Waterkloof House Preparatory School

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Waterkloof House Preparatory School
535 Ruddell Street


Coordinates25°46′00″S 28°13′55″E / 25.766667°S 28.2319444°E / -25.766667; 28.2319444Coordinates: 25°46′00″S 28°13′55″E / 25.766667°S 28.2319444°E / -25.766667; 28.2319444
TypePrivate, Day Scholars & Boarding from Grade 3
MottoWork Hard, Play Straight
HeadmasterMark Whitelaw
GradesGrade 000 & 00 (Boys & Girls) Grades 0 – 7 (Boys only)
Number of students460 boys
School color(s)Grey and maroon

Waterkloof House Preparatory School (WHPS, pronounced, and commonly known as, WHiPS) is situated in Pretoria, South Africa and is an independent (private) primary school, offering education to Grade 000 and Grade 00 boys and girls, and Grade 0-7 boys only through the medium of English. Well known former pupils include, amongst others, Deon Chang, journalist; Eddie Barlow, South African international cricket star; Richard Sterne, professional golfer; Tony Peake, novelist; and Elon Musk, business magnate, founder of SpaceX and CEO of Tesla Motors.



Waterkloof House Preparatory School has grown substantially from its small beginnings in 1923 with a total of twelve pupils to a prestigious preparatory school for boys, currently opening its doors to more than 400 pupils every year.

The original Brooklyn House Preparatory School was located on the south-east corner of MacKenzie and Alexander Streets in Brooklyn without electricity or modern conveniences.


To cope with the rapidly expanding numbers, the school moved to its present seven and a half acre site on Charles Street (Justice Mahomed Street), then known as Bailey's Avenue early in 1925.


The Ruddells ran this private boys school until 1946 and established the relaxed teacher-pupil relationship coupled with firm but fair discipline, which have become part of the school's tradition. The school was bought by Mr Wilfred MacRobert when the Ruddells retired in 1946. WHiPS, as the school eventually became known, was virtually a family institution for the 18 years that Mr MacRobert was associated with it.


Step through the front door of Waterkloof House Preparatory School and there is a distinct feeling that time has stood still. Old world charm pervades the air; courtesy and the smell of old wood abound. On the wall of the headmaster's office hangs Captain Ernest's sword with the royal monogram of King Edward VII (1901-1910) and a handmade wooden strongbox originating from the Crimean War, amongst other mementos.


The Ruddells, and the headmasters thereafter, have certainly left a rich legacy for our boys today – not only in the grounds and facilities we use, but in those intangible elements such as tradition, integrity, sense of purpose and a strong ethos that throughout the history of WHPS has become the trademark of the school.

Past Headmasters[edit]

The Ruddell Brothers 1923 – 1947[edit]

Frederick J Ruddell (‘Mister’) and Captain Ernest Ruddell (‘Cappy’), twin sons of General and Mrs Ruddell (a one time Colonel of the Royal Scots,) Founders and Headmasters of Waterkloof House Preparatory School, initially known as Brooklyn House Preparatory School, or more familiarly, ‘Ruddells’.

At a time when South Africa was still recovering form the traumas of the Great War and the devastating strike on the Rand in 1922, when General Smuts was Prime Minister, a brand new four-seater motor car could be purchased for £190 and family houses in Arcadia were selling for £1 500, the Ruddell brothers opened their Preparatory School for boys on Friday, 2 February 1923, with a total complement of twelve day boys (£6-2-0d per term) and two boarders (£25 per term.)

Miss Meffis “Ma” Lloyd 1927 -1950[edit]

Writing the 1942 School magazine, Captain Ruddell recorded:

“There are very few boys who passed through Ruddells in the ‘thirties’ and ‘forties’ who will not recall with great affection Miss Meggis Lloyd, a member of staff since 1927. Before closing these notes I wish to record a special word of appreciation to Miss Lloyd for her unfounding help and co-operation in all that concered the welfare of the school. During these difficult times, caused by changes of staff as, one by one our teachers have joined the Forces, Miss Lloyd has been ever ready to step into the breach and to give whole-hearted help wherever possible.”

Dudley Gower, (Oxon) FRGS, 1947 – 1949[edit]

Joining the school of a little under 100 boys in 1943, Dudley Gower immediately established himself as a play writer and producer of note, producing no fewer than four successful plays in his first year. An innovative, selfless man, he introduced many worthwhile changes including the introduction of SG 1 and 2, more efficient timetabling, fortnightly report cards and daily report forms.

He succeeded to Headmastership in 1947 on the express wish of Wilf MacRobert who was to succeed him three years later.

It was during Dudley’s first year as a headmaster that WHPS experienced its first ‘strike’! The shock to the boys (parent's) of General Smuts and his United Party's unexpected loss of the first post-war election was too much for the boys to tolerate!

At the end of 1949, Dudley Gower resigned and returned to England. “His going will be a great loss to the school and to me personally,” acknowledged Wilf.

Wilfred MacRobert, MA (Rhodes), 1950 – 1968[edit]

“Those of us who have been closely associated with him during the past few years, know well the outstanding ability and hours of hard work which he gave so selflessly to the welfare of the school. Many of his ideas and innovations in the general routine of the school will be of permanent value to us. We will miss him most though for the man he is, a man of character and ideals with the courage of his convictions, a fine sense of humour and one who invariably put himself last.”

With the retirement of the Ruddells at the end of 1946, they offered the Headmastership to Wilfred MacRobert, an old boy, who at the age of 27 years felt that he was too young and inexperienced to become a headmaster having only joined the school in 1946.

“Mr Dudley Gower (who had joined the school in 1943) agreed to act as headmaster until I was ready to take over. This was an altruistic act of Dudley’s for which I shall always be grateful.”

WHPS had now grown to a staff of 9 teachers and 144 pupils, at which time Grade 1 and Grade 2 classes were established.

Michael M Quail, BA Hons (RAU), 1969 – 1973[edit]

It fell to Michael Quail to uphold the proud record and traditions established by the previous headmasters. Michael was supported by his wife, Blanche, herself a university graduate and teacher of English, Art, Drama and a playwright who brought vigour into classrooms and onto the hockey fields.

It was during the Quail era that WHPS entered into a period of transition and consolidation. The Transvaal Education Department's Curricula and schemes of work were introduced and, following a referendum of parents, Standard 6 classes were abandoned.

Seven new classrooms were built during his headmastership, which included improved facilities for science, art exhibitions, and a museum under the organisation of Dr and Mrs Robbie Macmillan.

Woodwork classes were introduced and with a library expanded to 2 226 books, compulsory half hour weekly library periods were introduced for all classes. Enrolment of pupils in the Golden Jubilee Year of 1973 stood at 160 day boys and 40 boarders.

Midway through the school's 50th anniversary year, which was celebrated with a ‘Grand Fete,’ Michael Quail resigned his position as Headmaster.

Michael de Lisle, MA (UCT) MA (Oxon) UED (Rhodes), 1973 – 1980[edit]

Michael de Lisle – a Rhodes Scholar – and his wife, Mary Beth, took over the school in July 1973, halfway through its Golden Jubilee Year, and saw it through a difficult time when numbers were declining. It was in this period that the move to spare land at St Alban's was promoted by the School Council but rejected by the Old Boys.

The school community, in which the Old Boys’ Association was prominent, undertook a concerted effort to keep the school's independence. What eventually made it possible for the School to stay was the re-establishment of standards and the slight rise in numbers that was de Lisle's achievement.

Michael de Lisle's headmastership was extremely distinguished, as was the man himself. Extracts from the School magazines that follow attest to this. The contribution of his wife must not pass without mention. It was a time when the school was academically strong and an atmosphere of quiet discipline prevailed. A very fine staff was assembled that stood the school in good stead long after Michael de Lisle retired. It was a time, too, when the outdoor activities on the Macmillan and Junod farms became a notable feature of the school life. When he retired, Michael de Lisle began a new career as an Anglican Priest.

Patrick Hamilton, MA Cantab, 1981 – 1989[edit]

It was during a period of indecision and uncertainty of the future of WHPS that Patrick Hamilton was invited to assume the headmastership of his old school where he was once headboy (1953). Patrick, a “Whirlwind of Change” with his limitless energy and enthusiasm, immediately set the school on a decisive course that would change the face of WHPS forever, more than doubling the school's numbers in the process.

Well-liked and respected by boys, staff and parents alike, Patrick, in idea-a-day man and super communicator, was involved with everything from tending the grounds, re-writing the syllabus, insisting on academic excellence, sportsmanship, writing and acting in school plays and introducing many innovative ideas, for example, Project Term, After School Care Centre, Ruddell Theatre, Ikageng and Art Alive, which the school continues to benefit from to the present day. Not the least of his innovative ideas was Wilf's!

His strong moral principles and sense of fair play led to his refusal to bow down to the reprehensible decisions of the Department of Education of the day, opening the school to black pupils against their policies. Adult literacy classes were soon to follow for the domestics, gardeners and workers from the local neighbourhood. Leaving the school in 1989 to establish the Project for the establishment of Pre-Primary and Primary Schools, (PEPPS), he would have been well satisfied to have heard the comment from a parent attending family fun day, “I have never experienced such a feeling of happiness at a school before.”

Gavin Sinclair, Teachers Certificate Rhodesia, BA Unisa, 1990 – 1999[edit]

The school has been blessed with some outstanding Headmasters in the past, and the choice of Gavin Sinclair to lead the school through the last decade of the 20th century proved to be a wise decision. Married to Mary, who served St Mary's DSG with distinction, and the father of three fine children, Gavin grasped the nettle and launched himself into all facets of school and community life. Educated in Rhodesia, he was deputy headmaster of The Ridge School in Johannesburg immediately prior to accepting the headmastership of WHPS.

Inspired by his Council-supported overseas study tours, which included the UK and United States, WHPS could now boast Design and Technology, Computer and Music Centres to international standards. No fewer than 30% of the school's pupils were now playing musical instruments. The formation of a school orchestra was initiated whilst the choir continued to grow in numbers and quality.

The boys of WHPS under Gavin's respected leadership continued to learn the values of discipline, fair play, good manners, empathy for others, integrity and a sense of fun, all of which would equip them well to cope with the challenges of the future. Gavin made his own mark on WHPS that protected its ethos whilst firmly entrenching it as a leading preparatory school for boys in South Africa. His contribution has been immense as has his protection of the school's motto: “Work Hard, Play Straight.”

Tim Jackson 2000 – 2002[edit]

Tim Jackson, his wife Robyn, and sons, Christopher and Matthew, joined WHPS at the turn of the new millennium. Tim was a fatherly figure who noticed every boy at WHPS, knew his name and made him feel that School was his home. A good communicator, Tim initiated a weekly newsletter, featuring a tongue-in-cheek cartoon of himself at the time, which today still serves as a useful communication medium with the parents.

Tim?s approach to leadership was that of “conserve and innovate”, i.e. maintaining WHPS? values and traditions while introducing new concepts such as the School?s Education Forward Plan and a Practical Maths Centre for the boys.

Tim also introduced the WHPS Code of Conduct and “A Pupil’s Rights and Responsibilities” to assist the boys in embracing a sound value system that will remain with them for the rest of their lives.

During his term of office, WHPS entered the new millennium in fine style with the inauguration of the Waterkloof House Theatre, a magnificent legacy funded by parents, Old Boys and friends of the School.

Tim and his wife left WHPS to teach at a school in Botswana.

Doran Herringer 2003 – 2009[edit]

A graduate of Port Elizabeth, Doran Herringer has spent the greater part of his professional career at WHPS as a teacher, cricket coach, deputy headmaster and headmaster (as from 2003), supported by his wife, Dee.

A man of action who strives to get results, Doran has driven and supported a number of projects at WHPS: the establishment of the Pre-Prep with the introduction of girls (up to Grade 00) for the first time in the School?s history; the conversion of a house in Nicholson street into the new Grade 0 block; and the installation of a new pool for the Junior Primary.

The introduction of smartboards in every classroom at WHPS during 2005 was definitely the achievement of a milestone, while every teacher plugged into a computer and linked to email and the internet.

An exciting event was the realisation of Doran?s dream to install state-of-the-art turf cricket nets at WHPS in 2005 and the first-ever overseas cricket tour, during which the WHPS First XI won eight out of ten games against the UK teams.

Doran retired at the end of 2009 and with an incredible 36 years of service to the School, Doran knows WHPS like no other – he is part of the fabric of the School and has made a substantial contribution to its development.

Old Boys Association[edit]

Since 1923 thousands of boys have moved through WHPS classrooms. In most instances Waterkloof House Preparatory School left an indelible mark on the boy that helped form the man that he became. Unusually for a Prep School many ex-WHPSians choose to maintain their contact with their Prep School and become members of the WHPS Old Boys’ Association.

This is an active and vibrant group of men who take pleasure in returning to their Alma Mater and who keep the School's best interests close to their heart.They give generously of their time and effort to fund raise for the School, arrange social functions to further the fellowship of the School and participate in sports events such as the annual Old Boys Soccer and Cricket days to further strengthen the bonds between the old boys and the young boys.

Over the years the WHPS Old Boys have made significant contributions to the development of the School and the campus, including building the squash courts, financing the new cricket nets, etc. They actively support the bursary fund making monies available for deserving children who have been in the School for no less than two years and who are in need of financial assistance to attend this private school for boys. They have also contributed to the School by being the best ambassadors the School could wish for. WHPS boys have gone on to become the head boys and prefects of all the prestigious High Schools in South Africa. They have represented their Country at sport and have led South African businesses onto the world stage. Actors, singers, fashion designers to name but a few, have all been moulded by the Ethos of WHPS. Many of them return with their own children, who in turn, take advantage of what the School offers.

At the annual Grade 7 Leavers’ Dinner all the Grade 7 boys are handed their Old Boys’ tie and 5 years later when they matriculate from High School they are all invited back for a Prawn braai and their first beer in Wilf's – fully fledged WHPS Old Boys! Of course, not all Old Boys have become leaders or world players. However, they are all part of the ever-growing WHPS family and they have all made their own contribution to WHPS for which the School is always grateful and ever proud.