By the time he died on April 18th, 1895 in Dublin, Ireland, Reverend Hope Waddell was not aware that two days earlier a school had been named after him in Calabar, where he had worked devotedly as a missionary for 37 years.
Just by the principal’s office in the Hope Waddell Training Institution, Calabar, is the bust of a gentleman. It can also be said that a little smile plays around his lips as the visitor looks into his eyes. In the distance are the silvery waters of the Atlantic. It moves along as it has done for hundreds of years, and these waters must have inspired many a schoolboy at Hope Waddell. But the dark bust, which is made of stone and concrete, does not move. It seems quite friendly, indeed it seems very alive, given the twinkle in the eye of Hope Masterton Waddell (1804-1895), the man in question, after whom the school is named.
Interestingly, just like the other missionaries in Calabar, he learnt Efik and spoke it well. On the chin of the bust there is a growth of moss, which is green and healthy looking, another instance of life, perhaps hinting at the healthy growth of the school which has managed to keep its head above water, despite a number of challenges which it has faced over the years. But the bust still remains in good shape, though it is not clear in what year it was placed at the spot. Hope Waddell was born in Dublin, Ireland in 1804. In 1825 he was admitted for training at the Edinburgh Presbytery, which later became the Presbyterian church.
Ordained in 1829, he was sent as a missionary to Jamaica, where he remained until he was sent to Calabar. Literature made available by Mr. Edet Inyang, Principal, Hope Waddell Training Institution, draws attention to the career of Hope Waddell in the Calabar area.
According to the document “Rev. Hope Masterton Waddell led the ‘Calabar mission’ of 1846 to bring the Gospel to Calabar and environs. Rev. Hope Waddell, an accomplished missionary, had previously carried out extensive missionary work at Jamaica between 1829 and 1846 and when it was time to move over, he led a team of Scottish and Jamaican missionaries to Calabar. His arrival marked the beginning of the Church of Scotland Mission (which later became the Presbyterian church) in Calabar and the Cross River Basin.”
It seems that much earlier the Chiefs and King’s of Calabar had sent messages that missionaries should be sent to Calabar to bring both education as well as religion. The document states “This desire was partially met when Duke Town School was opened in 1846, but the yearning of the people went much deeper than what Duke Town school offered. Thus in 1894 a new school, Hope Waddell Training Institution, was in the pipeline.”
The story of the early beginnings of the school, is a remarkable one. The very beginning was a time of great investment in planning, execution and consolidation, the same document states. On May 29, 1894 Rev. William Risk Thompson was made the first principal. By May 31, 1894 classes began in the church house. Then towards the close of 1894 the first two storey prefabricated building was completed. The work was done by a Glasgow firm with corrugated iron sheets and Scandinavian pitch pine,imported from Scotland. It was a school with international character drawing pupils from Sierra Leone, Liberia and Fernando Po. The school was named after Reverend Hope Waddell who had retired from the service of the Calabar mission in 1883 after serving for 36 years. Football was first played at the school. At a point the game was referred to as ‘Calabar game’. Cricket was also played at the school. Another first on the continent. It was the school that produced Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, who served as President of Nigeria in the 60s. It is also the alma mater of Senator Victor Ndoma Egba, as well as late Akanu Ibiam and a host of others.
Reverend Hope Waddell was 91 years and still enjoying his pension at Dublin, when the idea of opening the school was conceived. He died on 20th April, 1895, two days after the request to name the school after him was made. Mary Slessor, a Scottish missionary who worked within Calabar and surrounding communities at that time, another towering missionary figure in her own right, was the principal mover for the establishment of the school which came to be named after Hope Waddell. E.U Aye writing in Hope Waddell Training Institution (1894-1978) states. “Unfortunately, he neither heard of the proposal nor lived to see the monument in his name. He died on the 18th of April 1895, two days after the request was made.”