I just discovered the KC school song is not original

Ah, 2020. In addition to the pandemic and everything else, I discovered that my beloved secondary school song was plagiarized.

King’s College, Lagos (KC) is Nigeria’s most well known secondary school. Former students (or Old Boys) are everywhere in business and politics and include Nigerian household names like Hakeem Belo-Osagie, Bayo Ogunlesi, Lamido Sanusi. Real business gets done at our old boys’ meetings, and given the size and distribution of the class, there’s always someone you should be talking to. 

Most importantly, KC Old Boys are proud of the school’s history. KC was set up in 1909 by the British colonial government to “provide for the youth.. a higher education than those supplied by existing schools”. KC was founded before Nigeria the country (1960) and Nigeria the British protectorate (1914). We carried ourselves accordingly. KC students and alumni fought in WWII and for Nigeria’s independence. It’s impossible to talk about Nigerian history without Kings’ College. 

The school song is an important part of our shared experience. We sing it everywhere. I have joined other old boys to yell all 4 verses as other wedding guests sat confused. We sing (solemnly) at funerals. We sing at Old Boys’ meetings. We sing to remember the old, good times. The song is the soundtrack to our KC identity. We even use the first word of the school song – “Floreat!”- as a greeting to other old boys. It’s our thing.

Then I stumbled on this video.

Why were these old, white men singing our school song? Strange.

The title and comments sent me down a rabbit hole that ruined everything.

Queen Mary’s Grammar School, Walsall, was founded in 1554, before the first Europeans visited Africa. Like King’s College, it also has accomplished alumni. And like Kings’ College Lagos, the same school song.

King’s College Lagos on the left, Queen Mary’s on the right

One difference is the first line of the school song. “Floreat Collegium Schola Mariae” or “May the school of Queen Mary flourish” which Kings College replaced with the similar sounding “Floreat Collegium shall our motto be”.

Looking back, it should have been obvious. The first line of the KC version is “Floreat Collegium, shall our motto be”, but our actual motto is “Spero Lucem” (we hope for light).

In the News| King's College Lagos 110... - King's College Old Boys'  Association
“Spero Lucem” shall our motto be doesn’t quite have the same ring to it

From the archivist at QMGS, I learned the song was written in 1908, specifically for QMGS. FG Layton, the author said this was the only thing he’d done that would outlive him. He might just have been right.


Perhaps, it should have been expected. We know now that the school’s founders weren’t creating “leaders for the colony” but an army of subordinates to make the colony easier to manage. [1]

On the other hand, maybe the community is bigger than we thought. KC Boys can think of QMGS as a sister school, and the song as a shared experience across both schools many miles apart. And we will still continue to sing, because the song means more than just words to those who sing it, whether they are from Lagos or Walsall. I choose to remember it that way, and the words still ring true. Service to our living, Honor to our dead.

[1] The British colonial government wanted “African subordinates to serve the [British] central government” and a ‘”…limited number of educated Nigerians..” Check out this paper for more.

20 thoughts on “I just discovered the KC school song is not original”

  1. Very revealing! We have copied Good Things. Just love the effects of the Song on my Mind when I first heard it on that cold harmattan morning in January 1967. Floreat Forever

  2. Woow,still like it despite the revelation.
    One of the most important things that has kept me so proud since leaving KC in ’83
    That reminds me,where are the ‘alpha’ class guys of ’78-83 ?

    1. Can we change the first line to “Spero Lucem shall our motto be”?
      Aspiring to (striving, seeking, yearning for) light and truth!
      49 years after 1909, the expressed wish of the school founders was fulfilled and found anchorage in a group of King’s College students in several class sets.

  3. Bankole, I think you will need to complete your research on this topic. The fact that it is copied wholesome suggests that there is a historical relationship between the two schools. Remember KCL was founded by the British Colonial Government for some specific purpose, which I believe included turning out, as fast as possible, leaders in the emerging colony.

    1. Agreed! I reached out to QMGS historian who couldn’t find any link. I didn’t find anything in KC Lagos as well! If you see or hear something or have any ideas, let me know

  4. Floreat my brodas across nation …2010-2016

    If you fail look closely and seek the reason why

    You have the power to conquer if you only try

    I never forgot the part in my anthem

  5. Late to the party but welcome from a former ‘Marian’ (2001-2008) – QMGS Alumni from Walsall, England.

    Our School Song is a proud part of our heritage and, like you we are very fond of it. I can only assume a former Marian was somehow involved in the early foundations of your school – it would be interesting if we could find the link between our schools.

    Also, like you, despite the song saying our motto is ‘Floreat Regina Scholar Mariae’ it’s not our actual school motto. The schools motto is Quas Dederis Solas Semper Habebis Opes – ‘It is what you give that you will keep as eternal riches.’

    Floreat to you all!

    1. The plot thickens! Perhaps we will yet discover a (19th century) progenitor who lays a more direct claim to the right to flourish!
      Bedford Boys School (founded 1552) use the motto -“Floreat Schola Bedfordiensis” (May Bedford School Flourish).
      Floreat all! Extremely proud, as always, to be a Kingsman. An honour to share a common heritage.

  6. Amazing… I still doubt if they could have been a better song that could match the standard of the Good Old School- It was worth copying.
    There’s certainly yet untold history between these two great schools…

  7. This is an Amazing Revelation.However,the Positive effects and testimonies of Great Men that have gone through this Great School will forever be felt and indeed Worldover..I can Only Continue to Say “Floreat!”

  8. I’m an old boy of Queen Mary’s and have been trying to find the link between the Schools. I understand that Major Harman introduced the song at your School. He was originally an officer in the South Staffordshire regiment, which recruited heavily in Walsall, so may have been a former student at QM.

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