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Teacher Joe Gallagher loved making things with wood – but, tragically, it was his passion that would eventually lead to his death, due to asbestos cancer.

Mr Gallagher’s widow, Maureen, said her husband was unaware the dust which swirled around his classroom was deadly.

She said “Joe used to tell me that the asbestos was flying around the room when he reached up to pull out the wood from the racking.

“At that time you were unaware of the dangers.”

Mrs Gallagher, from Shipley, said her husband began suffering health problems in 1998 when in his 50s.

As his condition deteriorated over the years, he was eventually diagnosed with the terminal cancer mesothelioma, caused by exposure to asbestos.

Mr Gallagher’s inquest in Derby heard that he had already received a payout after developing the lung condition plural plaques in 1998.

The hearing was told that he and his wife moved to France in 2005 and while he was playing football with his grandson in April 2013 noticed he was becoming severely breathless.

Derby and South Derbyshire Coroner’s Court heard Mr Gallagher was diagnosed with a second lung disease, mesothelioma.

After moving back to Derbyshire, the 70-year-old died at Ilkeston Community Hospital on September 3.

Mr Gallagher’s detailed work history was read out in court from a statement prepared by him before his death.

In it he said: “In or about April 1995 I was investigated for a chest infection, had a chest x-ray and was diagnosed with pleural plaques.

“I contacted a solicitor through my teaching union, the NASUWT, and received a settlement claim from Staffordshire County Council in 1998 as it was accepted that I was exposed to asbestos while working at Warslow Secondary School between 1973 and 1988.”

Mr Gallagher’s extensive working history included spells working as a joiner in Chesterfield and Sheffield before he studied teaching and began working at Warslow, near Ashbourne.

A post-mortem examination on his body gave the cause of death as mesothelioma.

Mrs Gallagher, 67, of Hardy Barn, Shipley, said she met her husband in 1968.

They married the following year and have three sons – Martin, 43, who lives in Wiltshire, Richard, 40, who lives in the Dordogne, and Rob, 33, who lives in Shipley with his mother.

Paul McCandless, Assistant Coroner for Derby and South Derbyshire, said: “Fundamentally from the outset to the end of the well-produced, interesting and accomplished working history provided in the statement by Mr Gallagher’s family and made during his lifetime it is clear that he was exposed to asbestos during his time working as a teacher.”