Edward Craig Cooper

Edward Craig Cooper
1954 - 1978


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Edward Craig Cooper, "Teddie" to everyone intimately acquainted with him, was born in Tooting Bec, London, on 14 October 1912. His parents were Scottish. His father, William Carter Cooper, was at the time manager of a manufactory belonging to a Glasgow-based company specializing in the production of industrial leather belting. His son was educated at Balham Grammar School, London, between 1920 and 1926, after which he transferred as a boarder to George Watson's Boys' College, Edinburgh, where he became a prefect and served as a lance-corporal in the College Officer Training Corps, and where he remained until he entered Jesus College, Cambridge. He completed Part 1 of the English Tripos in 1933 and Part 11 of the History Tripos in 1934, proceeding in that year to a Bachelor of Arts Honours Degree followed by a Master's Degree in 1941.

Edward Craig Cooper

He is especially remembered in the annals of both George Watson's Boys' College and Jesus College for his passionate interest in rugby football which remained with him to the end of his days and in respect of which at Jesus he was awarded his College Colours and where he also enjoyed playing hockey. His vociferous support from the touchline long remains in the memories of his Kingham Hill pupils.

Teddie Cooper is on the far right.

In his East African Schools, however, ordinary football held sway, but his devotion to it and his encouragement of pupils to engage in it and to enjoy themselves were just as strong and the game flourishes vigorously in them to this day. His Scottish, Cambridge and East African experiences remained fresh in his mind throughout his career at Kingham where- they were important influences on his development of the school. He frequently referred to them and kept in touch throughout his life with the friends of his school and university years, also with his East African colleagues and pupils many of whom were frequent visitors to Kingham Hill where he and his wife, Mary, delighted to entertain them.

Teddie Cooper in Africa

The importance of his contribution to Christian education in East Africa, as it manifested itself in the two schools where he served and in advice to the territorial governments concerned, cannot be too strongly stressed. It was made at a time when Britain's Kenya and Uganda territories were gradually progressing towards self-government. Many of his pupils were to become the first leaders of their countries in the early days of their independence and in later years they readily expressed the debt they owed to their schools and in particular to their two headmasters, Carey Francis, a Fellow of Peterhouse College, Cambridge, at the Alliance High School. Kenya, under whom Edward Cooper first served in East Africa as a teacher and housemaster. and to Edward Cooper himself at Nyakasura School, Uganda. It is fitting that on the occasion of his death his contribution to the educational development of these two territories should be commemorated.

Edward Cooper began his teaching career at Seaford College in East Sussex on leaving the university in 1934. To his tutor at Jesus we owe a portrayal of him at this time in which he is described as having borne an irreproachable character at the College. always exercised a sound influence on college public opinion, and displayed an attractive and modest personality and a quiet and friendly manner. The view was expressed that as a teacher he would be most patient and thorough and would win the affection as well as the respect of his pupils. Altogether it is a perceptive portrayal of the teacher, housemaster and headmaster he was destined to become.

Seaford College, however, was but the prelude to what really became his life's career, his contribution to Christian education in East Africa and at Kingham Hill School. It would appear that during his time at the University he was a participating member of the Cambridge intercollegiate Christian Union and it is likely that through its membership he was attracted to the possibility of extending his teaching career to one of the British overseas territories. Prompted by the Church Missionary Society, he applied for a teaching post at the Alliance High School in Kenya and in due course accepted the offer of a teaching appointment there. It became the turning point in his life, as he himself later admitted in a memoir of his headmastership at Nyakasura School. His experience as a teacher and housemaster at the Alliance High School provided him with a vision of what he came to believe a Christian school should be. His headmasterships at Nyakasura and. Kingham Hill reflect the translation of his vision into practice. The circumstances are best expressed in his own words:-

'Carey Francis made the Alliance High School one of the leading secondary schools not only in Africa but also in what was then called the British Colonial Empire. I was fortunate. His combination of Godliness and good learning, with the need to do your best at everything, whether digging in your garden, playing football, striving for a new one-mile record, or studying for a place at Makerere, the University College of East Africa, was what I hoped would undergird my time at Nyakasura.'

Pupils, staff and parents familiar with his career at Kingham Hill will recognize the translation of this credo into the life and work of the school. The key to it lay in his concept of "Godliness and good learning." "Good learning" in his view was not simply education interpreted as instrumentalism, how to maintain oneself by means of useful employment of one kind or another, to manage the practicalities of daily life, and so on, important as these factors obviously are. More important was the role of education in widening the horizons of the mind through experiences which stimulated thought about the purpose of life itself, conduct within that purpose and the nature of relationships in a community setting: Hence his encouragement of excellence in pupils' academic pursuits, sport, and especially in a wide range of opportunities outside the classroom and the playing field in which they could discover interests and talents of a kind they might not otherwise have been aware , experiences which some in later life freely admitted changed for the better the whole direction of' their careers. Typical of these were the expeditions at Nyakasura School of senior pupils to the snow line of the Ruwenzori mountains on whose lower slopes the school was situated, splendid teaching, learning and charactertesting experiences which remained for all time in the memories of everyone who participated in them.

This is where "Godliness" had its part to play. The Alliance High School, Nyakasura School and Kingham Hill School were all founded on the basis of Christian endeavour and to this day continue to reflect this principle. The maintenance of it, the role of the school Chapel in its exemplification in each school, and its reflection in the educational process were for Edward Cooper matters of deep personal conviction. Amongst the many tributes paid to him at the times of his funeral and memorial services stress was laid on the faith within which he sincerely believed God had called him to do what he had to do, and that it was this faith which gave him the strength to bear the weight of all the ensuing responsibilities. There were times now and again in his career when he readily admitted his need for it, especially when, as sometimes happens to anyone in a position of authority, anxiety, loneliness and uncertainty beset decision-taking. In circumstances of this kind the knowledge that he could draw support from his own Christian home was an added comfort. He was no autocrat. He had a natural authority and where decisions of significance had to be taken he consulted freely with his teachers, housemasters, other staff and prefects, and was always ready to tap into pupil opinion.

Within the Christian ethic of the two schools of which he was headmaster, he took great care over the appointment of teaching and housemaster staff, other staff and school prefects, but once they were all settled into their positions he was content to let them manage their tasks in ways which seemed best to them. If, as rarely happened, their standards fell below par, a quiet word of advice from him was all that was usually required to set matters to rights.

He was a patient man with excellent insight into the lives of his pupils and gifted with persuasive counselling skills in helping them through their personal problems, whether these related to formal learning, or conduct, or the direction which their lives might take. If disciplinary proceedings had to be invoked, so be it, but they were measures of last resort. His preference in cases of this kind was to reason with the pupils concerned and in this he was remarkably successful. Counselling was the area in which his Christian convictions impacted most on his pupils, whether individually, or as a whole school through the influence of the school Chapel, its services and sermons. Pupils went away from these sessions with food for thought. Former pupils who attended his funeral and memorial services referred to them time and again as being amongst their most lasting impression of him as a person and of the schools he had fashioned under his headmasterships. Remarkable man that he was, yet was he the most modest of men and genuinely puzzled to think that anyone should refer to his achievements as entitling him to be considered being remarkable. Enough it was for him to know he was doing simply what God called him to do. This he summarized in his own words, on the occasion of the gathering to mark his retirement from Kingham Hill in 1978:-



'What is right must be more important than what is easy and profitable. Courage, duty, loyalty, kindness, and helpfulness must be the things which really matter, not forgetting courtesy and common sense. This is our purpose here. This is why our Chapel and voluntary Christian activities are so vital and basic to all our life and work in this place. Do we succeed? No, not always. Yes, sometimes but at whatever cost, values and standards must not be lost, nor, however difficult the job, must we ever give up.'


Picture of Teddie as many us will remember him sitting on the touch line calling advice to the boys playing rugby.

Following his retirement, Edward Cooper occupied himself as a Governor of Westminster College, Oxfordshire, and of St. Paul's College of Higher Education, Cheltenham (now the University of Gloucestershire), as a Lay Reader for the Oxford and Gloucester Dioceses, and as Secretary of an Anglican Church organization responsible for bringing to this country persons from Britain's former overseas territories for further theological training. Until his last illness he was always most welcoming to people who came to visit him and to take him out for a meal or to be taken out by him for this purpose. These were occasions always looked forward to and many were the interesting and lively discussions which ensued. He was a widely read and deeply thoughtful man whose conversation, reflecting ninety years of well-stored memory, sparkled with shrewd comment and engaging wit. He will be dearly missed.

Edward Craig Cooper, Warden of Kingham Hill School, Oxfordshire, 1954 to 1978, died peacefully, aged 91, in the Gloucestershire Royal Hospital on 5 September 2003 (Times Newspaper 11 September 2003) following a lengthy period of intermittent ill-health, which he bore throughout with fortitude and cheerfulness. So ended the life of a remarkable man whose contribution to the cause of Christian education at Kingham Hill School and at the East African schools (the Alliance High School, Kikuyu, near Nairobi, Kenya, and Nyakasura School, near Fort Portal, Uganda) where he previously served between 1936 and 1954 merit the highest commendation. His funeral in Kingham Parish Church on 22 September and his memorial service in the Chapel of Kingham Hill School on 15 November 2003 attracted large congregations of former colleagues, pupils, parents and friends associated with him during his long professional life and were occasions for many tributes to his educational vision, his organizational and management skills, his enhancement in the eyes of the public of the standing of the schools in which he had served as headmaster, and, above all, the warmth of his personality and the many ways in which it enriched the lives and work of everyone who experienced it.

Teddie and Mary after retirement.

This article is a slightly re-arranged piece written by The Reverend Ralph Mann who was a member of the KHS Staff between 1963 and 1973, and Durham House Master 1964 to 1973.

For a collection of memories and anecdotes about E C Cooper click here

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