Mullins House in the 1950s
The Archbishop of Canterbury’s Visit to Mullins House
St Andrew’s College celebrated the centenary of the founding of the school in 1955. His Grace The 99th Archbishop of Canterbury, the Reverend Dr Geoffrey Fisher visited College for the laying of the foundation stone of the ‘Centenary Building’ (the Administration building) on Easter Sunday, the 10th April 1955.
After the service, the Archbishop expressed a desire to visit one of the Houses in a “natural state”. The Archbishop had previously served as Headmaster of Repton School in the UK for 18 years, so he must have known all about the daily life of a boys’ boarding House! Dr R. F. Currey, 10th Headmaster of St Andrew’s and Old Andrean (Upper, 1910), suggested Mullins House for the visit.
The visit was a spontaneous one, having most certainly not been planned ahead of time. When word arrived at the House that the Archbishop was on his way, apparently a great commotion ensued, with senior boys shouting orders for the House to quickly be tidied. The boys claimed that the House changing-room was “the cleanest it had ever been for several years”! The Mullins House magazine of 1955 reports that the Archbishop visited “nearly all of the studies, speaking to all of the occupants” during his visit to the House, and that “[he] chatted very freely to the boys, and cracked many jokes.”
The 1955 Mullins House boys concluded that the Archbishop’s visit was “an honour which must rate highly in the annals of our history.”
Grocott’s Daily Mail. 1955, Tuesday, April 12.
Mullins House Record. (1955). Grahamstown: St Andrew’s College.
Poland, M. (2008). The Boy in You: A Biography of St Andrew’s College, 1855 – 2005. Simon’s Town: Fernwood Press.
Mr A.G. Brooker (Honorary Old Andrean) served St Andrew’s College for a total of 34 years, as a teacher of History and English, Master-in-Charge of Cricket and Hockey, and as the 2nd Housemaster of Mullins House from 1942 – 1953. The stories of Brooker’s years at St Andrew’s are plentiful, not least the occasion when he somersaulted backwards through the window of a Kettlewell classroom during a lesson on Romeo and Juliet!
During his tenure in Mullins, he oversaw the sporting pursuits of the House with an “infectious enthusiasm,” while at the same time ensuring that the boys also focused on their academics. In his speech at the House Supper of 1953, Mr Brooker reflected on how that members of Mullins House “[had] combined together and placed the name of Mullins above consideration of self.”
Mrs Margaret Brooker’s contribution to Mullins House was also of great significance. She kept in touch with old boys of the House and their news, and was involved in the day-to-day lives of the 200 boys who passed through Mullins during the 12 years the Brookers were at the helm.
The departure of Mr and Mrs Brooker from Mullins House was of deep regret to the boys in their care, to whom they had “given unstintingly everything they could give.” There can surely be little doubt that the Brookers played an enormous role in shaping the life and legacy of Mullins House.
Photograph: Mullins House 1953
Mullins House Record. (1942, 1953). Grahamstown: St Andrew’s College.
Poland, M. (2008). The Boy in You: A Biography of St Andrew’s College, 1855 – 2005. Simon’s Town: Fernwood Press.
The Andrean. (1954, February). Grahamstown: St Andrew’s College.
Mr Rex Woods (Honorary Old Andrean) was the 3rd Housemaster of Mullins House, a position he held for nearly 5 and a half years from the beginning of 1954 until May 1959. Clive Park (M, 1956-60) remembers him as being “a terrific chap and as fair as one could wish for.” Mr Woods was a regular Fives player and always carried a £5 note around with him to give to any boy who won a game against him, although none of the boys ever did beat him! Mullins House Old Boys from that era recall how they would see Woods propelling himself under the elevated horizontal ladder alongside the tennis course as an arm-strengthening exercise.
Mrs Gwenlli Woods was remembered for the highly successful catering she undertook in Mullins House, from the House Suppers she organised to numerous teas on the lawns outside the House. Her menus were delicious, and her hospitality was renowned. Mrs Woods was the granddaughter of Canon RJ Mullins, after whom Mullins House was named. Mrs Woods remembered the opening of Mullins House in 1921. She was a DSG Old Girl (1915-28), and she was a member of staff at DSG from 1943 to 1948, where she served as ‘Senior Mistress.’ Before she got married, Mrs Woods used to take in lodgers at her home. In 1948 the 10th Headmaster of College Dr RF Currey (OA 1909-13) asked her if she would take in a new member of College staff when he arrived from England, Mr Rex Woods. Three weeks after his arrival, Rex and Gwenlli became engaged! Reminiscing about Mullins House with Mr John Axe (the 6th Housemaster of Mullins House) in 1999, Mrs Woods described that when she and her husband arrived in Mullins House, “the floorboards were scrubbed every day to keep them white; that was silly – so I had them scrubbed with brown boot-polish!”
Mullins boys wrote in the House Magazine about the enormous interest that Mr and Mrs Woods showed in the House during their tenure, and about how Mr Woods’s presence and influence in the House would be sadly missed.
Birrell, H. (1999). Evergreen: The History of the Diocesan School for Girls Grahamstown 1874 – 1999. Grahamstown: Dupli-Print.
Mullins House Record. (1957, 1958). Grahamstown: St Andrew’s College.
Mullins, L. (2011). I’ll Sing You One-Oh! The History of St Andrew’s Preparatory School, Grahamstown. Port Elizabeth: CADAR Printers.
The Andrean no. 264. (1959). Grahamstown: St Andrew’s College.
The JS George Gate
John Stephen George (Mullins 1944-49) arrived at St Andrew’s College from his family farm in Kenya in January 1944 as a newboy in Mullins House. During his time at St Andrew’s he made many friends and participated actively in House and School activities. He was awarded his Colours for rugby, athletics, hockey, boxing and shooting, and he was head of the Cadet Corps. Described as being ‘a born leader’, in his Post Matric year in 1949 he was both Head of School and Head of House.
While attending Oxford University, he became President of the Union Club while has was asleep at the back of the meeting! He played rugby for Oxford at Twickenham and gained a half blue for hockey. His faith was rooted in his awareness of Christianity at school and his friendship with Rev Hugh Harker, the College Chaplain.
Sadly in 1955 he was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Disease, a form of cancer for which there was no cure in those days. John faced his illness with his usual courage. During this time his faith was unshakable. On the day he died he said quietly to his mother, “Don’t worry Mum, I’m in good hands.”
John’s brother Rodney (also an Old Andrean of Mullins House) and their parents gifted the gate to the School.
The JS George Gate at Mullins House
The plaque at the JS George Gate
The Andrean no. 284. (1965). Grahamstown: St Andrew’s College.
Train Journeys to St Andrew’s College, Grahamstown, in the 1950s
By Wenman John (Katie) Coke (Mullins 1954-56)
Recollections by Johnny Coke of travel by him and his elder brother, Eddy, to and from firstly St Andrew’s Prep School and then Mullins House until 1956. Eddy had left St Andrew’s College at the end of 1954 after Matric and having been a prefect in Mullins House.The brothers visited Prep with their wives in November 2014 on the occasion of Eddys 50th reunion at College. Eddy passed away on the 25 April 2015.
Note: After the Coke brothers left College their father, unexpectedly to their contemporaries, became the 6th Earl of Leicester and inherited the immense Holkham Estate in Norfolk. The new Earl chose not to take up his role in running the estate and thus Eddy, with the courtesy title of Viscount Coke, took up the reins very successfully until he in turn became the 7th Earl and thereafter until his untimely death in April 2015. (See www.holkham.co.uk ). Johnny had joined him at Holkham, as The Hon. Wenman John Coke, to run his own farms until his retirement in 2018. Johnny’s wife, Carolyn nee Redler, was raised in South Africa where her grandfather, Daniel Bolton Redler, had been a founder of the Tiger Oats Company, now Tiger Brands.
After Eddy died Johnny drove the Massey- Fergusson tractor (the first one Eddy had acquired when he came to Holkham) to draw the trailer carrying the oak box made by the estate carpenters bearing his body to the church.
A nostalgic reminder of how the brothers took it in turns to drive each other on a tractor to Prairie Siding on their way to school.
My train journeys started when I was 8 3/4 years old in 1949 at Prep, and ended in 1956 at College – Mullins.
My brother Eddy and I used to catch the train from Prairie Siding, 4 miles from our farm near Machadodorp, E. Transvaal, at 9.45pm on a Tuesday. If it had rained and the river was high we were taken to the siding by tractor and trailer, and when out of sight of Mother and Stepfather, Eddy and I took it in turns to drive, and the driver had to sit on the trailer.
Waiting for the train we would stand around the fire with the neighboring farm workers who were waiting to collect the post bags and the empty milk and cream cans.
Our carriage would be uncoupled at Machadodorp and hitched to the Mozambique to Johannesburg train. We’d arrive in Johannesburg around 8am on Wednesday.
We then took the Johannesburg to Port Elizabeth train via Bloemfontein, and arrived at Alicedale about midday on the Friday. The catering staff looked after us well, and we were always allowed second helpings. Our carriages were then hooked up to the Grahamstown train, and we arrived there at about 5 pm on the Friday. The Alicedale to Grahamstown journey went so slowly that we used to jump off going round bends and run along the side so that the conductor, engine driver, or stoker could not see us, before jumping on again. The conductor was called Boepie on account of his large stomach. If you met him in the corridor he’d have to turn sideways so that you could dive underneath his stomach – and if he thought you were going somewhere, or had been somewhere you shouldn’t, you received a clip over the ear and a reprimand. He was a much loved character, and conducted our train journeys over many years. There were occasions when the green leather compartment pillows were thrown out of the windows going round the bends, and once at school over the weekend some of the boys would cycle back to find the pillows and get a reward from the station master for finding them. He soon saw through that ruse. The best coffee was served on SAR, and the catering staff came round with a trolly in the mornings and woke us up with a cup of coffee.
Holidays would be spent either with my mother on the farm near Machadodorp, or with my father in Southern Rhodesia. In the pineapple season we’d pick the fruit and make pineapple beer, and loquat beer, and it was stored on the Drill Hall roof at Prep to ferment. When home time came, one of us would carry a suitcase full of bottles up to the rail siding above Prep (Hill 60) where we would wait for the train with our companions already in the compartment. The bottles would be stored in the ventilators above the top bunks. Now and again a bottle would burst, so we’d take a full bottle and pass it round and the contents were imbibed! We thought we were very grown up having a drink and a smoke at 12 years old! We could buy sandwiches at Alicedale station.
On the journey to Southern Rhodesia the dining room staff allowed us one Ginger square each going through Bechuanaland. Having left Grahamstown on the Tuesday I would arrive at Hartley in Southern Rhodesia on Saturday morning. I once took a pet crow from school to my Dad. To keep him quiet in his shoebox as we went through the border and customs at Plumtree, I had to feed him enough mincemeat to fill his gullet up to his beak so he couldn’t squawk – the plan had been if he did squawk we were all to walk through going “Kwaak. Kwaak!” Another boy from Northern Rhodesia bought a black backed jackal pup in Bechuanaland and kept it at school until he was found out half way through term. I used to buy C to C, Flight, Springbok, Matinee, Star and Tom Tom cigarettes cheaply in Rhodesia, and sell them at a profit to the prefects and boys at school – extra pocket money for those Cornish pasties from the Rendezvous cafe! The most cigarettes I managed to get to school were 1767!
The boys from Eastern Transvaal and Swaziland left school on a Tuesday night instead of Friday, break up day, so we didn’t have to spend a whole day in Johannesburg, and so we had the benefit of going home with the girls from DSG and VGHS, and the St Aidan’s boys. We had great fun and laughter playing card games in each other’s compartments, which of course was not allowed. We had no staff on the train to supervise us – only Boepie the conductor who had his work cut out keeping tabs on us all. We used to terrorise the staff (Stasie Blompot) on the small stations by pelting them with paper water bombs as the train went by.
Clive Park (Mullins 1956-60) shared the following:
“On the last day of term 3, 1956, someone decided we should build a tableau on lawn. I can’t remember who else was in it but I hope some of those this email will reach, will remember. “Jungle” Grocott was the anchor; there was a layer of blokes above the ground level guys; another level above that, then me as the smallest and the gymnast, on top. There may have been more layers and, hopefully, someone can correct me if I am wrong. Someone had a camera so several shots were taken before the tableau collapsed. On the first day of Term 1, 1957 we were all keen to see photographic evidence but, as you will have guessed, the boy with the camera had forgotten to put the film in the camera!
“At the 1959 house swimming selection, there was a free lane in the 100 butterfly, so Neil Oldridge, house captain, who had never swum butterfly before, said he would fill the lane. He scraped into the school heats and scraped into the finals, still in the scum channel. Each time he added a bit more butterfly to his training. After he won the final in a school record we went to PE for inter-schools. By now Neil had added a lot more butterfly to his training, so won that too, in an EP Schools record. So, then it was off to Durban for Schools Nationals, where he broke the national record in his heat. I think it was broken the next heat and Neil came 3rd in the final. Of course, Neil went on to claim National records, swim for SA and once in Durban, missed the world record by 0.8 of a second.
“Housemasters. I was very pleased to have “sexy Rexie” Woods as HM when I started. He was a terrific chap and as fair as one could wish for. He was a good fives player and would always carry a ￡5 note with him to give to any boy who beat him. As I recall, nobody did, even though there were some close matches. Ashley Brooker was a gem too.”
RI ‘Doc’ Caldwell (Mullins 1958-62) shared the following:
“During our 1958-62 era, Mullins and Merriman new-boys occupied Graham House, destined to become the sixth house from 1963. I still picture the layout of the Mullins dormitory, on the first floor parallel to Worcester Street, much-vaunted Tasmer beds providing hanging space and drawers. We slept in alphabetical order: NI Archibald; BD Belchers; JC Boswell; RI Caldwell; GR Cardwell; IB Dodds; RMR Duggan; AJ Gay; PK Gillett; CM Milner; AM Mullins; A Schweitzer; KR Stuttaford; PF Thompson; MD Wylde. A few became lifelong friends – alas, eight that I know of have died, four well before the age of 60, one at 40. Etienne de Villiers was housemaster of Graham, a fair and friendly man, no slouch with the cane.
“I fagged for ET Milne, head of Mullins, and for his brother AT for the first fortnight of the next year. Their mother remarked to mine two decades later that white shirt-collars never recovered from scrubbing with Lifebuoy soap. Fascinating was the slip-catching machine on the lawn in front of Mullins, and the elevated horizontal ladder alongside the tennis court, which housemaster Rex Woods propelled himself under as an arm-strengthening exercise, when he wasn’t playing or encouraging Rugby Fives on the exclusive Mullins court.
“I’ve never forgotten the compassion shown by the monitor who became head of Mullins the following year. When we returned to school from the Hogsback new-boy trip, two gentle letters from my father awaited me. The first described the illness of the Irish setter that I had grown up with, the second his peaceful demise, and I was filled with grief. I had not realised that a monitor was further down the dormitory, and could not look up when he asked about the bad news. When I told him, he simply kept a hand on my shoulder – he understood. This enabled me to face the train-journey back to a home that Danny-Boy no longer commanded.
“Humour was often at newboys’ expense, so I am vain enough to remember being a catalyst for popular mirth, wooden coat hanger to backside the reward. When a Merriman monitor named Rush wore a military hat and popped his head into our dormitory to announce “I am General Rush!” the riposte: “There was a general rush for the lavatories.” On another occasion ‘Bird’ Milner had returned from an egg-collecting expedition. Why he had worn a white shirt not a khaki one, goodness knows, but it was now brown-yellow-green – agitated hadeda droppings, claimed Milner. The Merriman monitor felt that this was unlikely. “Are you a world authority on guano, Mr Campbell-Davies, sir?” one enquired earnestly.
“Mullins seemed a long way from Graham, especially on bitterly cold mornings when we had to be there for rollcall and pre-breakfast prep. So I railed my old Rudge-Whitworth bicycle to Grahamstown. I got a dressing-down from Mr Woods upon narrowly avoiding a group of dark-suited boys returning from Sunday evensong in the Worcester Street dip. Not so lucky was Nupen of Merriman when he rode into Jock Ross in African Street: he lay in a coma for weeks but made a full recovery. The bike streaked one marvellously down Howieson’s Poort to Stone Crescent on Sunday outings: worth the hour of pushing to get to the top again. ‘Bush’ Cardwell, he who would fix things before they thought of breaking, managed to snap the crossbar. Serious welding got it together again. We were getting too big for size-24 bicycles by the end of new-boy year.”
Ross James (Mullins 1955-59) shared the following:
“FIRST DAY AT COLLEGE – January 1955
My dad dropped me off at Graham House, the official Mullins and Merriman new boy residence for my first year. I stood in the queue recognising Rodney Upton also from St Georges in PE. When I arrived at the housemaster’s desk under the tree in the courtyard, Mr Pattison asked me for my name. He immediately said, “You are not in this house, are you sure you are going to Mullins- perhaps you have come in the wrong year.” Imagine how shattered I was. There was no one I could turn to. “Oh,” He added, “Maybe you are going straight into Mullins. Go down the road.”
So I placed my cricket bat, my tennis racket and my basher onto my heavy tin trunk, and holding one handle started dragging it slowly down Worcester Street hill. In my desperation I couldn’t give a hoot about the noise nor the damage to the trunk. At the wooden gate someone shorter than me said, “Can I help?” I delightedly accepted, asking, “Are you also coming to Mullins as a new boy?” “No,” he said, “I am in Matric.” Hoekie Gie became my fag master and I always looked up to him!
That concern for others and ignoring status and position was aspect that existed in Mullins then!
A FALL FROM GRACE 1959
Mullins ‘cops’ could smoke in the prefect’s common room in the evenings – and still did in 1959. However, there was a 50 / 50 split so smoking took place on alternative days. AS a non-smoker I was keen to eliminate smoking on Mullins premises. On passing the box room open door I smelt tobacco smoke. So up I climbed on the wooden shelving that stored our tin trunks and into the roofing vaults – now in complete darkness. I could hear movements ahead of me. “Please come out – no reports or consequences will follow.” Nothing happened. So I reversed my steps. BUT my leather soled shoes slipped on the rafters and crash – I fell through the ceiling board into the outside study – me, butt ends, rat droppings, and years of dust- I can’t remember whose desk it was but what an unholy mess. I was unhurt but naturally my pride took a nasty fall. Always good to have a sense of humour.
MULLINS VS. Who – The battle of 1959
It was athletics season. Each evening the hurdlers would place the hurdles on the required positions on Lower Field so that they could practice before school and then stack the hurdles off the field after practice. One morning – no hurdles – where had they gone? They were finally found floating in the SAC swimming pool. Who had put them there? After two annoying instances the athletes in Mullins decided to lie in wait for the culprits. After the third shift ended at midnight, and we had just settled down under the tree near the water tank on Knowling Field we saw movement coming down from St Aidan’s – a big surprise. They were a large group so we sent for reinforcements and the entire senior dorm responded. St Aidan’s retreated to the steep embankment below their sports field. As we advanced to ‘get a hostage’ they pelted us with small stones. VH Tanner took off his strong glasses – and now blind as a bat – stormed the hill and grabbed an opposition new boy and brought him screaming back to our defensive line. Rex Woods appeared on the scene, took the shivering St Aidan’s new boy off to his study and told us all to go to bed. The matter was settled amicably next morning between the schools and ‘peace declared’ enabling the hurdlers to train effectively. We decided that Mullins was the victor, no wounded or dead!
POLIO in MULLINS 1956
Polio was a world-wide disease and the Salk vaccine not found then. Just after returning for the third term, Peter Hall-Green, who had the bed next to mine in the junior dorm (then located over the dining room), one morning said he could not get out of bed to shower. I said, “You must be silly, what on earth can be wrong with you?” He said again that he could not move. I went to roll call, and immediately afterwards went to report the situation to Rex Woods. Then genuine consternation – Sister from San, Doctor, ambulance – then the dreaded news that Peter had polio. Image my immediate fears. SAC, all Grahamstown schools, then Eastern Cape schools – we all went into quarantine with no sports and no interschool visiting for three weeks. So we had interesting lectures from staff, movies in the Centenary Hall, bridge and dancing lessons, and interhouse singing, charades and twenty questions competitions. Shortly after this incident, we were all vaccinated and the disease placed under control. Unfortunately Peter was left with a severely damaged leg and had mobility problems all his life. He died last year.
TAKING IT OUT ON SMOOTHY
Alan Sanderson, our house Tutor, was concerned at the poor tackling our house rugby teams had displayed so far that season. He suggested a session on Knowling Field one afternoon. After telling us of our shortcomings, and the correct way to tackle, we had several trials. Still not satisfied, Smoothy said, “Enough of that. I will run towards you and you must individually tackle me.” Never ever had boys been given such a marvellous opportunity to display their hidden talents. Suddenly we were all Springboks, and Smoothy hobbled off the field, an aching HERO.
OUR 1958 MATRICS – BY Michael Gilliat (House Tutor) – read out at FINAL HOUSE SUPPER
To a famous sun-drenched place called Grahamstown, That’s noted for Saints and suchlike,
Came a certain young feller from England Who hailed from the land of the Tyke.
This chap got a job at St. Andrew’s, And was posted to House of much fame,
So if you’ll permit me some moments Some inmates I’ll mention by name.
The ones that I choose to enlarge on Are due their Matric. for to write
In a few days from now, so they tell me “Two handed engine” is ready to smite
The first on the list is young BARROW, A medic, no doubt, just like pa,
I don’t like to forecast his future Although I feel sure he’ll go far
CAMPBELL glides high in the pole vault And produces his best every time:
In Matric there’s no doubt he’ll get over: The young feller’s just in his prime.
CHRISTIE now calls for attention: A young man of hockey field fame:
I’m sure he will pass ‘triculation And add further fame to his name.
EMARY I know’s a banana, I refer to his Province (what sin!).
But when he’s in touch with his papers We hope He’ll not slip on the skin.
A forestry type is among us, A chip off th’old block, so to speak,
One FLACK, whom we can all imagine Carving initials on Government teak.
JAMES does appear on the House List: In Matric he’s got nothing to fear;
And as Head of House in the future We wish him the best luck for next year.
Now on the list we find LEWIN, Renowned for his serve and his pace,
So we hope when it comes to the writing That in th’exams he’ll serve ace after ace.
One LIGHTFOOT we’ve got to contend with, A marksman of note, if you please
And if he don’t get no more inners He’ll obtain his first class with great ease.
Young master McGEE’s had the measles, And lay at death’s door, so I hear,
But nevertheless we feel quite sure He’ll pass his Matric, and to spare.
MAC. needs some air in his TYRE, Pumped up to maximum pressure
Then we hope that during exam time He won’t slowly develop a puncture.
Young RATCLIFFE, who hails from the mountain To Cape Town, of course, I refer
Will no doubt pass with all honours At least we can pray for this ‘ere.
REID, far from broken, appears next, A first class Matric, there’s no doubt;
I hope that my forecast’s no secret, But once the bag’s open, cat’s out!
ROBERTSON’S one of our locals, from near-distant Peddie, I hear;
Note th’oxymoron in last line And tha’ll have nothing to fear.
Last but not least we find UPTON, A terror at crease, and on court,
And we hope when he’s writing his papers He won’t get the “rigor de mort”.
Now that’s the lot; all is over, At the poetry I hope you won’t frown;
And I know just what everyone’s thinking “For Pete’s sake, shut up and sit down.”
Tudor Norman Coulson Lacey’s (Mullins 1956-1959) recollections
Tudor, a swimmer, became a full Springbok in 1962. He emigrated and had a subsequent career in the USA where he lives in San Diego :
“As promised I am putting in writing some of my experiences on the train travelling to Boarding School. There are quite a few stories I could tell about my travels but did not want to bore you with those.
Travel to school
First some statistics.
I first went to Boarding school in Cape Town in January 1953 at the age of 10. I attended Western Province Prep School (Wet Pups) for 3 years and then attended St Andrew’s for 4 years.
Even though I lived in Kitwe and then Chingola we boarded the train in Ndola.
There was a sign on the Ndola platform that said: “Cape Town 2200 Miles”.
It took four days and four nights to get to Cape Town and the same period to get to Grahamstown.
Wet Pups was a 4 term school so the only holidays long enough to get home were the June holidays and the December holidays. I had 3 weeks at home in June and 5 weeks at home in December/January.
St Andrew’s being a 3 term school enabled us to get home 3 times a year.
If you add it up, I travelled 72,000 miles on the train in those 7 years and spent 6 months on the train.
From Ndola to Bulawayo we travelled on Rhodesian Railways. We then changed trains onto South African Railways for the balance of the journey.
In those days the Rhodesian railways carriages were much newer than the SAR carriages. Another difference is the RR system was essentially run by English speaking people and SAR by Afrikaans speakers. I was raised very English. As soon as the train left Bulawayo we had to complete customs and immigration forms and present our passport. This was a bit intimidating for this 10-year-old boy, and also the stark realisation that I am going to Boarding School in a foreign country.
The journey took me from the north of Northern Rhodesia and 24 hours later we crossed the Victoria Falls bridge into Southern Rhodesia arriving, in Bulawayo about lunch time the second day. We crossed the border into Bechuanaland at about 4 in the afternoon and crossed the South African border at about dawn the 3rd day near Mafeking. We got to Kimberley at about 11 am, crossed the Orange river at lunch time and crossed into the Cape.
The next morning, we descended into the Hex River valley which is beautiful and arrived in Cape Town just before lunch.
To get to Grahamstown the trip took us to Kimberley where our carriages were decoupled from the Cape Town train and attached to a train going to Bloemfontein. We had quite a long wait in Bloem waiting for the train from Johannesburg to Port Elizabeth. The next morning, we got to Cradock and again our carriages were removed from the PE train and attached to a train going to Grahamstown. As I recall we got to Grahamstown just after lunch and walked to St Andrew’s College.
I was 13 when I got to Grahamstown in 1956. I had never seen the town or the school. I was on my own. My parents never made it to Grahamstown while I was at school. My Father never saw St Andrew’s and my mother was driven around the school when she was 81 by my sister and told, “this is where Tudor went to school”!
By the way, there is no longer any train service to Grahamstown and the old railway station is abandoned.”
Angus Martin (Mullins 1954-57) shared the following:
Mullins House dates from 1921, but at least one Mullins boy of recent times provides a link back to St Andrew’s very early days. Martin George Winton Woodrooffe (1942-2016) was a member of Mullins for two years (1956-57). He completed his secondary education elsewhere, and went on to become a long-serving member of the British police force. His father, Starr Reade Winton Woodrooffe (1912-1944), died when his son was only 27 months old. Starr was the younger son of George Borries Woodrooffe (1868-1926), who was schooled initially at Bishops and then at St Andrew’s, where he captained both the cricket and rugby teams in 1887. And his father (M.G.W. Woodrooffe’s great-grandfather) was the Revd Henry Reade Woodrooffe (1834-1913) who was principal of the St Andrew’s ‘native branch’ in 1861.
What led me on my first steps into Woodrooffe history was Marguerite Poland’s 2008 magisterial history of St Andrew’s, The Boy in You. if you haven’t read it you’ve missed a treat. I am first cousin to MGWW; his mother was my father’s sister. My father, Anderson Rodger Martin (1907-1993) was a foundation member of Mullins House, 1921-1924. He studied architecture at the University of the Witwatersrand, and went on to head a successful architectural practice in Johannesburg. Like me, he lacked sporting ability (though he was a fine snooker player). His younger brother Peter Macindoe Martin (1913-1961), on the other hand, starred in several sports and indeed captained the victorious Mullins House tennis team in 1932. Peter became co-founder and Sales Director of The Swan Press in Johannesburg.
My own solitary contribution to Mullins’ proud sporting record was to be a member of the all-conquering Cricket 6th XI in 1954. I should explain at once that the 6th XI was limited to under-14s; in that year there were only 11 Mullins boys in that category and as a consequence they all ended up in the team. My poor eyesight and general lack of ability meant that I was a passenger; I’m sure that I never made a run, bowled an over or took a catch. But the remainder of the (in effect) ten-man team were so capable that, under the valiant captaincy of Terry Davidson, they triumphed.
I sometimes felt that the robustly manly Rex Woods (my Latin teacher as well as my Housemaster) found my nerdiness difficult to come to terms with, but that was doing him an injustice. Having noted that Biology was one of my subjects (an uncommon choice for an academically able student), he must have seen some kind of spark in me. He arranged for me to attend a lecture at Rhodes University by Professor J.L.B. Smith, famed for his recognition that a strange fish caught off East London in 1938 was a coelacanth, a species previously thought to have been extinct for some 80 million years. Always interested in animals, I was spellbound by the lecture. Hence Rex followed up by arranging for me to visit Professor Smith in his laboratory, where I actually laid eyes on the coelacanth, embalmed in its formalin-filled coffin. Partly as a result of this experience, my vague intention of pursuing an animal-related career crystallised, and Smith told me what tertiary studies I should do if I wanted to become a biological scientist. So I did and I did.
I have additional Mullins links through my mother’s side. One of her sisters married an Irish-born medico, Dr Hugh Flack, who became Chief Medical Officer of Eswatini (then Swaziland). They had two sons: Hugh, who started at Mullins with me, and John, better known as Chick (1941-2017), who was a year or two behind us. I’ll leave it to Hugh (we correspond from time to time) to say more about the Flacks if he is of a mind to.
My father and his brother left wooden dining chairs with their names and dates carved on them to Mullins: I assume they would have migrated with the House to its new dining venue. What, if anything, did I leave? The Mullins House Record for 1957-58 notes that I was among four Mullins boys who gained First Class Matriculation results in 1957. Another of them was Iain Fraser, who died at a tragically young age; the others were Richard (‘Lulu’) Law and Geoff Chew.
Richard and Geoff both made their lives in England, Richard as a chemical engineer and Geoff (no surprise) as a Professor of Music at the Royal Holloway, University of London. I moved to Australia in 1962 and worked in the Department of Zoology, University of Melbourne, eventually becoming an Associate Professor and Head of the Department.
Geoff generously accommodated us at his house in Egham, Surrey, in June 2013, when this 56-year post-matric photograph was taken. L to R: Angus, Geoff, Richard.