Richard Gardner Eyeington

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Richard Gardner Eyeington
Richard Eyeington
Richard Eyeington in 1969
Nicknames Dick
Died 20 October 2003 (aged 61–62)
Northern Somalia
Education BA, Durham
Years at BGS 1968-1971
Departments Geography
Subjects Geography, Physical Education
Notable work(s) Played football for the Old Bostonians
Home town Chester-le-Street, County Durham
Spouse Enid

Richard Eyeington was a teacher of Geography at Boston Grammar School (1968-1971).

Death

Two British teachers working for a charity were shot dead in northern Somalia on Monday 20th October 2003. They were Richard Eyeington and his wife Enid. Richard was Geography master at Boston Grammar School from 1968 to 1971.

They were shot inside a school compound as they watched television on the Monday evening and their bodies were found at 6 o'clock the following morning. Dick had been hit nine times and Enid at least twice.

The Sheikh Secondary School, 890 kilometres north of Mogadishu, is in Somaliland, a former British colony that claimed independence in 1991, but has not yet been internationally recognized as an independent state. Dick Eyeington, 62, and his 61-year-old wife were to retire after their mission to this war-torn country.

Loved Africa

Mr Eyeington's brother, John, said "We were very worried when he decided to go to Somalia. We knew it was dangerous and we thought he'd done enough already."

"But he was determined, and now he's paid for it with his life. It still came as a big shock when he was killed. Why would anyone want to do something so terrible?".

Mr Eyeington said his brother had been very religious when he was younger and it was this that led him into teaching. "He always wanted to do the right thing. He was very moralistic and loved to help people," he added.

Mr Eyeington's sister Joyce, who lives in Edwinstowe, Nottinghamshire, said: "They were two of the world's most beautiful people - they were kind and both loved Africa."

The filmmaker Richard Attenborough, who knew the couple for three decades, said friends and family had pleaded with them not to take the job. Describing them as "the most inspirational couple I have ever met", Lord Attenborough said: "They lived their belief that every human being had an equal right to education and tragically died making that belief a reality."

Rod Dunn remarked "Dick was a colleague, friend and tremendous chap. He was a great asset to the teaching staff of BGS; always willing to help others, whether that be staff or pupils, and a great help to myself and the PE Department. Dick was a cheerful, helpful, caring person who had strong Christian beliefs. Both he and his charming wife loved Africa and loved the children he taught."

The couple worked for SOS Children's Villages whose Secretary-General, Richard Pichler, said "Our sympathies are first and foremost with their two children and their grandchildren. "The whole SOS family worldwide mourns the loss of two invaluable and very committed family members."

Raised in County Durham

The son of a coal miner, Richard Eyeington was born in Chester-le-Street on 1st November 1940 and grew up in Pelton Fell, both in County Durham. He attended grammar school, where he met his future wife, Enid. He gained a BA (hons) in Geography, a diploma in education and an MA in education, all at Durham University.

Dick and Enid married in 1963 and in September of that year went to Tanzania on a British government scheme to teach on a three-year contract. In November 1964 their first child, Mark, was born. They returned to the UK in 1967.

Dick taught Geography at BGS from 1968 to 1971 and was also involved with sport in the school. While in Boston Dick lived in Hardiway. Their daughter, Louise, was born in 1968.

Dick missed Africa, and in 1971 he left Boston to teach at Waterford Kamhlaba college in Swaziland, a school attended by the children of Nelson Mandela and Archbishop Desmond Tutu. Richard's wife, Enid was the school nurse and head of hostels, also running the school's community services programme. Richard joined as a geography teacher, becoming head of geography, deputy head and finally, in 1984, headmaster. He was also director of studies to the young Swazi King. In the midst of apartheid Dick and Enid fostered an ethos of egalitarianism, creating a school that encouraged tolerance and vigorous debate.

Lord Attenborough visited the school when he was in South Africa, making Cry Freedom (the story of black activist Steve Biko) and he ended up becoming a trustee and a close friend of Dick and Enid.

Place for learning

Following their retirement in 1995, Dick became national director for SOS Children's Villages in Swaziland and Enid ran the HIV/Aids programme.

When SOS contacted him in 2002 to help with identifying an experienced and qualified person to become principal of the Sheikh Secondary School, he began getting interested in the job himself.

However Eyeington remained hesitant to take the job until he met Abdillahi Hussein (Asha'ari), a Somali member of the SOS Board of Directors, during a trip to Nairobi. Mr. Asha'ari not only told him a great deal about Somaliland, he also met Eyeington again in mid-2002 in London, advising him this time to see Mr. Dallington, a former principal of the school and a man held in the highest esteem by generations of Sheikh Secondary graduates.

The boarding school was established during British colonial rule and was mostly destroyed in fighting launched by former dictator Mohammed Siad Barre in 1989.

Eyeington and his wife, Enid, made their temporary home in a house at the school quarters. The couple were expected to live there for the 4 years that their contract was to last.

Sheikh Secondary School was now poised to resume functioning as a place for learning and it re-opened with 100 students in January 2003.

Tragic loss

Richard Eyeington and his wife, Enid.

Willy Huber, regional director for SOS Children's Villages in East Africa based in Nairobi, and personal friend of Richard and Enid, was deeply shocked. In an official statement he wrote:

"No words can express the sorrow we feel at the tragic loss of Dick and Enid Eyeington on Monday 20th October 2003. Their deaths certainly leave a huge vacuum which will be impossible to fill. All of us at the Regional Office for East Africa are devastated by this senseless act of violence against a deeply compassionate and caring couple who dedicated their lives to the development of Africa."

"Over the past year, Dick and Enid have devoted themselves to improving the educational status of young Somalis. In the short time they lived in Sheikh they worked with great commitment, restoring the Sheikh Secondary School, building a strong and dedicated team of co-workers, winning the support of the government and people of Somaliland, and integrating the school in the community of Sheikh."

"In the process they developed a love and respect for the people of Somaliland, and brought hope to the lives of countless young people. We believe that Dick and Enid would have wanted their work in Sheikh to be continued despite the tragedy that has befallen them. We also believe that the best way we can remember Dick and Enid is by continuing to support the fledgling School, thereby making a lasting contribution to the people of Somaliland."

"Naturally we will all need time to mourn for Dick and Enid; at the same time it is our firm intention to honour the memory of the Eyeingtons by keeping the community of students and staff together, by renewing our support and commitment to the school, and by fulfilling our promises to the people of Somaliland. In this we are sure that we have the full backing and support of the community of Sheikh, who have already offered their resources, protection and friendship."

Two week closure

Somaliland president Dahir Riyaleh Kahin said the government would "do everything possible to arrest those who have committed this barbarous and inhuman crime."

The day after the shooting students all over the country took to the streets to demonstrate their outrage and grief. In Hargeisa, the capital, they took their protests to the office of the minister of education.

The SOS school continued its work after a two week closure. The bodies of Richard and Enid were transported on a flight provided free of charge by ECHO to the Kenyan capital. The bodies were repatriated to the UK.

The couple leave their two grown-up children, Louise, a barrister, and Mark, a teacher who still lives in Swaziland, and also a grandson, Tane.

A memorial service was held on 27th October at All Saints Cathedral, Nairobi and another on 1st November at St Martin-in-the-Fields, London. The couple's ashes will be returned to Africa to be scattered on Sibebe, Africa's Ayers Rock, in the shadow of which their house in Swaziland is situated