Rondebosch Boys’ High School was founded in 1897 in response to the pressing need for a boys’ school in the growing suburb of Rondebosch. From humble beginnings in a rented church hall with an initial enrolment of only eight boys, the High School has flourished under the leadership of ten Headmasters.
A newly constructed building in Campground Road was occupied in 1898 and served through to 1948 when the much expanded facilities were opened next to the Canigou Estate – these are the High School buildings still in use today. The Campground building is now used exclusively by the Prep School. The first Headmaster, Mr Robert Ramage, initially accommodated a few boarders in his own home and in 1900 had the foresight to purchase the nearby Canigou homestead, which became the much loved boarding house. With Canigou came extensive grounds which have been developed into the sports fields on the school side of the Black River that runs through the premises.
During the 1980s appeals were made to the then government for Rondebosch to be opened to all races. This permission was denied and it was only from 1990 that Rondebosch was allowed to do so. Headmaster Chris Murison, himself a former pupil of the school, said, ‘Rondebosch boys must emerge as often as possible from their comfortable cocoon, both to render the community service their privileged position makes them capable of and also, for their own sakes, to become more aware, from first-hand experience, of the world they live in.’
Generations of Rondebosch boys have been fortunate to fall under the tutelage and guidance of excellent teachers, mentors and coaches. These include Headmasters Sydney ‘Dad’ Mason and Wally Mears, masters Arthur Jayes and Tickey de Jager and the much revered Prof I de V ‘Tinkie’ Heyns among many other legendary and much loved figures.
Mr Mason’s self-imposed task was keeping in contact with all Old Boys and staff who were serving during the two World Wars. He was instrumental in helping to raise funds for the building of the Rondebosch War Memorial Library – now the Reeler Music Centre – and the Memorial Hall, which is the symbolic and spiritual center of the School. Over time, the initial basic school facilities have been expanded and enhanced with further boarding in Mason House, the multi-purpose Mears Centre, two swimming and water polo pools, squash and tennis courts, cricket pavilion, Reeler Music Centre, Chris Murison Center (library and IT), Art Center, Technology Room, Carleton Lloyd Stand, hockey Astroturfs (shared with WPCC) and several pavilions. Most of these facilities were funded by former pupils in appreciation of the education which they received at Rondebosch.
Old Boys of the school have excelled in varied pursuits in science, business, law, academia, culture and sport. Alan Cormack who was awarded a Nobel Prize in 1979 for the work he did in developing the CAT scan, Reverend Peter Storey served as President of the South African Council of Churches and was chaplain to Nelson Mandela while he was imprisoned on Robben Island, the world-famous painter Gregoire Boonzaier, Chief Justice Michael Corbett who inaugurated President Nelson Mandela, cartoonist Jonathan ‘Zapiro’ Shapiro, botanist Lyall Watson and almost 70 international sportsmen all attended Rondebosch.
The land upon which Canigou and much of the High School is based was first used as a farm by a free burgher in 1791. In 1837, Colonel John Bell purchased the property and named it “Canigou” after Mont Canigou in the Pyrenees in Southern France where he served in the British Army in a war against the French. Colonel Bell had also been Aide de Camp as the personal assistant to the Duke of Wellington who later defeated Napoleon at the Battle of Waterloo.