HISTORY OF HAMILTON SCHOOL
The idea of a Girls School in the Suid Afrikaansche Republiek first came to fruition in 1878 as a result of the efforts of Mrs Bosman, wife of Ds Bosman.
She secured the services of Miss Cleary and Miss Ruggles who came out from the U.S.A. The school did not last long because Miss Cleary died in August 1878 and Miss Ruggles left for Natal soon after.
For fifteen year hereafter boys and girls attended the same school. President Paul Kruger was not very sympathetic to the idea of girls receiving higher education and they certainly did not deserve a separate school of their own.
However in 1893, the State purchased a house belonging to Mr Ford in Skinner Street.
It was here that Miss J A Lorenz, the Headmistress, started the Hoogere Meisjes-school in 1893. She was keen on a parallel medium institution. In 1894 the Z.A.R. took control of the School and appointed Miss C S Roodhuizen as Headmistress. When she resigned in 1896 to get married, Miss A E Adriani, who had recently arrived from Holland, was appointed in her place. The School prospered under Miss Adriani and became known as the “Staatsmeisjesschool”. The School also trained students to become teachers and when the constantly increasing enrolment reached 300 pupils, plans were set in motion for the construction of a new building.
In 1893, the Z.A.R. bought two stands in Visagie Street from Mr Barend van Erkom and Mrs Scholz.
During 1897 the four sites were cleared and the construction of our Building began in earnest during 1898. The matron of the hostel in Skinner Street was Miss Koster. The P.W.D. Architect was Mr Jacobus Klasing. They met as a result of our Building being erected and were married in 1898. Their daughter, Mrs Elisabeth Cuff, visited the school for the first time in August, 1979.
The Building was constructed by Daanen and Dorlas at a cost of L14 498. According to the State Archives, work commenced on 15 October, 1898 and was completed on 25 July 1899. It is certainly one of the finest examples of the late Victorian Architecture to be seen in the Transvaal. The construction of this Building at today’s costs, would set us back approximately R750 000 (1977).
Miss Adriani moved into the Building in September 1899. Preparations were under way for the official opening in October, 1899 but all schools in the Republic were officially closed on the 1st October 1899 because of the impending war. The exact date of the closure of this Building is not known, but it is recorded that Miss Adriani and a small group of girls sang in front of Paul Kruger’s house on the 10 October.
In January 1900 the Building was commissioned as a hospital and the teachers volunteered service with the Red Cross for the duration of the Anglo-Boer War.
At the end of the Anglo-Boer War, the Building again served as a school when the “Girl’s High School” opened on 10 October 1902. Miss Edith Aitken was appointed Headmistress in charge of four teachers and 126 girls. The redoubtable “E.A.” ensured that the fine education she had received at North London Collegiate School under Miss Buss, would be passed on to her staff and pupils.
One of her rules was that “all girls must change their out-door shoes for low-heeled slippers on entering the school building”. Mrs Trouw, a pupil at that time, tells us that girls were expected to have at least four pairs of shoes for school – to cope with rain, sun, P.T. and walking in the building. E.A.’s rule has certainly helped preserve the beautiful imported Italian marble floor tiles in the corridors.
In 1908 a school play drew this comment from a young visitor, “It’s quite worth sixpence (five cents)”. I know that those who saw “Joseph” recently will be struck by the inflation rate over the past 70 years.
Forms of entertainment have changed a great deal over the years. “We must not forget to mention the open air dance in the Burgher’s Park, given by the Mayor of Pretoria and Mrs Savage, to which the girls of Form Upper V, and the Monitresses went, on October 9, and, what was even more of a pleasure, the Bioscope Entertainment in the Opera House, to which the whole school was invited on October 23rd. The girls have never been so excited and interested over any entertainment as they were over this.”
Creative writing was encouraged even in those far-off days. Fritta Mista wrote her School Song in 1907.
SCHOOL SONG:“In the Morning” (Tune: John Peel)
Do ye mind the old school with its walls so red,
And the pepper-tree hedge and the life we led;
Do ye mind the old school and the life we led
From eight till one of a morning?
Oh, the thought of the bell roused me from my bed
And the fear it might ring as I schoolward sped;
Oh, the fear of that bell would awaken the dead!
And brought me with my books in the morning.
Yes, I mind our school with its girls so gay,
And the games and the fun, and the work and the play;
And how the teachers would often say:
“It’s a rule not to talk in the morning.”
Do ye mind the old school and the lesson too,
The work and the games, and all we would do;
From the morn till the noon, from the noon till the dew,
And again on the morrow morning?
Yes, I mind the Hockey and Basket-Ball
And the matches we played, and the pride of all,
When we won in spite of knock and fall,
And the bruises we felt the next morning.
Do ye mind school days, when Assembly time came,
And each girl was called to stand to her name?
Do ye mind dread times when excuses were lame,
And when work was the rule all the morning?
Yes, I mind the Hall, with its pillars four,
And the dances we had on its polished floor’
And the friend I’ll see, ah, never more,
With the smiles of our young life’s morning.
Do ye mind, of boarders, how we went to the Zoo,
In a long crocodile, walking two and two;
And our sitting room with its vases blue,
And the half past five bell in the morning?
Yes, I mind our school on a very wet day,
When goloshes and umbrellas came into play;
And how the teachers used to say:
“Are you sure you’re not wet this morning?”
Do ye mind Prize Day, with its flower gay?
How we practised our courtesy in the most correct way?
And the songs we san, in the hope that they
Would give joy to our friends in the morning?
Then here’s to our school, form one and all!
May it prosper and flourish, and ne’er know a fall!
For its wealth and its health, now work we all,
Both to-day and to-morrow morning.
In 1909 Mr Justice Wessels dazzled the Staff with hopes of a new building on the “hills”. The “new building” in Arcadia has also been declared a National Monument.
The following interesting item is taken from Pretoriana Liber Puellarum (November, 1910) – one of the early issues of the Girl’s High Magazine:
“On her way to New Zealand from England the “Terra Nova” called at the Cape, and her commander made a short tour through South Africa, lecturing at the principal towns. In Pretoria his lecture was delivered in the Opera House. Captain Scott expects to be away about four years, but the “Terra Nova” will land him at Ross’s Bay and will then return to New Zealand.
He is taking with him, as well as Siberian and Icelandic ponies to pull the sledge, a new invention – motor sledges – which, if successful, will greatly facilitate polar travelling.
Captain Scott was the recipient of very hearty good wishes for the success of his expedition from the large and enthusiastic audience, who to judge from their applause, had all thoroughly enjoyed the lecture.” (M Simmons)
“The third term opened with a rumour that all Pretoria schools were to be closed owing to the epidemic of measles, in the town, and it will probably go down in history as the “measles” term, for the trail of that epidemic was over it all. Lessons which should have been devoted to the incubation of some beautifully severe mathematical truth, or equally beautiful and severe principle of Latin syntax, were transformed into boards of inquisition to discover who had had measles, who had not had measles, who was going to have measles, and who was not going to have measles, and so on, through the various moods and tenses of the verb to measle.”
School arrangements seemed rather fluid round the time of Union. Although it was the Girl’s High School, there were prep classes which were amalgamated with the High School in 1908. On the 6 April, 1910, the girls at Eendracht School (corner Bosman and Proes Streets) were admitted to Girl’s High – the first of several amalgamations to take place in our Building.
Miss Aitken adopted the North London Collegiate motto: “We work in hope”. She certainly did, when she wrote the following in the first school magazine: “On the first re-opening nearly half the girls were of Dutch extraction. The school was opened and conducted with the earnest hope that here girls of different races and different denominations might meet in the commonwealth of letters which gave Erasmus and Shakespeare to the World; to acquire there, in accordance with the ideals of Christian Duty, the healthy physique, the trained mind and the disciplined character which should fit each to live worthily in that state of life unto which it should please God to call her.”
Girl’s High finally moved out of our Building on 28 July, 1915. On that occasion a group of girls were led by Margaret Theiler and Ida Phipps, both matric students. To re-affirm our links with the past and with Girl’s High, we welcomed Miss Margaret Theiler and Dr Gertrud Theiler who led 18 Girl’s High students back to the Old Building on 28 March, 1979. Our pupils gave them a very warm welcome, after which our visitors were entertained to tea. The 18 students were 3rd or 4th generation Girl’s High pupils.
Unfortunately this period lacks official documentation. However, many of the pupils who were here during that period have come forward, enabling us to piece together some of the history.
From the time that Girl’s High moved out in 1915, the Building was occupied by the Commercial High School. Part of the Commercial High was also housed at the White House on Muckleneuk Hill. The classes were intended for pupils who had passed Standard 6 and who were not going to the Trade School. The Headmaster was Mr A R Dallas.
During this period the Diocesan Government School, which was housed behind St Alban’s Cathedral in Schoeman Street, closed down and their pupils were trans- ferred to our Building. I have not been able to verify the claim that the Blue and Gold of the Diocesan School, are the basis of our school colours today.
The Technical Institute also occupied four classrooms on the upper level alongside the Commercial High. Inevitably the range in ages of the pupils was great. Several well-known local educationists such as Robert Hicks (after whom a school is named).
Dr Willem Punt (of the Simon van der Stel Foundation and Old Pretoria Society renown) and Professor Rautenbach (former Rector of the University of Pretoria) reportedly taught here before 1920.
On July 20, 1920 Commercial Primary opened on the ground floor of our Building with Commercial High upstairs under a different Headmaster. Three months later, Mr W H Atteridge was appointed Headmaster. In reading the Log Book, I came across some amusing examples of the kind of problem that he had to face:
1922 Jan 6 Miss Murray absent – no reason sent. She arrived at 12:30 and informed me that she had mistaken the time of the lesson.
1922 Jan 18 School re-opened today. I hear that Mrs Walters resigned. The first I heard of it was from the children of her class.
1926 Nov 3 Today I found Mr Windram asleep in front of his class (9.30 am)
On 7 March, 1922 the Director of Education visited the school. We enjoyed this honour again in 1967, when Dr A J Koen visited Hamilton School and when Prof. Jooste Director of Education, visited our school on the occasion of our Building being declared a National Monument in May, 1977.
With the confusion that arose from having two schools under two Headmasters in one Building, it was decided to rename the Commercial Primary School. This was done on
6 April 1926, when the school re-opened as the Hamilton School. Until then teachers were confused when applying for teaching posts because they didn’t really know whether they were going to the Commercial High School or the Commercial Primary School.
Robert Hamilton was a well-known businessman, whose house adjoined the school grounds in the west, where the hotel is today. He was always interested in the progress of the school and was a benefactor.
At the end of 1929 the Pretoria Technical College building (corner Church and Du Toit Streets) was completed. Early in 1930, the Commercial High and the classes of the Technical Institute moved there, leaving our building to be occupied by Hamilton School alone. However that arrangement was short-lived.
The Std V and VI classes of Hamilton were transferred to East Central Junior in July 1931, while their Grades to Std IV were sent to Hamilton. This resulted in a pupil enrolment of 675. Today it is 270 (604).
HAMILTON SENIOR SCHOOL / HAMILTON JUNIOR SCHOOL
In January 1932, Hamilton School was split with Mr Atteridge going upstairs and Miss Boys becoming Headmistress of Hamilton Junior School downstairs.
Mr Atteridge retired in February 1939, and was succeeded in April 1939 by Mr Theo Chapman. Unfortunately Mr Chapman went up north in 1940 and was appointed Principal of Robert Hicks while he was up north.
Mr W du Plessis was appointed Acting Principal in October 1940 and was appointed permanently in August 1943.
at the school assumed duty. Since then it has received high praise form the public and certainly renders an excellent service to our pupils.
Mr du Plessis was not without problems in 1942. He recorded in February that 12 lead overflow pipes had been stolen from the lavatories. In August 1942, a piece of the school’s playgrounds was transferred to the Vroue Federasie to allow them to erect a hostel where the Jubileum Building, Skinner Street, stands today.
During the Second World War, Mr du Plessis encouraged pupils to donate cash towards the children of Europe who had suffered in the bombings. This public-minded spirit and attitude developed to such an extent that in four successive years from 1943, our pupils collected the largest sums of money towards the Christmas Stamp Fund – 1943 – L115, 1944 – L188, 1945 – L350, 1946 – L385. Mr du Plessis was prompted to change the school “motto” from “Ipsum Nosce” (Know Thyself) to “For Others” which it remains today. The Blue and Gold remain but the origin of the school badge is unknown.
Miss Boys, Headmistress of Hamilton Junior School, retired in December 1945. In 1946 the two schools were amalgamated and named Hamilton School – our present name! The enrolment in 1946 was 606.
Late in 1947 Mr du Plessis was informed that there would be two Std VI and one Std VII classes at the school in 1948. When these classes moved out in August 1948 they were the foundation of the new Clapham High School. To round off the year Mr du Plessis records that a severe hailstorm broke 102 window panes in the building.
On his retirement in 1960 Mr du Plessis was succeeded by Mr F Salmon. The central city area was being depopulated rather rapidly and Mr Salmon inherited only 274 pupils. However, at the time of his promotion to Waterkloof School in 1967, the enrolment had once again reached 450.
In 1967, the National Film Board made a film of our pupils using percussion band instruments and presenting choral work.
1972 started off on a high note, with 61 pupils leaving by train for two months at Glenmore Strand School. The cost was R 5,00 for the two months and some of the pupils were sponsored by the school. A good time was had by all and according to the Pretoria News, one little girl gained 12 kg in weight and was unable to fit into her school uniform on return.
5 May 1972 saw the commencement of the first Special Class at Hamilton School. Numbers in the Special Class increased to 24 and on 16 May application was made for another Special Class. On October 23 a third Special Class was introduced.
In January 1973 Hamilton School won the award for the most beautiful Primary School garden. The competition was run by the Old Pretoria Society.
The enrolment in 1973 was 265 plus 31 Special Class pupils.
On 15 June 1973 the school was visited by the Headmaster of Hamilton High School, Bulawayo.
The Principal Mr W J Berg’s collection of old photographs was added to in 1973 by the presentation of portraits of President Paul Kruger and General J J Machado. The presentation was made by Mrs Angela Machado La Crus, granddaughter of General Machado.
1974 was also the 75th birthday of our school building. An article on this occasion was published in the Pretoria News.
A Remedial Class was started by students from the Teacher’s Training College in 1974.
In 1975 the enrolment increased to 315 plus 41 Special Education pupils.
Mr W J Berg (Headmaster 1969 – 1975) was instrumental in having our . In June 1975 an application was made to the Director of Education to have the school declared a National Monument. A full history of the school was compiled by a Mr Myburgh and a Mr Gas. Mr Berg had unfortunately retired when the Declaration was made in the Government Gazette on 25 February 1977. The status of national monument was celebrated in May 1977 with a Cheese and Wine function at which Mrs Atteridge, Mrs Chapman and four of the Headmasters were present.
Since January 1977 we have resuscitated the P.T.A., we have established an After-School Centre to assist our many working mothers; re-introduced Inter-House Sports and introduced a breakfast feeding scheme for some of our less fortunate pupils. We have many new South Africans who are soon assimilated into the community. The school badge has been improved by altering the “H” to acorrect Old English “H”. We have acquired two new vehicles, giving us three mini buses to transport our pupils on the many excursions undertaken. Honours Boards have been introduced recording the Head Boy and the Head Girls. A Std V Valediction Service was first introduced in December 1977. More recently we acknowledged our ties with the past by having the original name “Staatsmeisjesschool” re-painted where it was at the turn of the century.
In August 1977 the Aid Class was transferred from Sunnyside Primary, with Mrs S Viljoen in charge.
On 11 August, Mr W H du Plessis visited our school. Mr du Plessis boasts the unique achievement in that he is the only person who has taught at the three Pretoria schools which were built before the Anglo-Boer War – Gymnasium, Central Junior High (Staatsmodel) and Hamilton.
On 25 August 1978, the entire school assembled in front of the school to raise the flag and to fly it half mast to pay respect to the late State President, Dr Nico Diedericks who passed away in the Tygerberg Hospital. A special assembly was also held.
1979 started off with the unveiling of the first honours board. This was attended by the pupils who had received merit awards at the Valediction Service, and their parents.
The building was 80 years old in 1979. This milestone was celebrated with a presentation of “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat”. Other activities included an anniversary ball at the Hellenic Club, a carnival and a “crocodile” led by Miss Theiler (82) and her sister, Dr Gertrude Theiler (81) who had both attended school in this building, 64 years earlier (1915).
On 11 March 1982 the Carmody Memorial Bursary fund was opened in memory of Andrew, David and Graeme Carmody who died tragically in a motor car accident. Their mother Mrs Margaret Carmody became involved in the school and took over the running the After-School Centre in February 1981 and is still the supervisor today – 2016.
After much fund raising a swimming pool was built which was put to use for the first time in February 1984. The official opening ceremony took place on 2 March 1984.
Thirty years after the pool was built it became necessary to renovate the pool, this was completed in July 2014.
Due to the drop in pupil numbers at the Hamilton School, Dr K R Paine, Chief Director of Education addressed a meeting to decide on the future of the School. The possibility of an amalgamation with Sunnyside School was discussed. This meeting was held on 5 November 1990.
On 24 January 1991 at the Annual General Meeting of the Parent Teacher’s Association a discussion took place on “Additional Models for the Provision of Schooling”. A unanimous decision was taken to go ahead with steps to allow parents to vote on becoming a Model “B” School. Only 17% of the parents opted to vote, of which 84% voted in favour of becoming a Model “B” school. Model “B” status was granted on 16 April 1991.
However on 5 March 1992 the Management Council met to discuss the Government’s proposal that all schools convert to Model “C” schools on 1 April, unless 2/3 of the parents voted against the motion. 90% of the parents indicated that they were in favour of becoming a Model “C” school. The Management Council decided not to call a special meeting but to accept the transfer from Model “B” to Model “C” status as from 1 April 1992.
As the school hall was being used as a polling station for the general elections in April 1994 it was decided to close the school during this time. Time was worked in for days “lost”. 10 May was declared a public holiday in order to celebrate the inauguration of Nelson Mandela as President.
The 1995 highlight was the installation of computers for use by the learners. The computers were to be used for remedial and enrichment purposes in Maths and English.
At the end of 1994, after 14 years, Hamilton School bid farewell to the Principal, Mr John A. Collier, who left for Sunnyside Primary School.
Hamilton School re-opened in 1995 with a new Principal, Mr Conrad Myburgh, and a new Education Department – Gauteng Department of Education. The enrollment of pupils soared from 287 in 1994 to 452 in January 1995.
The school hosted its first winter sports and cultural day on Saturday, 20 May 1995. Guest schools were Lord Milner and Sunnyside Primary. Events that were hosted were netball, mini tennis and chess.
23 August 1995 was an historic day on which a group of teachers from Leratong Primary School sat in on lessons while the staff of Hamilton taught. This was the first of many schools “twinning” with Hamilton School.
In 1995 the idea to promote entrepreneurship was introduced in the form of Mini-Market days. The children were encouraged to “rent a table” and to sell their own goods and any profit made was for themselves.
On 23 January 1998 volunteers from the American Peace Corps visited our school. We also had the further distinction of being blessed with eight sets of twins in our school, ranging in age from 7 to 13 years. Their picture and an article appeared in the Pretoria News, The Star, and the Drum Magazine.
We cannot predict the future but with the dawn of the new millennium and the beginning of the new century, the future of our school, and its learners, looks very bright. Hamilton School is determined to educate all the learners, who pass through its corridors, with an eye on the past and a vision set firmly on the future.
Mr Mervin Watson, Principal 1977 – 1979.