A FORMER speech therapist who helped shape St Catherine's School has died at the age of 71.

Margaret Oakley was born in South London on Good Friday ­— April 8, 1949.

Her father was a toll collector and private policeman for the Market Authorities at Covent Garden and her mother a housewife.

Ms Oakley went to a private school in Streatham and completed her A levels at college, moving to the Isle of Wight in 1971 after qualifying at speech therapist college Oldrey-Fleming in London.

After living on the Island for a time, she moved to Surrey to study at Moor House, later returning in her new role as a chief speech therapist.

She had been approached by the Isle of Wight NHS and did sterling work with cancer patients, introducing a support club at St Mary's Hospital.

In the late 1970s, St Catherine's School for Delicate Children changed direction and started helping children with speech and language disorders, and Ms Oakley decided to apply as she missed being ‘hands on’.

As the years went by, the school expanded, and in no small part thanks to Ms Oakley's expertise and drive, became one of leading schools in its field.

Everyone worked well together, and with eight speech therapists in the team, every child had a session each day.

On one occasion, a young boy from Tooting joined, and Ms Oakley told him how she enjoyed the swings and roundabouts on the common as a child, to which he replied "You can’t now, they are all chained up."

Another boy, Kema from Nigeria, gave Ms Oakley a large jug he had made for her, inscribed with the words: “Thank you for improving my speech”.

In 2003, Ms Oakley contracted a neurological disease and eventually lost her sight.

Her interests included Soroptimists and the Ventnor Lions, and she also enjoyed painting on china, composing limericks, gardening and nature walks.

Although taken ill before retirement, she never lost her sense of humour, enjoying Gilbert and Sullivan, Ronnie Barker, Eric Idle and a wide variety of music.

Ms Oakley leaves behind her eldest sister, Ann.