Early life and family
John Quintin Stowell Phillips was born on June 24 1929 in New Barnet, north of London, to the Revd. Robert Stowell Phillips and Mrs. Naomi Margaret Marie Phillips (nee Battye). He was called John because he was born on St. John the Baptist’s day, and Quintin after his mothers’ brother, who had sadly died at the age of 19 ten years earlier. Stowell is a family name dating back to John’s great-great-grandfather, Hugh Stowell, who was born in 1799, the very same year that the Church Missionary Society (CMS) was founded. The Revd Hugh Stowell, who became Rector of Christ Church Salford, (near Manchester) and an honorary Canon of Chester Cathedral, was a very strong supporter of CMS, and was a friend of the Revd Samuel Ajayi Crowther, at whose consecration as Bishop of the Niger Territories in Canterbury Cathedral on June 29 1864, he was present. The depth of the friendship between Bishop Crowther and Canon Hugh Stowell can be seen from the fact that Crowther named one of his grandsons (son of one of his daughters, who married Mr. Macaulay) Hugh Stowell Macaulay, who at one stage was Vicar of Asaba. A brother of Hugh Stowell Macaulay was the famous Herbert Macaulay.
Canon Hugh Stowell died on October 5 1865, three weeks after the birth of his grandson, (later Archdeacon) Hugh Stowell Phillips, John’s grandfather, who became a CMS missionary in China for 40 years.
When John was 5 years old, the family moved to Leeds, where John’s father was Vicar of an inner-city Church. John did his primary schooling at Burton House School, Leeds, and then his secondary schooling up to School Certificate, at Cockburn High School Leeds. The family moved again in 1945 to the West Midlands, north of Birmingham, for his father to become Rector of Darlaston, so John did his two years of sixth form at Queen Mary Grammar School in Wallsall, a nearby town. In 1947 he gained admission to the Faculty of Law at Birmingham University. He took four years over that degree LL.B (Hons), and then went on to do a BA (Hons) in Theology, and a Post Graduate Certificate in Education (PGCE) with credit in practical teaching in 1954, all at the same University.
Although John Phillips and Anne Calladine both studied at Birmingham University, and met in Birmingham, it was not at a University event, but in a CMS group for young people called “Companions of the Way”, in a Birmingham Church, in February 1949. Anne had entered Birmingham University Medical School in October 1948, and qualified as a Medical Doctor MB.Ch.B. in July 1953. John and Anne were married in 1954 at Anne’s home Church near Nottingham.
John and Anne flew to Nigeria a few weeks late to work with the Diocese on the Niger, John as a teacher at the Dennis Memorial Grammar School (DMGS), and Anne as a Medical Officer at Iyi Enu Hospital.
James Welch Grammar School, Emevor
John was invited to become the Principal of the James Welch Grammar School (JWGS) Emevor in January 1958, and spent seven years there. It was a time when the school expanded annually, adding a class of 30 each year for the first five years, then gradually increasing the intake. The building of classrooms, dormitories, science laboratories, staff houses and a Chapel, and all the necessary ancillary buildings was going on all the time, together with the clearing of larger and larger areas of the compound, the last mainly by the students.
The students had a very wide-ranging education. As well as the usual Grammar School curriculum to School Certificate, and games and sports, they learnt how to do electrical wiring (when the generator was installed in 1961), how to mix concrete to make poles to carry the electric wires, carpentry, drama, first aid (students ran the school dispensary for minor ailments), and Sunday School teaching in nearby villages. At first, when the school was small, Sunday Worship was in the local Emevor Church, but later it was in the Assembly Hall, and later still, in the Chapel. Baptisms and Confirmations were conducted at the School.
Anne did some teaching at JWGS in the early years, looked after the health of the students, and ran a clinic in the village (what would now be called Primary Health Care).
Further Teaching Career
In January 1965 John began a year at DMGS, in charge of the Sixth Form Extension, and then from April 1966 to July 1967 was Principal of the Schlenker Secondary School, Port Loko, Sierra Leone. After a year working in Liverpool, he became Principal of St Barnabas Secondary School, Kabba, 1968 to 1971, when he moved back to the Diocese on the Niger to teach again at DMGS, where he became one of the Vice-Principals. He was also Religious Education Adviser in the Diocese on the Niger, and this became a full-time appointment from 1974, when he finished teaching at DMGS. He did, though, continue to conduct Confirmation Classes for the students there, and also took his turn with many other senior lay men and women in the Diocese, in conducting Sunday services for Secondary Schools in the area. He worked on text books for Religious Education for both Primary and Secondary Schools, and with the late Sir Timothy C Eneli, edited a history of All Saints’ Cathedral, Onitsha “A Cathedral in our Midst” in 1992. Meanwhile Anne worked in existing medical services wherever we were posted, finally becoming Medical Superintendent of Iyi Enu Hospital from 1978 to 1987, and Director of Niger Diocesan Medical Services from 1987 to 1993, We retired to England in March 1993.
Hobbies and Leisure Interests
John had always been very interested in history, and so he was fascinated by his endeavors to trace back his family history. They say that if you go far enough back, you will get to Adam; well, John got as far as King Alfred who burnt the cakes! He was also very interested in researching the lives of people who had worked in Nigeria, such as James Welch, Bishop Lasbury and Archdeacon Tom Dennis (after whom DMGS was named). Sadly, he did not live long enough for this research to go into print, but Canon John Goodchild, who had also taught at DMGS, took the Dennis papers and produced the book “Dennis and the Igbo Bible” in 2003. John enjoyed bird-watching and letter writing, and was an avid reader of books.
Bishop Jonathan Arinzechukwu Onyemelukwe, Bishop on the Niger from 1975 to 2000, and later Archbishop of the Niger Province of the Church of Nigeria, Anglican Communion (who died on July 18 2011) described John in 1983 as “unassuming, loyal and steadfast” and I find it difficult to give a better summary of his character. He was very kind, was always very interested in people, and one of the things he missed greatly when he retired to England was people calling in to talk together, all day and everyday.
The bedrock of John’s life was his Christian faith, dating from early childhood, and growing deeper as the years passed. I summed it all up in a commemorative bookmark I had made for friends when I paid return visits to Nigeria in 2000 and 2007: “Plant your roots in Christ, and let him be the foundation of your life” (Colossians chapter 2 verse 7) (CEV)
John passed into the nearer presence of God on February 10 1995, at the age of 65. “We thank God every time we remember him” (Philippians chapter 1 verse 3)
Anne Phillips, August 2011