Graeme College

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Graeme College
Grahamstown, Eastern Cape
South Africa
Type Public high school[1]
Motto Virtute et Opera
(Courage and toil)
Established April 1873
Headmaster Kevin Watson
Staff 33 Teachers
13 Support Staff[2]
Grades 00 - 12
Gender Male
Enrolment 600 students
Color(s) Navy blue and old gold
School fees R10,100 p.a. (Day Scholar)
R32,900 p.a. (Boarding Fee)
(Calculation based on a Grade 10 Pupil, 2011)[3]

Graeme College is a public school located in Grahamstown, Eastern Cape, South Africa. It caters for boys from Grade 00 to Grade 12 and offers both boarding and day options to its pupils.[4] It was founded in April 1873.


Education in Grahamstown in the second half of the 19th century tended to divide the population along denominational and economic lines and, with few exceptions, was not altogether of a satisfactory standard. At a public meeting held in 1872 a resolution was moved to the effect that: "It is highly desirable to establish a high class nondenominational school in Grahamstown, with a view to providing an education which is not furnished by any of the present schools." And so in April 1873, with an enrolment of 25 boarders and 45 day boys, under the headmastership of the Rev. Robert Templeton, the Grahamstown Public School opened its doors in the Drostdy Barracks and the Drostdy House, newly vacated by the Colonial military authorities. Both these buildings have since been swallowed up in the Rhodes University campus.

The new school grew rapidly and within ten years the enrolment had reached 200. The first candidate for the matriculation examination was entered in 1874, and the school began preparing candidates for the examinations of the University of the Cape of Good Hope.

The political troubles at the end of the nineteenth century saw the British Army wanting their buildings back and the school moving to new premises in Beaufort Street in 1898. It occupied this site until moving to its present campus in Somerset Heights in 1974. The site in Beaufort Street has since been renovated and taken over by Victoria Girls' High School.

Over the years the name of the school has undergone several changes. During the period in which it offered matriculation classes to young ladies, it was known as Victoria High School, and finally in 1938 it adopted the name "Graeme College".[5]

Current state of Graeme College[edit]

Graeme College is currently the only male school from Grade 00 to Matric in South Africa. The school is divided into a pre-primary (Grades 00-R), a foundation phase (Grades 1-3), a junior school (Grades 4-7) and a high school (Grades 8-12). It consists of approximately 600 boys and 33 teachers. The majority of the boys that attend the school are day scholars. A hundred or so boys populate the hostels of Grant House (Grades 4-12) and Wallace House (Grades 1-3). Graeme College has four houses: Wiles, Vernal, Nielson and Hutton, each named after previous headmasters of the school. The school's vision statement is: "To strive for excellence by developing all to their full potential."


The following subjects are taught at Graeme College (* = Grade 4 to Grade 9):

  • Mathematics
  • Maths literacy
  • English
  • Afrikaans
  • isiXhosa
  • Life Orientation
  • History
  • Geography
  • Computer Application Technology
  • Economic Management Sciences *
  • Physical Science
  • Life Science
  • Natural Science *
  • Technology *
  • Music
  • Accounting
  • Visual Art
  • Design
  • Business Studies

Graeme College also participates in a number of academic competitions, some of which are the "Eskom Expo for Young Scientists," the "Harmony Mathematics Olympiad," the "South African National English Olympiad," the "SAASTA National Astronomy Quiz" (of which the school was the winner in 2011), and the "Amesa Mathematics Olympiad."

Graeme College is currently ranked 35th academically of all the public schools in Africa.


Graeme College places a very strong emphasis on cultural activities. The school has a very accomplished choir of which more than 100 boys are part. There is also an elite choir for excellent singers, known as the "Leopard's Voice." Three steelband‎s exist (junior, intermediate and senior), and the senior band as well as the choir regularly go on tour to places like Johannesburg and Cape Town, and occasionally overseas. In the junior school, there is a Marimba band which is uniquely advantaged by the close relations it maintains with the Grahamstown-based "African Musical Instruments", the leading producer of marimbas in Africa, as well as the Rhodes University Music Department. Debating is also offered, with the debating first team coming second in the 2013 Eastern Province Debating Championships and winning the Championships in 2015.

School song[edit]

The lyrics of the school song, from 1932, follow.

Our Fathers passed thro' the Drostdy Gate
To the tiny school of a bygone day,
But the lesson they learned was of changeless date,
We learn it yet in the selfsame way;
And hither the sons of our sons shall throng
To learn their creed from the Graemians' song.

O "Courage and Toil" was the watchword then
'Tis the watchword now, and for days to come;
For courage and toil are the mark of men
On the fastest pitch, in the fiercest scrum,
At the hardest task when all goes wrong –
And this is the creed of the Graemians' song

We may wander away on the wings of hope
To distant scenes in the far off years,
But our hearts will return to the terraced slope
The gabled roofs and the winding stairs,
For time and distance but make more strong
The spirit caught from the Graemians' song.

Words : C.C. Wiles
Tune : S.J. Newns
First Sung : Speech Night 1932

Notable old boys[edit]

Old boys of the school are called 'Old Graemians', and many join the Old Graemian Union. In March of every year the annual gathering of the union's members takes the form of a Founders Weekend, a programme of events beginning with a memorial service always held on a Friday.[6]

  • William Philip Schreiner (1857-1919). 8th Prime Minister of the Cape Colony (1898-1900) and brother to the novelist Olive Schreiner. He matriculated from the Grahamstown Public School in 1874. He was a liberal and visionary South African statesman who advocated racial integration almost a century before it came into being in South Africa.
  • Squadron Leader Marmaduke Pattle, DFC and Bar. Reputedly the top RAF fighter ace in World War II with between 27-44 certifiable kills in the nine months he served before he himself was shot down over Athens. He matriculated from Victoria High School in the early 1930s. He is mentioned by Roald Dahl in the latter's autobiography Going Solo.
  • Major-General Robert John (Bobby) Palmer CVO DSO (1891 – 1957) was a much-decorated South African soldier and Commissioner of Police.[7]
  • Professor Colin Bundy. A prominent historian. He matriculated from Graeme in 1961. A graduate of the universities of Natal, Witwatersrand and Oxford, he has taught history and been involved in the administration of several South African and British universities. Since 2008 he has been the first Principal of the new Green Templeton College, Oxford.
  • Daniel Cheeky Watson. Former Eastern Province and Junior Springbok rugby union player who, with his brother Valance. was one of the first white South African rugby union players to participate in a mixed race rugby game, during the period when mixed-race activities were forbidden by apartheid legislation. He matriculated in the early 1970s and captained the school's 1st XV. He is the father of former Western Province/Stormers captain and controversial Springbok Luke Watson.
  • JSomething, vocalist and guitarist of the Johannesburg-based band, Micasa Music.
  • Hennie le Roux, former South African (Springbok) centre (1993-1996). He matriculated in 1986. He was part of the national team which won the 1995 Rugby World Cup.
  • Dirk de Vos, former Springbok scrumhalf from the 1960s and early 1970s. He represented Western Province and Western Transvaal in Currie Cup matches. Altogether he played 18 matches in the green and gold.[8]
  • The Very Rev. Harold Claude Noel Williams (1914-1990), Principal of St Matthew’s College
  • Eusebius McKaiser, South African radio and TV show host and political commentator.
  • Christopher Rimmer, Multi Award-winning wildlife photographer.[9]
  • Brian Hayward - Legendary house parties and backyard cricket games


External links[edit]