Celebrating The Old Lady of DHS – Part One
This year we celebrate 100 years of our Media Centre which was initially the Memorial Hall, or the Gym. Built in 1919, Mr Jeremy Oddy has written a 4 part article on the ‘Old Lady.
PART ONE by Jeremy Oddy
(Class of 1962)
Blackmore House was my home for three years in the 1960’s.To stand, in September 1971, and watch the demolishers begin to smash it to the ground, ugly chunks of brick and masonry flying through the air, hardly visible in clouds of dust, was an horrific experience. The building had only stood there for 75 years!
The Old Hall, built 25 years after the demolished original School of 1894, then became the bastion of School’s traditions, by virtue of it now being the oldest building, the senior edifice at DHS. Fortunately she stands at the main entrance to School and so, silently, the ‘Old Girl’, in her grandeur, welcomes all, as they enter DHS. Be it in rain or sunshine, summer, winter, autumn or spring, war or peace, for 100 years the Hall has stood as constant as the Southern Cross.
The ‘Old Girl’ was not untouched by the demolishers during the building of the new School in the 1970s. Mr Theobald, (a teacher and legend at School 1949-1977) left his Latin class post-haste to investigate a commotion in the vicinity of the main gate at School. To his horror, the dome and columns had almost been entirely reduced to rubble, now strewn across the gateway. The explanation for this destruction was, the memorial columns and dome were incongruous to the style of the modern architecture now in place.
We go back in time to 1910:
A S Langley became Head Master. His mission was to produce boys who were strong, sturdy and healthy team players, their games would be rugby, cricket and boxing. They would leave DHS as men. They were extremely well educated and were versed in the cultural languages, viz, Latin, Ancient Greek, and French. Why should a product of his School, be he a farmer, an engineer, a businessman not also be a man of culture, was Mr Langley’s answer. With these attributes they were to be the leaders of their generation; many proved to be over the years. His boys would go forth and help develop the fledgling province.
The Great War broke out in 1914, and many of his Old Boys were now going to battlefields far and wide not to live for their country, but to die for it!
Head Master Langley had guided and produced young men to strengthen and promote the development of South Africa, not to go off to the battlefields to be slaughtered in their prime. He had always expected hostilities, however, and had prepared his boys at DHS to be resolute, tough and courageous, should such a ghastly, scenario arise.
These Old Boys at war, sent letters to Langley at DHS informing him how they were faring. Their letters were teeming with the courage and comradeship displayed by Old Boys, particularly on the Western Front in Europe. Mr Langley read out these letters to the assembled School. Many recorded the deaths of ‘his’ dearest Old Boys; Tears rolled down his grieving face as his words fell on the solemn gathering.
Within a year of the signing of The Armistice on 11 November in 1918, the Durban High School achieved two major initiatives:
The erection of a Hall and the establishment of a library in memory of the Old Boys who had volunteered to serve their country and had bravely laid down their lives for it. Their names are recorded on the Memorial Wall on the Vause Road side of School.
The Memorial Hall Today:
A new dome was erected to replace the original structure that had been demolished in the 1970s. The relevance is that the dome represented the metal helmet infantry wore in battle. The writer had an inscription set on the Dome above the entrance to the now School Reception area and Multi Media Centre, it states;
1914 ‘Here too came once those others ‘ 1918.