Rondebosch Schools’ History

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 and the Prep School with seven Headmasters.

A newly constructed building in Campground Road was occupied in 1898 and served the High School boys while the Prep School occupied part of what now comprises the High School. In 1948, when the considerably expanded facilities were opened next to the Canigou Estate, the two schools exchanged premises. The Campground Road building is now used exclusively by the Prep School.

The land upon which much of the High School is based was first used as a farm by a free burgher in 1791. The property was bought in 1900 by Mr Robert Ramage, the first headmaster of Rondebosch, as his residence and boarding house for Rondebosch boys. The estate was estimated to be about 23 acres in size, comprising playing fields, woods, a tennis court and swimming pool, a large garden – now the Matric Lawn – and a poultry farm. He later sold it to the Education Department and Canigou continues to be the much loved senior boarding house. The extensive grounds have been developed into the sports fields on the school side of the Black River that gently flows 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 centre 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, tennis courts, E1942 Centenary Pavilion, Reeler Music Centre, Chris Murison Centre (library and IT), Art Centre, Technology Room, Carleton Lloyd Stand, 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.

Mr Mason established the Rondebosch Old Boys’ Union in 1909 at a meeting in Canigou. The members at that time comprised Old Boys and senior boys in the High School.  The Union now has some 8,000 members in 47 countries ranging in age from 18 through to the 90s – truly Higher and Wider.

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.

Altius et Latius