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Death of Dr. Basil Johnson Son of Former Dean of Wells

The death occurred on Sunday, in his 90th year, of Dr. Arthur Basil Noel Johnson, of the Judges Lodgings, New-street, Wells.
His death followed a fall at his home the previous Sunday.
Dr. Johnson was very well-known in the musical world and had visited a number of foreign countries as musician and conductor.
After two years at the Royal College of Music, he became organist of St. James', Norlands, and St. Gabriel’s, Pimlico.
In 1886 he was appointed organist and music master at Rugby School, which appointment he held until 1914.
For 27 years he was conductor of the Rugby Philharmonic Society, and for eight years conductor of the Rugby Orchestral Society.
In 1914 he became Precentor and organist at Eton College, an appointment he relinquished in 1926, when he retired and returned to Wells.
Dr. Basil Johnson had acted with the Mendip Players and composed some special music for their production of The Cradle Song in which he took the part of the Doctor.
R.H.M. writes: Basil Johnson was a son of George Henry Sacheverell Johnson, Dean of Wells 1854-81. He was born at Oxford on April 5th, 1861. But Wells was his home for the first and last twenty years of his life.
Through his mother he was related to Archbishop Tait, and therefore to Archbishop Davidson. He was educated at Malvern and Magdalin College, Oxford.
He married a daughter of John Percival, who, after having been in succession Headmaster of Clifton, President of Trinity College, Oxford, and Headmaster of Rugby, was‘Bishop of Hereford from 1895 1917. She predeceased him by some years. There were no children of the marriage. Mrs. Johnson was a good landscape painter and a number of her pictures were to be seen in his house. She taught him to paint successfully, if his work did not reach the level of her own.
He was for some years Precentor and Music Master at Rugby and then at Eton. At both he inspired a great deal of affection in his numerous pupils. After he had retired from Eton he travelled widely holding examinations on behalf of the Royal College of Music. He brought back many photographs from these expeditions and pasted them into albums. after years they gave him a great deal of pleasure, especially when his sight had failed so much that he could hardly read ordinary print.
Archbishop Davidson recognised his attainments and services by making him Doctor of Music.
As the infirmities of old age increased he never lost his cheerfulness. It is open to question whether he ever said a harsh or unkind thing about anyone.
The funeral took place at Wells this (Thursday) morning, service at the Cathedral being followed by private cremation and the interment of the ashes in the Cathedral graveyard.
Dr. Thomas Fioldon, in The Times, writes : Basil Johnson (he is remembered affectionately as B.J. by Old Rubeians, and also by his many friends outside the school) was one of tho great pioneers of music in public schools. As long ago the beginning of the century he had formed at Rugby, where his best work was done, an organization of music school choir and orchestra, which was a wonderful encouragement to other music masters who were struggling for recognition for their subject which is now almost universal.
He was one of tho founders with Charles Harford Lloyd and S. J. Rowton, of the Union of Directors in Public Schools, now the Music Masters’ Association, which has done much to bring public school music up to its present standard of accomplishment and recognition.
He was in no sense a professional musician: he was a true amateur who called forth enthusiasm in youthful lovers of music ; he loved showing them what they not he, could do the ideal pioneer; and he inspired many young men who have carried on the work in their own generation, not only Rugbeians, but music lovers in all the public schools of this country

Extract:- Shepton Mallet Journal - Friday 15 December 1950

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