PRETORIA BOYS HIGH SCHOOL

THE SCHOOL




A SHORT HISTORY OF THE PRETORIA BOYS HIGH SCHOOL



Boys High is one of the great South African schools, not only because of its grounds and buildings, but also because of the calibre of person it produces. Great men have walked the corridors of this School before you, among others, a Nobel Prize winner, Dr Max Theiler, who produced a vaccine against yellow fever. Eighteen Rhodes Scholars, two university principals, at least eight supreme court judges, an archbishop, a bishop, thirty-two high-school headmasters, five Springbok cricketers, four Springbok rugby players and many other great men attended this school.

In the 1880s the South African Republic Government built the Staatsmodelskool on the corner of Skinner and van der Walt Streets. The school was not in operation for very long because, when the Second Anglo Boer War broke out in 1899, many staff members and boys went to join the commandos. The building was changed into a prisoner of war facility, and it was at this time that Sir Winston Churchill was captured and imprisoned there. Later he made his famous escape from the building.


In 1900, Pretoria was captured by the British and the Transvaal became a British Colony, although the war dragged on. There was no school for English speaking pupils, so the Staatsmodelskool building was utilised for the purpose. The school opened on 3 June 1901 under the headmaster Charles Hope. The initial enrolment was 32 pupils, both boys and girls, which increased to 132 by August of that year. Mr Hope left 15 months later. The girls left the school at the same time. They moved to the old building of the Staatsmeisieskool and named it the Pretoria High School for Girls. The remaining classes were split into primary and high school and remained like this until 1905.

With the departure of the girls the enrolment fell to 84, but under the new headmaster, Harold Atkinson, the enrolment increased to 100 boys by 1903. The name of the school was also changed to the Pretoria College. Mr Atkinson left at the end of 1905 and was succeeded by J F Acheson who stayed with the school until it moved from Skinner Street.

Lord Milner was intent on creating a stable education system. For this reason, he set aside 200 hectares of ground to the south-east of what was then the built up Pretoria. The southernmost 60 hectares, which included the Waterkloof Kop, was to become the site where Pretoria Boys High School was to be built. The School's design was done by Piercy Eagle who met the challenge admirably and produced an architectural masterpiece, in true English classical revival style. The position on the ridge was to give the school a dramatic setting, with the three original buildings (the main school building and the first boarding houses) forming a symmetrical whole.

At the beginning of 1909 General Smuts, then colonial secretary of the Transvaal, officially opened the doors of the school. A few days later 180 boys and staff of the Pretoria College moved into the building. On 6 April 1910, 100 boys and staff from Eendracht Hoérskool, moved into the building and the combined school was re-named Pretoria High School for Boys/Pretoria Hogerskool voor Jongens. The combination of English and Dutch may seem strange but this was just after the creation of the Union of South Africa and Smuts wanted to create unity from grass roots level. He sent his own sons to the School.

Smuts understood well the situation that the school was in and as a result, he handpicked the first headmaster of the institution. William Hendrik Hofmeyr became the School's longest serving headmaster. He was Headmaster of the school for 25 years. Hofmeyr had seven sons and they all attended the School; three went on to become Rhodes Scholars. One of his sons, Will, became a member of staff and his involvement as a coach and teacher is renowned. The cricket oval named after him is regarded as one of the finest in the country.

William Hofmeyr stayed as headmaster throughout the First World War. The war cost the school 28 Old Boys and the memorial in front of the main building, along with the bells, was erected in their memory with the words, "To the Glory of God and in memory of those of this school who gave their lives in the Great War this clock is dedicated". The Westminster chimes are identical to those of the Union Buildings.

By 1920's the school had become a true reflection of society, with the divide between English and Afrikaans becoming more apparent. Consequently, Afrikaans Hoér Seunskool was formed across the railway line. The schools, although defined by a different medium of instruction, have a great relationship. This is shown by the sporting events between them. The annual rugby derby is the highlight of the sporting calendar.

Hofmeyr was succeeded by Daniel Duff Matheson. He took over the reins in 1935 and under him the enrolment increased from 450 to 800 boys. Matheson saw the School through the Second World War when once again the cost was felt and the school lost 93 Old Boys. Matheson left in 1949 and in 1960 a drinking fountain at the pavilion was erected in his memory. Matheson House (a day house) was later named in his honour.

The departure of Matheson brought along Noel M Pollock. He was the first Old Boy to assume the position of headmaster. Pollock's time in office was marked by many changes in the country and he did well in maintaining morale within the school. In his final year, 1955, the First Cricket Team went through the season unbeaten. It was at about this time that Boys High had a run of great cricketers. Among others were Ken Funston, Eddie Barlow, Syd Burke, Glen Hall and Jackie Botten. Hockey was also introduced at the school and in 1976 Boys High became the first school to send a hockey team to England.

The next headmaster was yet another Old Boy, Desmond Abernethy, who left his post as an inspector to become a headmaster, a move he described as a "downward promotion". Before Abernethy left in 1973, the school reached an enrolment high of 1000 boys and Art became a popular subject. Great schoolmasters of the time included Walter Battiss, Larry Scully and Clinton Harrop-Allin. Music also became popular and Boys High produced Leo Quayle, a renowned musician.

In the early 1960's, renovations began once again as new classrooms were built and the old school hall was demolished and replaced by the current school hall, opened on 26 August 1964.



Malcolm Armstrong was the eighth headmaster of the school and only the second born in South Africa. Armstrong placed great emphasis on a balanced life and for this reason a great number of clubs and societies began during his term of office. During his administration a number of projects were undertaken, including the building of thirteen staff houses, the gymnasium, two science laboratories, the new swimming pool and Loch Armstrong.

In 1990, Bill Schroder became headmaster. A former head prefect of Rondebosch Boys High, Mr Schroder was a positive headmaster who embraced change. He has said the following about the School and its future, "I have no doubt that we can withstand any problems that the future may throw at us. I believe that a school such as ours must try to remain ahead of change, as it has in the past. I believe Boys High can become a genuine microcosm of the new South Africa." During his time as headmaster the enrolment increased to over 1500 pupils and this expansion was accompanied by an expansion of the house system with four new day houses being created. The school's facilities were also much expanded with the addition of three sports fields, a rugby pavilion, a central dining hall and an artificial hockey field.

In 2010, Mr. Tony Reeler took over from his predesessor as the School's current Headmaster. Mr. Reeler was, like Mr. Schroder, schooled at Rondebosch Boys High School in Cape Town. Mr. Reeler began his teaching career at Grey High School in Port Elizabeth in 1988, and was promoted to a Head of Department in 1992 and spent his 11 years at Grey in a variety of leadership roles, cultural activities and sports coaching (1st XV rugby and 2nd XI cricket). In 1999 he returned to Rondebosch as a Deputy Headmaster and spent four years in various management and leadership capacities. He became Headmaster at Pinelands High in 2003 and ran the School for 7 years with conspicuous success. He envisages bringing Boys High into the 21st century while maintaining and protecting the virtues of traditonal values.

Amended from the School's Prospectus



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