Much-loved Maidenhead swimming teacher passes away aged 56

Much-loved Maidenhead swimming teacher passes away aged 56

Tributes have been paid to a 'fearless' Maidenhead swimming teacher who brought 'passion, energy and enthusiasm' to the sport, following her death at the age of 56.

Alix Burnage passed away on August 11 at Thames Hospice after a battle with a brain tumour.

Having been head of swimming at St Piran's school in Gringer Hill for more than 15 years, Alix taught many youngsters how to swim, giving them confidence and ability in the water.

She was also involved with other sports in the town, including Maidenhead rugby, hockey and netball clubs, and was a strong supporter of charities, raising money for good causes including the Maidenhead Lions Club, Guide Dogs for the Blind, SportsAble, and Thames Hospice.

Husband Andy, whom Alix married in 1996, said: "In a lot of the cards we received, all of the parents talk about how well Alix did with their kids, and how they have such high regard for her as a teacher.

"She was always fun, she was absolutely fearless. She might be scared about something - but she would do it anyway."

Born in Weston-super-Mare, Somerset, Alex grew up for a short time in Twyford, before moving back to the West Country to live in Yeovil.

Andy added: "Alix used to play the piano and would have to play it in the church. She really didn't like that - her preference was to go swimming in Weston-super-Mare harbour."

Alix spent some time living in Woking before moving to Maidenhead, and had three children with Andy: Nick, Luke and Charlotte.

Her other jobs included running Woking Leisure Centre, working at Ascot BMW, and becoming a ski rep. 

"Outside of swimming, she has always had time for people, she would always take time to listen to them and help them overcome things," Andy (pictured below with Alix) said.

"All her friends have said how much Alix helped them when they were in difficult positions."

Jonathan Carroll was headmaster at St Piran's from 2001 until 2019, and was the person who hired Alix when she went for the head of swimming role. 

"She constantly gave up her time without any moaning or groaning," he said. "And she would never let a child slip through her fingers and fail."

Jonathan remembers Alix offering swimming lessons to the local scout groups and Maidenhead rugby club teams, adding it was her 'endless patience' that made her such a memorable teacher.

"By the end of year one she wanted a child to swim a length; that was her aim," he added. "She would go the extra mile, and put on extra lessons for the weaker swimmers.

"And she recognised that there needed to be fun in swimming - so she put on synchronised swimming as an activity in lessons, and when it came to galas and inter-house competitions, she would have fun activities that give children confidence in the water.

"She brought fun to swimming, she brought passion, energy, enthusiasm."

Jonathan added: "Alix would never come to me with a problem, she would come to me with a solution. I knew her as a colleague, an employee, a parent of children who my own children know very well.

"The tragedy is someone like Alix gets taken away from us when she had so much to offer, but her legacy will stay on. 

"Alix was a special person who will be missed by hundreds of people."

Seb Sales, the current headmaster at St Piran's, said that the school is planning to hold a memorial service for Alix in the autumn term.

"Her big saying was: 'every child leaves St Piran's with four good strokes and knows how to keep themselves safe'," he said.

"As a colleague, I will remember her with huge positivity and enthusiasm who had incredible patience."

Maidenhead Lions Club secretary, Brenda Butler, said that Alix was 'such a happy, positive lady', who had a real passion for swimming.

"She was just a joy to have around, really," she said. "She had been organising the St Piran's team [for the Swimarathon] for many years, it felt as though she had the whole school there.

"Although she was poorly, she did come along in July for this year's Swimarathon, and we had a lovely chat and a catch-up. And she was, even at that stage, very positive. People are just so moved by her loss."

Alix's funeral will be taking place on Thursday, September 2 at Maidenhead Methodist Church, however the family have reminded that numbers are heavily restricted. 

A livestream will be provided for people to watch the service virtually.

A cremation service will then be held in Amersham before Alix is laid to rest at Bray Cemetery. 

A tribute page for Alix has been set up by her family. To view it, and donate to charities that were close to her heart, click here

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