Showing posts with label Durban High School. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Durban High School. Show all posts

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Durban High School: Early Days Part Two

Cont. article by Robert Russell, I.S.O. (First Head Master 1866-1875; Inspector of Schools 1875-1878; Superintendent of Education 1878-1903).

When the school re-opened in August [1866], 21 boys presented themselves. By December the attendance had increased to 40, the limit of the Mansion House accommodation. It was found necessary to form an Upper and a Lower Division, and an Assistant Master, Mr David Calder, was sent from the Maritzburg High School. For the next 18 months boys could be admitted only as vacancies occurred. So many boys sought admission and public discontent grew so loud that the Government was at last obliged to incur the risk of renting a larger building. The school was accordingly transferred to a roomy but otherwise unsuitable building in Cato Square previously used as a granary. The attendance speedily rose to over 100, but still there was only one Assistant Master. Each of us gave instruction in all subjects to our own division. The public purse was not full in those days and expenditure on education was confined within the narrowest limits. For several months during this flourishing period the Government income from the fees exceeded the total outlay on the school.

The earliest head boys were:
Eben. Coakes
Henry Buchan
Fred Dore
John W Leuchars
Alfred D Millar
Herbert Mann
Benjamin Hampson.

On the school registers between 1866 and 1874 may be found the following well-known coast names:
Acutt (3)
Buchan (2)
Cooper (2)
Dacomb (2)
Dore (2)
Fisher (3)
Knox (2)
Lloyd (2)
McArthur (2)
Millar (3)
Pay (2)
Shuter (3)
Smith (2)
Tatham (2)
Vause (2)
Wilson (2)
Wright (2)

As I was only a few years older than most of the senior boys who joined the school in 1866, I entered with zest into all their play as well as their work. Football, cricket and other games were carried on ... but they were not allowed to bulk largely in the public eye or to be regarded as anything but healthy and manly recreation. On alternate Saturdays the boys and myself had long rides in the country. Riding horses were cheap and plentiful and formed the general means of getting about. These excursions were undertaken with the object of observing the flora, fauna and geology of the countryside. I cannot now vouch for the scientific results of the rides, but it is certain that we all had a good time - characterised by the Superintendant of Education as high jinks. The physical advantages which I myself had derived from Volunteer training in Edinburgh in the early sixties led me to secure at once military drill twice a week for the boys. The instructor was a sergeant belonging to the company of regulars stationed at that time in the old Camp near the Umgeni Road. This developed into a Cadet Corps in 1868. The Government gave a drill-instructor, carbines, ammunition, accoutrements and cloth for uniforms, which were gladly made by mothers and sisters. A company of Cadets nearly 80 strong paraded in 1871 with the regulars and volunteers at the Queen's Birthday celebrations. Many of the boys were capital shots, and competitions were encouraged by prizes given liberally by the Durban merchants.

English subjects and mathematics occupied the greater part of school time. Latin and French were not in demand. Practical geometry, historical and physical geography, drawing, English composition and arithmetic were the favourite subjects. Every boy had to send in weekly a carefully written exercise in English composition. We kept to the old-fashioned method of taking places and giving marks.

There was no trouble about discipline. I inflicted corporal punishment only three times during my eight years' Headmastership, and then only for gross deceit and marked cruelty. I acted on the principle that the existence of the minor vices in a school, such as inattention and laziness, is as much the fault of the master as of the pupils.

Dr Mann, who was the first Superintendant of Education in Natal, had left for England a few weeks before my arrival. He was a man of scientific bent, and is remembered in the Colony as a keen advocate for the use of lightning conductors, and as the author of several handbooks on 'Science in the Household'. He was succeeded by Mr T Warwick Brooks, a scholar and man of the world and cousin of Shirley Brooks of 'Punch'. Mr Brooks was not an educationist in the present acceptance of the term, but it would have been hard to find any one more in sympathy with children. He had a commanding presence, rode a spirited horse and always had a cheery word and a half holiday for the boys who looked up to him with admiring awe as a man who had soundly thrashed an insolent prize-fighter in the early days of the Bendigo diggings. He allowed me the utmost freedom in the management of the school, being satisified ... if I kept steadily in view that the main end of my work was the moulding of the lads into good Citizens and Colonists. The Governors of the Colony occasionally visited the school and the Mayor generally presided at the prize-givings.

The Assistant Master left in 1870 for the Diamond Fields. He was succeeded first by Mr John Laurie, master of an aided school in Maritzburg, and then by Mr F Colepepper, latterly and for many years Inspector of Indian Schools. When I was appointed Associate Inspector of Schools in January 1875, my place as Head Master was taken by Mr James Forbes, an experienced master selected in England by Dr Mann.

Robert Russell
London Feb 18th 1905.

[Transcribed from The Durban High School Record]

Field St., Durban, ca 1870: unsurfaced.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Durban High School: Early Days Part One

By Robert Russell, I.S.O. (First Head Master 1866-1875; Inspector of Schools 1875-1878; Superintendent of Education 1878-1903).

As far back as 1861 the Legislative Council of Natal passed two Laws which created two Collegiate Institutions, one for Maritzburg and the other for Durban. It was, however, never found practicable to bring these Laws into operation, and the Trustees had to confine themselves to the custody and improvement of the moneys and lands granted, in terms of the Laws, by the Government and the Corporations of the two towns. It was not till 1903 that these Laws were finally abolished. The accumulated endowments were then devoted by the Government to the improvement and extension of the two existing High Schools.

In 1864 Messrs Robert Acutt, J F Churchill, John Millar, George Rutherford and Richard Vause petitioned the Government, on behalf of the townsfolk of Durban, to establish a High School at the port similar to the one which had been begun in the capital two years before and had since been successfully carried on under the Headmastership of Mr William Calder. The Government gave its consent and asked the Secretary of State to send out a Head Master. I was then a very young man, Senior Assistant and Master of Method in the Church of Scotland Training College in Edinburgh and a student at the University, and when the appointment was offered to me the innate Scottish desire of 'getting on', together with the fascinating prospect of work in a new land, induced me to accept it.

 Very little was known about Natal in the Mother Country at that time. The current geographical text-books dismissed the little colony with scanty notice. It was described as 'Port Natal on the S.E. coast of Africa with a bar-fenced harbour' and its inhabitants as mainly 'Zoolahs, a fierce and predatory race'. ... Any fame the Colony had acquired was due to its being the see of Bishop Colenso, whom I was afterwards privileged to call a dear friend, known to schoolboys of the period by his 'Arithmetic' and 'Algebra' and to their elders by his Biblical Criticism. His 'Ten Weeks in Natal' gave me some insight into the conditions of Colonial life; and I was further enlightened by the perusal of a pamphlet by John Robinson, Editor of the Natal Mercury, written chiefly for immigrants, wherein he pictured the scenery, the people and the industries of his adopted land ...

I arrived in Natal in April 1866 in the 'Eudora' after a three months' passage. There was then a short railway, the only one in South Africa, between the Point and Umgeni. The present Point Road was a sandy tract through the bush. Durban was a well laid out, almost exclusively English, town with streets still ankle-deep in sand, and much primeval bush in evidence. There were only one or two double-storeyed houses in the town. ... There was an enlightened and progressive Town Council which had Mr R W Tyzack as Mayor and Mr R H U Fisher as Town Clerk. The names of Acutt, Adams, Beningfield, Butcher, Greenacre, Harvey, Henwood, Jameson, Millar, Parker, Poynton, Randles, Snell and Wood were written large ... in the commercial life of Durban.

The day after my arrival I had an invitation to attend a meeting of the Durban Literary Society and to take part in a discussion on a paper, 'The Cid', to be read by one of its members. The weekly meetings of this Society were held in the Council Chamber in West Street, and its sessional programme would have been no discredit to the Philosophic which I frequented in Edinburgh. For there were intellectual giants in the land even forty years ago. Athletics had not yet become a craze, and the serenity of the cultured home life of the people was not then disturbed either by the feverish rush to the diamond and gold fields or the daily distraction of cable news from the outside world. The excitement of news from home was enjoyed only once a month when the 'Bismarck' steamed round the Bluff with the English mail from Capetown. ... Old Durban remembers with pride the literary, musical and scientific galaxy which included such men as John Robinson, Harry Escombe, John Sanderson, J F Churchill, W W Wheeler, Alfred Evans, W H Evans, William Crowder, E P Lamport, J R Goodricke, Savory Pinsent, John Milne, William Boyd, F Harvey, Archdeacon Lloyd, Rev S H Stott, Rev John Buchanan, A M Campbell, J S Steel, T R Hadden and the Rev W H Mann - the last four still happily with us. [at date of publication 1905] 

The Durban High School was opened on 1st June 1866 in the Mansion House, Smith Street, a handsome two-roomed building erected during his Mayoralty by Mr William Hartley, and in later years enlarged and occupied by the Athaeneum Club. Before that date there were only four schools in Durban, one the Government School, then under the direction of Mr McLetchie and Mr Doig and later under Mr James Crowe, and the others private adventure schools. I may be allowed to say here that I am glad, despite the changed name of the sister institution in Maritzburg, that my old school still remains the High School. Only seven boys turned up on the opening day. The first name enrolled was that of Eben Coakes, son of the Durban Postmaster and now [1905] an Archdeacon in the Diocese of Capetown. July was a holiday month, but a start had been made with the school. My instructions were to admit only boys over 13 years of age and to give them an 'education according to the most improved methods in vogue in English high-class schools'. I soon found that the age limit was too high, and that I need not burden the lads with a multiplicity of subjects of instruction. The fees, payable to the Government in advance, were fixed at £1 a month for each pupil and 16s each for members of the same family.

[Transcribed from The Durban High School Record]

West St., Durban, 1874

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Durban High School group 1885

The School in 1885

Standing top right: P Sandford Headmaster, W H Nicholas Assistant Master; two African employees
Top Row: S A Marriott, R Hooper, E Goble, H V Adler, W Gilbert, W Grundy, R Arbuckle, H Mason
Middle Row: H C Bell, W Millar, P Acutt, C Jenkyn, H Robinson, A Osborne, J D Cockerell, P Stevens, T Maddison
Bottom Row: Fisher, Palmer, H Gillespie, H Sewell

Note from Philip Sandford's grandson:
Sandford was locally unpopular for publicly supporting his friend Bishop Colenso in calling for decent treatment of the Zulus after the Anglo-Zulu War 1879. Colenso baptized at least one of the Sandford children. We have two brief letters from Colenso congratulating Sandford on his new son and offering condolences on the death of Sandford’s father (1883) a few months before Colenso himself died.

Durban High School group post-1886

W H Nicholas, wearing mortar-board 4th left in back row, was Headmaster from 1886