Death of much-loved figure who did so much for Knaresborough school and town's cultural life despite battling cancer

Tributes have been paid to “one of Knaresborough’s staunchest supporters” and much-loved contributors to the town’s cultural life after she lost her lengthy battle with cancer.
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Di Wetherell, who was devoted to Castle School and Knaresborough Silver Band, in particular, succumbed to cancer at Saint Michael’s Hospice in Harrogate on New Year’s Eve.

Originally an ‘incomer’, Di put down deep local roots and made a significant contribution to her adopted town and Knaresborough can truly be said to have lost one of its own.

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Di was a southern girl, hailing from Welwyn Garden City, probably best known as the UK home of Shredded Wheat.

Much-loved figure - Di Wetherell, who was connected to Castle School and Knaresborough Silver Band, in particular, succumbed to cancer at Saint Michael’s Hospice in Harrogate on New Year’s Eve. (Picture contributed)Much-loved figure - Di Wetherell, who was connected to Castle School and Knaresborough Silver Band, in particular, succumbed to cancer at Saint Michael’s Hospice in Harrogate on New Year’s Eve. (Picture contributed)
Much-loved figure - Di Wetherell, who was connected to Castle School and Knaresborough Silver Band, in particular, succumbed to cancer at Saint Michael’s Hospice in Harrogate on New Year’s Eve. (Picture contributed)

Di left the south in the mid 1960s, going up to the University of Keele to study mathematics, where she also met her future husband.

Having married, the two enjoyed living in the nation’s capital, until they decided to start a family and move to Harrogate/Knaresborough.

Having been introduced to North Yorkshire, Di said “this is the place for me” and so it was.

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With her three sons growing up, Di began to become involved in well known Knaresborough institutions.

She became a Teaching Assistant at the then Castle School on Stockwell Road, where her maths prowess was a bonus in teaching a perennially difficult subject.

She also made good use of her music skills, playing piano in school assemblies and helping with the production of well known musicals – Chitty Chitty Bang Bang being a good example.

She was an enthusiastic supporter of various school trips, though after one involving pot holing was heard to mutter ‘never again’. To say nothing of coaching the School’s netball team.

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One of her biggest achievements at Castle School was that she was largely responsible for the production of a book detailing the history of the school for the 200 years, covering from 1814 to 2014.

The book was based on the log books/diaries kept by head teachers, in which the daily life of the school was documented, and the memories of former pupils and staff.

Di’s interest was first sparked by entries about the purchase of large amounts of paint, prior to redecoration of the school, before a visit by Queen Mary, wife of King George V.

Di won the support of successful local businessman George Moore, who supported the project, even visiting him at his home in the Isle of Man. The book was a great success.

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Di’s other serious Knaresborough connection was made when she joined the Knaresborough Silver Band in the early 1990s, remaining an active player and committee member for 30 years up to her death.

She firstly played cornet, before switching to E Flat Horn and becoming a longstanding member of the Band’s Horn Section. She supported the exchange visits with the Bebra Band from East Germany, hosting German players when they visited Knaresborough.

She featured as a player on the iconic Bed Race Days, though not as a runner or bed occupant she would add, and went on the Durham Miners Gala events and always enjoyed the Band’s ever popular Christmas Concerts, as well as umpteen other gigs.

But as well as the ‘fun’ stuff, Di also took on the much less coveted position of Band Librarian.

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Di’s breast cancer had first occurred in 2000, when prompt surgery appeared to have dealt with the affliction.

But, towards the end of 2019, she and her family were dismayed to learn that the cancer had returned and that this time there would be no remission.

She dealt with it stoically, trying to remain as ‘normal’ as possible, attending concerts, though unable to play, and social events, including Band leader Nick Garrett’s wedding.

But time took its toll and just before Christmas, Di was admitted to Saint Michael’s Hospice – another local institution of which our area can be justifiably proud.

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The Silver Band visited Saint Michael’s to play an impromptu Carol Concert one Friday evening, with Di insisting they play only cheerful songs – more Ding Dong Merrily than In the Bleak Midwinter.

At Di’s recent funeral service, the Band played a prominent role, opening the service with the Floral Dance and mid-service, playing selections from Les Miserables and The Lion King, both particular favourites of Di’s.

She would have been immensely proud.

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