Obituary: Myrtle Hall

17 November 2017

“Faith and aplomb”: Myrtle Hall, who founded two schools in Nigeria

“Faith and aplomb”: Myrtle Hall, who founded two schools in Nigeria

John Clark writes:

MYRTLE HALL, who died, aged 89, at the College of St Barnabas, Ling­field, in Surrey, on 7 October, was a CMS missionary who pioneered educa­tion for phys­ically disabled children in Nigeria.
The youngest of three sisters, born and educated in Barnet, she initially undertook teacher train­ing, and worked in schools in East­bourne and St Albans from 1949 to 1953. From 1953, she taught at special schools in Eastbourne and Gloucester, where she became dep­uty head, before going out with CMS to Nigeria in 1964.

In the course of the next 12 years, she founded and developed the Atunda-Olu School for physically and mentally challenged children in Lagos. This was the first school of its kind in the country, eventually mov­ing into architect-designed prem­ises. Her work completed at Atunda-Olu, Myrtle returned to Britain as a tutor at Crowther Hall, the CMS college in Selly Oak, Birming­ham. Her commitment to Nigeria was such that she returned to the country in 1978, to found the Otun Ireti School for Handicapped Children, Ikare-Okoko, in the newly formed Ondo State.

In establishing the schools, Myrtle had to visit the villages and find the disabled chil­­­dren. Until then, schooling was not available for such children, who were “hidden” in their commu­nities. Not only did Myrtle negotiate with the families to find the chil­­dren, but she also had to negotiate with government depart­ments and financiers. Life in Nigeria had its challenges, but she rose to them with faith and aplomb.
Myrtle was appointed MBE in recognition of her achievements. Both schools have developed and continue to flourish.

In 1984, she returned to East­bourne, where she helped to es­tab­lish five starter homes for adults with learning dificulties, and later be­­came the first manageress of the town’s World Craft Shop.

Myrtle was a person of deep faith and trust in God. She was a member of the Companions of Brother Lawrence. Her prayers and reflections, drawn from her Nigeria experience, Every Man is a Brother, Lord (1982), and The Kaleidoscope Pattern (1991), were both published by CMS. In retirement, she self-published two more collections: Offerings (2005), recently reprinted, and Overflowing (2008), which also included some of her own paintings.

In retirement from 1988, she and her older sister Gwen (also a CMS missionary in Nigeria) lived in Devon, and then Bexhill. Sadly, Gwen died in 1998, but Myrtle remained in Bexhill until 2005, when she moved to Whittington College. As her health declined, she transferred to the College of St Barnabas. In later years, she lost the use of her legs, but was a skilled driver of a mobility scooter and wheelchair, on which she used to visit residents in other rooms and enjoy the college grounds, until she was confined to bed earlier this year.

Her faith and spirit never failed, and she was always an encouragement to her many visitors.

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