Every relationship we enjoy and loss we suffer are different. The loss of the beloved Mr. Alan Edwards King, however, has been a very unique one to us. We at the Ethiopian Wildlife and Natural History Society (EWNHS) extend our deepest sympathy on the loss of our genuine & indispensable colleague and Founder of EWNHS. RIP!!
Alan Edward King OBE, 11 June 1926 – 18 May 2021
In 1965, Alan King arrived in Addis Ababa with his wife, Helge, and three children, to take up the position of headmaster at the General Wingate School. He held that position for five eventful years; and for the rest of his life, he looked back on those years in Ethiopia as some of the most satisfying, personally and professionally, of his life.
Alan was born and spent his early life in England. After a short stint in the Royal Navy at the end of World War 2, he accepted a scholarship to Queens’ College, Cambridge, where he specialised in French and Spanish.
During the 1950s, he taught languages at Lord Wandsworth College in Hampshire and at Bristol Grammar School, as well as in Clermont-Ferrand in France. In his holidays, he travelled to Europe to improve his linguistic skills; and it was during one of his Spanish visits that he met his future wife, Helge, who had come from Germany to the university town of Jaca for the same purpose. They were married (in both England and Germany) in 1958. Alan’s job at the General Wingate School was his first as school principal. With Helge’s energetic support, he threw himself into the task of providing the best possible education to some of Ethiopia’s brightest and most promising boys, including many of very limited means. This work, he felt, was as vital as it was challenging; he was proud to be able to tell the General Wingate story internationally and, in so doing, raise much-needed funds for the school.
Wildlife – and particularly parrots – had always fascinated Alan. His time in Addis Ababa gave him not only the opportunity to enjoy Ethiopia’s extraordinary wealth of fauna, but also to encourage future generations of Ethiopians to cherish and preserve their natural heritage. In 1966, he joined a group of like-minded Ethiopians and foreign residents in founding the EWNHS, and remained closely involved with the Society’s members and activities. He took great pleasure in his regular trips, with his students and his family, to the Awash National Park, and to the Rift Valley lakes.
In 1970, Alan left Ethiopia for England, and, after a short period teaching in Nuneaton, became headmaster of Colston’s School in Bristol. He spent three happy and successful years in Bristol, during which he was able to pursue his hobby of keeping and breeding parrots. After much thought, Alan and Helge decided in 1975 to emigrate to Australia, so that their children would be able to enjoy all the opportunities that wide, growing country could offer. From 1975 until 1988, Alan and Helge lived and worked in Tasmania. While Alan continued to preach the joy and value of foreign languages, we three boys went on to complete high school and university educations, one of us entering diplomacy and the others becoming medical specialists. With the boys’ careers launched, Alan and Helge moved to Adelaide in 1988. For the next 27 years, he worked as a Volunteer and Board Member at Adelaide Zoo, and lovingly tended a variety of parrots and finches in large aviaries at home. Helge died in 2014 and, in 2018, after he could no longer lead an independent life at home, Alan moved first to Canberra and then to Gosford, to be close to his sons.
Alan died peacefully in May 2021, accompanied by members of his family, after a long illness. Almost until the very end, he remained deeply interested in the EWNHS, the Wingate School; the Asere Hawariat school Fund, and the Felege Birhan Association for Advancement of Free Primary Education in Ethiopia. Ralph, Malcolm and Quentin King