a Quaker and was involved in its education programme, and also volunteered at the hospice.

He was involved with Ryde Rotarians, The Arts Society, and even dressed and ‘played’ Father Christmas.

Among his great joys was being Gramps to Monty and Otto, spending time in Cyprus, and supporting the work of local artists.

He also got tremendous pleasure from being involved, along with his daughters, at Brading Haven Sailing Club.

He was greatly moved seeing young people, including his daughters, take part in musical activities.

One project, Yanomamo, was prepared in one week at his Newport school, raising more than £2,000 towards protection of the Amazon rainforest.

Mr Harrison died on October 12, at the Mountbatten hospice, which had also cared for his wife Judith, and where he had been a volunteer helper.

Former work colleagues paid tribute to Mr Harrison, and said: "Those of us who were privileged to work with David remember him as being caring, selfless, kind, generous, fair and encouraging.

"He was enthusiastic and never happier than when doing something for others. He was a man with a big heart and those of us who were blessed to share his life would like to award him a special ‘red letter’.