𝙃𝙤𝙣 𝙊𝘼, 𝘿𝙧 𝙈𝙖𝙧𝙜𝙪𝙚𝙧𝙞𝙩𝙚 𝙋𝙤𝙡𝙖𝙣𝙙, 𝙋𝙧𝙚𝙨𝙞𝙙𝙚𝙣𝙩 𝙤𝙛 𝙩𝙝𝙚 𝙊𝙡𝙙 𝘼𝙣𝙙𝙧𝙚𝙖𝙣 𝘾𝙡𝙪𝙗, 𝙧𝙚𝙛𝙡𝙚𝙘𝙩𝙞𝙣𝙜 𝙤𝙣 𝙩𝙝𝙚 𝙘𝙝𝙖𝙡𝙡𝙚𝙣𝙜𝙚𝙨 𝙖𝙣𝙙 𝙩𝙧𝙞𝙪𝙢𝙥𝙝𝙨 𝙤𝙛 𝙖 𝙙𝙞𝙛𝙛𝙚𝙧𝙚𝙣𝙩 𝙚𝙧𝙖
Once upon a time, College boys were obliged to write letters home every Sunday night. Nowadays the boys impressions disappear in cyberspace, their quirks of spelling and grammar corrected for them, their unique handwriting lost. And yet, if those letters from a hundred years ago show how much has changed, they also show how much has not.
𝘚𝘵 𝘈𝘯𝘥𝘳𝘦𝘸’𝘴 𝘊𝘰𝘭𝘭𝘦𝘨𝘦, 1916
𝘔𝘺 𝘥𝘦𝘢𝘳 𝘱𝘦𝘢𝘳𝘦𝘯𝘤𝘦,
𝘐 𝘢𝘮 𝘲𝘶𝘪𝘵𝘦 𝘸𝘦𝘭𝘭, 𝘩𝘰𝘸 𝘢𝘳𝘦 𝘺𝘰𝘶 𝘢𝘭𝘭 𝘢𝘵 𝘩𝘰𝘮𝘦 𝘐 𝘢𝘮 𝘨𝘭𝘢𝘥 𝘺𝘰𝘶 𝘩𝘢𝘥 𝘴𝘰𝘮𝘦 𝘳𝘢𝘪𝘯 𝘐 𝘴𝘶𝘱𝘱𝘰𝘴𝘦 𝘋𝘢𝘥𝘺 𝘴𝘢𝘥 𝘐 𝘸𝘪𝘴𝘩 𝘵𝘰 𝘨𝘰𝘥 𝘪𝘵 𝘸𝘰𝘶𝘭𝘥 𝘳𝘢𝘪𝘯 𝘧𝘰𝘳 𝘵𝘦𝘯 𝘥𝘢𝘺𝘴.
Yes, we still wish it would rain for ten days.
𝘛𝘩𝘦𝘳𝘦 𝘸𝘢𝘴 𝘢 𝘴𝘦𝘪𝘯𝘦𝘢𝘳 𝘩𝘰𝘶𝘴𝘦 𝘮𝘢𝘵𝘤𝘩 𝘣𝘦𝘵𝘸𝘦𝘦𝘯 𝘌𝘴𝘱𝘪𝘯 𝘢𝘯𝘥 𝘈𝘳𝘮𝘴𝘵𝘳𝘰𝘯𝘨 𝘢𝘯𝘥 𝘌𝘴𝘱𝘪𝘯 𝘣𝘦𝘢𝘵 𝘴𝘪𝘹 𝘯𝘪𝘭, 𝘰𝘯𝘦 𝘌𝘴𝘱𝘪𝘯 𝘧𝘦𝘭𝘭𝘰𝘸 𝘩𝘦𝘢𝘳𝘵 𝘩𝘪𝘴 𝘢𝘯𝘤𝘭𝘦, 𝘣𝘶𝘵 𝘐 𝘵𝘩𝘪𝘯𝘬 𝘩𝘦 𝘩𝘢𝘥 𝘢 𝘭𝘪𝘵𝘵𝘭𝘦 𝘴𝘩𝘢𝘮 𝘪𝘯 𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘮𝘢𝘵𝘵𝘦𝘳. 𝘈 𝘧𝘦𝘭𝘭𝘰𝘸 𝘤𝘢𝘭𝘭𝘦𝘥 𝘱𝘢𝘶𝘳𝘵𝘦𝘳 𝘩𝘢𝘴 𝘫𝘶𝘴𝘵 𝘵𝘰𝘭𝘥 𝘮𝘦 𝘵𝘩𝘢𝘵 𝘐 𝘮𝘶𝘴𝘵 𝘤𝘰𝘮𝘦 𝘢𝘯𝘥 𝘤𝘭𝘦𝘢𝘯 𝘩𝘪𝘴 𝘣𝘰𝘰𝘵𝘴. 𝘐 𝘵𝘰𝘭𝘥 𝘩𝘪𝘮 𝘵𝘰 𝘨𝘰 𝘵𝘰 𝘸𝘩𝘦𝘳𝘦 𝘐 𝘥𝘪𝘥 𝘯𝘰𝘵 𝘴𝘯𝘰𝘸. 𝘚𝘰𝘶𝘵𝘩 𝘫𝘶𝘯𝘪𝘦𝘳𝘴 𝘢𝘯𝘥 𝘈𝘳𝘮𝘴𝘵𝘳𝘰𝘯𝘨 𝘢𝘳𝘦 𝘱𝘭𝘢𝘺𝘪𝘯𝘨 𝘰𝘯 𝘧𝘳𝘪𝘥𝘢𝘺.
Much of the news going home is still about sport, ‘the big dogs’, House rivalry.
𝘐 𝘸𝘢𝘯𝘵 𝘱𝘪𝘤𝘵𝘶𝘳𝘦𝘴 𝘣𝘶𝘵 𝘩𝘢𝘷𝘦 𝘯𝘰𝘵 𝘢𝘬𝘸𝘪𝘳𝘦𝘥 𝘢𝘭𝘭 𝘨𝘪𝘳𝘭𝘴 𝘮𝘦𝘯𝘵𝘪𝘰𝘯𝘦𝘥. 𝘈𝘵 𝘱𝘳𝘦𝘴𝘦𝘯𝘵 𝘸𝘦 𝘩𝘢𝘷𝘦 𝘢 𝘤𝘩𝘰𝘪𝘤𝘦 𝘤𝘰𝘭𝘭𝘦𝘤𝘵𝘪𝘰𝘯 𝘰𝘧 𝘢𝘤𝘵𝘳𝘪𝘤𝘦𝘴 𝘢𝘭𝘭 𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘧𝘦𝘭𝘭𝘰𝘸𝘴 𝘢𝘳𝘦 𝘪𝘯 𝘭𝘰𝘷𝘦 𝘰𝘧. 𝘚𝘦𝘯𝘥 𝘵𝘶𝘤𝘬.
There are still pictures plastered on study walls. Boys still demand tuck! Now pizza is delivered – but in 1916 pocket money was pledged to ‘the fellows fighting at the Front.’
𝘖𝘯𝘦 𝘰𝘧 𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘫𝘶𝘯𝘪𝘦𝘳𝘴 𝘩𝘢𝘴 𝘨𝘰𝘵 𝘥𝘪𝘱𝘵𝘩𝘦𝘳𝘦𝘢𝘳 𝘣𝘶𝘵 𝘰𝘯𝘭𝘺 𝘢 𝘷𝘦𝘳𝘺 𝘮𝘪𝘭𝘥 𝘤𝘢𝘴𝘦. 𝘐 𝘴𝘶𝘱𝘱𝘰𝘴𝘦 𝘵𝘩𝘦𝘳𝘦 𝘸𝘪𝘭𝘭 𝘣𝘦 𝘭𝘰𝘯𝘨 𝘤𝘢𝘴𝘶𝘢𝘭𝘵𝘺 𝘭𝘪𝘴𝘵𝘴 𝘤𝘰𝘮𝘪𝘯𝘨 𝘪𝘯 𝘯𝘰𝘸. 𝘛𝘩𝘦𝘳𝘦 𝘪𝘴 𝘯𝘰 𝘯𝘦𝘸𝘴. 𝘐 𝘳𝘦𝘮𝘢𝘪𝘯 𝘺𝘰𝘶𝘳𝘦 𝘭𝘰𝘷𝘪𝘯𝘨 𝘴𝘰𝘯…
No more casualty lists from a devastating war but certainly news of a devastating pandemic.
As in 1916, all activities are curtailed, sporting fixtures cancelled. No grand derby days, no festive Prize Giving. We are obliged to keep distance from those ‘we are in love of’.
Perhaps there is something to be said in how those early trials were handled and of the Andreans who emerged from times of ‘lockdown’.
As most of the staff had gone off to fight in a world war in 1914, senior boys, still too young to enlist, stepped in to teach and coach sport. Demotivating? Potentially chaotic? And yet, despite two years without competitive sport or adequate teaching, 1916 and 1917 produced a crop of extraordinary young men, some of whom went on to play provincially and even internationally or earned high honours in various careers.
The sports report the College Magazine of 1916 is a case in point:
𝘐𝘯 1916 𝘸𝘦 𝘩𝘢𝘥 𝘵𝘰 𝘮𝘢𝘬𝘦 𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘣𝘦𝘴𝘵 𝘰𝘧 𝘪𝘵 𝘢𝘯𝘥 𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘣𝘰𝘺𝘴 𝘬𝘦𝘱𝘵 𝘵𝘩𝘪𝘯𝘨𝘴 𝘨𝘰𝘪𝘯𝘨 𝘴𝘱𝘭𝘦𝘯𝘥𝘪𝘥𝘭𝘺… 𝘈𝘭𝘵𝘩𝘰𝘶𝘨𝘩 [𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘴𝘦𝘯𝘪𝘰𝘳𝘴] 𝘬𝘯𝘦𝘸 𝘵𝘩𝘢𝘵 𝘵𝘩𝘦𝘳𝘦 𝘸𝘰𝘶𝘭𝘥 𝘣𝘦 𝘯𝘰 𝘟𝘝, 𝘢𝘯𝘥 𝘴𝘰 𝘯𝘰 𝘤𝘩𝘢𝘯𝘤𝘦 𝘰𝘧 𝘨𝘢𝘪𝘯𝘪𝘯𝘨 𝘤𝘰𝘭𝘰𝘶𝘳𝘴, 𝘵𝘩𝘦𝘺 𝘬𝘦𝘱𝘵 𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘥𝘪𝘷𝘪𝘴𝘪𝘰𝘯 𝘱𝘳𝘢𝘤𝘵𝘪𝘤𝘦𝘴 𝘢𝘴 𝘬𝘦𝘦𝘯 𝘢𝘴 𝘦𝘷𝘦𝘳. 𝘈𝘯𝘥 𝘵𝘩𝘢𝘵 𝘴𝘶𝘳𝘦𝘭𝘺 𝘪𝘴 𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘴𝘱𝘪𝘳𝘪𝘵 𝘪𝘯 𝘸𝘩𝘪𝘤𝘩 𝘨𝘢𝘮𝘦𝘴 𝘴𝘩𝘰𝘶𝘭𝘥 𝘣𝘦 𝘱𝘭𝘢𝘺𝘦𝘥. 𝘛𝘩𝘦 𝘴𝘦𝘯𝘪𝘰𝘳 𝘣𝘰𝘺𝘴 𝘥𝘪𝘥 𝘴𝘵𝘦𝘳𝘭𝘪𝘯𝘨 𝘴𝘦𝘳𝘷𝘪𝘤𝘦 𝘪𝘯 𝘵𝘳𝘺𝘪𝘯𝘨 𝘵𝘰 𝘪𝘮𝘱𝘳𝘰𝘷𝘦 𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘨𝘢𝘮𝘦𝘴 𝘰𝘧 𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘫𝘶𝘯𝘪𝘰𝘳 𝘣𝘰𝘺𝘴.
The captain was ‘Perry’ Hutton, Head of School who was severely wounded in 1917 but finally took up his Rhodes Scholarship and rowed for Trinity College at Oxford. Harold Jeppe, besides being a fine rugby player was an athlete of extraordinary ability. He represented South Africa at the 1920 Olympics at Antwerp. TC White took part in the Springbok trials of 1921. AB Maxwell played for the British Rugby Touring side in 1924 and at least five other OAs went on to play Currie Cup Rugby.
But perhaps the finest example of commitment and sportsmanship of that year was Christiaan Rheeder whose small plaque in the chapel should be visited by anyone facing the disappointment of lost opportunities. Rugby was his passion but injury and illness curtailed his sporting career and led to rejection from military service. Both crushing blows. But, in the ten years as pupil, school-boy teacher at College and then a member of staff (and pioneer of the teaching of Afrikaans), he established what was known as ‘the golden Rheeder era’ of rugby. His unbeaten side of 1926, perhaps the most illustrious in the school’s history, producing five Oxford Blues and international, Brian Black, who played for England.
Rheeder knew how to direct and inspire. Early newspaper reports about schoolboy rugby in his time testifies to a ‘joyous game’ which it is sometimes hard to find these days. That ‘joyous game’ blossomed from the enormous disappointments that Rheeder had experienced himself in 1916, the ‘grit’ he acquired in facing them and the legacy he left in overcoming them with enthusiasm and without complaint. It was said of him, ‘wonderful in steadiness of purpose, he claimed nothing and gave much.’ His plaque in the Chapel is as simple as it is inspiring:
‘𝘈 𝘨𝘳𝘦𝘢𝘵 𝘈𝘧𝘳𝘪𝘬𝘢𝘯𝘦𝘳. 𝘛𝘩𝘦 𝘮𝘰𝘴𝘵 𝘮𝘰𝘥𝘦𝘴𝘵 𝘢𝘯𝘥 𝘩𝘰𝘯𝘰𝘶𝘳𝘢𝘣𝘭𝘦 𝘰𝘧 𝘮𝘦𝘯.’