William Shepherd Rooker [Obituary]

Trans. Devon Assoc., 1890, Vol XXII, pp. 40-41.


Rev. W. Harpley, M.A.

Prepared by Michael Steer

The paper was delivered at the Association’s July 1890 Barnstaple meeting. William Shepherd Rooker and James Rooker, both of Bideford, appear as freehold land owners of Bint Farm in the 1849 Register of Electors Eligible to Vote for Members of Parliament in the County of Oxford. (p.47), the text available via Google Books. The article, from a copy of a rare and much sought-after journal can be downloaded from the Internet Archive. Google has sponsored the digitisation of books from several libraries. These books, on which copyright has expired, are available for free educational and research use, both as individual books and as full collections to aid researchers.

William Shepherd Rooker was born at Bideford, in August, 1811. From early manhood until the very last he took the keenest interest in Educational questions. He was one of the early promoters of the British School at Bideford, which was started in 1835, and he was Hon. Secretary of the school from the year 1845 until it was handed over to the School Board in 1871. In this post he was indefatigable, and the prolonged and constant success of the school through these years was largely attributable to his untiring energy. He invented a school register which was highly recommended by the Inspectors, and at one time was extensively used. He was an earnest supporter of the Normal Training School at Borough Road, and strongly advocated the reading of the Bible in the school.

On the passing of the Education Act in 1870, he at once advocated the transfer of the school to the new Board, on which he himself had a seat for many years; indeed until increasing deafness and the infirmities of age compelled him to resign.

Mr. Rooker was the first to suggest and to push forward the formation of a Free Library at Bideford, and he constantly contributed to it works of interest and importance, not the least of which is the entire new edition of the Encyclopœdia Britannica, So strong was his interest in this Institution up to the very last, that, by his will, which he made only two days before his death, he bequeathed the sum of £500, free of duty, to be invested, and the income applied for its maintenance and support. He was also Hon. Secretary of the School of Science and Art for many years, and nothing but declining health compelled him to resign.

His extensive knowledge of geographical questions, particularly that of Central Africa, when it had small interest for general readers, was well known to his friends; and his thorough knowledge of educational questions would have qualified him to fill important public positions in which this knowledge was required, but a constitutional nervousness kept him in the background, and deprived the public of the benefit of his extensive experience and information.

Mr. Rooker was kind and generous-hearted, with a very genial disposition. He took a deep interest in the improvement of the town, of which he was proud to be a native, and where he will long be remembered for his sterling moral worth.

He joined the Association in 1878. He died at his residence, Bridgeland Street, Bideford, on 16th December, 1889, at the ripe age of 78 years.