Philip Leslie Deacon

  • 1882-1918
  • British Colonial Service, District Commissioner, Nandi, Kenya
  • Died of pneumonia 8 October 1918 aged 36
  • Buried Mbaraki (Mombasa) Cemetery,
  • Born 22 July 1882
  • Father the Revd AWN Deacon, St Mary’s Rectory, Wallingford
  • Attended Abingdon School 1893 to 1901
  • Rustat Scholar, Jesus College, Cambridge

From The Abingdonian December 1918

Deputy-Commissioner P. L. DEACON, of British East Africa.

DEACON – On October 8th, at Mombasa, British East Africa, of pneumonia, Philip Leslie Deacon, BA , Deputy-Commissioner, aged 36 years. P. L. Deacon was the eIder son of the late Canon Deacon, Vicar of St. Mary's, Wallngford, and he joined the School in September 1893. He made his way quickly to the top of the School, won the Heber Clarke Challenge Cup and was for several seasons a member and eventually Captain of the Cricket and Football Elevens. He gained a Rustat Scholarship for Classics at Jesus College, Cambridge, and, though he did not win his Blue, he represented Cambridge in Association Football on several occasions during his three years of residence. After graduating in 1904 with Honours in the ClassicaI Tripos he was appointed to a Mastership in the Khedivish Schools at Cairo. This work he exchanged for a position in the Colonial CiviI Service where his all-round gifts won for him quick promotion. He was mentioned in General Hoskyns' Despatch for his services in raising a force of 500 native for the King's African Rifles and was also sent a letter of thanks by the Governor of the Colony.

It came to me as a great shock, even in these days, when looking through the Times to come across an obituary notice of P. L. Deacon. I cannot give any accurate details as to his career at School or afterwards, as it is to his athletic prowess that I wish to refer, although he was undoubtedly one of the cleverest boys we ever had. He was a good cricketer, sprinter, hurdler, high and long jumper, and swimmer, but as a footballer he was positively brilliant. Without doubt he was the finest “Soccer” player turned out at Abingdon. He was fast, an exceptionally clever dribbler, and quite the most remarkable shot I have ever seen in my life. With either foot he could put most extraordinary power and direction into his shots, and clever as he was otherwise, it was in this department he chiefly excelled. His ” six” almost invariably won the School “Sixes,” owing to his practically unaided efforts, and his presence in the School team made it one of exceptional strength for a school, and strong enough to beat any other school in the district and also to hold a good chance against the majority of the Oxford Colleges, and the local town clubs of Abingdon and Wallingford. I first remember him in the School team in the season of 1895-6 when he played “outside-right,” and although only thirteen years of age, was the best. Subsequently he took the centre position and captained the team, and in about his last season the forward line was perhaps the strongest the School ever possessed, the five players being A.W. Stevens, N.V.H. Riches, P.L. Deacon, W. Cottrell, and G.S. Deacon. It was not unknown for Deacon to score as many as ten goals in a match, and I shall never forget the great duel between him and the Bloxham School goalkeeper, the late F. Y. Horner. Abingdon won by ten goals to nil, I believe, and Horner made many miraculous saves, but he had ten unstoppable ones, most of them from Deacon's foot. (Horner even then kept goaI for Oxfordshire). 
It was a great disappointment to the subject of this memoir when he failed to get his “blue” at Cambridge, but it was not on his merits that he failed. He was, I think, only given one trial, and that out of his place on the right wing, and he was never really given an opportunity in his real position, although it must be remembered that the “light blues” then were especially strong forward, with such men as the brothers Farnfield, G.L.Mellin, S.S.Harris, E.D.G. Wright, R.N.R. Blaker, etc. I think the failure to get his “blue” derived Deacon of some of his keenness, although he subsequently assisted the Casuals, and occasionally turned out for WaIIingford, while he also played “inside-left” for Berks and Bucks, being partnered by A. Dando, another Wallingfordian who often played on the School ground.

I must apologise for the defects in this article, but I thought the passing of such a well-known Abingdonian and the best footballer the School ever possessed warranted some reference. R.G.R.
[R.G.R was probably Richard Goodenough Rice, OA 1903, who represented Great Britain in the 100 and 200 metres at the 1912 Stockholm Olympic Games.]


Handwritten biography of Philip Deacon
Transcript of handwritten biography:

Mr Philip Leslie Deacon was the elder son of the Rev Canon A.W.N. and Mrs Deacon of Rectory of St Mary, Wallingford, Berks. He was educated at Roysses’ School Abingdon, entering the school in September 1893. He early showed marks of great ability, & before many years had passed won a leading position in the school, and became Head Prefect and head of the sixth form. He distinguished himself in Classics, and also in the Cricket and Football field; and was also a good athlete, carrying off the Challenge Cup three years in succession. He proved himself a good disciplinarian in maintaining order in the School House in his position as Head Prefect. In spite of his many gifts, he was unassuming & modest, & was much loved and respected by his schoolfellows. From Abingdon, he won a Rustat Scholarship to Jesus College, Cambridge, where he remained for three years, graduating in the Honours School of the Classical Tripos. He was assistant master & games master at Woodbridge Grammar School for a year. Afterwards he went out to work in the Government School in Cairo, Egypt, where he remained three years, exercising a wonderful influence among his pupils.  His appointment as an A.D.C. [Assistant District Commissioner] in British East Africa was on August 2nd 1907. He was promoted to the rank of District Commissioner on April 29th 1918. He served his appointment at different stations. During the war he did splendid work amongst the natives inducing many of them to enlist in the army, for this he won golden opinions from the Governor of British East Africa & from General Hoskin, & was honourably mentioned in despatches. The war prevented him coming home on leave; and the strain and responsibility of his position, together with a sharp attack of pneumonia, combined t cut short a brilliant career. He died in Mombasa Hospital on October 8th 1918.  R.I.P.