OUR STORY

 

Merchiston Preparatory School has a long and proud history, having been established in 1892, we continue to cement our stellar reputation as a leading all-boys preparatory school with each passing year. We’d love you to join us on the journey of our great school.

Merchiston Through the Ages

Merchiston Preparatory School was first established in 1892, and was the outcome of the vision of two Victorian ladies; Miss Agnes Rowe and Miss Elizabeth Allan. Let’s take you back a bit and introduce you to the first – Agnes Rowe.

The daughter of the Rev. S. Evans Rowe, she was born in Cornwall in 1865. Her family had a history of artistic and scholastic activity. She was educated at a Methodist school in Southport, and then moved to Dresden, where she become proficient in German. When a family member of hers, Miss A. E. Rowe, became the lady principal of Girls’ Collegiate School in 1878, in Pietermaritzburg, the ball was set in motion for Miss Rowe and Miss Allan to eventually meet.

Elizabeth Allan was born and educated in Edinburgh. As a serious student of music she travelled to Germany to study music and then returned to Scotland. Here she befriended a Dr John Rogerson, headmaster of Merchiston Castle School. She then decided to move to the Colony of Natal and was appointed as a resident governess, in charge of music, at Girls’ Collegiate School in 1884.
In 1890, Dr John Rogerson purchased Merchiston Lodge and opened his Preparatory School for boys. Elizabeth was still corresponding with him, and her interest in the developments in Scotland most likely led to discussions between her and Agnes.
When Merchiston House School, as it was first called, opened in 1892, Elizabeth Allan took charge of the business management side while Agnes Rowe was in charge of the curriculum.

Permission was obtained from Merchiston Castle School, in Scotland, by the Principal, Dr John Rogerson, for the school to adopt their name and motto. Ready Ay Ready was modified to Ready Aye Ready to suit the local language.

A large, single-storeyed house in Pietermaritz Street was rented from the grocer, James Egner. With its extensive out-buildings, it occupied the greater part of 34 (Church Street), the land available exceeding an acre. The large front rooms were assigned as Dining and Drawing rooms, with smaller inter-leading bedrooms behind, to the two principals. Four outside rooms were to serve as dormitories, with four or five beds in each, whilst the old coach-house became the boys’ bathroom, zinc baths being installed for the early morning cold plunge.

Pupils were enrolled on Monday, 1st February, the actual school opening taking place on Tuesday the 2nd. Eighteen pupils formed the original enrolment, the majority being boarders. The main objective of the two principals was “to give the boys a thorough English education: and by giving them a comfortable home to train them physically and morally to be little English gentlemen”.

The school then moved to Burger Street, opposite the then Grey’s Hospital and adjoining the Girls’ Collegiate School, where it was established as Merchiston Preparatory School. With 60 boys on the roll, the house had become too confined.

The new buildings were ready for occupation in February of 1896. In spite of building 4 dormitories, space for the growing number of boarder soon became a problem and a lease was obtained for the house known as ‘Allanwood’, as the boarders were divided between the main school house and Allanwood, intense schoolboy rivalry was an inevitable result.
Due to increasing financial strain, the difficult decision to hand the school over to the government with its larger financial base was taken. In their final report, June 1910 they wrote: “It has been our aim and endeavour to arouse in our boys an intelligent interest in and enthusiasm for their studies: to train them in manly and honourable habits of thought, speech and action: and to foster in them that ‘Fear of God and love of man’ which should make their future lives happy for themselves and a blessing to the community.” So ended the private school career of Merchiston Preparatory School, but the legacy so carefully laid by its founding principals was not lost, but remains as a lighthouse to guide the school well into the future.

In August 1910, under the leadership of Sidney Robert Edminson, born in Portleven, Cornwell, Merchiston Preparatory School entered its career as a Government Preparatory School in August, with 53 boys, 11 of whom were boarders. Under Mr Edminson’s leadership and with the new financial freedom Merchiston grew and by the next year they already enrolled 102 boys. Two new classrooms were built and Allanwood house was purchased.

In 1918, the purchase of the adjoining grounds facing Commercial Road ushered in a new era in the organization of games. Mr Edminson did his best to instill the spirit of competitive sport. He lost no time in introducing the house system with challenge cups for the ‘champion house’ and contests in all branches of organised sport. Boarders were to belong to ‘Schoolhouse’ whilst day-boys were split between Allan and Rowe houses. With the growth of boarder numbers it soon became necessary to create two new houses and the boarders were split between Rhodes and Milner house.
In 1923 Edminson was succeeded by Mr Reginald Alfred Banks. Born in London, he was a graduate in Science, and his first headmastership was served in Utrecht. Mr Banks, was a very able administrator and under his leadership and due to policy changes in the Education Department, many changes were made to the curriculum, Afrikaans being introduced as one example.
The year 1928 saw the conversion of the Pope Memorial room being outfitted as a science laboratory with water laid on and benches and equipment sent down from Dundee. As the school was once again bulging at the seams a proposal was put forward to move the school to a site in Alexandra Park, but the problems with the transfer proved insurmountable. In 1928 Mr Banks was transferred to Dundee and Mr John William Parkinson, who had served as resident master under Mr Edminson, now returned as the new headmaster.
Mr John William Parkinson, born and educated at Bolton, Lancashire, was headmaster from 1929 to 1950. Without changing the curriculum, Mr Parkinson proposed to introduce experiments which would have the effect of laying less emphasis on the ordinary scholastic subjects and giving the boys, when they reached a certain age, a fairly wide choice of alternative pursuits. Creative activities in the arts and crafts, modeling in relief, drawing, painting, self-expression in dramatic work and music, awakened the self-esteem and pride of accomplishment in boys who could not have excelled in routine classwork.

It was also under Mr Parkinson’s period of tenure that the sports grounds in Bulwer Street were acquired; thereby making the lack of adequate playing fields a thing of the past.

By 1950 the school had grown to 545 boys on the register.

It was in this year too, that Mr William Reginald Evans, who had been the school Dux in 1913, returned to Merchiston as the first old boy to become a headmaster of the school.

The newly acquired sports fields were to gain importance in the everyday activities of the school. Under the guidance of Mr Evans, the annual athletics event was first held there in 1952. For the first time, boys competed under the colours of their houses. Another innovation was the opening of a school tuck-shop.

The school had by now outgrown the Burger Street location and it became increasingly obvious that a move to a larger premise was on the cards. A piece of land in Bulwer Street adjoining the sports fields was made available and building on the current Merchiston site began. On 20 July 1965 the school assembled for the last time in the quad of the old school building and then in crocodile fashion made their way to the new school buildings. Here they held their first assembly in the quad as the hall was still being painted. The 5 August 1965 saw the first assembly in the new school hall. Mr Evans held his final assembly at the annual Prize-Giving on 9 December 1965 after fifteen and a half years at the helm.
Mr Anders Kempe assumed the headmastership at the beginning of 1966, six months after Merchiston had moved into its new premises. The son of a Swedish missionary, he was born in Dundee, Natal and except for two years in Sweden was educated there.

The school officially opened the swimming pool in March 1966 and the enclosure was final completed in 1969.

The year 1967 saw the official opening of the five tennis courts, now Merchiston really had the facilities to host all the necessary sports within her own grounds.
In 1976, Mr R.M. Smith became Headmaster and he lead the school for the next 10 years.
In 1986, the school acquired land adjacent to the Dusi for extra sports fields, and we celebrated our 21st birthday in the “New School”.
The year 1988 saw Mr B.L. Lendrum become the 7th Headmaster of the school.
In 1992, Merchiston Preparatory School celebrated its centenary (1892 – 1992).
Mr T.J. Jackson succeeded Mr B.L. Lendrum as Headmaster in 1993.
In 1997, Mr D Beetar assumes post of Acting Headmaster following the resignation of Mr T Jackson.

Merchiston has continued to grow from the original vision, into a school with a proud heritage of producing boys of whom we can be proud and would have brought joy to both Agnes Rowe and Elizabeth Allan. A number of headmasters have followed in the footsteps of their predecessors, each bringing to Merchiston their own particular wisdom and strength and in so doing ensuring that the words of our school song ring out loud and clear:

In Afric’s sky, neath azure skies,

Our school enjoys great fame,

Held by our pride and honour true,

We always play the game.

Our fathers strove before us

And made our school’s good name,

Be ours the care our school shall ne’er

By us be put to shame.

Merchiston Preparatory School celebrated its 125th birthday in 2017!

1878

Merchiston Preparatory School was first established in 1892, and was the outcome of the vision of two Victorian ladies; Miss Agnes Rowe and Miss Elizabeth Allan. Let’s take you back a bit and introduce you to the first – Agnes Rowe.

The daughter of the Rev. S. Evans Rowe, she was born in Cornwall in 1865. Her family had a history of artistic and scholastic activity. She was educated at a Methodist school in Southport, and then moved to Dresden, where she become proficient in German. When a family member of hers, Miss A. E. Rowe, became the lady principal of Girls’ Collegiate School in 1878, in Pietermaritzburg, the ball was set in motion for Miss Rowe and Miss Allan to eventually meet.

1884

Elizabeth Allan was born and educated in Edinburgh. As a serious student of music she travelled to Germany to study music and then returned to Scotland. Here she befriended a Dr John Rogerson, headmaster of Merchiston Castle School. She then decided to move to the Colony of Natal and was appointed as a resident governess, in charge of music, at Girls’ Collegiate School in 1884.

1890

In 1890, Dr John Rogerson purchased Merchiston Lodge and opened his Preparatory School for boys. Elizabeth was still corresponding with him, and her interest in the developments in Scotland most likely led to discussions between her and Agnes.

1892

When Merchiston House School, as it was first called, opened in 1892, Elizabeth Allan took charge of the business management side while Agnes Rowe was in charge of the curriculum.

Permission was obtained from Merchiston Castle School, in Scotland, by the Principal, Dr John Rogerson, for the school to adopt their name and motto. Ready Ay Ready was modified to Ready Aye Ready to suit the local language.

A large, single-storeyed house in Pietermaritz Street was rented from the grocer, James Egner. With its extensive out-buildings, it occupied the greater part of 34 (Church Street), the land available exceeding an acre. The large front rooms were assigned as Dining and Drawing rooms, with smaller inter-leading bedrooms behind, to the two principals. Four outside rooms were to serve as dormitories, with four or five beds in each, whilst the old coach-house became the boys’ bathroom, zinc baths being installed for the early morning cold plunge.

Pupils were enrolled on Monday, 1st February, the actual school opening taking place on Tuesday the 2nd. Eighteen pupils formed the original enrollment, the majority being boarders. The main objective of the two principals was “to give the boys a thorough English education: and by giving them a comfortable home to train them physically and morally to be little English gentlemen”.

The school then moved to Burger Street, opposite the then Grey’s Hospital and adjoining the Girls’ Collegiate School, where it was established as Merchiston Preparatory School. With 60 boys on the roll, the house had become too confined.

1896

The new buildings were ready for occupation in February of 1896. In spite of building 4 dormitories, space for the growing number of boarder soon became a problem and a lease was obtained for the house known as ‘Allanwood’, as the boarders were divided between the main school house and Allanwood, intense schoolboy rivalry was an inevitable result.

1910

Due to increasing financial strain, the difficult decision to hand the school over to the government with its larger financial base was taken. In their final report, June 1910 they wrote: “It has been our aim and endeavour to arouse in our boys an intelligent interest in and enthusiasm for their studies: to train them in manly and honourable habits of thought, speech and action: and to foster in them that ‘Fear of God and love of man’ which should make their future lives happy for themselves and a blessing to the community.” So ended the private school career of Merchiston Preparatory School, but the legacy so carefully laid by its founding principals was not lost, but remains as a lighthouse to guide the school well into the future.

In August 1910, under the leadership of Sidney Robert Edminson, born in Portleven, Cornwell, Merchiston Preparatory School entered its career as a Government Preparatory School in August, with 53 boys, 11 of whom were boarders. Under Mr. Edminson’s leadership and with the new financial freedom Merchiston grew and by the next year they already enrolled 102 boys. Two new classrooms were built and Allanwood house was purchased.

1918

In 1918, the purchase of the adjoining grounds facing Commercial Road ushered in a new era in the organization of games. Edminson did his best to instill the spirit of competitive sport. He lost no time in introducing the house system with challenge cups for the ‘champion house’ and contests in all branches of organised sport. Boarders were to belong to ‘Schoolhouse’ whilst day-boys were split between Allan and Rowe houses. With the growth of boarder numbers it soon became necessary to create two new houses and the boarders were split between Rhodes and Milner house.

1923

In 1923 Edminson was succeeded by Mr Reginald Alfred Banks. Born in London, he was a graduate in Science, and his first headmastership was served in Utrecht. Mr. Banks, was a very able administrator and under his leadership and due to policy changes in the Education Department, many changes were made to the curriculum, Afrikaans being introduced as one example.

1928

The year 1928 saw the conversion of the Pope Memorial room being outfitted as a science laboratory with water laid on and benches and equipment sent down from Dundee. As the school was once again bulging at the seams a proposal was put forward to move the school to a site in Alexandra Park, but the problems with the transfer proved insurmountable. In 1928 Mr. Banks was transferred to Dundee and Mr John William Parkinson, who had served as resident master under Edminson, now returned as the new headmaster.

1929

Mr John William Parkinson, born and educated at Bolton, Lancashire, was headmaster from 1929 to 1950. Without changing the curriculum, Parkinson proposed to introduce experiments which would have the effect of laying less emphasis on the ordinary scholastic subjects and giving the boys, when they reached a certain age, a fairly wide choice of alternative pursuits. Creative activities in the arts and crafts, modeling in relief, drawing, painting, self-expression in dramatic work and music, awakened the self-esteem and pride of accomplishment in boys who could not have excelled in routine classwork.

It was also under Parkinson’s period of tenure that the sports grounds in Bulwer Street were acquired; thereby making the lack of adequate playing fields a thing of the past.

1950

By 1950 the school had grown to 545 boys on the register.

1952

Then in 1952 Mr William Reginald Evans, who had been the school Dux 1913, returned to Merchiston as the first old boy to become a headmaster of the school.

The newly acquired sports fields were to gain importance in the everyday activities of the school. Under his guidance the annual athletics event was first held there in 1952. For the first time boys competed in their houses under the colours of their houses. Another innovation was the opening of a school tuck-shop.

1965

The school had by now outgrown the Burger Street location and it became increasingly obvious that a move to a larger premise was on the cards. A piece of land in Bulwer Street adjoining the sports fields was made available and building on the current Merchiston site began. On 20 July 1965 the school assembled for the last time in the quad of the old school building and then in crocodile fashion made their way to the new school buildings. Here they held their first assembly in the quad as the hall was still being painted. The 5 August 1965 saw the first assembly in the new school hall. Mr. Evans held his final assembly at the annual Prize-Giving on 9 December 1965 after fifteen and a half years at the helm.

1966

Mr Anders Kempe assumed the headmastership at the beginning of 1966, six months after Merchiston had moved into its new premises. The son of a Swedish missionary, he was born in Dundee, Natal and except for two years in Sweden was educated there.

The school officially opened the swimming pool in March 1966 and the enclosure was final completed in 1969.

1967

The year 1967 saw the official opening of the five tennis courts, now Merchiston really had the facilities to host all the necessary sports within her own grounds.

1976

In 1976, Mr R.M. Smith becoming Headmaster and he lead the school for the next 10 years.

1983

In 1983, the Boarding Establishment was officially named Parkinson House.

1986

In 1986, the school acquired land adjacent to the Dusi for extra sports fields, and we celebrated our 21st birthday in the “New School”.

1988

The year 1988 saw Mr B.L. Lendrum become the 7th Headmaster of the school.

1992

In 1992, Merchiston Preparatory School celebrated its centenary (1892 – 1992).

1993

Mr T.J. Jackson succeeded Mr B.L. Lendrum as Headmaster in 1993.

1997

In 1997, Mr D Beetar assumes post of Acting Headmaster following the resignation of Mr T Jackson.

1998

In 1998, Mr D Beetar succeeded Mr T.J. Jackson as Headmaster.

Merchiston has continued to grow from the original vision, into a school with a proud heritage of producing boys of which we can be proud and would have brought joy to both Agnes Rowe and Elizabeth Allan. A number of headmasters have followed in the footsteps of their predecessors, each bringing to Merchiston their own particular wisdom and strength and in so doing ensuring that the words of our school song ring out loud and clear:

In Afric’s sky, neath azure skies,

Our school enjoys great fame,

Held by our pride and honour true,

We always play the game.

Our fathers strove before us

And made our school’s good name,

Be ours the care our school shall ne’er

By us be put to shame.

2017

Merchiston Preparatory School celebrated its 125th birthday in 2017!

Meet Some of The People Who Shaped Our School

Miss Agnes Rowe
Headmistress
1892 – 1910

Miss Elizabeth Allan
Headmistress
1892 – 1910

Mr Sidney Edminson
Headmaster
1910 – 1922

Mr Reginald Banks
Headmaster
1923 – 1928

Mr John Parkinson
Headmaster
1929 – 1950

Mr William Evans
Headmaster
1950 – 1965

Mr Anders Kempe
Headmaster
1966 – 1975

Mr R.M. Smith
Headmaster
1976 – 1988

Mr B.L. Lendrum
Headmaster
1988 – 1992

Mr T.J. Jackson
Headmaster
1993 – 1997

Mr D.G. Beetar
Headmaster
1998 – Present