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The Wykeham Collegiate turns 20

| September 6, 2010
By Antony Lovell

The late 1980s and early 90s were years of tumultuous change in world affairs.

In South Africa, too, significant change was afoot, with the freeing of Nelson Mandela and the unbanning of the ANC. Former antagonists were endeavouring to bury the hatchet.

The merging of two schools mirrored national events

Against this backdrop of global change, the following appeared in The Sunday Tribune, 26 February 1989: ‘A Marriage of Convenience’ – “When two grand old ladies of Natal private school tradition bury the hatchet and unite, the result is a girls’ college with the best traditions.”

Almost like a minor Shakespearean sub-plot, the merging of these two schools – Girls’ Collegiate and Wykeham, both in Pietermaritzburg – mirrored to a degree what was happening nationally. Crucial to both was a spirit of compromise and sharing, as well as courageous, enlightened leadership.

Girls’ Collegiate: the early days

Girls’ Collegiate was opened in 1878 in a small house in Chapel Street, with the explicit, if optimistic, name of The Evangelical Protestant Day and Boarding School for Young Ladies. The crest – a soaring eagle, representing a ‘frequenter of higher places’, superimposed on an inverted heart, carrying the initials GCS – and the motto – Altiora peto – were adopted in 1903.

The school made steady progress through the course of the 20th century, being too far away from the action to be seriously affected by the two World Wars – though at the start of 1915 there were no books for pupils, the ship transporting them from England having been sunk. In 1964, after a massive fund-raising drive, the school, under Dorothy Clarkson, moved to its present site overlooking the city.

Mary Moore founded her own school

The highly-respected Mary Moore, who had retired from St Anne’s in 1904, decided to found a school of her own. This was Wykeham, named after William of Wykeham, the 14th century Bishop of Winchester who founded Winchester College. Winchester’s motto – ‘Maners Makyth Manne’ – and coat of arms were adopted. In 1907, the school moved to larger premises and the famous hat was introduced in 1909.

A sad ending – but an exciting new beginning

Three decades later it was becoming apparent that, like Girls’ Collegiate, Wykeham was experiencing difficulties in trying to meet modern educational demands, and the idea of a merger was broached. In 1989, the school closed its doors for the last time. “It was a special moment… a sad feeling but one of excitement,” said Headmistress Adeé Varney.

Having been competitors for 85 years, the two schools were now compatriots, identities merged in the new Wykeham Collegiate. A badge sealed the pact: the roses,  chevron and key of Wykeham would stand side by side with the eagle and heart of Collegiate. With the colours navy, yellow and white, the uniform combined the Collegiate sprig and the Wykeham hat. The staffs were amalgamated as equitably as could be managed, and traditional elements from both schools retained: the Wykeham Bell still tolls and the annual fête is now Market Day.

Visionary leadership a hallmark

Under the strong, visionary leadership of Leoné Hogg, the new school moved ahead rapidly and continues to flourish. Its short history reveals an enviable range of
achievements in academic, cultural and sporting activities; the development of excellent facilities; the institution of an active students representative council; a
strong commitment to community service and its adherence to the core values of honesty, respect for self and others, balance, responsibility and integrity. The 20th
anniversary celebrations, held in May 2010, have led to an enhanced appreciation of the school and its historical roots.

Antony Lovell teaches English at The Wykeham Collegiate. Contact him at


Category: Spring 2010 Edition

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