Memorial Day for Lesley at Ilminster School

Story and garden pictures by Lewis Campbell

Remembrance Garden for Lesley Mckechnie at Ilminster Avenue primary school which was unveiled at a special Memorial Day in June.

Staff and pupils of Ilminster Avenue E-ACT Academy along with family and friends paid tribute to much-loved former staff member Lesley Mckechnie with a special Memorial Day. 

Lesley’s untimely passing in August 2018 shocked and saddened the community of Knowle West. 

The Memorial Day was held on Wednesday 5 June, when a remembrance garden was unveiled by Lesley’s children. 

Lesley Mckechnie at a staff end of term event last year on her 40th birthday. The picture has been put on display in the school for the pupils to come and remember her. (Picture courtesy of Ilminster Avenue E-Act Academy).

The afternoon kicked off with a memorial football match between pupils and teachers – with a moment of silence before the start. 

Once the game had finished, everyone gathered in the remembrance garden where some moving words about Lesley from both staff and pupils were shared. 

Head teacher Hilary Dunford read some words she had said at the funeral last September:

“There are very few people in life who have the extraordinary ability to show us all how to be a truly amazing human being. Lesley was one of them. 

“The ability to be truly humble, care infinitely more about others than themselves and never have a bad word to say about anyone. 

“Never judgmental, never disapproving and always positive, even when things became challenging. Lesley’s heart was made of gold and we are forever thankful that we knew her.” 

A tribute from one of the pupils was: “You were somebody very special in this school. You were kind, beautiful and generous. No-one in the school will ever forget you. You were star.”

With the ribbon cut, family were invited to spend some time in the space to remember her. 

Lesley’s husband, Andrew, was in attendance and was clearly moved by the work done by staff to erect the serene, reflective space built to remember his wife. 

He said: “The day was brilliant. It just proved how much everybody at the school, her friends and the family appreciated Lesley. They clearly all still miss her dearly and the words from the staff were really beautiful. We really appreciated the work done on the garden. Again, it was just beautiful.” 

Andrew Mckechnie (centre) with parents Carol and Ian in the Memorial Garden. (Picture Lewis Campbell.)

Lesley’s legacy will also be carried on by daughter Mollie (17) who is now working at the school on a college placement in Early Years and keen to go on and study to be a Learning Support Assistant like her mum. 

The people of Knowle West are renowned for the resilience, respect and coming together in times of loss  – and this Memorial Day celebrating the life, friendship and dedicated work of Lesley McKenchie was a fine example of deep-rooted community spirit.