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News > Archives & History > Memories of a Newboy

Memories of a Newboy

Basil Bey found this amusing piece in the archives - Ian Bekker (1953-56) reflects on his first few days at Bishops.

Taken from the September 2011 The Diocesan College Magazine

This article, which might amuse ODs, was found in the archives, by Basil Bey. We hope that it does not re-kindle too many nightmares!

I don’t know why my father decided to send me to Bishops for my senior schooling. He had been to school at SACS, and (as far as I know) no member of our family had ever been to Bishops before me. But a few days after my birth he applied for my acceptance at the start of Standard 6, which would have been in 1952. However, I started school at Grey Primary in Port Elizabeth, and thankfully blessed with some brains, I flashed through Sub A and Sub B in one year. The old man didn’t realize that this would affect my entry year at Bishops. The result was that, when he tried to send me there in 1952 there were no vacancies. So l had to fill in a year at another school  - which led to a most enjoyable and successful Std 6 at Pretoria Boys High School; so much so that I was loath to leave. My parents had separated in 1952, and father was living in a cottage in Pinelands. I had not been to Town before. My school atlas depicted the city as a blob next to the sea. It was very indistinct and in my mind’s eye it was situated where Muizenberg is. Thus I was totally disorientated when the train entered Cape Town station on the ‘wrong’ side of the mountain! It was a confused youngster that the old man took out to Pinelands.


The following day, a Sunday, he drove me over to Rondebosch and pointed out the entrance to Bishops as we drove down Campground Road en route to Muizenberg for a swim. Finding it where Cape Town should have been was a bit disconcerting, but 1 was gradually coming to terms with the geography of the place. On the way back to his cottage, he bought two huge crayfish from a street vendor for half-a-crown each! Next day he dropped me off at Lawley’s Outfitters to be kitted out with all my school gear – uniform, cap, socks, shoes, ties, sports clothes, etc. Then the Big Day dawned. Little did I know that it was going to be one of the most traumatic in my life. I rose early, showered and dressed in my new uniform. 1 assumed that father would deliver me and my Raleigh bike to the school. No way! He just drove off to his rooms in central Cape Town, leaving me to my own devices. So, heart in mouth I mounted my chariot and set forth to try to find Rondebosch.

After many wrong turns and stops to ask for directions, I eventually found myself on Campgound Road; the name sounded familiar and I noticed other boys in navy blue blazers streaming into an entrance. So I followed them – only to find (to their great amusement and my acute embarrassment) that I was in the grounds of Rondebosch Boys High! One polite chap took pity on me and directed me up the road. My anxiety levels were rising. I parked my bike in a shed, and went looking for a noticeboard. The first boy I asked did nothing to improve my confidence. He took one look at the mitre badge on my blazer and told me that the Prep School was down the hill. It turned out that the shop assistant had given me a Prep School badge (in those days I was still rather small of stature). When I explained that I was in Std. 7, I was directed to a noticeboard and, happiness, there was my name. A member of a House called (unknown – unpronounceable) Ogilvie! One of the boys said that I should report to a certain master. Tentatively, I knocked on the door indicated, and entered. A small, dark-haired man was sitting behind a desk. He was wearing a solid, round, white collar. I realized that he was a priest. I had never been inside a church or spoken to a priest before, and became tongue-tied. Agape (as I subsequently came to know him) couldn’t have been nicer. He explained that I must go to my House changing-rooms and select a locker. Why? Because l should need my sports clothes after the afternoon classes. Afternoon classes? At PBHS we had finished classes at 13hI5, gone home to change and returned for sport. So off I went to choose a locker, although I hadn’t brought any sports gear with me.

Some senior chaps with elaborate blazer badges helped me; my first contact with Brian de Kock and Graham English. Then I noticed that all the boys were forming up in lines before entering a large building with a steep roof. I asked another pupil what was going on. To my consternation he said that it was compulsory for all pupils to attend chapel every morning before classes. It was a very lost and apprehensive little fellow that ventured into the Chapel via a side door – to find the whole school, on its knees and all of them looking at me. I didn’t have a clue about where to go so I just stood there, terrified.

Then salvation arrived. Agape came down the aisle, noticed my predicament and guided me to a seat. Then followed the most confusing half-hour of my life. From time to time the congregation knelt, stood, sat; there were chants (some answered). The choir sang, the congregation sang, someone read from a large book; the priest prayed. I didn’t know the difference between a hymn and a psalm. The service seemed to carry on forever. But eventually the ordeal was over and we filed out, to go to our classrooms.

After the afternoon classes had ended, I was told to report for cricket nets in 20 minutes time. I ran off to the bike shed, grabbed my machine and broke all speed records to Pinelands and back. When net practice was over it was a rather devastated newboy that cycled back to Pinelands in the rush-hour traffic. There still lay ahead terrifying situations, but the immediate worst was over. Each succeeding day saw the mysterious unknown decreasing and my confidence increasing. But I’ll never forget that first day at Bishops – it was a helluva introduction to a new school.

Ian Bekker (1953-56)

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