John Hudson

It is with great sadness that the Kasanka Trust heard of the death of John Hudson in January this year. John was a staunch supporter of the Trust and an enthusiastic Director and will be sorely missed. His daughter Clare kindly prepared this obituary. A contribution by Chris Kangwa, one of the current Trust Directors, follows on behalf of us all.

Written by Clare Daniels

John was born on 13th September 1930 in Balovale, or Zambezi, as it is now known, in the North Western Province of Zambia. His father was a District Commissioner and during his early years he moved around the country to Mumbwa, Livingstone, Lusaka, Ndola and then back to Lusaka. His was an idyllic childhood, much of it spent out and about in the bush hunting small game and looking for birds’ nests during school holidays. At the age of seven, he was sent to Ruzawi, a boarding school in Southern Rhodesia (Zimbabwe), and later to St Andrew’s College, Grahamstown in the Eastern Cape Province of South Africa. After South African matriculation exams, he was accepted by Oxford University to read Politics, Philosophy and Economics at Worcester College. Whilst at Oxford, he took up rowing which he greatly enjoyed.

After Oxford, John applied for the Colonial Service with the aim of returning to Northern Rhodesia. Fortunately, he was offered an appointment in the Provincial Administration as a Cadet.  Before returning to Africa, he spent a year at Trinity Hall, Cambridge on a post-graduate Colonial Service Course.  In 1952, he set sail on a Union Castle ship to Cape Town and travelled up to Lusaka by train. His first posting was to Kasempa, in the North Western Province.  The local people were mainly Kaonde, a language which he mastered along with Lozi and Bemba, and to a lesser extent, Nyanja. His main method of learning the languages was to read the vernacular versions of the New Testament together with the English version. He maintained that the somewhat biblical turn of phrase pleased the examiners who were usually local missionaries. After Kasempa, he moved to Kabompo.

In 1955, his first three year tour ended, and he travelled to England and married Gretta Collins who was from Dublin in January 1956.  He travelled back with her to his new posting at Mufilira on the Copperbelt. Their twin sons were born during their time there. This was followed by a posting at Chalimbana, then Mankoya (now Kaoma) where their daughter was born, by which time he had been promoted to District Commissioner.  Ndola, Isoka, and in the lead up to independence, Mazabuka, were his final Colonial Service postings.

In 1965, John joined the Zambia Sugar Company as Estate Secretary at Nakambala. In 1968, he was offered the position of the Manager of the National Milling Company branch in Cairo Road, Lusaka. After this, he joined the National Import and Export Board as the Management Services Economist. This led to an offer to join Moore Pottery Limited as General Manager.  The pottery was failing and he was able to breathe new life into it and turn it into a profitable venture. He worked with Anderson and Anderson before being approached by the ZNFU for what would be his last full time job. He held the post of Executive Director from 1985 until 1994 when he retired. Although he felt that agriculture and politics were a new territory for him, he was supported by an experienced Executive Committee and his years with the ZNFU were very happy and productive ones. The ZNFU grew from 12 farmers’ associations to 33, and he was also involved in the formation of Zambia Coffee Growers’ Association, Zambia Export Growers’ Association, Wildlife Producers’ Association of Zambia, Environmental Conservation Association of Zambia, Young Farmers’ Union of Zambia and Southern African Conference of Agricultural Unions (SACAU). After retiring, he continued to represent the ZNFU on several committees.  It was during his time at ZNFU that John was awarded the Order of the British Empire (OBE) by the Queen in 1992.

John also sat on other committees in his ‘retirement’. He was delighted to be asked to join the Kasanka Trust, along with becoming a representative for British Executive Services Overseas (BESO) and a Correspondent for the Beit Trust. As Gretta recalls “John believed right from his first association with Kasanka that it should go forward although for a long time it didn’t move much, partly because of its remote location. If in Lusaka, he would never miss a meeting or gathering and really loved getting there and seeing the staff and general improvements”. During his life, he travelled the world extensively; however, he was never happier than when in the bush or on a boat in Zambia, and amongst family and friends. He climbed both the Ruwenzori Mountains in Uganda and Mt Kilimanjaro, and skied on several continents. A keen shot and fisherman, he instructed his grandchildren in these vital skills. Despite being shot in the legs in a robbery, he continued to play tennis until in his 80s and guarded the net with a frightening intensity. 

In 2014, with his health failing, he felt that the time had come to leave Zambia to move to be closer to family in Hertfordshire, UK. He passed away peacefully on 20th January 2016 surrounded by Gretta, sons, Edmund and Patrick and daughter, Clare, along with daughters-in-law and several of the grandchildren.

And from Chris Kangwa on behalf of the Kasanka Trust Directors and Members

John Hudson was a simple, down to earth gentleman with his heart in the right place; a man without excesses. Unashamedly, it should be stated that he well understood that contribution and volunteerism are critical ingredients in leaving the world a better place. Even when frail, he knew we are called to do what we can with whatever we have, wherever we are!

Sitting with him and sharing the privilege of hearing him download the history of Northern Rhodesia and it’s transition into modern day Zambia was a great joy. Akin only to sitting with a richly endowed poet and hearing them masterfully recite the grand work of their lives from their very lips. He was an alluring gentle giant upon whose shoulders dwarfs would comfortably and happily perch so they can see further.

Only a man of his capabilities and demeanor could have been relied and called upon to dissuade and diffuse the Lenshina uprising and still survive it to tell the tale. As in his truthful and well collaborated account in his essay entitled ‘Time to Mourn’ (a befitting title from Ecclesiastes 3 – time for everything under the sun), he wished for more dialogue among the parties. As is rightly said ‘wars begin when dialogue fails’.

In John’s careful and deliberate estimation, God’s creations – both great and small – seemed to attract his gentlemanly sympathies and the stewardship that spurred him to work and see to their conservation. It was thus not surprising that this fueled and propelled him in his conservation work both for the Kasanka Trust and the Wildlife Producers Association of Zambia.

John Hudson was a committed British gentleman, easily spotted from his love for his quintessentially British Land Rover.


  1. Gretta Hudson

    I would really lik to very sincerely thank Chris Kangwa for those lovely words John would have said they exaggerate but I loved them. From the day John was asked if he would like to join the Kasanka team all those years ago It held a special place in his heart his regret being that it was not near enough to get to fast enough from Lusaka. I love to see present progress as he would have done Every possible good wish and thoughtGRETTA

  2. Cornelie

    During my years in Zambia, John (and Gretta) were always very supportive and hospitable. John was a great listener and always ready to give advice or connect you to someone relevant. My heartfelt condolences to Gretta and family. Cornelie

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