Living Vicariously As A Peripatetic Shutterbug

{ More musings from the Cantankerous Old Mule }

‘Tis here we learn to live, ’tis here we learn to live …

Close to three decades ago I matriculated (graduated) from Pretoria Boys High (PBHS or simply Boys High) here in South Africa’s capital. The school boasts rich traditions dating back to the turn of the 20th century, many of which were based on the English public school system. My family is also intricately linked to the school: my uncle, brother, brother-in-law and nephew all attended it.

One of the traditional features is the “House” system, where the school is divided into separate clubs, for want of a better word. Every student is placed into one of these houses when they enrol, and (in most cases) remain in that house until they matriculate. The main purpose of the house system is to instil healthy team spirit. At Boys High this includes interhouse sports, cultural and academic events. Each house had its own “war cries” which were as competitive as the actual sporting competition where they were bellowed.

Interesting style.

Interesting diving style.

When I was at school we had six houses but more recently, as the pupil numbers ballooned to 1500, four more houses were added. I was useless at the “major” sports but did at least add to the house’s points in the interhouse plays, cross country, athletics and debating.

Last week I attended the interhouse gala (swim meet, for you North Americans) for the first time in years. My sister had invited me (as it’s my nephew’s final year at the school) with the promise that the “vibe” is something to experience. I swam in it when I was in grade 8 and remembered the roar of war cries between the houses, and the intense competition, but I didn’t remember the “candle relay” that dated back to the 1930s – when the school got its first pool.

The gala starts late evening, and goes deep into the night, and the vibe was indeed something. I vaguely remember singing our old school song ‘Tis here we learn to live but it was quite stirring to hear all the Grade 12s roar it in unison at the end of the meeting – this being one of the last times they will sing it before going into the “real” world.

“We are entering life together free of sorrow and of care, with a youthful fire and vigour, naught can e’er our hopes impair. Though we know indeed but little of the life we have to dare, ‘tis here we learn to live, ‘tis here we learn to live. Boys High.”

I hope my photos do it justice – that you get some sense of the vibe of a sports competition at a traditional old South African school.

(I’ve pared it down to only 21 photos. Click on them if you’d like to see bigger versions.)

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5 comments on “‘Tis here we learn to live, ’tis here we learn to live …

  1. Geraldine
    January 28, 2015

    Cool post, Robin! A truly memorable night!

  2. Trinda McIntyre Lyons
    January 28, 2015

    Very cool. Thanks once again for being a window into a culture we might otherwise not get to experience 🙂

  3. Bianca
    January 28, 2015

    It looks like so much fun!

  4. Ray Jansen
    January 30, 2015

    Great post Robin, I too enjoyed the day into the evening and the greatest was this final video you shot where all boys united as one!

  5. Tracy Todd
    January 30, 2015

    Hi Robin, long time no “speak”. Lovely post. So proud to say that my son is at Boys High. It was the most difficult and best decision I ever made to let him go to boarding school. But it didn’t take long for the entire family’s blood to run green. So, as they say, “Boys High ’til I die.” Please give my regards to Neil.

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