Lackland Augustus Lennon was born at Mocho, Clarendon in 1886. At the time of his death on December 24, 1964 he was arguably the greatest of Jamaica’s many missionary sons and daughters. He sprang out of the soil of a village in rural Jamaica whose very name indicated ignorance and unsophistication, but his life and accomplishments exemplified the heights to which one may rise by education, vision, effort, and the enabling of God’s grace.
The young Lennon studied pharmacy at Kingston Public Hospital before going on to Mico Teachers College. While at Mico he also took courses for the Christian ministry at the nearby Anglican St. Peter’s College. He was part of a program at Mico to prepare men for the mission field in Africa in education, health, construction and agricultural studies. A majority of those so trained became Christian ministers either before or while serving as teachers in Africa.
According to available records Lennon went to Nigeria about 1914, where he was assigned as tutor at the Church Missionary Society (CMS) Training College, at Oyo, until 1918. He then returned to Jamaica for his ordination in 1920, along with Walter Brown (later Canon) and R.A. Llewellyn, all of whom were serving in Nigeria. His service in that country was to last for 37 years until 1951 when he returned to Jamaica, due to the illness of his first wife Margaret.
Lennon served largely among the Yoruba tribe of southwestern Nigeria, as well as among the Ibos of the southeast, when later he was made superintendent of churches and schools in the Okoko, Kabba, Igbarra, and Ku-kuruku districts which covered most of southern Nigeria, both east and west. But his major work was among the Yoruba. His was to be a multifaceted ministry covering the fields of religion, education, agriculture/industry, medicine and politics.
Lennon pioneered in Okokoland at Ikare, then was made priest in charge of St. James Church. During this time he was instrumental in founding over 300 mission stations, rising to become leader of the Yoruba Mission from 1920 to 1951. He was made Canon of Lagos Cathedral in 1929 and Archdeacon of Ondo in 1944. But he was too large a man to limit himself to spiritual labours. Each of the various areas of his training seemed to have found an avenue for activity for the betterment of the people among whom he served.
In the educational field Lennon founded many schools including Victory College at Ikare, and was superintendent and manager of both churches and schools. Many his students rose to prominence in both church and state in Nigeria. In 1948 he was the alumnus chosen to receive the Mico Teachers’ College Medal for Meritorious Service. Lennon’s interest in agriculture led him to promote both agricultural and industrial exhibitions in 1928, 1939 and 1946. In Kabba province he established orchards and cocoa in Okokoland. Others of the Jamaican Anglican missionaries of the period also taught and encouraged the people’s interest in both these practical subjects. Lennon is also said to have helped the people build a road from Ikare to Ose Ayare.
Having been trained as a dispenser (pharmacist) it is not surprising to find that Lennon founded a clinic, dispensary and a maternity home. In these his wife Margaret was involved with him. Starting with a medicine chest that had been donated by the church at Mavis Bank, in the hills of St. Andrew, Margaret used this to begin medical work, which led to the establishment of both the dispensary and maternity home.
It seems inevitable that Lennon would also become involved in the civic and political life of the Nigerian people. The powers that be chose him to sit in the old Legislative Council, and he was elected to the Western House of Assembly in 1943, where he served until 1951. The nation recognized his service by recommending him to the British Crown for the honours of Member of the British Empire (MBE) in 1943, and Officer of the British Empire (OBE) in 1947. In his later years back in his homeland, Jamaica, he would again become involved with local politics, through the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP). He contested and won representation in the Federal Legislature, of the now defunct West Indian Federation, in the election of 1958.
The serious illness of his wife Margaret caused their return to Jamaica in 1951 where she died in 1957. At the time of Nigeria’s independence from British Colonial, rule in 1960, Archdeacon Lennon was one of a number of Jamaican missionary teacher/ministers invited back because of their outstanding contributions to the development of that country. So many of these Anglican and Presbyterians had been teachers and mentors to the new leaders, among them the Governor General Nnamdi Azikiwe, and the first native Governor of eastern Nigeria, Francis Ibiam. Lennon’s return to Jamaica in 1951 was not the end of his many activities and involvements for the good of his people. For the next ten years he not only ministered at the Mocho and Frankfield churches, but also served on a number of school boards in his native parish of Clarendon. After his wife’s death in 1957, due to a long illness, he remarried to Vinnette Lloyd in 1958.
At the time of his death at the age of 79, Lennon was Chairman of the Jamaica Church Missionary Society (JCMS), and a member of the Board of Mico College. He was buried at his home church, St. Paul’s Anglican, in Mocho. The Lord Bishop of Jamaica, Percival Gibson, and other clergy officiated at his funeral. The new High School built in his hometown, has been named in his honour.
His preretirement letter from Nigeria to the Secretary of the JCMS reveals, even at 66 years old, his passion for missionary work in Africa. “Where are the young people with the missionary spirit, vision and adventure as of yore? Is the missionary spirit dead in the Jamaica Church? Can’t we even get one couple or a man to help save the situation here? Are we to be the last missionaries from the Jamaican Church to the mission field here? God forbid!”
He would indeed be the last, for over twenty years at least until Vinnette Guntley would go to Zambia in 1975.
Lloyd A. Cooke
Possibly, only Henry H. Ward, of the then Presbyterian Church, could rival him in the extent of his missionary influence because of his contributions in the religious, educational, civic, and social fields if not in the political. See Lloyd A. Cooke, The Story of Jamaican Missions: How the Gospel Went from Jamaica to the World (Kingston, Jamaica: Arawak Publications, 2013), 350-352.
Lennon was the last of these men so trained at Mico for Africa. According to J. J. Mills, the training program was eventually transferred to Lagos. Gleaner, January 8, 1848. See also Cooke, The Story of Jamaican Missions, 200-201, 312, 323.
W. A. Thompson is said to have taught the Hausa people of Zaria in the northwest to make sugar, though not rum.
E. L. Evans, A History of the Diocese of Jamaica (Kingston, Jamaica: Diocese of Jamaica, 1975), 116.
See Sunday Gleaner, December 27, 1964; Daily Gleaner, December 28, 1964; Evans, A History, 112, 166; Souvenir Magazine, The 150th Anniversary of the Diocese of Jamaica, 27; Old Miconians and Eastern Nigeria – Mico College INAFCA Museum.
Cooke, Lloyd A.* The Story of Jamaican Missions: How the Gospel Went from Jamaica to the World*. Kingston, Jamaica: Arawak Publications, 2013.
Evans, E. L.* A History of the Diocese of Jamaica*. Kingston, Jamaica: Diocese of Jamaica, 1975.
Daily Gleaner. Daily. Kingston, Jamaica: 1848-1964.
Sunday Gleaner. Weekly. Kingston, Jamaica: 1964.
This biography, received in 2014, was adapted from the manuscript of Lloyd Cooke’s book, The Story of Jamaican Missions: How the Gospel Went from Jamaica to the World (Kingston: Arawak Publications, 2013). Lloyd Cooke grew up in Jamaica and served as a missionary in Dominica with the International Missionary Fellowship. He is currently a lecturer at Regent College of the Carribbean and assists local churches in evangelism and church growth strategies.