Tribute to a Life of Service

Peter Akinjiola (SJC 1963-67)

I met Brother Thomas (Francis) McCrae, 1962, when I was about 11 years old during the sleepover, which was then a part of the entrance interview at Saint Joseph’s Secondary School (SJC). He was a young man of about 30 years old. Brother Bernard was our principal, while Brother Thomas was his able deputy. With his physically dominating presence, Brother Bernard brought out the best behavior in every student whenever he was around, at a hearing distance or when there were rumors he was around the corner. He was mostly around the school premises and rarely in the dormitory area.
In contrast, Brother Thomas was everywhere. He would catch you just when you had assured yourself that you are safe and have escaped with breaking the school law. No hideout was secure enough. He knew every nooks and crannies of the campus, and those of the bushes around the school. The element of surprise and guilty conscience overwhelms when you are caught. Brother Thomas uttered no harsh words of admonition. He would let you know that your little game was up, and he encouraged you to abide by the law. Some of those pranks included missing classes, missing masses, missing prep, unauthorized trip outside the campus, etc. He was the silent and efficient operator.
Residing in Canada and the USA increased my appreciation for the sacrifices of Brothers Thomas, Bernard and the other La Salle Brothers. These God-fearing men gave up themselves, family, money and other career choices and the comfortable living conditions in Canada/USA to develop the school and the young men of SJC. Ondo in 1959 was under-developed even by the town’s standards today. The town has grown over 20 times over the years. There was no pipe born water, electricity or telephone in the town. St Joseph’s was just the fourth secondary school in Ondo after Ondo Boys High school, St Louis and St Monica’s.
Unlike other schools in town, the SJC financially supported a good proportion of the students. The school did not send out any student because of their inability to pay fees. The school was very creative in customizing scholarships or financial assistances to every student with needs. So many indigent students like me could not have been able to attend a secondary school without SJC and the reverend Brothers.
In addition, SJC taught the students how to study. The Brothers taught any subject as needed by the school. Brother Thomas taught Biology, Chemistry, English, etc. We were regularly tested during the school year and there was no end-of-the year or end-of-term examination pressures. No cramming and students learnt to understand and appreciated the essence of every subject. This SJC learning legacy was invaluable in my journey through Higher School Certificate, undergraduate and graduate schools.
I re-established my contact with Brother Thomas a few years ago; about sixty years after the first encounter. His indelible sacrifices were still fresh on my mind and I did not hesitate to let him know my willingness to contribute to his retirement and his organization. He replied he was well taken care of and his La Salle organization was doing fine financially. I was humbled. Here is a guy that took the vow of poverty, obedience, celibacy and service … etc. in his twenties. In his eighties he is satisfied and lacks nothing!
Brother Francis, your life and those of the members of your organization are living treasures for humanity and your journey through life is worth our emulation. As St James (2:18) wrote: “… I will demonstrate my faith from my works”. We have seen your faith through your works. May God bless you.

A Lesson in Selflessness and Compassion.

Folageshin Akinnawo (SJC: 1965-69)

One day at about 5pm, I was watching a football match in the school ‘s front football pitch, when Brother Thomas, driving into the school premises, suddenly started calling me. Getting to his car he said I should quickly run to the main road and call a woman carrying two bunches of bananas.
Shortly after he walked up to us and asked me to request for the price of the bunches of the bananas, she was carrying on her head. Obviously, part of my duty was to negotiate with the woman. Interestingly, the woman seeing a white man decided to go for a kill. She asked for seven shillings, and I told Brother Thomas that it was too expensive and will not cost more than two shillings in the market. However, seeing that he was really interested in the bananas I asked the woman to take five shillings which she happily accepted. In line with Yoruba bargaining culture, I now asked the woman if she would take three shillings. From her body language and facial expression, I knew she would accept this but to my surprise before she could say ‘yes’ Brother Thomas had already brought out five shillings which he handed over to the woman. On our way back, Brother Thomas taught me a great lesson in compassion and selflessness. He said the bargain we had with the woman was a good one. According to him, a good bargain is one in which both parties are happy. The woman was happy because she knew she had cheated us, and he also was happy because the bunch of bananas in his country would cost him at least three dollars (about two pounds in Nigeria then). So, they were both happy. What a lesson in selflessness and compassion.
Rev Brother Thomas McCrea, I am joining the multitude of your admirers in wishing you a happy and joyous 90th birthday celebrations. You have devoted your entire life in the service of God and humanity. May the good Lord grant you the grace to witness many more anniversaries in divine health and sound mind. CONGRATULATIONS!!!

Seeking Multi-Talented Individuals

Ebenezer Adenusi aka Jackson (1966-70)

Brother Thomas for short as being called in those days remains a rare mentor. He knew everyone by first name. Honestly, I don’t know what would have been my status in life, if Brother Tom had not been there for me. He knew my multi-talent nature. But for only God knew then, he couldn’t push some of us to stardom. To God be the glory that I was privileged to be one of those who passed through his tutelage. I am what I am today having passed through this great citadel of knowledge under Brother Thomas.
Happy Birthday and Many Happy Returns

Rising and Shining

Taiwo Akinkuolie (SJC 482: 1966-1970)

My name is Taiwo Akinkuolie. I was a student at St Joseph’s College from 1966 to 1970. My student’s admission number was 482. I was also a junior teacher in the school from January to September 1973, when Brother Thomas spent his last days as Principal of that great School.
My experiences as a student in the H. Sc. program in a neighboring School (Gboluji Grammar School, Ile-Oluji) from 1971 to 1972, and as a member of the Board of Governors of St Joseph’s after the exit of Brother Thomas all gave me the unique opportunity of appreciating the outstanding qualities and style of management of the enigma in the approximately seven years, he was Principal of the school.
Brother Thomas was a man of love. It takes one who has love for his students to, without being compelled, go round all the dormitories every early morning to wake students up, prepare us for chapel, motivate us with those encouraging exhortations and then release us to go for our breakfast where he was also present to ensure that we were served quality meals in the right quantity. I can never forget those morning ‘Rise and Shine’ and ‘Oya o, o ya, ya ya’ that were designed to wake us from sleep
He was a good listener. It was only after I left St Joseph’s and was a student under another Principal that I appreciated those moments when as students, we would freely canvas our usually pedestrian positions on issues with Brother Thomas and get away with them without being punished. Rather, he would bend over backwards to accommodate those laughable positions we took on matters of discipline and general administration. This experience till this day, has shaped my relationship with those under me, it has also helped me to advance my positions on issues before my superiors.


Brother Thomas was firm in his handling of student matters. He ensured that his instructions were carried out to the letter. Where there was the need for flexibility, he allowed for it. Little wonder then that there was not a single student unrest during his tenure. But for his liberal but firm approach to disciplinary matters As, some erring student would have been expelled from school for bad conduct and would possibly have ruined their destinies permanently. As a junior teacher under him, all the teachers worked with a common purpose. At our staff meetings, he allowed members to participate freely in all deliberations with some members making some undoubtedly frivolous suggestions, a practice that yielded quality decision on matters under discourse.
He showed total commitment in every department of the lives of students- in the field of sports, in the dining Hall, in the classrooms, in the laboratory, in the library, in the kitchen, in the evening preparatory classes- most times folding his hands behind his back and walking smartly and briskly and wearing a warm and friendly smile as he walked along. It would be interesting to see how Baba 90 now carries himself.
One of the enduring lessons of the limit of liberty that I learnt under his tutelage is that in exercising your own freedom to do a thing, recognize that another person’s right must be respected. He used to say “You have the freedom to swing your hands anyhow and in any direct that pleases you, but in doing so, the moment you begin to hit another person beside you, you no longer have that right “.
He was accommodating of our youthful exuberances almost to a fault and respected our culture and and traditions to the point that he even tolerated some students who took advanced this disposition to lie to justify their improper conduct.
Brother Thomas desired a great future for all the students. Apart from his usual exhortation along this line, he demonstrated this practically. I can never forget one morning when he saw Rahman Mimiko, Tomide Oyebola and myself playing near the school chapel and he invited us to go out with him in his car. We ended up at the University of Ife (now Obafemi Awolowo University). After driving round, the school campus, he asked us if we like all that we saw. We answered in the affirmative. He then said, ‘My boys, if you like what you have seen, work hard so that you can come here’. To the glory of God, both Mimiko and Oyebola ended up as students of the institution.
On another occasion, he took me along on a journey to the Central Schools Board, then in Ibadan. After completing his assignments, he headed for the campus of the University of Ibadan. After driving round, he asked me which of the two universities I liked better. I told him I preferred Ibadan. He said, ‘Work hard if you wish to be here’. Those words of encouragement fired me up. Again, to the glory of God, I ended up as a student at the University of Ibadan.

One of the excuses present day governments have against the return of schools to their original owners is that such Proprietors will impose their religion on all students in the institutions. It is on record that Bro Thomas and the two Principals before him respected the rights of every students to practice their religion unhindered. The Anglican students were allowed to go to the Cathedral in town on Sundays just as the Moslems among us were released to go to the Central Mosque every Friday. This liberal attitude to worship even encouraged some smart students to go to town on Fridays and Sundays, while also avoiding the daily early morning worship in the school chapel.
Among other things, Brother Thomas was friendly, warm and caring towards all his wards. In our occasional clash with students from other sister institutions in town and around, he always defended his students.
His selfless service at St Joseph’s is unparalleled and will continue to ring bells in the heart of all of us who were privileged to study and work under him. You have left an indelible footprint in the sands of time at St Joseph’s.
Here is wishing you sir a memorable celebration at 90, in good health and sound mind. For all you have done at St Joseph’s, May the heavens reward you, B Thom in Jesus name. Have a wonderful celebration Sir.

Thank You, Brother Thomas

Taiye (aka Tayita) Akinnawo (1966-70)

I was in St Joseph’s College Ondo to know you as and simply call you Brother Thomas w0ith no surname affixed to it. It was when I left school that I got to know your full name to be Francis Thomas McCrea. I thank God for your life on achieving the age of 90 years. Surely, God has been very merciful and faithful to you during these 90 years because you live a life of service to humanity. You live your life with lots of love, care, courage and perseverance. You were able to cope with the harsh environment in which you worked as a Principal in St Joseph’s College Ondo, Nigeria. There was no light, no water and all that were needed to give you a minimum comfort, but you persevered to ensure you gave us good education. I sincerely believe that God in His infinite mercies have considered all this to bless you with long life in good health.
Nobilitas and of course the Ondo Community appreciate you. Your footmarks at St Joseph’s College Ondo remain indelible. We cannot talk about St Joseph’s today without a mention of your name and your good works. We cannot forget how you cared for us as children, ensuring that we woke up early to assemble at the Chapel for morning devotion. We cannot forget how you were going round the dormitories at night, even at risk, to ensure we were on our beds. We cannot also forget how you chased us to classes and preps so that the purpose of sending us to school by our parents was not defeated. In short, you are a cherished and unforgettable Principal. You were not just interested in the students’ academic pursuit, you promoted sports development in St Joseph’s. In fact, your contributions to sports development and active participation in all competitions were unparalleled. That was the period we defeated Ondo Boys High School in Ondo Stadium. Also, in Athletics. Table Tennis. Volleyball and Basketball, you were no doubt a sports enthusiast par excellence pursuing all round sports development in the school.


On the occasion of your 90th birthday, I heartily congratulate and rejoice with our only Brother Thomas and join other enthusiastic admirers in wishing you a Happy 90th Birthday. I pray that the Almighty God’s presence will continue to abide with you. I also pray that God will continue to show you His marvelous loving kindness and hide you under the shadow of His wings. The Good Lord will continue to bless and protect you as you journey along the remaining years of your life in Jesus name. Many happy returns and many more years of excellent health and service to mankind.
And at 90 years, I say Congratulations and Many Happy Returns. Amen!

In a Time of Bereavement

Adewale Adesulure (a.k.a Ade Barna) (S.J.C 582) 1967 – 1971 Retired Tutor General/Permanent Secretary,Ondo State.
Proverbs 22:6 “Train up a child in the way he should go and when he is old, he will not depart from it”


Brother Francis Thomas McCrea successfully played the role of a father who took good care of his numerous children by molding our lives in preparation for adulthood.
My first close interaction with him was in my first year at St. Joseph’s College (SJC) precisely sometimes in April 1967 (my first term in form one)
On this day, the Principal of Ondo Boys’ High School who was my uncle then (Late Rev. Canon J.A. Iluyomade) arrived at the office of our Principal (Bro. Thomas) to inform him about the demise of my father whom I had visited at the University College Hospital (U.C.H) Ibadan few weeks earlier during our midterm break.
Bro. Thomas sent for me from the classroom and on getting to his office he handed me over to his colleague i.e., my uncle (Principal O.B.H.S). The sad news was broken to me and my elder sister (a form 3 student then at St. Monica’s Girls Grammar School, Ondo) at the Principal’s residence in Ondo Boys High School.

Three Soccer Players

Dr Frank Thorpe: (SJC SET 1963—67). Retired medical director, GAVI consultant NPI, Secretary-General Paralympic Committee Nigeria.
I am honored to be an old boy of SJC, our great Alma Mater. It is noteworthy that most students that passed through SJC have done extremely well in their various fields of endeavors. We have engineers, medical doctors, teachers, professors, CEOs of companies, PhD holders in various disciplines and professions.


Thanks to the De La Salle Brothers that made these achievements possible.
There is no doubt that Brother Thomas played a significant role that contributed to the success story of SJC. He made sure the school rules and regulations were strictly adhered to.
My family the Thorpes – Walter, Ernest, and myself Frank – owe the school a lot of gratitude for the quality education and training that contributed to our achievements as medical doctors.
The SJC brought out our abilities in sports, especially soccer to the extent that the three of us played for the school and Western Nigeria Academicals.
Brother Thomas, I wish you a happy birthday and many happy returns of the day. May the Lord grant you more years in good health and peace of mind.

What a School!

Jimi Awosika, (SJC 574 1967-71) Group CEO Troyka

I arrived at St Joseph’s College, Ondo early in January 1967 on what was an unusually cold Friday evening filled with trepidation but somewhat sure that I was not going to enjoy my time in the school.
This should be understandable.
I was just six months shy of 12 years, had never been out of home, had lived all my life in Lagos (at a time when Ikorodu Road was in the Western Region), had a somewhat sheltered life up until then, and even though a citizen of Ondo town had before then never spent more than a total of thirty days in the town; and this included the six days when I had to write the entrance examination and the follow-up interview into the school. On all the occasions when I had to be in Ondo except for the aforementioned days that I sat for the entrance examination and the interview for admission into the school, both my parents were around. I was decidedly unhappy.


In tow, I had an oversized pail (a size 32 as against the prescribed size 28), an oversized cotton mattress (a 4ft 6in by 6ft as against the 3ft 6in prescribed), and an oversized ego to boot! In the course of my stay in school, all three caused me much grief, the first two though not as much as the third which inevitably was the first and only one to be cut to size.
Settling into my assigned room (Austin 3) was easy (I had help from the most unexpected quarters from a senior, Benjamin Ayisire who looked just a little older than me but was in fact a Form 5 student!).
The same, however, could not be said for settling down.
Within forty-eight hours, I had had run-ins with close to a dozen seniors mostly in Forms 2 and 3. The guys gave no quarters and took none! From being asked to kneel down to weeding, cutting grass, and ultimately being ‘arraigned’ before a tribunal which sat in Aquinas 4 and was headed by a very popular Form 5 student, things were to my young mind getting out of hand. I applied to a boarding school, not a borstal I reasoned!
I had to call for allies.
Senior Patrick Fasusi (A P..a Pele) was about the only one I knew before I got into SJC. Tall, handsome, loved by all mostly on account of his excellent human relations and footballing skills, he was in my view, the perfect person to ‘rein in’ these guys. I spoke to him and instead of listening so I could understand the set-up of a boarding school, I went around telling anyone who cared to listen… ‘Be careful, you’ll come to grief if you don’t back off; Senior Pele is my college brother!’ You can surmise that this did neither Senior Pele nor myself any favors.
Monday morning after breakfast, we were herded to class. I was placed in Form 1B and within the course of the day, had received lectures from Brothers Alphonse, Albert, Mr. Marc, Mr. Akinrolabu and waited for it, Brother Bernard, the principal!
Things were beginning to match my expectations. This was a school after all! There were teachers, they were knowledgeable and very pleasant.
After lunch, we were told that it was time for siesta (what’s called that?) not by any teacher but by a senior student who was called the House Prefect. After siesta, we were led out with our Bush Machetes (‘Lala’) by a student called the Labor Prefect to the lawn in front of the main school building and apportioned spaces to be cleared. Thereafter we were told that it was time for sports, and we saw the Sports Prefect marshaling guys out to the front and backfields. Not to be outdone, the Bellhop (Senior Ebunlade Betiku) kept everyone reminded that there was a specified time for everything. Dinner, the almighty Chapel, sleep, and waking! In between all of these, I had many infractions, each visited with severe punishments that I thought it necessary to invite the intercession of the principal. Brother Bernard listened attentively, told me he understood my predicament, and in sympathy issued the ‘comforting’ words.’ my boy, obey and then complain later. Did I hear right?
While I clearly understood what he advised, I did not feel obliged to follow the advice and the punishments came in torrents. At the end of the week, I was on the Troublesome 20 list in his office! I had not been told that the gentle giant, the ever-approachable Brother Bernard was not one to be trifled with!
His word was law!
Friendly counsel came from some sympathetic seniors mostly in Form 5; ‘be careful boy, you might be on your way out of this school’ they admonished.
I realized that I had to see things with the right lenses.
Beautiful the environment, intense the teaching, this was no place to misbehave. It was a colony of laws and though mostly unwritten, they were administered by the leaders of the school including the Form 1 class captains!
I needed no goading, I had to start behaving right.
And I started enjoying my time in school.
Suddenly getting up at 6 am to go to the Chapel was not an effort anymore, the hymns were soul-elevating and Brother Bernard’s weekly homily was something I looked forward to.
I started making friends across classes and on outing days went with my friends to their homes in town and enjoyed the hospitality of parents who were more than happy to entertain their sons’ friends. Then came March and talk was all over the place about St Joseph’s Day, the March 19th fest that then was the most important date in SJC’s school calendar. Preparations were afoot and for a week before the day, the school was agog. Some seniors had been dispatched to a farm in Oke Ogun to purchase the cows and save mass on the said day, everything was organized and executed by the students!
It was a real blast. The organization was impeccable; the event lavish. Aside from the delicacies served at lunch (on normal days, each meal at SJC was a cut above the average in most homes then), each student went away with three chunky pieces of delicious fried meat.
With clipped wings and the resultant clear eyes, I was beginning to see the beauty in the school and the good in other students even those I initially had little affinity for. I saw wisdom, intellect, goodness in the most unlikely people, classmates, and seniors. And talent? Profuse and prodigious!
In sports, academics, debating, nurturing, managing, leadership, name it. The school not only had a way of identifying these in prospective students, it deliberately nurtured them when they got into SJC.
1967 was a particularly unique year. The Form 5 students led by their urbane Class Captain Senior Fola Adunola and the Senior Prefect Senior Benson Oruma demonstrated camaraderie and courtly manners. Brilliant individually and as a group, each one bar none was a leader of men. The Olu Akintades, Benjamin Ayisires, Frank Thorpes, Peter Akinjiolas, Olusegun Awosikas, Augustine Akinwoleres, Yele Akinkuotus, Ebunlade Betikus, Gbenga Ogunniyas, Muyiwa Johnsons, Benson Akingbojules, Edward Osunsades, Fola Adunolas, Benson Orumas, Gabriel Adegokes, Jide Omiwales, Adebiyi Adesidas, Edward Akingohungbes, Olukunle Oyewoles, Olu James, Femi Fowodes, et al were a study in intellect, humaneness, good manners, and good breeding.
Theirs was a class par excellence and they laid the example for the following sets.
In sports, the school excelled in both the Grier Cup and AAA for athletics, but it was in football that SJC truly came into its own as a powerhouse. The football team was captained by the skillful Frank Thorpe at Centre Back and peopled by Muyiwa Johnson in Goal, Francis Obe (Right Full Back), Gabriel Adegoke (Left Full Back) Augustine Idemudia (Right Half Back), Cornelius Odi (Left Half Back) Dotun Lofinmakin (Outside Right) Olu James (Inside Right) Patrick (Pele)Fasusi (Centre Forward) Benson Oruma (Inside Left) and Jide Omiwale (Outside Left) mowed down every opposition and but for the sanction evicted by the football authorities would definitely have made it to the finals of the Thermogene Cup in Ibadan that year! They played the most entertaining football in that part of the Western Region and had a daunting and rugged mentality.
It was a 12-man wrecker’s squad!
The 12th member, Gbenga Ogunniya (Ekpe Rollinco), the self-appointed Team Manager was no less endowed. What he lacked in athletic and footballing skills, he more than made up for in courage, belief and a mordant tongue which in full deployment would make Adolf Hitler and Kwame Nkrumah sound like cubs! Their success and distinguishing style of flowing football built up the attack from the back with pincer movements that choked the opposition defense from the sides allowing the superb dribbling duo of Patrick Fasusi and Jide Omiwale to deliver the goals time and again was applauded by all opponents but Ondo Boys High School.
They had hitherto ruled the roost and were not enamored of some new stars bent on upsetting the status quo.
It was our summer of ’67! And did we live it in the sun!
Soon word started filtering out that a certain gentleman, a much-loved Reverend Brother who had been on study leave would soon be returning. Just about every senior boy had something good to say about the gentleman. He was equated to everything that was good. He was said to be highly intelligent, with excellent listening skills, a great mixer, highly perceptive, jovial but firm. We were told that he was much younger than the current Principal but no less passionate about the physical, intellectual, mental, and emotional development of the students. The prospect of having this paragon of humanity join an already outstanding community of the most dedicated, most selfless, most passionate teachers and spiritual leaders led by the highly disciplined but avuncular and indefatigable Brother Bernard created a sizzling atmosphere in the school all through the second term and well into the third. The arrival of a Dean of Discipline (the first in the history of the school) in the person of Mr. Dapo Aliba initially got everyone’s back up but soon things returned to normal.
That Brother Thomas would rein him in was a consolation to everyone.
Late in the evening on a particular day, a few weeks into the third term, there was this din around the house grounds…Brother Thomas was back! Some seniors were out on the front field and had seen him coming out of the Chapel and along with Brother Bernard was headed for the Brothers’ residence.
The atmosphere was electric, comparable to the anticipated return of a World Cup-winning team. Even though I was impressed with the excellent reports about him, I could not, as my seniors, be overboard in my expectation as I had not had any previous interaction with him.
The next morning, we went to classes, and soon we saw this slightly portly, balding gentleman in cassock walking along the corridor in the company of Brother Mel, the handsome guitar-playing minstrel. He walked with a spring, covering more than anyone with his moderate height would.
Even at that distance, I liked him instantly.
‘Wait till you get close to him and you will see what a nice guy he is’ said Senior Pele when I saw him later on the house grounds and gushed about seeing Brother Thomas he had spoken so lovingly about.
And Brother Thomas did not disappoint him.
My first interaction with him two days after his arrival told me I was dealing with a man who, as against students, saw us as his wards and was keen on embedding himself in our lives. Earlier in the day, he had visited our class as part of the process of taking over and each one got up to introduce himself…Ransome Ayisire, Francis Ojo, Cornelius Fakinlede, Simeon Fadipe, Adelana Adesida, Yinka Omiwade, the names rang out. Fast forward seven hours later, I was enroute to the Austin House bathroom from the school well when I heard ‘Jimi, hurry up. You’ll be late for dinner!’ What? I thought; that’s the new principal! How did he recall my name?
I was not ‘My boy’ I was Jimi.
I mattered!
Then started a close relationship that I just like every other student, had with Brother Thomas and over time came to take for granted. He was everywhere on the compound, house grounds, school compound, sports fields, dining hall. Either in cassock and leather sandals, short-sleeved white shirt on Khaki shorts and leather sandals or vest and shorts and flip flops, he was the ubiquitous one and the constant all through the five years I was in school. Aside from the dog who sometimes accompanied him on his evening rounds, his other two companions especially post-school hours were the black rubber pipe conveniently tucked inside the arm of his cassock ready to be deployed to deal two sharp whips on the errant student and his massive torchlight!
He rendered the Bellhop jobless as promptly at 6 am, starting from either Austin or Claver House when the only noise around was the sound of the crickets, the familiar voice would ring out ‘rising time, o ya o, everybody, wake up!’. Thirty minutes later, starting from Aquinas House, he would be going from room to room rousing the late risers and herding everyone to the Chapel.
There was no escaping him!
For those suspended, there was no hiding place. Not a few of the daring ones who broke bounds and headed for town, most times to Rex Cinema have tales to tell of Brother Thomas emerging from nowhere either at the cinema or on the road. By the end of 1967, he moved the Principal’s office to the former Aquinas House behind the Basketball court and the whole building became the administrative hub of the school housing along with his office, Brother Alphonse’s dispensary, and the Staffroom. From his office, he had a full and direct view of the school building, the laboratories, the Chapel, and the dining hall.
It was clear that the second phase of the development of the school and its transformation into a premium, integrated human capital development, and center of learning where leadership and cultural development were critical pillars, was afoot. The school’s reputation as a leading performer in the West African School Certificate Examination was now established. This was helped by the stellar performances of ’64,’65, and ’66 (’65 being a stand-out year with one of its students Mutairu Oyeneyin aka Ajiteru scoring 7 indices). Thereafter, it was taken for granted that at least one-third of any set would end up with Grade 1 in the School Certificate exams.
It was a season of ‘teacher don’t teach me nonsense.
The students were as expected of good teaching as the teachers were capable and demanding of the highest level of performance from the students. While this might appear to most as expected, it was the consequence of thorough and long-range planning by the La Salle Brothers who saw the intellectual, physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual development of their wards as their prime responsibility and gave all to the mission. For them, it was not a job, it was a calling, it was life. Somehow, they were able to infect all the teachers and non-teaching staff with this higher-order value.
Looking back now, while we did not have too many teachers with anything but a first degree, we had the most dedicated and somehow the standard of pedagogy was extremely high. Whether it was Brothers Romwauld, Bernard, Thomas, Alphonse, Albert, Mel, John or Messrs Ola, Marc, Akinyosoye, Edema, Akinkuolie, Jegede all of whom then had first and second degrees or Messrs Ogundele, Aworinde, Amadasun, Ojo, Adegbulugbe, Ademulegun, Akinrolabu, Akinkoye, Ivbijaro, Adare, James who then had NCE certification or were aspiring university students, the students got quality teaching and sometimes personal coaching as required.
It is important to point out that at the material time being reported, the last nine of this most distinguished cohort (Kenneth Amadasun, Valentine Ojo, Johnson Adegbulugbe, John Ademulegun, Olu Akinrolabu, Ajibike Akinkoye, Mathew Ivbijaro, Thomas Adare, and Frank James) were outstanding past students who had either just finished their A levels or were about to go to university! The program of bringing back brilliant old students as teachers helped mentorship and built aspiration in the students. I can report that I not only was inspired by these old students, but I also developed a lifelong relationship with some of them.
It was however not only about studies and sports. Being a Catholic school, we were subjected to religious instruction both as a course of study at school and daily practice in the Chapel. Whatever topping was needed was provided by Brother Alphonse who took any opportunity through his actions and homilies to rear us right. In my view, if ever there was a candidate for sainthood, my lot will be cast for Brother Alphonse.
As against what now prevails in our national life, choice of religion was free and the school even promoted it.
Moslems were encouraged to go for Jumat prayers on Fridays and Christians of other faiths were free to attend service in the churches in town on Sundays but daily prayers in the chapel were mandatory for all students. And did we enjoy mass and the choral classes provided by the handsome and debonair Brother Mel! Advent was bliss in school, what with the beautiful Christmas carols that belted from happy students singing in the school chapel.
Not one to encourage in-breeding, Brother Thomas opened up the school to local cultural influences. Duro Ladipo, Kola Ogunmola, and other top drama acts of the day staged performances in the school. Saturday nights were for entertainment and when not provided by a professional actor, the students staged drama and dance shows most times with music and equipment supplied by Baba Frank Awosika (the No 1 DJ in Ondo in those days) and not being a co-ed school, we danced ‘bone-to-bone’.
Here I will have to relate how the school band that was initially christened The Phagocytes but later became The Psychedelics came to be.
It was late 1969, Gbenga Akinribido (Siphan Salah) had just been named Senior Prefect and my main man Funwa Ogunniya (God bless his great soul) became the school’s first Social Prefect. This fine Saturday evening, Funwa, Kofo Fashina and I were miming Eddie Floyd’s Knock On Wood and other Soul songs that were being played on the Rediffusion box in what was then known as ‘Palaver Square’ next to the dining hall. It was the heydays of Soul music and WNBS had an hour every Saturday evening dedicated to playing Soul songs. It happened that Brother Thomas was walking past and he stopped by to watch the ‘performance’ we were obliviously putting up. He called Funwa and me aside and asked if we thought we could start a school band. It initially sounded like a joke and I remember Funwa telling him just that. Undaunted Brother Thomas repeated the question (it actually sounded more like an offer) and seeing that he was serious, we answered in the affirmative.
Fast forward some two months, Brother Thomas invited us to his office, and out from a bag came a brand new acoustic guitar (for those reading this some 53 years after in a relatively more prosperous world, this would seem a simple thing to do but I am talking of 1969 when acoustic guitars cost about fifteen pounds and tuition plus boarding fees for a year was fifty-five pounds)! Expectedly, we were shocked but delighted. We knew Brother Thomas took every word of his seriously but we never expected this to come to be so soon.
Now the joke was on us. We had to put together a school band! The only decent guitar player in the school was Diran Akindeji (Alan Steel) but he was not an all-around guitarist as he was more comfortable with bass chords. What we had was an acoustic guitar with a different scale length and the musical role and needed a different technical and conceptual approach. Make do we had to, so we started rehearsals initially in the dining hall and soon we had a huge crop of fans led by Brother Thomas himself who would later metamorphose into our band and booking manager. What we lacked in personnel we more than made up for with creative improvisation.
In reality, what we had was an Acappella group with a guitar backing. To aid our singing, Brother Thomas got someone to bring in a microphone, a portable amplifier, and a loudspeaker from Ibadan. While the performances especially the singing improved, the guitar got drowned by the amplified singing and it became apparent that we had to resolve this problem. Off we went to Brother Thomas. He thought about the challenge and came to the conclusion that we needed a pickup mic for the guitar. This he promptly got us.
We had come a long way but we were still far from where we wanted to be as a band. We sounded very much like a country music band than the soul/pop band we wanted to be. Our de facto leader and the one who as the Social Prefect gave credibility and legitimacy to the band, Funwa Ogunniya was now in his final year and though still very enthusiastic about the project, had his attention divided. The lot fell on me to make a representation to Brother Thomas for additional equipment. This was in 1970 and we had been joined by two highly skilled multi-instrumentalists Soji Fajemirokun and Femi Fasehun, both of whom were in Form 1.
The addition of these talented boys sort of made the pitch easier but I never expected a positive response from the principal. If I at any time in my life ever felt like an Oliver Twist, it was at that meeting with Brother Thomas.
He listened attentively, said nothing all through my long winding ‘speech’, and when he felt I was done, looked up and said ‘Jimi, go back to your studies’.
That’s it, boy, you’ve burnt your bridge, I thought.
For the next few days, I was really down and avoided the band and anything that had to do with it. Funwa’s consolation and that of Victor Asekunowo (Dr. No) another great friend of mine did nothing to lift the pall of despondence I felt.
About three weeks later, Baba Agbebaku, the school clerk told me that Brother Thomas wanted to see me. I had since the last meeting in his office avoided him and this time around did not look forward to being in his presence. As I walked into his office, he looked up and said, ‘Jimi, tomorrow you and I will be going to Ibadan to buy the new equipment for the band, so prepare for the trip. We will leave after breakfast.
How I made it to my room and through the night I still do not know. My joy was not really because we were going to buy the music equipment after all; it was the fact that contrary to what I thought, Brother Thomas was not upset about my outlandish request for expensive new equipment for the band.
As arranged, the next day, a Saturday, we left for Ibadan after breakfast in his Peugeot 404 station wagon, and after a three-hour journey that seemed like 30 minutes, we were at Kingsway Stores in Dugbe where we bought an electric bass guitar and a full drum kit. We then headed for Rational Bookshop in Oke Bola where we got an electric rhythm guitar, a power amplifier, a new microphone and stand as well as a loudspeaker. We then headed for the Cocoa Dome at Cocoa House for lunch before driving back to school.
The Psychedelics had arrived!
In 1970, the band was led by Funwa Ogunniya (and later me ) with Diran Akindeji (Alan Steel) on bass guitar, Femi Fasehun on guitar, and backing vocals, Soji Fajemirokun on drums and backing vocals, Adelana Adesida on maracas and vocals, and I the lead vocals. It was a very tight band, and I can say without any intention of being self-deprecating, that I was the least talented of the lot and only owed my membership and later leadership of the band to the fact that I knew most of the songs and possibly my earlier exertions on behalf of the band.
The Psychedelics became the toast of the town with concerts played at St Monica’s Grammar School, St Helen’s College, Adeyemi College of Education, St Louis Girls College, and Aquinas College Akure. Even though Aquinas College had a more mature and sophisticated band, they no doubt acknowledged and commended our musicianship and the quality of the sound. And all of this, just because one man Brother Thomas believed in us and committed the resources needed for the band come to life!
You will have to forgive me if I give the impression that 1970 and the following year 1971 was just about studies, cultural and musical exploits. The ’69 football team led by Dosu Doherty and the ’70 team that had Ebenezer Adenusi (Jackson) as its attacking arrowhead were simply a marvel to watch and but for the fearsome Ondo Boys High School team of 1970, that year’s SJC team would have gone down in history as second only to the ’67 team to have gone through a whole’s year’s campaign without any defeat.
Early 1970 saw the arrival of a young, tall, ebullient, and intelligent agricultural science graduate from the University of Ibadan as a Biology teacher. He knew and could teach Biology alright but the young man, Mr. Kokumo Akinkuolie, a former student of the school, was more interested in getting us to see agriculture in a new light.
With the encouragement of Brother Thomas, he set up the Young Farmers’ Club and proceeded to set up a school farm and a piggery. Soon, enlistment was more than expected and every evening you would see the ‘young farmers’ either headed for the cassava farm or the piggery for work. He brought in about a dozen piglets mostly sows from UI and before you knew it, we had a thriving piggery. The pigs were fed with the cassava we harvested from the farm as well as leftovers from the dining hall and right before our very eyes became full-grown. I had never seen pigs that massive in my life!
All this was well before the Government poisoned the well by taking over the administration of schools, they neither founded nor had the capacity to manage.
Well before our many years of the locust as a nation.
Well before the need was replaced by greed and service to man was replaced by service to self.
Even after all these buffetings, the school on the hill that the La Salle brothers built and the students they nurtured still stand as both a testament and tribute to the highest of values, Service. These were men who gave up the comfort of Canada, one of the most advanced countries of the world and still today, one of the best places to live on earth to serve the less privileged.
As wards of these great men, the least we can do is to emulate them in all we do, if only from now on!
Happy birthday, our very dear Brother Thomas and thank you as well as all the other La Salle Brothers for your love and service.
Long may you live in comfort, good health, happiness and contentment.

Love of Students

Robert Adewole, 1960 to 1965. SJC # 153, Banker, Retired Senior Manager

Brother Thomas McCrea dedicated his time at SJC to students. Even beyond the boundary of the college, he went out of his busy schedule in 1974 to meet with old students in Washington DC. It was a remarkable reunion /meeting in the apartment of Senior Olaseha, where the group picture below was taken.

AdewoleBrother Thomas with former pupils. Washington D.C., 1974

This attests to his humility and concern for the well being of his students

The “Snake Catcher”

Frank James(1962-66)

Managing Director of a Real Estate development company based in Lagos.


I remember Brother Thomas as probably the youngest of our beloved Reverend Brothers who were responsible for administering St Joseph’s College, Ondo. He was of average height and had blue eyes. Brother Thomas was always smiling even when he was in the process of disciplining an erring student. You would therefore be grossly mistaken to take his boyish and friendly look for granted if you ran afoul of school rules. He absolutely hated it when you lied.
I remember Brother Thomas and Brother Bernard (as well) quietly showing up at our dormitory windows in their white cassock after lights out. Many of us used to get caught in the act of not going to bed when we were supposed to. I remember Brother Thomas as the ” snake catcher”. I used to marvel at his dexterity in capturing live snakes that ended up in the biology laboratory. He absolutely loved digging up snakes.
I once as a lucky member of a group of about four students went on an expedition with Brother Thomas to the Eastern part of Nigeria during the holidays.

Frank Segun James, 2020
We drove in the Brothers’ car and stopped at interesting places on our way to Asaba. We swam at a river on our route, sang, ate, and had loads of fun for about a week. Brother Thomas loved nature. He used to take groups of students on nature walks in the forest surrounding the school.
From this brief record of life in St Joseph, Brother Thomas along with the other Reverend Brothers did a good job molding the academic and moral development of all students of SJC. Many of our old students have turned out in various fields of endeavor and attained the peak of their careers. We owe these Reverend gentlemen a lot of gratitude.
Brother Thomas, at 90, I wish you a most wonderful birthday and pray God grants you many more years in good health.