Saturday 22 July 2023

Childhood: The pupils of Corona School, Shamrock House, Bukuru, Jos - III

The bubble of childhood

It is strange that I find myself writing about the pupils of Corona School, Shamrock House, Bukuru, Jos again, a good 48 years since I left the school. This was prompted by two things, the need to publish a comment that had been left on one of my social media pages in 2010, that was discovered just a few months ago and an excerpt from a schoolmate’s father’s diary that gave an interesting context to the times in which we lived there.

We lived in Rayfield, a bucolic setting of tranquillity that was sometimes upset by graving cows beyond the fence of our homestead that could have been a ranch and a nest of wild bees that twice greeted me with a sting.

Our home had all the provenance of colonial privilege, a bungalow with 5 bedrooms, I think, painted white with green windows. A few outhouses called boy’s quarters and stretches of grounds and encirclement of fruit trees gave the appearance of an orchard, mangoes, cashews, oranges, figs, lemons, then pineapples and other things my dad planted.

No story of the bodies

What I read from the diary excerpt posted on Facebook also immediately dispelled my notion of Jos being so peaceful until the 1990s. In what must have been the late 1960s, there were disturbances for which her father was called upon to cater for the massacred, he counted 108 bodies that he superintended their interment in a mass grave. His colleague at the Bukuru Railway Station registered 398 bodies.

We as children were completely oblivious of these events either historically or contemporaneously as not even rumour reached us on the febrile environment in which we lived. The idyll of Rayfield presented distance and isolation even as our parents mollycoddled us with comforts and experience that dignifies our childhoods with privilege that could easily be the background of an Enid Blyton children’s story.

The Dent-Youngs in Nigeria

Be that as it may, I decided to do some digging around some elements of my childhood ensconced in the broader narrative of home and school. Our headmistress at Corona Primary School was Mrs Dent-Young, her husband was the head of the Amalgamated Tin Mines of Nigeria (ATMN), my father’s boss, where he was the Deputy Chief Accountant.

On searching for the surname Dent-Young, I found that the elder Dent-Young, Lieutenant Colonel John Dent-Young, a scion of an engineering family and a mining engineer from Bath, first arrived in Nigeria in 1912 as a surveyor with Northern Nigeria (Bauchi) Tin Mines, Ltd before joining the West Africa Frontier Force during WWI, after which he managed Gurum River Tin Mines, Ltd, then Ribon Valley Tinfields, Ltd before serving as the joint managing director of Nigerian Alluvials, Ltd.

His miners found the first examples of Nok culture. [Geni: John Dent-Young]

He retired in 1950 returning from Nigeria to England and died at the age of 65 in 1955. [NMRS: John Dent-Young]

His son, David Michael Dent-Young, a mining engineer also, was the managing director of ATMN, my father’s boss and he was made CBE in 1977 for services to British commercial interests and the British community in Nigeria. He died at the age of 82 in 2010. [Geni: David Michael Dent-Young] [The London Gazette: Honours 1997 – PDF]

Wherefore Corona

Speaking of the British community in Nigeria brings us to a broader history of the Colonial Service along with the many changes of names and departments in the last century. First, the Corona Club was created in 1899 for the support of overseas civil service officers with its own tie and cravat and it offered benevolence to dependants of members who died in service as ‘tropical diseases were less well-controlled until the middle of the last century’.

The Colonial Office set up the Women’s Corona Club in 1937 to support the wives of officers being sent to work in the Commonwealth, it was renamed Women’s Corona Society in 1950 and then Corona Worldwide in 1970, it retains the wider remit of supporting women going overseas for all sorts of reasons. [Corona Worldwide]

The Corona schools

With wives abroad, there arose concerns about children’s education overseas, and in most cases, there was no adequate provision that children were sent back to England for school, usually boarding school. In 1953, the Children’s Escort Service was created to chaperone children between the abroad and England and back to their parents when on holidays.

The Corona Women’s Society opened its first school for British children in Nigeria in 1955, rapidly expanding to include all children. Comments posted to my earlier blogs would suggest the Corona School I attended at Shamrock House, was first opened at Miango Junction according to Joe Miner whose story links up with another, quite likely in the late 1950s, William Gardner comments about attending Shamrock School, which I believe would be Corona Primary School at Shamrock House at the age of 5 in 1962. [Corona Worldwide: Corona Anniversary Magazine – PDF

Note: I just visited the Corona Primary School, Bukuru, Alumni group page on Facebook and the celebratory anniversary cake along with shirts worn would suggest the school was established in 1963.

Until a few days ago, I never thought to explore the history of the Corona name and its significance in colonial times. I cannot however determine if Corona is an acronym, a contraction of words, or its etymology. My research continues, but having more context to the people and the times of our childhoods makes for interesting reading that I did not know until now.

Related Blogs

Blog - Childhood: The pupils of Corona School, Shamrock House, Bukuru, Jos

Blog - Childhood: The pupils of Corona School, Shamrock House, Bukuru, Jos - II

Blog - Childhood: Standing up to the powerful

Another comment to present

My annotations for context or clarification are in parentheses []. Having also visited the old pupils/alumni page, I have updated elements within the blog and the comments.

9. Murphy Erebor – 22nd May 2010 (From one of my social media pages, it might have been Facebook.)

Hi Akin,

You seem to be about my age and attended Corona [Primary School]. I was in Corona in 1971 and was in Mrs Feliciano’s class and Mrs Sanda’s class at a certain time. Do you remember Mrs Uku our principal? [I do remember Mrs Uku as the school disciplinarian (she passed on in July 2021 at the age of 87), as well as Mrs Obole, but not as our headmistress who at that time was Mrs Dent-Young. Mrs Agbelusi was my teacher in Primary 3, the class I started at.]

Well, I live in Abuja and am an architect by training. Nice to know you have good memories of Corona [Primary School]. I wish I had more pictures of my stay in Corona [Primary School] though.

Just read your blog, quite interesting, Corona [Primary School] was a very beautiful place. I wish I knew where one of my teachers was, Mrs Onyemenam was a very good teacher. [She was my teacher in Primary 5, I recently saw a picture of her on Facebook with a caption that she was 93, that was in January 2021. I had a tough and unsavoury time in her class. I had issues and she chose to embarrass me before the class.

Funny enough, Mrs Feliciano if you remember her the Filipino lady is still alive. [My memory fails me on that score.]. She is in her eighties and lives in the US with her daughter. Mrs Feliciano’s mother is also still alive and over one hundred years old. Her son Joel is on Facebook. You might also remember him. [Unfortunately, I can’t seem to remember them, but I love the stories that come together in these comments.]

Sarah Sanda who wrote on your blog works with the Nigerian Television Authority. I see her on TV almost every day because she is a newscaster.

Take care, my brother.


Emokpae Erebor


Anonymous said...

My brother went to corana 1971 to 1974 had no where to teach him....she was lebanese and had a shop... my bro was always happy... n mom knew he was safe

Anonymous said...

I love this school

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