The youngsters and teachers of St John’s College celebrated the school’s 120th anniversary through a special community mass on 1 August.
Spokesperson for the school, Jacqui Deeks, said the mass was led by Father Ian Stevens on the Burger Field. The celebration was accompanied by the Preparatory and College choirs leading the school in song. She added, “It was a truly joyous occasion with all our students, staff and parents in attendance.”
St John’s College was established in 1898 as a parish school of St Mary’s Anglican Church, located in Eloff Street in downtown Johannesburg. The founding fathers of the school were the Reverand John Darragh, the rector of St Mary’s Church, and Reverand Joseph Hodgson, who was the first headmaster.
The school opened its doors on 1 August 1898 in a villa situated on Plein Street. Deeks said, “On that day, only six boys enrolled. The school grew rapidly. By the end of the first term of 1899, more than a hundred boys were enrolled at St John’s College.”
When the enrollment number grew the school moved an iron-corrugated structure on King George Street known as ‘The Tin Temple’. In years following the school’s opening, the policies by Lord Alfred Milner’s colonial administration caused the college’s enrollment to plummet and in the face of stiff competition the archdeacon of Johannesburg, the Venerable Michael Furse, requested the Community of the Resurrection from Yorkshire to assume control of the College.
The new headmaster, Father James Okey Nash, assumed office in January 1906 and set a plan to rebuild the school and model it after public schools in England. He started by moving the school to Houghton Ridge where they purchased land with a donation from diamond magnate Sir Thomas Cullinan.
Deeks said that English Architect Herbert Baker was commissioned to design the new school building. “He conjured up a blueprint of much of what was to materialise on the site over the ensuing decades. While Baker had a hand in designing some of the original buildings, his partner, Frank Fleming, did the bulk of the architectural work.”
Executive headmaster of the school Paul Edey said, “The college was led by the Community of the Resurrection, and second tour founder Reverand James Okey Nash had laid the foundations of a school that would go on to flourish into what we see today, one of South Africa’s and the continent’s pre-eminent schools.
“As we celebrate 120 years of history, let us remember the sacrifice of the Community of the Resurrection. Let us also remember that we are inextricably linked to the history of our city, Johannesburg and that we cannot remain aloof, or isolated from our surroundings, we must be an agent for good, an agent for change and transformation.”
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