Eyton settles in S Africa
Eyton was a good horseman and he was very keen to enlist in the Yeomanry at the outbreak of the Boer War. His cousin Llewellyn Issac Gethin Morgan-Owen had gone out to fight in South Africa as a regular soldier in the South Wales Borderers in June 1900. However, Eyton was not tall enough to be accepted and I was told that he and a great friend Dr. James Bradley Hughes decided to pay their own passage to South Africa. On 5 January 1901 Eyton set sail from Southampton to Natal aboard SS Carisbrook Castle.
Like many of the Owen family Eyton was a very good artist - he particularly liked sketching horses and ships - and he sketched some of the vessels he saw during the voyage (see sketches). On arrival, he was welcomed into the South African Light Horse, one of many irregular forces in which foreign nationals could enlist. Winston Churchill took a commission with them in Natal in January 1900 after his capture in the famous ‘attack on the train’ and subsequent escape from the Boers. By September 1901, when it was believed that Boer resistance was at an end and General Buller and some of his commanders were en route to England, the South African Light Horse along with other irregular corps was disbanded.
After the war Eyton decided to stay in South Africa and he got a job for six months as a master at Hilton School. He then worked as assistant to the headmaster, Mr. Williams, of St. David’s House School (right), a small preparatory school nestling in the hills on the edge of Greytown, Natal. In 1902, Eyton took over as headmaster. He devoted his life to the school, refusing in 1912 the lucrative offer of the headship of Cordwalles, a new preparatory school for Michaelhouse, the local private school. He remained at St. David’s until ill health forced him to retire in 1948.
Eyton was very generous and often took in disadvantaged children both as pupils and as boarders at no charge so the school never made his fortune. A former pupil, described to me how she had lost her father at the age of four and she, her brother and sister were all educated free at St. David’s, their widowed mother only able to do a little mending now and again to repay the kindness. She only once recalled Eyton using the cane; "he won the respect, as well as the love, of his pupils .... and he was unfailingly generous and upright". He was much loved by animals as well by pupils and she recalled that her brother and their dog stayed at the school while she and her mother were away and when they came back, the dog refused to come back to them. Thereafter, the dog would visit them with Eyton but when Eyton got up to go, so did the dog!