Dublin, Ireland, 1822, the 17-year old son of Susan Hope and Alexander Waddell, both members of the Presbyterian Church of Ireland, expresses an early interest in joining the ministry; however, he is discouraged in doing so due to a speech impediment. Young Hope Masterton Waddell never gives up on his dream. He is eventually apprenticed with a druggist before leaving to study for the Church. Three years later, he is accepted as a candidate for the mission in 1825 by the Scottish Mission Society, and in 1827 enters the United Secession Hall.
Following Waddell's ordainment in 1829, he marries Jessie Simpson and together they embark on a mission to Jamaica with the Church of Scotland Mission. Here he works with the enslaved population of Cornwall until 1831, when the Baptist War slave revolt breaks out. Many blame the revolt on the Christian and Baptist missions due to giving the slaves ideas about equality and freedom, and in its aftermath Waddell begins pushing to begin a mission to Old Calabar.
The mission of the United Secession Church to Calabar at the request of the king, who has been looking for avenues to re-invigorate development in Creek Town after the end of the slave trade, begins in 1846 with Waddell, Mr and Mrs Edgerley, Andrew Chisholm and Edward Miller, the latter two being of Jamaican origin. The missionaries leave in January 1846 and arrive three months later to a welcoming party consisting the King of Creek Town who also tells the missionaries the reluctance of some of the chiefs to foreign missions on Efik soil. They are given space at a location called Mission Hill overlooking the Calabar River between Henshaw Town and Cobham Town. The mission holds Sunday meetings at the compound of King Eyo Honesty II of Creek Town and in also Duke Town at the compound of the king of supportive chiefs.
Reverend Waddell makes attempts to stop the practice of infanticide in the area, building a settlement for twins and their mothers so as to isolate them from the rest of the population, and allowing them to live. In addition, he manages to procure various agreements to abolish human sacrifice in the surrounding area. He also works to limit the spread of what is most likely yellow fever in the villages, through use of calomel. While in Old Calabar he learns Efik and builds a relationship with King Eyo Honesty II. Following a leave of absence in 1853, the relationship between Waddell and his colleagues at the mission begins to become strained, a possible cause for his eventual retirement from the mission in 1858, although officially due to illness.
In his book, Hope Waddell Training Institution - Life & Work (1894 - 1978), the Late E. U. Aye, a former Principal of the school, notes:
"In February 1895, Sir Claude Macdonald was in England to submit his report on the Institution to the British Parliament at Westminster. He made the following comments:
A most important and useful departure has been made by the Presbyterian Missionary Society in starting industrial schools in Old Calabar. These Schools are assisted by a yearly grant of £200 from the revenue. A valuable piece of foreshore for the erection of saw mills, etc., and an excellent site for schools has also been granted free to the Society by the Government of the Protectorate.
"The Board of the Mission in Scotland decided and requested the Synod of the United Presbyterian Church to commemorate the work of the Reverend Hope Masterton Waddell in Calabar by naming the Institution - Hope Waddell Training Institution. Reverend Waddell himself...., now a grand old pensioner aged ninety-one years, was living at home in Dublin. Unfortunately, he never heard of the proposal nor lived to see the monument in his name. He died on 18th of April, 1895, two days after the request was made. And no more deserving epitaph on him than what the Record bore on his behalf: 'No worthier wreath could the Synod lay upon his honoured grave than it has done by associating his name with what we trust will be for many years to come a fountain of ever growing blessing to Western Africa'."