Sir James Liege Hulett
There would have been no Kearsney College if the school’s founder had not chosen to move from economically depressed England to the prospering colony of Natal 158 years ago.
The man we know as Sir James Liege Hulett was born in Sheffield on 17 May 1838, the son of school master James Liege Hulett and his wife, Mary Flashman. Sir Liege’s father had moved to Sheffield from Gillingham in Kent after the death of his own father (confusingly also James). For reasons unknown, James Liege soon returned to Gillingham and re-opened Gillingham House School.
Gillingham House School in Christmas Street, Gillingham, Kent
Shortly afterwards, the Huletts moved to the village of Kearsney about five kilometres from Dover and there he established St Martin’s Academy.
Educated at his father’s schools, Sir Liege was a capable and diligent boy. He was also a devout Methodist and delivered his first sermon at the age of eighteen.
However, there were few prospects for a young man in the depressed economic conditions that followed the end of the Crimean War in 1856 and, after failing to secure employment in the civil service, Sir Liege responded to an advertisement in the Dover Mail placed by William Henry Burgess, a dispensing chemist and a family friend who had recently arrived in Natal as a Byrne settler. He had shops in Durban and Pietermaritzburg, and was also one of Natal’s first photographers.
Sir Liege was successful in securing the advertised position in Durban which carried a salary of £30 per annum a year all found.
To finance his journey he borrowed £25 from his uncle, George Flashman, a renowned Dover furniture maker, whose customers included members of the royal family. The loan was to be paid back at the rate of £5 a year.
The original letter which George Flashman wrote to Sir Liege was recently re-discovered in the College archives.
A transcript of the main part of the letter follows:
My Dear Nephew
I enclose you a cheque, value £25, for which you can send me a note of hand and pay it if you can at the rate of five pounds per an.
I fully concur with the propriety of your leaving home and although it is for the “Wide Wide World” – I believe having ‘GOD for your Sun and Shield’, you will realise that Storm and Calm, Darkness and Sunshine will be rendered subservient for HIS GLORY in your good.
Keeping the Heart with All diligence I anticipate for you if life be spared – comfort and respectability and usefulness in the rising Colony of NATAL.
May God be with You and bless You – Give You HIS HOLY SPIRIT and lead You to the HEAVENLY COLONY when Natal shall no longer be Your home.
I am, MY DEAR Nephew
Mr J L Hulett Jnr.
My kind regards to Mr and Mrs Burgess and to Rev. M Holden…
Sir Liege arrived in the prospering colony of Natal aboard the Lady Shelbourne in May 1857 after a voyage of 114 days.