THE ADDRESS OF THE PRESIDENT OF THE KING’S COLLEGE OLD BOYS’ ASSOCIATION TO THE 2017 AGM
LESSONS FROM THE LIFE OF HENRY JOHN HYDE-JOHNSON
The 149th anniversary of the birth of Henry John Hyde-Johnson falls on Friday 22nd December, 2017.
The man who was to become the 2nd Principal of King’s College, Lagos was educated at St. John’s College Choir School, Oxford, England. He afterwards went up to Oxford University, from whence he graduated with a B.A. degree. Mr. Hyde-Jonson was from an economically disadvantaged background and this made it necessary or him to fund his education by being a Pupil-Teacher at his alma mater from 1883 to 1888. He was Assistant Master at The Old College, Windermere from 1889 to 1892 and held a similar position at Oakfield, Rugby, from 1892-1895. The year 1895 saw him leave his native shores for an appointment as a Mathematics lecturer at St. Andrew’s College, Brahamstown, South Africa, till 1896 when he returned to take up duty as the Headmaster of The High School, Northampton. For a six year period from 1899, he was Vice-Master at Clayesmore School, Pangbourne and thereafter, he became engaged in coaching resident pupils for Universities and public examinations.
Despite his sterling qualifications, Mr. Hyde-Johnson may never have come to Nigeria, but for a twist of fate. By letter of 19th July 1909, a recommendation had been made to the British Board of Education for the appointment of Mr. Charles Edward Dunlop to the Headmastership of the King’s School Lagos (as it was then known). By the 27th September of the same year, the Board noted that Mr. C.E. Dunlop had been declared physically unfit for service in West Africa.
Thus it was that early in the year 2010, the Long Arm of Providence guided the 40 year-old Henry John to Lagos and to his place in History. He took over the role of Headmaster from Mr. Lomax, a career civil servant, who had been temporarily seconded from the Survey Department as a result of Mr. Dunlop’s ill health.
What do contemporary sources have to say of the subject of this essay, the man who was to bestow an incomparable ethos and worldview on an institution which has nurtured thousands of leaders in every field of endeavour.
The quest for an answer leads us to a 113 year-old testimonial written by Mr. Arnold Wise, then Justice of the Peace for the County of Warwick. The document is preserved in the secure vaults of the British National Archives at the Kew Gardens in London, and reads in part:
I have known Mr. Hyde-Johnson intimately since September 1892, and have much pleasure in testifying to the excellent way in which he has carried out all work entrusted to him..
…I was enabled, three weeks ago, to see something of Mr. Johnson’s methods, and was extremely struck by the clever way in which he had arranged a very complicated Time-Table, and the admirable system on which he had organised all the diverse forms of work at the School, the curriculum at Clayesmore School, Pangbourne, being of a very different character to that of most of our schools.
Mr. Wise was not the only one who thought highly of Mr. Hyde-Johnson! His Head Master at the Clayesmore School, Panngbourne,’Berks, Mr. Alex Devine affirmed:
From the point of view of knowledge of the practice of teaching I cannot express too strongly my personal confidence in Mr. Hyde-Johnson’s judgment and true standards.
Another testament was given by a parent of one of his pupils:
………..I have known Mr. H.J.H. Johnson for six or seven years, part of which time my son was under him at Clayesmore school of which I was a Director for a year or so.…….. I may say that I never met a man whose natural instincts led him to take so logical and clear a view of the best means of engaging the attention of the learner whilst fixing the information clearly in his mind. In other words, I consider Mr. Johnson a born teacher ……..He is a good athlete and in the highest sense of the (phrase) plays the game-both in work and play…
For us all, and especially for the young Kingsmen, the foregoing attestations are nothing less than a guide to career triumph.
Dear Kingsmen, we owe a debt of gratitude to the skill, ethos, dedication, courage and perseverance of people like Messrs. Hyde-Johnson (UP HYDE-JAY) Mckee-Wright (UP MACKAY), Harman (UP HARMANS), Panes (UP PANES’) and all the PKCs and Teachers who have made us who we are.
May I ask that we all rise and observe a minute of silence in remembrance of these Great Ones.
Let the world know that we remain faithful to these time honored ideals and principles.
Let the world be reminded that in the highest sense of the phrase, we always play the game!
Mr. Hakeem Belo-Osagie