By Obo Effanga
For emphasis, Hope Waddell is a Christian school, established, owned, managed and funded by the Presbyterian Church. However, for many years in the 1970s upwards, it was run by the state government until some time after the turn of this century when it went back to the church. Although a Christian school, its doors are open to people of different faiths.
However, the Chapel remained central to its operations. And directly linked to it is music, very particularly, hymns. The school’s anthem itself, ‘Who would true valour see’ is Hymn 576 from the Revised Church Hymnary used by The Presbyterian Church in Nigeria.
Each day, during the morning assembly in the chapel, the students and teachers sing one or two hymns, pray and listen to announcements before recessing to their class or staff rooms for the day’s work. So, it would be strange for a Howadian not to love hymns and know quite a handful by heart.
Before we talk about the Chapel, we must first talk about its predecessor, the Goldie Memorial Hall. It was built at the cost of £470, contributed by staff, students, companies and friends in Calabar and Scotland. It was constructed between 1907 and 1908 (dedicated on August 7, 1908), to the memory of Rev Hugh Goldie, one of the pioneer Presbyterian missionaries in Nigeria. Unfortunately, on February 10, 1914, the Goldie Hall was burnt down by an accidental fire set by some government labourers in the cliff, which fire crept up the hill to torch the hall.
In 1926, work began on the building of the Chapel to replace the Goldie Hall and was completed a year later. The present Chapel was dedicated on November 22, 1927, attended by the Governor of Nigeria, Graeme Thomson and his wife. The cost of the Chapel was £2,390, all of which were donated by different people and organisations (students, old students, staff, church, friends in Nigeria and abroad).
Following the efforts of old students and staff of the school a befitting pipe organ was bought and fitted in the Chapel. It was dedicated on November 16, 1938. That organ was equally replaced, when it had gone bad, by the efforts of old students and various others in 1983. Sadly, that too has since gone to ruins, leaving only the casing and some of the pipes standing.
The Chapel had a life of its own. Even the students who were selected as Chapel workers were a special breed. They ensured that the Chapel always had a pristine look with well-manicured lawns where the grass was always cut very low, thus establishing the standard of lawn keeping known as ‘Chapel level’! As reward for their dedication, Chapel Workers were exempted from all other work of a general nature in the school.
And talking about music and hymns, it was one of the fortes of the school. As said earlier, it would be strange to find a Howadian who doesn’t love music and hymns. Hope Waddell has had history of award-winning choirs. Ask Otu Toyo, now an architect, about his experience in the Eastern Nigeria Festival of Arts, circa 1965 in Enugu. His summary not long ago was: “we subdued every choir east of the Niger. I even picked up the first prize in the ‘female voices category’ at the Eastern Nigeria Festival of Arts, the topmost competition in all forms of Art in the East”.
In more recent years, the Hope Waddell Choir went by the name, ‘The Glorious Voices of Hope Waddell’ and kept on the tradition of winning awards across the land.
If you are a true Howadian, respond to this article by mentioning your favourite hymn while in school as your way of celebrating 127 Years Of Hope Waddell.
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