Hugh Thompson, well-known KZN educationalist and theatre personality, died in Durban in July 2016. This tribute is written by Professor Mervyn McMurtry, former head of the Drama Department at the University of KwaZulu-Natal
Hugh Thompson’s passing is a deep loss to education, but perhaps “loss” is not the most appropriate word to describe Hugh’s achievements; through his lifelong commitment to educating young people, his legacy will be perpetuated.
Hugh epitomized the belief that the arts are humanity’s most enduring means of continuity, connecting generation to generation, and the present to the future. As a teacher, lecturer, inspector, and subject advisor of speech and drama for some fifty years, his influence has been and will remain profound.
He was influential in having Speech and Drama accepted as a subject in high schools, and even more so, in its implementation, by formulating the syllabus and training teachers. Hugh attempted to retire from teaching, but could not; indeed, at the age of 74 he began to adjudicate for the Speech and Drama Association. And wherever he travelled to adjudicate, he was welcomed and recognized and respected. Not only that, he remembered all the teachers, many of whom he had trained.
Hugh was provocative, perceptive, and passionate in every way: genuine, accurate and constructive in his praise, advice and criticism, a stalwart supporter of and a performer in theatre, from musicals to his particular love, Shakespeare.
Hugh, for inspiring so many people to think, to feel, to live life to the fullest, for a life devoted to fostering drama and theatre, for your generosity in sharing your knowledge and expertise, we extend our humblest gratitude, our deepest sympathy to your loved ones, and our wish that “flights of angels sing thee to thy rest”. – Mervyn McMurtry