Rev. Henry Ward (1879 - 1981) - The National Library of Jamaica

Rev. Henry Ward (1879 - 1981)

Early Life

Reverend Henry Ward, Presbyterian Minister, teacher and headmaster is highly regarded as one of the pioneers of Early Childhood Education in Jamaica. Henry Ward was born on the 28th day of May, 1879 in the district of Golden Grove, St. Ann. He attended Clapham Primary School and St. Georges Primary School where he not only passed the Pupil Teachers Examination with distinction, but also attained the Exhibitioner’s Scholarship in 1899 to pursue studies at Mico Teacher’s College. At Mico, Ward founded the institution’s debating team, while successfully pursuing his studies, which resulted in him being the ‘Honours Man of the Year’ for the graduating class of 1900.

Subsequently, he became the headmaster of Ebenezer Primary School in Manchester where he served for nine years. During these nine years, Ebenezer was rated by education inspectors as one of the top elementary schools in Jamaica. One year, it obtained all the top spots in the Pupil Teachers’ Examination. As a consequence, Ward received offers for a number of posts which he declined, instead opting to study at Woodlands Theological College in South Manchester. During his first year at Woodlands he was also president of the Jamaica Union of Teachers after being nominated as president elect the previous year.

In 1915, Ward was ordained as a Presbyterian Minister and offered a position as Head of the Teacher Training College Department at the Hope Wadell Institute in Calabar, Nigeria (offer made by Foreign Mission Committee of the Church of Scotland). Here he spent six years, training three hundred (300) teachers. He also established an agricultural school and a church.

Return to Jamaica

On returning to Jamaica in 1923, Ward settled in Islington, St. Mary where he served as pastor of the Presbyterian Church for forty four (44) years and established Jamaica’s first basic school, then called ‘play centres.’ The name subsequently changed as many parents were of the view that this name was suggestive of play more than education. From this came Ward’s development of the basic school movement. He also started a community training centre for teaching crafts to girls and unemployed mothers and was the manager of Water Valley School in St. Mary, which he significantly helped to rescue from failure and insufficient enrollment.

Later, Ward helped to establish Meadowbrook High School; he was one of its founders and also the first chairman of its board of governors from 1959 to 1969. Other schools of which he was a founding member include: St. Andrew High, Knox College and Cayman High School. Ward also contributed to the former Board of Education as a member for twenty five (25) years. He also advised the Ministry of Education on several matters relating to education such as staggered school hours and teaching sex education.

As a man who firmly believed in serving his nation, Ward continued to work until his “official” retirement at age ninety (90) in spite of a stroke in 1967. In the Gleaner’s publication of its Sunday Magazine, dated May 13, 1979, he remarked at a function at Meadowbrook High School, “So long ago I decided by the grace of God to live for the people, the children, the nation and to use Henry Ward as an instrument for that undertaking.”

Awards & Honours

His contribution to education as well as other fields of work including religion and social work did not go unrecognized. He received:

  • The Distinguished Service Award from the Kiwanis of St. Mary in 1972
  • The Order of Distinction from the Government of Jamaica in 1972
  • The establishment of the Ward Scholarship by the Jamaica Banana Producers’ Association in 1975
  • The establishment of the Henry Ward Scholarship at Gordon Cornwall Theological Seminary in 1978
  •  A certificate of Honour from the Jamaica Catholic Education Association in 1978
  • The Service Award from Mico Old Students’ Association in 1979

Though Ward had a varied career, he left an indelible mark on the education and religious landscape of Jamaica. On his 100th birthday, The United Church of Jamaica and Cayman, and the Mico Old Students’ Association gave a vivid summarized description of not only Henry Ward’s career path, but also his character— “A man inspired and inspiring, scholar, teacher, preacher, politician, prophet, pioneer, missionary, ambassador, orator, educator, social worker, farmer, writer, critic, administrator, counselor, director, dreamer, planner and builder, a man richly endowed with excellent qualities.”

Henry Ward died at the age of a hundred and two (102) on June 4, 1981.


“Rev. Henry Ward: Pastor, educator retires at 90.” Sunday Gleaner, 9 Feb. 1969. Kingston:

“Rev. Henry Ward Dies at 102.” Daily Gleaner, 4 Jun. 1981.

Souvenir Citation: Rev. Henry Ward J.P., O.D., Centenarian, The united Church of Jamaica and Grand Cayman, and MICO Old Students’ Association, May 28, 1979.

“Self died to Me, Long Ago Says Henry Ward.” The Sunday Gleaner Magazine. 13 May 1979.