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Henry Yolland

1927-1960 Lecturer and Dean of NZ Bible Training Institute (Queen Street Campus)

Born in August 1883, Henry Yolland was brought up in Exeter, England. In later years he would regale his students with stories of his choir boy days at Exeter Cathedral. He eloped to get married to (Vera) Amy Sanigar, but the couple returned in disgrace to their respective homes before their parents deemed them old enough to live together! The couple moved to Canada in 1907 with two children, then back to England in 1909 and on to Australia the same year where Yolland found employment in the woollen clothing trade in Sydney, and then Melbourne.

In 1910 Yolland was invited to a Brethren meeting where he experienced a spiritual conversion – Vera having a similar experience at the following week’s meeting. That event reoriented Yolland’s life. He dedicated time to learning New Testament Greek and personal study of Scripture and the great evangelical commentators. He became a frequent preacher in the Brethren meetings and conventions in Melbourne.

The family (now with five children) moved to Christchurch in 1921 where Yolland managed the head office of Chris Atkinson Ltd. In 1925 he became the manager of the new Auckland branch of John McDougall Ltd. He soon became recognised as a competent Bible teacher amongst evangelical churches in Auckland, having settled in the Roskill Hall Brethren.[1]

At Robert Laidlaw’s suggestion, in 1927 Rev. Joseph Kemp invited Yolland to lecture in the newly-housed NZBTI in Queen Street while Charles Rolls was overseas. During 1930 he resigned his business commitments and became a full-time lecturer.

In 1932, at the request of Principal Kemp, he lived on campus during term time, and “Yollie” became a favourite with the students. In his eulogy at Yolland’s funeral over 30 years later, the Institute Secretary, Les Rushbrook, noted:

“From 1927 to 1960, more than 1,000 eager young men and women must have passed through his hands. First impressions were, perhaps, of a slightly austere man, impeccably dressed, every inch a gentleman, imposing in his presence. But the eyes twinkled, the merry laugh rang out, the gracious and friendly personality shone through, and the ever-apt story lightened the lecture ... Here was a man who understood his students and loved them fervently with a fatherly concern. Here was a man who loved God’s Word and knew it; who treated it with reverence and submitted his whole life to it.” [2]

As Yolland did most of the Biblical teaching, he worked synoptically through every book of the Bible every year. It thrilled him to hear students say, “you have made the Book alive”. [3] When Joseph Kemp died in 1933, Yolland was appointed Dean of the Institute and led the teaching programme until his retirement in 1954 when he was accorded the title ‘Dean Emeritus’. After an extended overseas voyage to Europe and Great Britain in 1955, he was asked to return to lecturing work to relieve the pressure on Principal John Deane. This he did, returning as a visiting lecturer until 1960, the last year of the Institute in the Queen Street premises.

Reflecting on his 30 years of Bible teaching in a Reaper article in 1961, Yolland noted:

“What years they have been, leaving hallowed memories of fellowship in the “deep things of God”, shared not merely with great men of God ... but with humble students who, inspired by the Word of God thus ministered, have continued ‘to fight the good fight’, many of them gladly giving their lives in sacrificial service on the mission fields of the world. It has been well worthwhile.” [4]

Henry Yolland passed away on Easter Saturday 1966 at age 82.

[1] Notes on Henry Yolland’s early life taken from biographical notes made by J.M. Hitchen (revised, Nov 2022)

[2] L.W. Rushbrook, ‘Home Call of Mr H.Yolland,’ Reaper, Vol 46 (30 May 1966), 86-87

[3] H. Yolland, “The Satisfying Ministry of 30 years of Bible Teaching”, Reaper Vol 40 (1 March 1961), 19

[4] ibid.

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