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Archive for the tag “Johannesburg”

St Stithians College: 60 years old

Sixty years ago today the first pupils arrived at St Stithians College, in Johannesburg, South Africa.

StStithiansSt Stithians was a new Methodist Church school, established as a result of a bequest by two Cornish builders who had prospered in Johannesburg – Albert Charles Collins and William Mountstephens. The school took its name from the village of Stithian in Cornwall, where A.C. Collins was born. After the selection of a suitable piece of ground and the erection of the first buildings, the school was ready for its first classes to begin on 28 January 1953, and boarders were told to arrive the evening before.

I went to St Stithians College, the first day it opened. My mother took me there in our little Wolseley 8. All my things were in a big tin trunk, and when we arrived a bloke came up and introduced himself as John Bennett. Another boy, Michael Westhorpe, went around introducing everyone to everyone else. Since it was a new school, we were all strangers to each other. When enough of us had arrived, the headmaster, Mr Mears, came along and took us on a tour.

We went to see the sewage purification plant. Mr Mears explained how it worked, a large concrete tank filled with stones with rotating metal pipes that squirted water over the stones. There were also special flies whose job was to eat the shit. He said we wouldn’t drink the purified water, but that it would be used to water the gardens. Then we walked back towards Collins House, and a few more people arrived — Michael Westhorpe introduced one of them to me as “Unite — you know, unity — community”. He thought that was very funny.

At 6.00 pm the the headmaster came along and said, “we might as well drift over for supper.” So we followed him, picking our way through piles of pipes and building materials down a ramp at the end of the wattle covered terrace. We lined up on the terrace outside the dining hall, from the tallest to the shortest. Douglas Bennett was the shortest, and the Mr Mears said he was the full stop. George Coetzee, the next shortest, was the comma. I was the third shortest, but didn’t warrant a punctuation mark.

Then we went in and sat down at 3 tables, ten at each, with the shortest ones at one table, the biggest at another, and the middle sized ones in between. Erroll Johnson was the youngest of us; he, Douglas Bennett and I were all 11 years old. The others were 12, 13 or 14. Ian Swan, the oldest, was 15.

There were four classes when the school started; grades one and two, and forms one and two (which would now be called Grades 8 & 9). The juniors were all day boys, however, so there were none of them there that first night. The form one classroom was in the largest dormitory in Collins House, in the centre of the building at the top of the main stairs. We all assembled there, and Mr Mears showed us where we were to go to sleep. Another guy arrived in the middle of his pep talk, and while the head was getting him sorted out, Ian Unite started to play the fool, and Mr Mears lost his temper, shouted at him, and then smiled. We thought that was strange when he seemed so angry. We soon learned to be very careful when when we saw that funny little smile.

The new arrival was big and dark. His name was Manuel Neves, and he came from Mocambique. I was put in a dormitory with two others, Christopher Aitken and Edward Reeves. John Bennett and George Coetzee were not happy about that, because they were older than I was, and they had been put in the biggest dormitory, with six people in it.

When we were going to bed, Michael Westhorpe and Clive Woolley, a bloke with red hair, came and made off with my blanket, and Mr Mears came upon us when I was struggling to get back, and told us to be quiet and go to bed.

So ended the first night at St Stithians.

About a week later, on Tuesday 3 February, there was a kind of unofficial official opening of the school. We missed some classes, and went to the dining hall, where some important people made speeches, and the picture below appeared in The Star.

George Coetzee having his badge examined by the Revd J. Wesley Hunt, the Methodist superintendent minister. Others, from l;eft to right:Douglas Bennett, Michael Westhorpe, Anthony Harvey, Marinus Endenburg, Graham Wilkinson, Christopher Aitken (with glasses), Hugh Cruddas, James Vickers, John Bennett

George Coetzee having his badge examined by the Revd J. Wesley Hunt, the Methodist superintendent minister. Others, from left to right:Douglas Bennett, Michael Westhorpe, Anthony Harvey, Marinus Endenburg, Graham Wilkinson, Christopher Aitken (with glasses), Hugh Cruddas, James Vickers, John Bennett

There were only two completed buildings, Collins House, and the dining hall, so we lived and had our classes in Collins House. Our Form I classroom was a large central upstairs room, and the Grade I class met in the room immediately below. The Grade I and II classes did a lot of singing, and I knew the tunes by heart within a couple of weeks. It was only some decades later that I discovered the name of one of them, hearing it on the car radio late one night — The Keel Row. Another was Ach Du Lieber Augustin.

We had a good view of the building operations on the first classroom block and the chapel, which were often more interesting than the lessons, especiually when they began pushing two-wheeled barrows with concrete up a ramp for the first floor. The concrete was poured on top of ceramic beams reinforced with steel rods, which was then a new method of construction.

On the 28th January, the first day of classes, we were introduced to the funny little maths man, E.M. Harris. “The name’s Harris,” he said. “You’ll find out the other two later.” He taught maths, physics and chemistry, while Mr Mears taught English, Latin and history. Michael Lewis referred to Mr Mears as “The Boss”, and the term stuck, and he was “The Boss” to us from then on.

On 11 August there was the official official opening of the school, with the laying of the foundatio0n stone of the chapel, and the unveiling of a brass plaque by Mrs Mountstephens. The new classrooms were ready for occupation at the end of the third term, and we carried all our desks down there. When the chapel walls had reached roof height Mr Bailey, the foreman of the building operations, invited us all to sign our names on a piece of cardboard, which was dropped down between the inner and outer walls of the chapel. We speculated on whether someone would discover it several hundred years from now, but it will probably be eaten by termites long before then, It was just ordinary corrugated cardboard from a box lid.

At the end of the year school photos were taken, and I think those were the main photographic record of the first year of St Stithians. A couple of years later there was a darkroom and a photography club, and several pupils had cameras and used them, but there was nothing like that in the first year.

Form I, St Stithians College, 1953. Back: Marinus Endenburg, Christopher Cook, Manuel Neves, Christopher Aitken, Graham Wilkinson, Clive Lotter, Clive Ashfierld, Michael Lewis, Edward Reeves. Middle Row: John Kelly, Lindsay MacMillan, Cliuve Woolley, Michael Westhorpe, Peter Wallis, John Mair, Angthony Harvey, James Vickers, Anthony Campbell.Front Row: George Coetzee, Stephen Hayes, Robert Taylor, Edwin Montague Harris (Class Master), John Bennett, Errol Johnson, Douglas Bennett.

Form I, St Stithians College, 1953. Back: Marinus Endenburg, Christopher Cook, Manuel Neves, Christopher Aitken, Graham Wilkinson, Clive Lotter, Clive Ashfield, Michael Lewis, Edward Reeves. Middle Row: John Kelly, Lindsay MacMillan, Clive Woolley, Michael Westhorpe, Peter Wallis, John Mair, Anthony Harvey, James Vickers, Anthony Campbell.
Front Row: George Coetzee, Stephen Hayes, Robert Taylor, Edwin Montague Harris (Class Master), John Bennett, Errol Johnson, Douglas Bennett.

John and Douglas Bennett, Peter Wallis and Michael Westhorpe did not return to the school after the end of 1953.

See also St Stithians College Founders Day, 2008.

Urban Joburg: Japan in Brixton

A few weeks ago the Parktown Heritage Society went walkabout in Brixton, Johannesburg, and about 60 people trooped into our church and we explained something of the history of it to them.

Now one of them has blogged about it, with pictures, and there’s even a picture of our car in it. Urban Joburg: Japan in Brixton:

On the 5th of February 2011 I joined the Parktown and Westcliff Heritage Trust for a tour of the Joburg suburb of Brixton, as conducted by the very knowledgeable and affable Alex Parker. Brixton, like many of Joburg’s suburbs, is absolutely fascinating, with a tumultuous history and some beautiful old houses. It currently is a little rough around the edges (i.e. not Sandown), but there is a great community spirit evident in the suburb, who really take pride in the inclusivity of their suburb.

Central Methodist Church could face closure

Central Methodist Church could face closure – Mail & Guardian Online:

Johannesburg’s Central Methodist Church, which houses over 3 000 Zimbabwean refugees, could face closure after a visit by the Gauteng legislature’s health and social development portfolio committee early on Friday morning.

‘We will make a recommendation to close the church after witnessing the horror that we saw this morning,’ said committee chairperson Molebatsi Bopape.

‘If I could have it my way, I would close it down today.’

Quite how they plan to “close” the church is not clear. There might be a slight problem with the constitution, which guarantees religious freedom.

But the fact is that Bishop Paul Verryn has been asking the provincial and municipal authorities for years now to do something to help homeless refugees, and they have done nothing concrete. The church opening its door to homeless refugees is “horror” — but what then is the attitude of provincial and municipal authorities, who would prefer them to sleep in shop doorways?

And all credit to the South African Council of Churches, who have not only supported their member church, the Methodist Church of South Africa, but have, in a clear and lucid statement reminded national, provincial and local government of their responsibilities. Reggie: SACC Media Statement on the situation at Central Methodist Church:

It is well known that the living conditions of the refugees at the CMC are poor and often appalling. No one wants to live in an over-crowded situation where there is no privacy, few sanitation facilities, etc. People are not living in these conditions out of choice. They are not living there because Bishop Paul Verryn and the staff at CMC have invited and encouraged them to live there. Nor is this the reason for Medicins Sans Frontier (MSF) camping at the CMC. The people have moved into CMC because it responded to a humanitarian crisis – to which few other people, including the local, provincial and national government responded. It is the calling of the church to provide care and refuge to the destitute and the vulnerable.

While it is easy to turn CMC into a villain in this scenario, SACC warns against jumping to that conclusion. The primary villain, if there is one, first and foremost are such governments as that of Zimbabwe and of those African countries whose nationals live at the church. Within South Africa the primary villain is government; and not the Central Methodist Church.

For far too long the South African government has turned a blind eye to Robert Mugabe’s autocratic and kleptocratic fascist distatorship, which is why millions of Zimbabweans have voted with their feet and fled to neighbouring countries to seek refuge. They are here, in part, because the South African government coddled and cossetted and pampered their oppressor, and doesn’t even want to acknowledge their existence because to do so would expose the unpalatable truth that Zimbabwe under Mugabe is a fascist dictatorship.

Ms Bopape, your government helped to create this situation, and the Methodist Church just responded to it. If you regard it with “horror”, then the best long-term solution is to help make the homeland of the refugees habitable again, instead of turning a blind eye to the repression and gross violations of human rights that are taking place there. And until Zimbabwe becomes habitable again, do something about helping the homeless refugees now.

Reggie Nel quotes the SACC statement in full on his blog, and it is well worth reading.

Want to do something about it? Sign this petition for a start.

Sunday of the Publican and Pharisee

Saturday 7 February 2009 is visitors night at St Nicholas of Japan Orthodox Church in Brixton, Johannesburg. Here are some notes to help visitors know what is happening.

Vespers begins at 6:30 pm on Saturday, but is actually the first service of Sunday, so the themes of the hymns belong to the Sunday.

Sunday 8th February 2009

  • Tone 1 – 34th SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST
  • SUNDAY OF THE PUBLICAN AND THE PHARISEE
  • (Beginning of the Lent Triodion)
  • Sunday of the Holy New Martyrs and Confessors of Russia
  • Afterfeast of the Meeting of Christ in the Temple

Tone 1 – this refers to the Octoechos, eight sets of melodies for hymns which are used in succession, so that after eight weeks we begin again at Tone 1. These are called the Resurrectional Tones, because every Sunday is a commemoration of Christ’s resurrection. A hymn from the Octoechos, called a Troparion or Apolytikion, is repeated at every service. The Troparion of Tone 1 is:

When the stone had been sealed by the Jews;
While the soldiers were guarding Thy most pure Body
Thou didst rise on the third day, O Saviour,
Granting life to the world.
The powers of heaven therefore cried to Thee, O Giver of Life:
Glory to Thy Resurrection, O Christ!
Glory to Thy Kingdom!
Glory to Thy dispensation, O Thou who lovest mankind.

This Sunday marks a transition – the feast of the meeting of Christ in the Temple (Feb 2nd), forty days after his birth, looks back to Christmas. The Sunday of the Publican and Pharisee looks forward to Great Lent, which begins with Vespers on Sunday 1 March, which is known as the Vespers of Forgiveness, where all members of the congregation ask and offer forgiveness to each other.

You will notice that the prayer of the Publican, Lord have mercy, is very prominent in public Orthodox worship. In private prayer it is often expanded into what is sometimes called the “Jesus Prayer”: Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the living God, have mercy on me, a sinner.

The hymns of Vespers therefore follow these themes: First, the resurrection (which we remember every Sunday); Second, the Publican and Pharisee; Third, the Meeting of Christ in the Temple. Some of the saints of the day may also be commemorated:

  • Great Martyr Theodore Stratelates (“the General”), of Heraclea (319)
  • Prophet Zechariah (c 520BC)
  • St Sava (Sabbas) II, Archbishop of Serbia (1268-1269)
  • St Kegwe, Monmouthshire (6th)
  • St Oncho (Clonmore 600)
  • St Cuthman of Steyning, Hermit (8th)
  • St Elfleda, Abbess of Whitby (714)
  • Martyr Conitus of Alexandria (249)
  • SS. John and Basil of the Kiev Caves

From the Revised Julian (New Style) Calendar

OCA – Lives of all saints commemorated on this day: “Afterfeast of the Meeting of our Lord in the Temple

The sixth day of the Afterfeast of the Meeting of the Lord falls on February 8. The hymns of the day speak of Christ fulfilling the Law by being brought to the Temple, and of how the Theotokos ‘reveals to the world its Creator, and the Giver of the Law.'”

OCA – Lives of all saints commemorated on this day: “Greatmartyr Theodore Stratelates ‘the General’

The Great Martyr Theodore Stratelates came from the city of Euchaita in Asia Minor. He was endowed with many talents, and was handsome in appearance. For his charity God enlightened him with the knowledge of Christian truth. The bravery of the saintly soldier was revealed after he, with the help of God, killed a giant serpent living on a precipice in the outskirts of Euchaita. The serpent had devoured many people and animals, terrorizing the countryside. St Theodore armed himself with a sword and vanquished it, glorifying the name of Christ among the people”

The structure of Vespers

The core of Vespers goes back to the Old Testament: “When Aaron sets up the lamps in the evening, he shall burn it, a perpetual incense before the Lord from generation to generation” (Exodus 30:8).

So at the heart of Vespers are lights and incense. There is a procession of priests, deacons and other ministers with lighted lamps and incense, which comes from the north door of the sanctuary, and goes to the holy (central) door, and the altar and its lamps are censed by a deacon, while the congregation sings the hymn:

O gladsome light of the holy glory of the immortal Father: heavenly holy blessed Jesus Christ!
Now that we have come to the setting of the sun, and beheld the light of evening, we praise the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
For meet it is at all times to praise Thee, Son of God and Giver of Life
Therefore all the world doth glorify Thee.

Then is sung:

The Lord is King! He is robed in majesty
For he has established the world so that it should never be moved!
Holiness befits Thy house, O Lord, for evermore!
Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, now and ever and unto ages of ages. Amen.

Followed by intercessions and led by a deacon, after which it is sung again, interspersed with hymns (Aposticha) on the themes of the day.

You can find more information on Vespers here:

If you don’t have time to read them all, at least try to read the first one.

An integrated transport system for Gauteng

An integrated transport system for Gauteng came one step closer with the establishment of the Gauteng Transport Management Authority, and the announcement of a single ticketing system being developed for public transport in Gauteng.

city of johannesburg – One ticket system plan for Gauteng:

A SINGLE ticket system is being rolled out that will make using public transport across Gauteng a whole lot easier.

The system, similar to London’s Oyster Card – a form of electronic ticketing used on public transport services within the Greater London area – is being rolled out by the Gauteng Transport Management Authority (GTMA), a new transport management body.

‘The single ticketing system will see travellers being transported seamlessly and with much ease around the province,’ said Eezi Raboroko, the chief director of transportation management in the province, at the GTMA launch, on Thursday, 9 October.

This is something that has been long overdue, and I wonder about the timing of the announcement — just after the removal of Mbhazima Shilowa as Premier of Gauteng. It has been very much Shilowa’s baby, and he is one of those who pushed hardest for it.

Time to rename Gauteng?

Yesterday I listened to the news on the car radio, and they were talking about xenophobic violence “that started in Gauteng last weekend in Alexandra” and went on to say that it had since spread to other places.

Gauteng used to be the North Sotho name for Johannesburg, and was given to the rather awkwardly-named PWV province. The trouble is that for many, including the Joburg-based media, “Gauteng” still means Johannesburg and perhaps the Witwatersrand, but not outlying areas like Pretoria and Vereeniging. I once heard one radio announcer refer several times to “The Gauteng phone code 011”.

While Joburg-based journalists write about xenophobia, they seem to suffer from xenoamnesia, and to forget that Tshwane is also a part of Gauteng, and that xenophobic violence occurred here several weeks before it appeared in Alex. But for the chattering classes it was in a foreign country until it appeared south of the Jukskei. Only then did it reach Gauteng.

Perhaps we need another name for Gauteng, one that is not so closely linked with Johannesburg.

Time to rename Gauteng?

Yesterday I listened to the news on the car radio, and they were talking about xenophobic violence “that started in Gauteng last weekend in Alexandra” and went on to say that it had since spread to other places.

Gauteng used to be the North Sotho name for Johannesburg, and was given to the rather awkwardly-named PWV province. The trouble is that for many, including the Joburg-based media, “Gauteng” still means Johannesburg and perhaps the Witwatersrand, but not outlying areas like Pretoria and Vereeniging. I once heard one radio announcer refer several times to “The Gauteng phone code 011”.

While Joburg-based journalists write about xenophobia, they seem to suffer from xenoamnesia, and to forget that Tshwane is also a part of Gauteng, and that xenophobic violence occurred here several weeks before it appeared in Alex. But for the chattering classes it was in a foreign country until it appeared south of the Jukskei. Only then did it reach Gauteng.

Perhaps we need another name for Gauteng, one that is not so closely linked with Johannesburg.

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