Junior Preparatory |
Fr J Towell (OMI)
1969 to 1970
Fr R da Sylva (OMI)
1971 to 1981
Fr P Hartin (OMI)
1982 to 1983
Mr A C Dobson
1986 - 2010
Today nearly one thousand four hundred boys study and play on a piece of land in Bedfordview that more than fifty years ago, consisted of smallholdings, the largest of which was used for training and kennelling greyhounds. At the time Bedfordview was semi-agricultural and sparsely populated, with little indication that large-scale development would one day take place. It was Fr Philip Erasme, Oblate of Mary Immaculate and Parish Priest of Maryvale who responded to Bishop David O’Leary’s request that a Catholic Boys’ School be established on the near East Rand. He saw the Bedfordview site as ideal as it would, in addition, cater for the boys from St Paul's School, a Parochial Primary School he had established in Maryvale.
The Oblates duly bought the 26-acre site [later additions make it nearly 40-acres today] in January 1957. In February, an application for the registration of a new school was sent to the East Rand School Board. On 11th July, the feast day of St Benedict of Nursia, official approval was received. Hence the name “St.Benedict’s”. We like to think, however, that Fr.Erasme's choice of name was influenced too by the fact that Benedictine monasticism was at the centre of learning in Europe for fourteen hundred years! By May of the same year, the Oblate council had commissioned an architect, Mr.Voorvelt, to draw up plans for the building of the new school. At that stage, neither the N3 nor R22 had been constructed so Kings Road connected directly to Gillooly's Farm.
In the Southern Cross of November 6, 1957, the following progress is recorded:
“Building has already started on the first section of the School and the foundation stone will be formally laid in December. The first building will comprise five classrooms, library, science room and administrative offices and will be ready in June 1959. The first class of Std 6 boys will be started in a temporary building. It is planned to add one class a year over a five year period. Ultimately, it is hoped, the school will accommodate up to 400 boys educated on the two stream system, with two classes in each standard.”
It is interesting to note that the initial goal of 400 boys at the school would be attained only in 1988, some thirty years later. It is rather astounding to think that fifty years later in 2008 enrolment is approaching the 1 400 mark!
The prospectus of 1958 listed the school fees to be charged:
Admission fee: £1
Std 6 (Grade 8) per term quarterly: £8
Std 7 (Grade 9) to Matric per term quarterly: £10
Admission fee: £1
Std 6 (Grade 8) per term quarterly: £8
Std 7 (Grade 9) to Matric per term quarterly: £10
Fr Hugh Dalton, a CBC Kimberley old-boy, was appointed Headmaster. He had completed his B.A. Degree at the University of the Witwatersrand, his Diploma at the Johannesburg Teachers Training College and a course in Administration at St Patrick's College, Ottawa, Canada. He was to serve the School as Headmaster at three different periods. Was it only co-incidental that twenty-six years later, Mr Tony Dobson, also a CBC, Kimberley old-boy and a graduate of Wits University and the Johannesburg Teachers’ Training College, would be appointed the first lay Headmaster of the School?
On the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, December 8, 1957, Bishop Boyle, Bishop of Johannesburg, laid the foundation stone of the first building - the building we now call the “Erasme Block”. An airtight container, placed behind the foundation stone, contained a historical record of the events leading up to the establishment of the school, as well as a list of staff members. The construction of a new Administration block in 1997 necessitated the relocation of the foundation stone to the new entrance foyer. The contents of the airtight container were further supplemented at this time. With prophetic vision, Bishop Boyle assured parents that "as time goes by and St Benedict's develops, there will be a professional staff here second to none in South Africa".
A group including those responsible for the establishment of St Benedict's College: Fr P.Hogan, Fr T. Kelly, Mr Strickland (Quantity Surveyor), Mr Brocco (Contractor), the Very Rev, Fr P. Erasme (Provincial), Mr Voorvelt (Architect), Fr H. Kay, Bro. L. Tiernay
This year Fr Dalton completed his first eleven years as Headmaster, handing over the reins of leadership to Fr Towell whose enthusiasm, brilliance as a Latin teacher and dedication were the hallmarks of his work over the next nine years, two of which, 1969 and 1970, he served as Headmaster. Fr Towell's athleticism, particularly his golf swing, stood him in good stead for a particular activity that left deep impressions on all those pupils who crossed his path!
A historic year: the start of the Preparatory School - with the opening of the first Std 3 class, with 23 boys and Brother Michael James as teacher! The staff was strengthened by the arrival of Brother McKay, to teach Afrikaans, and Brother Frank Thornton, described as an affable Australian teacher – but also a leg-break bowler!
The Tuck Shop by this time had been run for some years by matrics who, according to legend, succeeded in running the affair at a loss. In 1970, this vital arm of effective school governance was rescued by a Mothers’ Committee who gave of their time in an important area of school life.
By the beginning of 1970, the building of three classrooms to accommodate Standards 3 to 5 had been completed. With 109 boys in the Prep School section, total enrolment had jumped to 246.
It was in this year that Mr Duncan Friedrichs joined the staff to begin his long period of service which culminated in his appointment as Vice-Principal in charge of the Prep School.
Sport has always played an important role at St Benedict’s - as is always the case at Boys’ Schools. The small enrolment and limited facilities, however, made sport exceedingly difficult in the early years. The luxury of hired coaches was financially unattainable, so teachers climbed in and what was lacking in coaching expertise was certainly compensated for by the enthusiasm of pupils and teachers. After a shaky start in soccer, St Benedict's started the tradition of being quick learners and very competitive sportsmen winning the Transvaal League in the Open Section a few years later. The arrival of Brother Peter Whittle inspired soccer teams to attain success against the strongest opponents.
1970 U16 Soccer Team - Winner of the McNair Cup
In 1970 the PTA raised an amount of R1,203 in various fund-raising activities and a further R1 600 later in the year through a “Monster Bazaar”. Fund-raising, often including an Annual Fete, was to remain an important PTA activity for many years. It was only in the mid-1980s that a Capital Development Levy (later the Trust Levy) replaced fund-raising as the primary method of funding development and the on-going provision of better facilities for the boys.
Fr Dalton assumed the role of Headmaster for the second time. Fr Towell's place as Latin teacher was taken by Fr.Frank McGreal (or "Barge" as he was fondly known). His sense of humour and friendliness soon endeared him to both pupils and parents.
A past pupil, Patrick Hartin, was ordained to the priesthood and commenced his teaching career at his old school. His career at St Benedict’s was to culminate in his appointment as Headmaster in 1982.
Brother Malcolm Barber arrived at the School, where he would serve for thirteen years as a Science teacher. He was known for his wry Scots humour, cigar-smoking and for the fact that he owned a large motorbike (which to his consternation, his pupils once advertised for sale in the local newspaper.)
On July 10, Fr.Philip Erasme died. He had not only founded St Benedict’s but also played a key role in bringing the Knights of Da Gama to the Transvaal.
In August Fr O'Brien began his term of office as Principal of the Preparatory School. At the end of the year, Fr Dalton handed the reins of Headmaster to Fr.de Sylva, who had been part of St Benedict's from its very beginning and who now returned after an absence of thirteen years.
A new Staffroom - now incorporated into the main Administration Block as the Entrance Foyer - Library and Art Room - now the site of the Robin Lydall Auditorium - were built.
Bennies competed fully in the Inter-Catholic Athletics for the first time, finishing third behind De la Salle and Marist Linmeyer.
Enrolment rose to 282 with the admission of the first Std 2 class. It was the year that Fr Frank Santucci joined the staff. His unfailing kindness and friendliness were to touch many generations of boys at St Benedict’s for years to come!
It was also the year that the Std 9's staged their first Stayawake to raise funds for the Matric Dance - which at this stage was run in conjunction with Assumption Convent, Malvern. During the year, St Benedict's ventured into new cultural territory with the staging of the musical "Joseph and his amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat", produced by Dr Marcia Hyam.
The adventurous spirit of Fr de Sylva inspired him to look beyond the boundaries of South Africa and to broaden the minds and intellect of St Benedict's pupils by introducing them to a new country and a different language and culture. So their destination was to his family’s estate on the island of Mauritius!
In December, Fr Peter Galloway, a St Benedict's Old Boy, was ordained a priest in Maryvale Parish Church.
Enrolment passed the 300 mark for the first time. The year marked an important milestone in St Benedict's history: the admission of its first black student, Nelson Lolwane, a move that was made in the face of threats of closure and prosecution on the part of the Government, Education Department and local authorities.
1981 witnessed the beginning of a relationship of special significance when, for the first time, the Confirmation candidates visited Little Eden in Edenvale, a home for the severely handicapped.
An event that has never been forgotten by the pupils of that time was the snowfall in September, the first in 17 years. Fr de Sylva let the boys out to snowball one another and their teachers until all were both exhausted and saturated; at which point he gave the school the rest of the day off. (But Prep School boys were kept indoors!) At the end of the year Fr de Sylva left for the Oblate missions in Zimbabwe - but not before a grateful Matric class had presented a cup to be known as the Fr de Sylva Honours Trophy in memory of his time as Headmaster.
Fr Patrick Hartin succeeded him as Headmaster and held the post for two years. Fr Hartin was well-known for his text books on Biblical Studies which were adopted by the then Transvaal Education Department as approved setworks. He is also remembered as the person who initiated the first expansion-phase at the school in many years, establishing a foundation for future growth. By the time of his departure, work on the "new" block [now called the “Mazenod Block”] had already begun. Fr Hartin was to continue his involvement in education, but at tertiary level, which has included the occupation of seats in Theology and Religious Studies Departments at Universities in South Africa and the USA.
The Oblates burden of financial responsibility for the school was lightened when a Board of Governors, under the Chairmanship of Mr Bruce Burt, was established. Besides the chairman other members of the Board who were to prove long-serving members included Mr Robin Lydall, Dr Bill Wheelan and Mr Dug Boake.
Among other staff appointments made by Fr.Hartin was that of Mrs Lorna Busby who was to serve the school as Headmaster's Secretary until her retirement was forced by ill health in 1997.
In mid-year Fr Dalton returned once more to take up duty as Headmaster for the third time. His role in the development of St Benedict's has been quite remarkable. In the early struggles to establish the school, he provided the clear-sighted vision of what kind of school St.Benedict's should be - a very definite emphasis on the academic nature of the school. He returned at critical times to steer the School on the right course. In the School’s annals he will be remembered as the guiding light and spirit that set St.Benedict's firmly on the road to success.
Mr Tony Dobson, (an English teacher whose first love was Mathematics!) was appointed Vice-Principal of the College and Mr Richard O’Brien Prep School Vice-Principal.
New Vice Principals - Mr A.C. Dobson (College) and Mr R. O' Brien (Primary School) as they
appeared in the 1984 College magazine
Mr Dobson's tenure as Deputy was particularly short-lived. In July an historic decision was taken by the Oblates to pass the running of the school fully into the hands of the Board of Governors and to appoint Mr Tony Dobson as the first lay Headmaster of the School.
Already in 1984 there was at St Benedict’s a corps of outstanding lay teachers who would serve on the staff for many years and who would leave an indelible imprint on the School: Mr Dobson (Headmaster of the College and Prep School, but also in these years: groundsman, bus-driver, teacher of mathematics, additional mathematics and master-in-charge of tennis); Mrs Lorna Busby, Secretary, Mrs.Doreen Muir, Bursar, Mrs Molly Woodhouse, (Geography, stay-awake, matric-dance, time-tables); Mrs Vivienne Henderson, (English, debating, public-speaking), Mrs Evelyn Addison, (Prep School; scholar patrol, Mathematics), Mrs.Theresa Leong, (scholar patrol, religion, Chinese food); Mr Vernon Seward (soccer, woodwork) and Mr Benedict Ndlovu (Grounds staff foreman).
This year the first computers were introduced: 16 BBC micro-computers. This year also saw Bennies’ first participation in the RAPS One Act Play Festival, and the holding of the Matric Dance in the School Hall after nine years of collaboration with the Assumption Convent, Malvern. It was in this year that Mr Dobson initiated the tradition of an annual camp for Std 6 boys at his farm, Parnassus, in Magaliesburg. Each year, he would lead the boys on the “midnight hike” up the cliffs and over the mountain - with torches turned off, so as not to attract baboons - after telling the boys the gripping tale of Henry the Killer Baboon who lived on the farm. The St.Benedict’s Trust purchased the farm Parnassus in 2000. Extensive developments are planned for 2008 as part of the 50th Anniversary Celebrations! This was the year that the College won the Inter-Catholic Athletics for the first time, which, in the words of old-boy Dennis Baston, was "the greatest sporting achievement in the history of the College". And it was just that!
In his Valedictum, Fr Dalton paid tribute to the priests and members of the Oblate Congregation who had laid the foundations of the School and had established its reputation as a Catholic School. He concluded with these words:
In retrospect it is clear that Fr Dalton's prayers and good wishes were answered. Mr Tony Dobson assumed the role of Headmaster of the School in 1986 and immediately set about introducing a new era which was to witness constant expansion. Increasing numbers of pupils sought admission to a school that was increasingly recognised, not only as an authentic Catholic School, but also as a school with particularly high academic standards and a proven track record!
This was the year that Mr Robin Lydall assumed the position of Chairman of the Board of Governors, a position which he still holds in 2008. The great contribution that he has made to St Benedict’s was marked in 2005, when the new College Auditorium, was named the “Robin Lydall Auditorium”. As the school moved further into lay management, links with the Oblates were maintained through their role on the Board of Governors and through the appointment of an Oblate as School Chaplain. In 1977, Fr Santucci had been appointed to the School. He was loved and trusted as a teacher and enjoyed a special rapport with the boys, a quality that made him eminently suitable for his new role as Chaplain, a role he now assumed. On his secondment to Rome in 1992, he would be succeeded as Chaplain by Fr.Frank McGreal, a former teacher on the staff.
With enrolment now at 376 and with two classes in each grade, the increasing numbers allowed for the re-establishment of O'Leary House.
The first Grade One class started in temporary accommodation in a room in the Priest’s House - with Mrs Magda Wouters as our first G1 teacher. The Priests’ House, is now part of the boarding facility, Bishop Grandin House. Mrs Wouters would go on to head up the rapidly-growing Junior Primary section of the School and later become Principal of the St Benedict’s Elementary School in Sandra Road, across from the main St Benedict’s campus.
The 1982 Choir lead by Choir Master, Mr M de Witt,
makes an Easter television appearance on "Thy Kingdom Come"
The Headmaster's report of 1988 gives an indication of the phenomenal growth that was taking place. In three years enrolment had increased from 300 to 600. Staff had increased from twenty three to thirty eight, necessitating the extension of the Staff-room to accommodate them. In fact 1988 had been a year of huge expansion. New buildings, started in 1987 and constructed “at a cost of nearly R1,5 million”, were completed. The expansion included Pregrade and Grade 1 classrooms; an Oratory; Science and Biology laboratories; our first real Computer Centre; an Industrial Arts Centre; Religious Education and Geography classrooms; new classrooms for Standards 8, 9 and 10; as well as ten one-bedroomed flats, each with lounge, kitchenette and bathroom for the grounds and domestic staff.
The year also witnessed the commencement of three important new activities, each of which would play a significant future role in strengthening the school and raising its public profile: Rowing, Hockey and the Pipe-Band.
This year honour was paid to several long-serving teachers: Magda Wouters, (HOD Junior Primary); Mrs Marion Mackinnon; Mrs Verna Renaut; Mrs Joy Pillans (Pregrade); Mrs Rina van Niekerk (Afrikaans and interior decorator of note!) along with other members of staff who have already been mentioned.
In line with his philosophy of seeing St Benedict’s develop as a top Catholic School for Boys, the Headmaster called in 1990 for greater accent to be placed on the role of sport in developing the social skills and leadership of the boys – as an important complement to St Benedict’s traditional emphasis on religion and academics.
Until 1988, sporting successes were almost totally dependent on success in soccer. The first Prospectus in 1958 had stated that the College games would be cricket, hockey, tennis and rugby, but the first recorded matches were cricket and soccer. For 30 years soccer was in effect the only area in which the School was consistently competitive. In 1967 the U14's had brought home the first League title, the 1970 U16's took the McNair Cup in the first Cup Final victory, in 1985 the Open Soccer Team were Transvaal High School Champions.
1988 onwards, however, was to see soccer's gradual eclipse with the introduction of a range of other activities. One sport in particular came of age in this period under the enthusiastic management of the Headmaster himself, namely Tennis, an activity which since then has continued to occupy a high profile. 1990 saw the 1st Tennis Team promoted to the Premier Section of the Southern Transvaal Leagues - a position it has retained ever since. Swimming also began to establish itself as a force to be reckoned with although facilities were very poor.
1990 1St Tennis Team: D. van der Peet, N. Hill, M. Peter, M. Southey (Absent: K. Levanat)
Certainly one is struck at this time by how much the success of particular activities was attributable to the dedication and sacrifice of particular individuals, who very often laboured through difficult periods with not much success to spur them on. The establishment of the Cub Pack two years previously had met with such success (largely attributable to the enthusiasm of Mrs Pauline Constable) that January 1992 was to witness the formation of the Scout Troop.
Rowing experienced explosive growth, growing from 12 rowers at its establishment in 1988 to forty in 1991. That year Bennies won its first regatta - at Florida Lake. Considering the manner in which rowing has raised St.Benedict's public profile, a debt of gratitude is owed to Mary-Anne Pullinger, first mistress-in-charge, for her dedication and for all the time and energy needed to ensure rowing’s on-going success. The same debt of gratitude must be extended to Mark Rabey, Stephen Hasselbach, Gary Cimma and Margie Hawthorn, as well as generations of dedicated and hard-working parents and coaches (often old-boys) who saw Bennies’ owing improving year by year, until St.Benedict’s had established itself as the dominant force in South African School’s Rowing.
Mr John Anderson's contribution to the College lives on in the success of the Pipe-Band. The year also saw efforts to improve College cricket by Mr Vic Greer, newly appointed Head of the Science Department. Prep School cricket was already improving in leaps and bounds as a result of the enthusiasm of Mr James Maher, an old-boy who had joined the staff in 1990. His infectious enthusiasm for the game along with his innovative ideas, sense of humour and sheer dedication have earned him a special place in the sporting annals of the School.
1991 Pipe Band with Mr John Anderson
The continuing importance of Tennis was highlighted with the completion of the Tennis Pavilion and the opening of the Tennis Tuck Shop in 1992, a facility which allowed a certain Headmaster the pleasure of relaxing in the shade, watching the games at leisure and perhaps enjoying a cigarette! 1992 also witnessed the production of "Goggle, Gawk and Giggle" the second of those Neville Blatt extravaganzas which seemed to get better every year. Neville claimed, in 1992, to have added a new perspective to his production with improved sound and lighting. The truth is, however, that in production after production, he never failed to delight audiences with his creativity and musicality. 1992 also witnessed one of the periodic forays made by the College into Shakespearian productions, this time “Romeo and Juliet” in conjunction with the girls at Holy Rosary.
Academically, 1993, especially in light of what it was later to lead to in successive years, was a very important year. It witnessed the introduction of the Headmaster’s Honours Programme for selected pupils. The programme was developed to extend the learning experiences of the above-average pupil. Pupils were exposed to Additional Mathematics for the first time - also an annual Admaths Camp, a tradition that has continued to this day. On the sporting front, rowing continued to make great strides. May of that year witnessed the opening of the first boathouse at Germiston Lake. It was also the first season that Bennies participated in the Buffalo Regatta in East London.
1994 was a year of many firsts: The dawning of a New South Africa; a new flag; a new government; a new beginning. It was a year of hope and high ideals. Patterns of power were in the process of being changed at every level of society, and new relationships were coming into being.
It seemed an appropriate time to seek approaches to discipline that could finally dispense with violence and the threat of violence. In advance of what most recognised as inevitable, corporal punishment was abolished at St.Benedict's.
It was at this time that Mr Sean Geoghegan, who was to make an immense contribution to the School, especially on the academic front joined the staff, as Deputy-Headmaster. It is said that the spelling of his surname succeeded in sowing confusion in the ranks of friends and enemies alike! It was a year in which he conducted 25 boys and several staff to where few had ever ventured before - to Mainland China.
It was in the city of Hangzhou that Mr Dobson and School Psychologist and old-boy Gavin Robertson found the rowing boats that St Benedict’s desperately needed. Mr Dobson returned to China later in the year accompanied by Mr Alan Brown of the Board of Governors to effect their purchase. The arrival of the twenty-three boats (at bargain prices!) from China transformed St Benedict’s rowing over night. Our Rowing opponents bowed to the inevitable, with Bennies winning both the Gauteng and South African Schools’ Rowing Championships for the first time. A feat that, incredibly, St.Benedict’s rowers have repeated every year since 1994 - albeit with much more expensive boats!
Tennis remained strong with the 1st team playing in the Premier Section of the Southern Transvaal League. Swimming continued to put in great performances winning the Inter-Catholic Galas in both Natal and Transvaal. Hockey and cricket continued to develop and soccer to languish in the doldrums despite active participation in a new Super-League.
A year which nationally will be savoured for South Africa's dramatic comeback to the international sports arena with the World Cup rugby victory. From a Catholic point of view it was also a year of special significance: Pope John Paul's visit to South Africa and the papal mass at Gosforth Park. This was also the year that witnessed the appointment of Sr Lorna Costa as School Chaplain, a lady chaplain in an all boys school! Under her leadership, St Benedict’s grew in strength and stature as a Catholic School - and the RE Department flourished.
On the sporting side, there was another win for St Benedict's rowing at both the Gauteng and SA Championships, and the first time a St Benedict's crew was to row in England. Hockey continued to grow in strength, competing and holding its own against the strongest schools. College cricket, under the leadership of Mr Greer, and the joie de vivre of old boy Stephen Ireland also took great strides forward, the First XI playing 12 matches in that season, winning 8 and losing 4. Another win for St Benedict's occurred at both the Inter-Catholic Athletics and the Inter-Catholic Swimming Gala. The year also witnessed another of those incredibly successful Neville Blatt productions.
In 1996 enrolment reached 820. The year witnessed the introduction of a third class at the Pregrade and Grade 1 levels, the intention being to add, year by year, an additional class, until a three-class structure operated throughout. It was also the year that Mrs Judy Mogg joined us in the History Department. The same department took another foray into distant lands with a tour to Russia.
This was a year characterised by great sporting achievements. St Benedict's won the SA Rowing Championships for the third time; the Inter-Catholic Gala yet again, and after winning all but three events at the Easterns High Schools gala! Hockey, now fielding no fewer than eight teams and with the added assistance of Mr Gary Cimma, who also found time to teach Geography and take boys scuba diving, just kept getting stronger. In Tennis, Bennies won the Eastern Transvaal league. The year saw the erection of an ergo-gymnasium - in the building that is now the Hockey Pavilion - the enlargement of the tuck-shop and the building of four new classrooms adjacent to the old swimming pool that has since been demolished.
However, it was the purchase of the eight and a half acres of additional land adjacent to the school at the close of 1996 that was to set the stage for the next great phase in the development of St.Benedict's as one of South Africa’s premier schools!
Enrolment moved to 930. After completion of four new classrooms that were added to the original building, (the Erasme block), work began in June on the new office complex, which included a new staffroom and Board-Room.
St Benedict’s had always rejected the idea common in some Catholic circles that “excellence” was the same as “elitist” and that to be authentically Catholic, schools could have only second-rate facilities! As a result St Benedict’s soon established itself as one of the country’s largest and most successful Catholic Schools – with the essential Catholic nature of the school continuing strongly, despite the Oblates now playing a much reduced role.
St Benedict's joined other independent Schools in the three term year, terminating a thirty year association with the Transvaal (now Gauteng) Education Department and changing to the IEB, the Independent Examinations Board. Unprecedented demand for places at the school forced the abandonment of the proposed orderly phasing in of an additional class in each grade. Advertisements for four additional Prep School staff elicited 150 responses from qualified and experienced applicants!
St Benedict's won the SA Rowing Championship as well as most of the smaller regattas for the fourth consecutive year and a squad of St Benedict's boys participated in the Fawley Cup at the Henley Royal Regatta at Henley in the UK.
The Pipe-Band travelled to Scotland and participated in the World Championships and was awarded the trophy for the best foreign Junior band. The College won the Inter- Catholic Athletics and Gala yet again.
Sean Geoghegan wrote of this period:
“The strength the School currently displays is no accident. It has been engineered. It is largely the consequence of a style of leadership which is at times mercurial, not always consultative, not always in keeping with current management trends, but it is one that is characterised by energy, conviction and vision. Those three qualities, particularly the latter, find their most vivid expression in the current Headmaster, Mr Anthony Dobson. The School has been enriched by an independence and adventurism best epitomised by the last three lines of Frost's poem "The Road Not Taken":
In 1998 St Benedict’s celebrated its 40th anniversary. The year also saw Rugby replacing Soccer as the College’s main sporting activity - generating a whole new atmosphere of confidence among the boys in the School, but with some staff being somewhat unnerved by the fervour with which so many of the boys had taken to the sport. The boys’ tenacity and never-say-die attitude characterized all aspects of their play, but it is said of many of Bennies’ 1998 teams that our boys became the best tacklers in the country - because the opponents always had the ball!
1998 - Our first open rugby team
The year began with the replacement of the PTA by various Parent Support Groups (PSGs). The rationale underlying this being to allow parents to make contributions to School activities more specifically focused on their particular areas of interest and concern.
This was the year that the “Integrated Day” was introduced in terms of which much of the boys’ sport would take place during the normal school day.
It is perhaps this innovation more than any other that was to account for the great sporting successes of the next decade. Mr Sean Geoghegan was appointed School Deputy and College Principal, but with Mr Dobson remaining as Headmaster of the whole School. Mrs Laraine Roberts left St Benedict’s to take up the post of Junior School Principal at Holy Rosary School. She had played an important role in the building up of the St Benedict’s Prep School over a period of 10 years.
St Benedict’s won the East Rand Bible Quiz for the first time, a feat it was to repeat virtually each year for a decade! In 1998 ownership of the School was transferred to the newly-formed St Benedict’s Trust by the Oblates of Mary Immaculate.
It was in 1998 and again in 1999 that the Sunday Times ranked St Benedict’s among the Top 100 South African schools – and Top 30 schools in Mathematics and Science. (Unfortunately the Sunday Times had to discontinue its ranking of schools – as the great majority of schools understandably disliked not being ranked in the Top 100!)
In 1999 St Benedict’s again took part in the Henley Royal Regatta, participating in the Princess Elizabeth Cup. It was, however, to be the last of the many successful rowing trips to the UK. The introduction of Rugby meant that trips in June and July were taboo. Such trips would now impact negatively on Rugby teams! Although Bennies had dominated South African school rowing since 1994, it was only in 1999 that the First VIII (with coach Steven Hasselbach) won gold at the S.A. Championships for the first time. It was, however, a feat that was to be repeated for the next four years.
In this millenium year enrolment surpassed the 1000 mark for the first time and the 1000th matriculant passed through the College. There had now been no matric failure for 26 years - and for several years the number of boys qualifying for University Entrance had been of the order of 85% - with 25% to 30% of boys selecting Engineering as their tertiary field of study.
St Benedict’s, while maintaining its Catholic nature as being integral for the mission of the school, had never been a great school for producing vocations to the priesthood. In fact, St Benedict’s has produced far more Methodist ministers! We were delighted therefore when we heard the news that St Benedict’s had its first bishop, with the ordination of old-boy Edward Risi as Bishop of Keimoes-Upington.
Two other old-boys also made a name for themselves in 2000 by representing South Africa at the Olympic Games in Sydney: Ramon di Clemente in Rowing and Simon De La Rey in the Baseball Team.
Mr Geoghegan once again led a successful expedition to parts of the world not on the usual holiday route, this time to India and Nepal. It was the year, too, that St Benedict’s won silver medals at the Head of the Charles Regatta in Boston, USA; that the St Benedict’s First Four won gold for South Africa at the African Rowing Championships and the year that three rowers from the St Benedict’s First Four represented South African the World Junior Rowing Championships in Zagreb, Croatia and won silver.
2000 was also the year that the St Benedict’s Trust purchased Mr Dobson’s 250-acre farm “Parnassus” in Magaliesburg. The farm had become a valuable asset for St Benedict’s boys, catering for school excursions of all kinds: religious, academic, sporting, cubs and scouts etc.
In 2001, St Benedict’s stole a march on its sporting competitors with the opening of the state-of-the-art Gymnasium and indoor heated pool. At the time the idea of a Gym and especially an indoor heated pool was not supported by all parents. One parent pointed out that we were living in Bedfordview, South Africa and not Oslo, Norway! But the pool was undoubtedly the single most important factor in Bennies winning the Gauteng Boys’ School’s Inter-High in 2007 and 2008 and becoming recognized as one of the strongest swimming schools in the country!
Later in the same year, the magnificent Rugby and Cricket Pavilion and Basil’s Restaurant was completed. It was later to be named the Tony Dobson Pavilion, marking Mr Dobson’s 20th year as Headmaster of the School. An additional boathouse was opened at Roodeplaat Dam and a 5-acre site purchased in Sandra Road, Bedfordview, for the building of the proposed Elementary School.
This was also the year that St.Benedict’s obtained its best ever matric-results up to this point in time: A total of 58 matriculants and 85 matric A’s and a University Entrance rate in excess of 90%.
2002 was another spectacular year for Bennies’ Rowing with a win for the First VIII at the head of the Charles Regatta in Boston, USA; wins at the Gauteng and S.A. Schools Championships; and a first time win at the School’s Boatrace in Cape Town. Since the first Annual Schools’ Boatrace - inaugurated by Mr Dobson in 1999, only two schools, St Benedict’s and St Andrew’s, Grahamstown, have ever won either this event or the First VIII’s event at the S.A. Schools’ Championships.
Over the years several attempts were made to give boys a greater choice of subjects by introducing additional subjects. All were doomed to failure, however, as boys continued to focus on Mathematics, Science, Computers and related subjects. Art was re-introduced as a subject in 2002 and by 2008 and is still in existence!
In 2002 the Grotto of Our Lady was constructed on the main entrance drive at Sr.Lorna’s behest and various ornamental ponds were constructed on the school grounds.
In September we received the news that Mr Geoghegan would be leaving South Africa for Australia. A huge loss for St Benedict’s!
Transformation of the Quad
As a result of the departure of Mr Geoghegan, Mr Dobson assumed the position of College Principal once again (in addition to his position as Headmaster). Old-boy Fr.Peter Galloway was elected Oblate Provincial. St Benedict’s excursion to Egypt, led by Mrs Mary-Anne Pullinger was a great success.
Jarrod Taylor was selected as St Benedict’s first-ever Craven Week Rugby player. Bennies won the S.A. School’s Rowing Championships for the 10th and the First VIII’s event for the 5th consecutive year!
This year, Fr Hugh Dalton, after visiting the school earlier in the year, passed away.
This year saw the historic opening of the new Elementary School, in Sandra Road, Bedfordview. Catering, in a four-class structure, for boys from Grade 0 to Grade 3 - taking some of the pressure off the main St.Benedict’s Campus. The construction of this magnificent facility, designed by old-boy architect Parick McInerney, was overseen by Mr.Alan Brown, long-serving member of the Board of Governors.
The First XV undertook a tour of the South of France, playing against various clubs and regional teams. There was another First VIII trip to Boston, USA and old-boy rower, Ramon di Clemente, won bronze at the Athens Olympics.
A 30-acre site, “Ravens Park”, was purchased in Linbro Park, Johannesburg, as the future home for St Benedict’s Preparatory School sport. Ten acres, would, however, be lost when building on the Gauteng high-speed rail connection to the airport began in 2007
For the first time in College, enrolment in the high school exceeded 500. An historic decision is taken to convert the Priests House on the Eastern boundary of the school site into a College Boarding facility which will be named the “Bishop Grandin House”. It is envisioned that boarding will commence from January 2006. Grounds and domestic staff move off site and the staff quarters are altered and rebuilt to provide for a Housemaster’s Residence, Guest Cottage and Hostel Laundry.
Fr Peter Galloway, Oblate Provincial, opened the 136-seater Robin Lydall Auditorium at the College. Three turf-wickets are established at Ravens Park and a start was made on the construction of the Sports Pavilion and Caretakers Flat.
The much-loved Pontiff John Paul II died and the new pope chooses the name Benedict XVI.
The College enjoyed another excellent sporting year particularly in Rowing, Hockey, Swimming and Athletics. Although Golf is not an official school sporting activity, Bennies records a win at the Gauteng Schools’ Golf Championships – an achievement which is repeated in 2006!
Record Matric results are achieve again this year with 2005 matrics achieving the best-ever University Pass Rate of 96.7% (compared to 91.4% in 2001).
Mr Bernard Langton was appointed first Housemaster of Bishop Grandin House which opened with 20 boarders, increasing to 24 during the course of the year.
This was a bumper year at St Benedict’ for the provision of new facilities:
A televised National Super Sevens Rugby Tournament at St Benedict’s puts the School very definitely on the S.A. Rugby map! The College enjoys an excellent sporting year, particularly in Rugby, Rowing, Hockey, Swimming and Golf!
New Preparatory School buildings under construction in 2006
Fr Bob de Sylva, one of the founders of St Benedict’s and a former Headmaster, passes away after a long illness.
The Grade 12’s axhieve excellent matric results (better than the record years 2001 and 2006) and excellent subject averages; the best-ever distinction rate (1.53 distinctions per boy) and best-ever University Entrance pass rate (97.5%), and a record of 32 years without a failure at the Matric level! Two boys, Jarryd Kennedy and Dominic Leeburn ranked in IEB Top Fifty achievers.
In 2007, total enrolment at the College reaches 1350 boys which includes 54 boarders. It is a spectacular year for Bennies’ sport:
The capacity of School Chapel is doubled and it is blessed and opened by Fr Steckling, Oblate Superior General. A new outdoor Olympic-size swimming pool and changerooms are completed on old Prep School field behind the tennis-courts.
Mr Andre Oosthuysen is appointed College Principal. As in the past Mr Dobson remains as Headmaster of the School.