Pretoria Boys High: The Rise of a Giant

By: 
Fri, 08/08/2014 - 06:05

Pretoria Boys High School, also known as Boys High, is a public English medium boys high school located in Brooklyn, Pretoria, South Africa, founded in 1901 by The Rt Hon. Lord Milner. Its academic performance places it among the best secondary schools in rankings nationally, as well as in all of Africa. Notable alumni includes two Nobel Prize laureates, 18 Rhodes scholars, eight Supreme Court judges, intellectuals and sportsmen.

Notable alumni includes two Nobel Prize laureates, 18 Rhodes scholars, eight Supreme Court judges, intellectuals and sportsmen.

The school enrolls around 1500 pupils, including 300 boarders. Its neoclassical red-brick style main school buildings date from 1909, maintaining provincial heritage site status. The school grounds also include a second campus, Pollock Campus, as well as sporting and recreational facilities. Three boarding houses are located on the school grounds: Rissik House and Solomon House are part of the original school complex completed in 1909, while School House was built later.

included among its internees none other than Winston Churchill who was captured as a war correspondent

Origins Steeped in History

Pretoria Boys High School can trace its origins back over more than 110 years. During the Anglo-Boer War (1899-1902), the city of Pretoria was captured in 1900 by British forces under Lord Roberts and the Transvaal became a British colony. One of the responsibilities of the colonial administration was to re-establish schools as these had all been closed during the hostilities. Although the war continued to be fought by the Boers as a guerilla conflict, moves were made to start a school in central Pretoria and Charles Hope was brought up from the Eastern Cape to undertake the task. Hope had to establish a school virtually from scratch as he tried to source everything from desks to teachers. He did at least have a building in the form of the Staats Model School, built in the 1890s in President Paul Kruger's erstwhile ZAR (Zuid Afrikaansche Republiek), as a combined school for boys and a teachers' training college. Closed at the onset of hostilities in 1899, it served for a while as a prisoner of war camp for captured British officers (mainly from the campaign in Natal) and included among its internees none other than Winston Churchill who was captured as a war correspondent. His successful escape from the building added a colourful chapter to the history of the building. The Staats Model School is preserved as a national monument today and still has relics of its former inmates in the form of murals and an incomplete escape tunnel.

The original colours of the school (blue, brown and red) were adopted for hat bands

Charles Hope set up a small school that started classes in mid 1901. PBHS regards him as its founding headmaster and bases its annual "Founders Day" on the date he taught his first lesson. For a year, the school existed as school for both boys and girls. In 1902 the girls were provided with their own building and this is how the sister school of PBHS came into being, namely Pretoria High School for Girls. Charles Hope left for Johannesburg (where he established a further school) and the first of two headmasters brought from England, replaced him. Harold Atkinson had studied at Cambridge and taught at Rossall School in Lancashire. The school he inherited in central Pretoria had 84 pupils. The original colours of the school (blue, brown and red) were adopted for hat bands although there was not yet a uniform.

The head of education in the Transvaal Colony, Sir John Adamson, motivated for the granting of money to build a new boys' school and in 1908 a sum of £36 000 was approved by the colonial secretary, Jan Smuts

Early Growth

Atkinson's successor was John Acheson who played an important part in pressing for new grounds and buildings for the school that had by this stage become known as the Pretoria College. The head of education in the Transvaal Colony, Sir John Adamson, motivated for the granting of money to build a new boys' school and in 1908 a sum of £36 000 was approved by the colonial secretary, Jan Smuts. Land was set aside on the town lands to the east of Pretoria, then very much on the outskirts of the town, for three educational institutions, these being a boys high school, a new site for Pretoria High School for Girls and the newly-established Transvaal University College today the University of Pretoria.

The land allocated to the then Pretoria College [...] had previously been used for a British army hospital camp.

The land allocated to the then Pretoria College comprised about one hundred acres running partly up the side of a ridge. It had previously been used for a British army hospital camp. Plans for the new school buildings were drawn up by the chief architect of the Public Works Department, Piercey Eagle. The original buildings comprised a main central building (with classrooms, offices, a library and a school hall) and the two boarding houses, one to the west and the other to the east of the main building. Construction of the buildings began in 1908 with locally quarried mud-stone and locally made bricks (from Kirkness brickworks) combined with Free State sandstone to create the pleasing buildings that are still the attractive centerpiece of the school today.

The foundation stone was laid by the Governor General, the Earl of Selbourne, in July 1908 and construction of the buildings was completed early in 1909. Jan Smuts with Mr GL Thomas as the acting headmaster opened the new school buildings in April 1909. The school badge and the school magazine (The Pretorian), both date from 1909. The boarding houses were named after ministers in the Transvaal government: Rissik House after Johan Rissik (Minister of Lands) and Solomon House after Sir Edward Solomon (Minister of Public Works). All boarders were housed in Rissik House for the first months before the "Solomonites" moved to their own house.

The first headmaster of the school (under its new name) was William Hofmeyr who would serve from 1910 until 1934, the longest term yet of a PBHS headmaster

Post War Changes

In 1910 the school changed its name to Pretoria Boys High School when the Pretoria College amalgamated with the Eendracht School. This move paralleled the establishment of the Union of South Africa in the same year and was motivated in part by a political imperative: to promote the reconciliation of English and Dutch-speaking South Africans in the aftermath of the bitter war recently fought in the region.

By 1920, the divide between English and Afrikaans speakers had become apparent nationwide; this was reflected in the need for a separate Afrikaans high school in Pretoria. Consequently, the Afrikaanse Hoër Seunskool was formed

The first headmaster of the school (under its new name) was William Hofmeyr who would serve from 1910 until 1934, the longest term yet of a PBHS headmaster. He instilled much of the discipline for which the school would become famous. The dual-medium institution would last ten years. By 1920, the divide between English and Afrikaans speakers had become apparent nationwide; this was reflected in the need for a separate Afrikaans high school in Pretoria. Consequently, the Afrikaanse Hoër Seunskool was formed immediately south of its parent, becoming the first Afrikaans-medium high school in the country, several years before Afrikaans attained official recognition as a language (and not a semi-Creole of Dutch). The two schools enjoy close ties to this day, especially in an enthusiastic but friendly rivalry in sporting events. PBHS would now be left in its present form, known as Pretoria Boys High School, an English-medium public school.

Rugby at Pretoria Boys High

PBHS has a rich tradition in rugby and produced South Africa’s most successful and longest serving Springbok captain in John Smit.

To date they have produced three Springbok rugby players in Robbie Brink, John Smit and Chilliboy Ralapele.

Affectionately known as “The Candies" because of their green and red striped first team jersey, the Pretoria Boys High rugby teams are known for their absolute gentlemenship on and off the rugby fields.

 To date they have produced three Springbok rugby players in Robbie Brink, John Smit and Chilliboy Ralapele. Smit was also the Springbok captain during the 2007 Rugby World Cup campaign, which South Africa won.

Pretoria Boys were up until now, the only well-known school team without a team sponsor, clinging to the true amateur spirit of the schoolboy game

Boys High usually field 28 rugby teams, but when they are playing Affies can field up to 30 teams for the day. They recently appointed a new Director of Rugby in Ryno van der Merwe and are looking to up the ante in the future. Pretoria Boys were up until now, the only well-known school team without a team sponsor, clinging to the true amateur spirit of the schoolboy game. May it continue to be so and hopefully they can find alternative methods to stay competitive in this ever-changing world of Schoolboy rugby.

 

​​Follow YSN here for all kinds of awesome:

YSN on Twitter for all the latest and greatestLots of YSN photos to tag you and your mates inYSN on Instagram because sometimes you gotta be artisticYSN on Youtube for the long highlightsYSN on Vine for all your big hits and quick clips

Have your say!

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
Receive YSN Newsletter