The Union High School’s Centenary Founder’s Day began in the coolness of the morning as learners, parents, staff and friends made their way to St James Anglican Church. With the church yard packed to capacity and extra space made available under a tent and in the hall, friends old and new greeted one another in anticipation of this great occasion.
The service, led by Archdeacon Dr Mark Marais, was a poignant start to our centenary celebrations and particularly moving and appropriate for the venue from which the school originated in 1919. The Headmaster, Mr Pringle, welcomed all the guests and focused with gratitude on our founders who came before us. Head prefects Jenna McNaughton and Peter Watermeyer read the lessons. The congregation was treated to a magnificent rendition of ‘Hallelujah’ by our Joint School Choirs, consisting of seventy learners, under the batons of Mrs Van Rooyen and Mrs Brink, moving members of the audience to tears.
The Joint Union Choirs under the batons of Mrs Van Rooyen and Mrs Brink brought the congregation to tears last Friday. Thanks to the media team for the recording below.
Posted by UHS (Union High School, Graaff-Reinet) on Thursday, 7 February 2019
The Headmaster reminded the audience of what it takes to make an impact that lasts long after we are gone, when we are, one day far from now, just a name on a board or a faded photograph on the wall. Founders’ Day at the School provides us with an opportunity to consider the many and varied legacies that have shaped this place — the people and the actions that have left for us today not only the buildings, but the history and the culture and the community that nourishes us.
Mr Pringle spoke of 1926, when the construction of the School, as we know it today, began; it was decided that the celebrations should be essentially a Children’s Day, and therefore the function was confined to the children of the school, the teaching staff, and the Committee, no outside invitations being issued.
The Advertiser of 29 October 1926 reads: The marching of the hundreds of happy pupils in procession through the streets from the old premises to the new buildings was a striking evidence of the growth and popularity of this useful institution, and aroused recollections of the notable day a few years ago when after much effort and anxious work the UHS was first opened in St James’s Hall with a mere handful of pupils. The proceedings were marked by a harmony and enthusiasm most pleasing to note in this (at present) land of bitter feeling and political strife, which was a striking tribute to the splendid and patriotic work being done amongst the youth and maidens of Graaff-Reinet of which the name of the school the “Union High” is significant.
Mr Puttick spoke and said that the new buildings meant a lot to them all. Next year they would have lovely airy classrooms with plenty of light and spacious playgrounds adjacent all of which would be for the physical good of the pupils. He added slyly that he trusted these things would also give the pupils better brains (laughter). The new buildings would vastly benefit the staff, and enable them to have better organisation, better discipline, and better control.
Mr Lawrie then spoke, addressing the children as his dear young friends, and pointing out the significance of this children’s day, this children’s function, this taking part in a very memorable occasion. They were immensely proud of their Union High School and he hoped everybody appreciated the great work it was accomplishing. One scarcely dared to contemplate what Graaff-Reinet would be today without the Union High School – our successful Union High School. He rejoiced in the fact that the name of every pupil was to be placed behind the foundation stone, alongside of his name, and reminded them how pleasant it would be in time to come to be able to point out to the next generation that “my name is behind that stone.”
Mr Lawrie feelingly recalled the first beginnings of the School and the first meeting of parents called to discuss the starting of an independent school in Graaff-Reinet. There were great difficulties and obstacles to be overcome, but a determined band of men and women made up their minds on the spot, and the great work for education was begun. The school was a success from the outset.
Mr Puttick then called on the children by Standards, commencing with Olga Maasdorp, the head Matriculation scholar, to bring forward the cards bearing their names which were placed in a glass jar together with names of guarantors, staff, the first and the present Committees, a copy of the “G R Advertiser” of 14th November, 1921, containing the report of the Educational Commission (which was the charter of the UHS), copies of the issues of the School Magazine, etc. Altogether, said Mr Puttick, anyone opening up that jar, say 100 years hence, would discover quite an interesting and happy story.
The jar was then placed behind the stone, which was thereafter “well and truly” laid by Mr Lawrie who was presented by Mr Bridgman on behalf of his firm with a silver trowel, suitably inscribed, as a memento of the auspicious occasion.
Mr Pringle told the audience that they had the privilege of re-enacting this walk, from the old school to the new. The procession would pass by many of the old school buildings, boarding houses and walk the very streets that these Union children walked all those years ago and arrive at our school where they would enjoy refreshments just as they did on that wonderful occasion.
The School would also bury a time capsule, in the Centenary Arch, with messages of goodwill to the staff and children of this school with the instruction that they should open it in 2069, the occasion of the School’s 150th birthday. He said that he trusted that the School would be in good hands then, just as those in 1919 had entrusted the future of this school to us.
His final word to the boys and girls was this: May the Lord continue greatly to bless this school and all who enter it and may whatsoever things that are pure and lovely and of good report here forever flourish and abound.”
The Centenary walk started at St James Church where the original school began 100 years ago. It was truly a moving spectacle to witness our learners, parents, staff and Old Unionites walking through the streets of Graaff-Reinet, tracing the steps of our forefathers.
As everyone entered the school grounds via the Centenary Way, they passed through an installation of giant flags depicting iconic figures and significant community members from the School’s history.
As these images swirled around them, a sense of being enveloped by our rich history prevailed. A delicious tea was then served in the Union while learners enjoyed treats on the field before singing a resounding happy birthday to our beautiful school.
The Old Unionite Association Annual General Meeting was held in the Tony Burrell Union where a happy spirit of co-operation and pride in the School prevailed.
In the afternoon, a young and very nervous squad of junior girls took to the field to face the determined band of mothers and old girls. The match ended with our girls losing 3-7. This was followed by an intense game between a senior girls’ team and the old girls, which was won 4-0 by the school girls.
The following prizes were awarded:
Also, on Friday afternoon, two fun T20 cricket matches were played, with white cricket balls in use. Much fun was had by everyone involved. That evening, the Union community enjoyed a relaxing Steak Braai hosted by Mr John Crankshaw and the Old Unionite Association Committee. It was well-supported, and much laughter and fun prevailed as friends reminisced about their time at the school.
Very early on Saturday morning, it was the turn of the U9 and U11 cricketers who took on their dads. The aim in these matches is to encourage as many boys and their dads as possible to participate in a fun, non-competitive match.
Our U13 cricket boys played a good-hearted social match against their parents and Old Boys. Unfortunately rain halted proceedings on more than one occasion before the game was finally called off just after lunch. In the U14 Invitational match, the Old Boys won by 99 runs. In the U15A match, the Old Boys won by 77 runs. In the 2nd XI match, the Old Boys won by 98 runs. In the 1st XI match, the Old Boys won by 33 runs.
At the end of an extremely busy, fun-filled weekend, the Old Unionites invited the cricketers to a prize-giving ceremony in the Tony Burrell Union.The following prizes were awarded:
Best U15 player – Finn Cilliers (no photo)
Mr David Stern thanked everyone for their participation and complimented the boys on their potential as cricketers. Mr Derek Light gave personal testament to how cricket shapes self-discipline and perseverance in youngsters. He paid tribute to his cricket captain from when he was at school, Mr Keith Crankshaw, and thanked him for giving him the opportunity to wear the white cap of Union High School.
Thank you to the Old Boys that made the effort to come and celebrate this very special occasion with us and the spirit in which they played the game. The boys thoroughly enjoyed the match and learnt valuable lessons. This is always a fantastic experience for the young men and something they will always remember.
The School is extremely grateful to the Old Unionite Association for their impeccable planning and execution of a very successful weekend on the sporting front.
GISELA KINGWILL MOTHER & DAUGHTER TEA
While the men were playing cricket, the annual Gisela Kingwill Memorial Tea, held in Herby Arnott House in the morning, was a celebration of the bond between mothers and daughters. The Grade 11s worked hard to provide 180 ladies with a Japanese-themed brunch. Mrs Martie Sullivan paid tribute to Gisela Kingwill and spoke of the work they did together in service of the farm schools of the Graaff-Reinet District. Labarre of The Muller House Restaurant demonstrated how to make sushi and Brigette sang ‘A Million Dreams’ accompanied by Mrs Brink. Huge gratitude must go to Mrs Sullivan for making Herby Arnott House available due to impending rain.