Hugh Thompson, a well-known KZN educationalist and theatre personality, died peacefully in his sleep in Durban earlier this week after complications following a heart-bypass operation.
Robert Cross, the former General Director of NAPAC, who worked with Hugh for many years, has said “Hugh was a great personal friend of my entire family. His sense of fun was infectious, his penchant for appalling puns was hilarious and his warmth and deep kindness means he will be deeply missed by all who knew and worked with him - friends, colleagues and students alike.”
Educated in Pietermaritzburg, Thompson majored in Geography at the University of Natal, and began teaching at Glenwood Boys High School. After appearing in a number of theatre productions in Durban and Pietermaritzburg, he returned to the University of Natal and studied for his second BA in Speech and Drama. After a period as a lecturer in the Department, he moved to the Speech and Drama Department at “Dokkies” (Durban College of Education) where he directed a number of highly successful student productions.
Later still, when the Edgewood Teachers’ Training College was opened, he was appointed as Head of its Speech and Drama Department and, in addition to lecturing, again directed its students in a number of popular productions. He later moved to the Natal Education Department when he was appointed as Inspector for Speech and Drama where his deep understanding of theatre and its application in schools, made him extremely popular with staff and students alike.
After a period as a member of the Drama Advisory Committee of NAPAC, he later spent a few years as NAPAC’s Drama Organiser, often acting as company manager for productions that toured the province and appearing as an actor in a number of them. At the same time, he was a member of the Nederburg Ballet Committee, a group of ballet experts charged with selecting the annual winner of the prestigious Nederburg Ballet Award.
When he retired from NAPAC, he joined the staff of St. Benedict’s school in Pinetown, again teaching speech and drama, before finally retiring a few years ago. However, he retained his deep interest in the subject and in the performing arts generally, and had only recently finished an exhausting series of visits throughout the province, adjudicating speech and drama students.
He had also been involved from its inception with the annual, national Students’ Shakespeare Quiz and was the current chairman of the Shakespeare Society, a group of enthusiasts who meet regularly.