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A Tribute to John Shapland Yeo

John Shapland Yeo was born in 1860 at Stonehouse, Gloucestershire. His parents were John Yeo and Emma Matilda Spearing and grandparents, James Yeo & Elizabeth Shapland. His parents had moved to Gloucester in the early 1850's and had a grocery and drapery business. John Shapland Yeo was obviously a very intelligent boy, who had a mathematical talent. He was educated at Blundels School in Tiverton, Devon and then was awarded a scholarship to St John's College, Cambridge. Whilst at Cambridge University he was ranked as the second wrangler in the Cambridge Tripos.

The Graphic , Cambridge University - Feb 18, 1882........Mr. John Shapland Yeo, Scholar of St. John's, the Second Wrangler, is a son of the late John Yeo, of Stonehouse, Gloucesterhire, and was born in 1860.  He received his primary education at Blundel;s School, Tiverton, under Mr. A.L. Francis, the Rev R. Duckworth being the mathematical master.  In 1878 he was awarded an open Minor Scholarship at St. John's College of the value of 7-/-  per year, and in the same year was elected to the Huish Exhibition of 5 0/- p er year open to scholars from Sherborn, Taunton, Exeter and Tiverton schools. In 1880 he was elected a Foundation Scholar of St. John;s.  At the college examinations in each year of his residence, he was obtained the first place.  He was awarded the Hughes Prize , Sir John Herschel;s Prize for Astronomy, and the Wright Prize.   His college tutor was Mr . J.E. Sandys; his private tutor, Mr. R.R. Webb. M.A. Fellow of St. John's.

When he left Cambridge University he went to Edinburgh, Scotland and became a teacher at Fettes College, a very large public school. I had this old copy of the Fettesian dated March 1905, sent to me by Jill Yeo of Dubbo. It was found amongst the family papers and it was the great affection all of his pupils had for John that made me want to include this on the website and share it with others. His pupils write of him being a hero with an understanding heart, brave, honest and kind. What better tribute could anyone have. John died on the 24th November 1904 and was then living at Carrington House, Fettes College, Edinburgh, his admin was granted to his brother, George Christopher Yeo, a manufacturer. He was only 44 years of age.

Fettes College is situated in large grounds to the north of Comely Bank and to the west of Inverleith Park in Edinburgh. This is the school that the British Prime Minister, Tony Blair, attended.

From The Fettesian. dated March, 1905    J.S. Yeo Memorial

At the meeting on Saturday 4th February 1905 ." That this meeting is of opinion that some Memorial should be instituted to commemorate the unique devotion to the Fettes of the late John Shapland Yeo

This Circular was addressed to all Old Fettesians.


Dear Sir,


In consequence of a widely expressed desire that some Memorial should be instituted to commemorate the unique devotion to Fettes of the late John Shapland Yeo, extending over a period of more than twenty two years, a meeting of Old Fettesians and others interested was held at Fettes on 4th inst., when it was resolved to institute such a Memorial

A General Committe and an Executive Committee were appointed at that meeting, and the latter Committee was directed to take all necessary steps for collecting subscriptions, and to report to a future meeting to be haled at or avout the time of the Sports in April.

At that meeting a discussion took place as to the form that the Memorial should take,and in the course of the discussion the following was suggested, viz:- (1) A new Pavilion for the Field; (2) A Mathematical or Science Scholarship; (3) A Boys' Club in one of the poorer districts of Edinburgh; (4) A Window in Chapel; (5) A Fund for School prizes.

Whilst these forms of Memorial have been proposed the Committee invite and will gladly consider suggestions as to other forms which the Memorial might take. It is hoped that the sum subscribed will be at the least £1,000.

If you are willing to subscribe, please forward your subscription as soon as possible to the Hon Treasurer, Frank Hunter, Esq., W.S., 7, York Place, Edinburgh.

Subscriptions have already been intimated ranging from £1 to £20, but subscriptions of any sum will be gladly received - I am, yours faithfully,

IAN MACINTYRE (Hon. Secretary)



Here in America news come to us tardily from Scotland, and it is only quite recently that I received the Fettisan in which are recorded the deaths of two kindly friends of my far-off Fettes days: I allude to the late Miss Brook, and the late John S Yeo. I remember Mr Yeo best at a time when he had not yet attained to the Housemastership of Carrington, but was a popular and much-loved housemaster in the School House. To all the small boys whose Mecca was the reading room fire, and whose playground was the top passage, he was a hero, and an understanding heart. So long as the revelry 'after prep' was within respectable bounds, Mr Yeo would not interfere, and as he strode through the sky-larking merry crowd he had a kindly salutation for one and all, and a hearty laugh at any particular humerous incident of the moment; maybe a gentle but firm protest as a couple of shining threequarters of First Below crashed neck and neck into the glass doors at the end of the cirridor.

And now brave, honest, kindly John Yeo has passed for the last time through the playing ranks of Fettes and has gone, with his splendid faith in clean healthy boyhood, through the doors at the End of the Passage.

And Miss Brook; her kind motherly face still looks in mine as, holding out her arms to me as a whooping-cough patient not three weeks after having been discharged as cured of measles, she welcomed me again to Malcolm House with 'Back again, Mousie !' to the considerable detriment of 'Mousie's' thirteen year old dignity. She had a big warm, loving heart for all things created, and next to her favourite small boys she loved white flowers and tiny brown singing birds. One day when a linnet sang in a tree outside my window, she explained to me how his song was composed of real words as he trilled from a sympathetic throat to his bird-wife, 'Sweet you ! Sweet you ! Did he beat you ?'

Over the long years, over the broad Atlantic, as we sit hand in hand with Memory, comes the wish that we had better followed the fine manly examples of a man like John Yeo, that we had better responded to the beautiful mature-love in the heart of a woman like Miss Brook.

There were lessons we might better have prepared for the one, for the other there were flowers we might often have gathered and given as a token of regard for one who did so many kindly things for us.

Ah! Well! 'Tis the End of the Passage.

May they rest in peace, those two good friends of Fettes


JOHN SHAPLAND YEO DIED 24th November, 1904

‘The Idylls of the King,’ he loved them well,
And well I mind when we were boys at school
How we would sit on Sunday nights around
His study fire, he standing in the midst,
Leaning against the mantel, book in hand
Which half he knew by heart – his stirring voice
And kindling eye in perfect harmony
With the brave tales he told.  Right cause had he
To love and understand the noble verse
For he in simple truth was pure in heart
Through years of self-restraint and earnest toil,
And fit as Galahad to find the Grail.
As Gareth was he cheery, brave and strong,
Eager to do the work and let the praise
Fall to another; and as it is told
In the same story how Sir Lancelot
Was first in tourney, yet in battle’s din,
When driving back the heathen, then the King,
Arthur himself, rode far beyond his knights,
Seeming afire with more than mortal strength,
So was it with our friend that now is gone.
For he was very childlike in his way,
Easy to please, ready to be borne down
In simple matters of the daily round,
But when the issue lay ‘twixt Right or Wrong’
Then no man could stand up and block his path.
And you who now are boys, and lately felt
The cheering, hearty tone his presence cast
Amongst all those he lived with, and who feel
Most bitterly the cruel blank to-day,
We, who are old ones now with less to hope
And much more to regret than you can have,
Do charge you now most solemnly to keep
Clear and defin’d his memory in your hearts,
Just as the Greeks of old did carve in stone,
That make men marvel in these latter days,
Statues to heroes whom they lov’d, so you
Carve in your hearts a memory of this man.
Much, as the years roll onward, you may learn,
Some riches gain, and others power or fame,
But we have felt the struggle, something seen
Of what men call the World, and found much false
That once we thought was true, have fallen down
Or risen up as was our lot or strength;
And we do tell you that you will not find
Where’er your path may lead, a better man,
Or one more worthy of remembrance,
If any be who feel they owe him aught
For kindly sympathy and sacrifice
Made for their sake, the best thanks they can give,
Is so to bend their lives, their names may stand
Fit to be written on the scroll of time.
And this I write, who have not skill to write,
Out of the love I bore him who is gone




  © 2003 Sheila Yeo | For more information on the Yeo family and the research contained in this site email Sheila Yeo or call me on +44 (0)1626 360978