Selborne College

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Selborne College
Selborne College Crest
Palma Virtuti
East London, Eastern Cape, South Africa
Type Public, Boys
Established 1872
Locale Urban
Headmaster Mr A Gunn
Exam board EC
Grades 8–12
Number of students 730 boys
School color(s) Black and White

Selborne College is a public, male-only school in East London, South Africa. It is one of the few colleges in the Eastern Cape and dominates the likes of St. Andrew's College and Grey High School.


Selborne College was founded in 1872 by Pastor Heinrich Muller, a German settler, and at that stage was known as the Panmure Public School. In 1880 the first recorded sporting engagement involving the school took place, namely a cricket match against Dale College in King William’s Town.[1]

In 1892 another sporting milestone was reached when this school played its first rugby match. Again the opponents were Dale College.[1]

After Pastor Muller's resignation in 1896, John Young piloted the school through an eventful seven-year period that encompassed the South African War and saw the school move premises to Muir Street. It was under headmaster, George Rattray, in 1907 that the school was named Selborne College in honour of the Second Earl of Selborne, High Commissioner from 1905 to 1910, whose Selborne Memorandum became the blueprint for the Union of South Africa.

The Selborne family coat of arms and motto were adopted as the College badge and motto. Palma Virtuti ('Reward is to the Brave') underpins the approach to both the academic and extra-curricular activities of the school. By 1920 it became evident that the school was once again outgrowing its premises and in May 1922 the foundation stone was laid by Sir Frederick de Waal, Administrator of the Cape, on the present site of Selborne College.[1]

Dr Rattray, when he handed over the reins to George Floyd at the beginning of 1931, had forged the character of Selborne. Under Floyd strong emphasis was laid on sporting as well as academic achievement and in the post-war years Selborne continued to maintain an impressive record of progress. Mr Floyd was succeeded by John Perry (1949–1958), after whom came Alan Barker (1959–1968).[1]

John Stonier took over the reins of the school in 1969, and was succeeded by Tim Gordon (1981–1992), in whose final year the East London City Council presented the College with an illuminated address in recognition of the school's 120 years of service to the community. 1993 saw Alan Gunn take over as headmaster.[1]

Today, as Selborne College carries its standard proudly in the ranks of South Africa's eminent schools, it keeps its traditions at heart: the solemn Ceremony of the Key, instituted in 1924 at the unveiling of the War Memorial statue of the young soldier that stands in front of the school, still takes place on Founders' Day. This is when the boys reaffirm their recognition of the achievements and sacrifices of the past and of their responsibilities to the future.[1]


On the 8th November 1924, Sir Frederick de Waal, then Administrator of the Cape Province, unveiled the magnificent War Memorial which stands in front of the school. At the conclusion of this moving service of Dedication, Sir Frederick turned to Charles Prior, Head Boy of the College, and handed him a large silver key. "You are to look after the monument and this consecrated ground on which we now stand", he told Prior. "You have in keeping the memory of many men who made the supreme sacrifice. Their memory and what they died for will live forever as the generations come and go". Later that month the first Ceremony of the Key was held as Prior passed his charge on to the 1925 Custodian and a new tradition was born.[2]

Every year since, a member of the incoming Matriculation Class has been elected by popular vote of his fellows as the Custodian of the Key for one year and the handing-over ceremony is now a traditional part of Founders' Day proceedings.[2]

In September 1939 the Officer Commanding of the Cadet Detachment, Colonel Tim Harvey, gave the ceremony its present form and authentic military flavour. The format has remained unaltered to this day. The Key is regarded as a symbol of guardianship of, and responsibility for, the traditions and values of Selborne. The "Changing of Guard", with the Grade 12 group handing custody to the Grade 11's symbolizes the passage of responsibility for, and leadership of the pupil body and all it holds dear, from those departing to those remaining.[2]

Those on parade at Founders' Day are all current pupils at the College. Wreaths are laid to honour old boys who have paid the supreme sacrifice. The Founders' Day is strongly supported by visiting Old Boys and their families.[2]

The guest speaker for Founders' Day 2008 is past headmaster, Dr John Stonier.[3]

Norton House[edit]

The school hostel is named after one of the school's most illustrious old boys, Toys Norton, V.C. It aims to be a home away from home for 75 boys.[4]

A friendly atmosphere exists at this fine boys' hostel. New boys arrive with a wide variety of talents, abilities and expectations. Some are confident, others are apprehensive. All have in common that they are part of a select group of new Norton House members. Boys in Grades 8 to 11 are accommodated in rooms of 4 or 5, while most Grade 12 students have single or double rooms. All meals are prepared in house and laundry is also done for the boys. Homework sessions are supervised every evening.[4]

Facilities include a common room with pool table, access to DSTV, a small gymnasium, access to the school pool (with supervision) and a study area – which contains computers networked to the school intranet and internet. Four teachers do supervisory duties in the hostel and live on the premises. Two matrons also look after the boys. The domestic staff includes long serving ladies who looked after the fathers of some of the current house members.[4]

Notable Old Selbornians[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f Selborne College – About Selborne
  2. ^ a b c d Selborne College – Traditions
  3. ^ Selborne College – Founders' Day 2008
  4. ^ a b c Selborne College – Norton House Hostel

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 32°59′40″S 27°53′59″E / 32.99444°S 27.89972°E / -32.99444; 27.89972