Armoria academica


Mullins / Institute / DSG / Afrikaanse blasoen

St Andrew’s College

Arms granted to the school by the Lord Lyon on 11 October 1952. The blazon reads:

Per saltire Gules and Azure: a saltire Argent cantoned between an annulet in chief and in base and in each flank an escallop Or, on a chief Sable a mitre of the fourth.

Motto: Nec aspera terrent.

About the arms:
This device incorporates the cross of St Andrew (as it is used as the national badge of Scotland) – azure, a saltire argent – together with the escallops of the Graham family, here representing the town of Grahamstown, and the annulets of Van Riebeeck.

The annulets here represent the Cape Colony. Jan van Riebeeck’s arms of gules, three annulets or, to be found in the arms of Cape Town and the Cape Colony (and its successor, the Cape Province), are incorporated into the arms of Grahamstown to signify that the cathedral city was part of the colony.
previous badge of St Andrew’s College

The scallops are in the city arms to signify the town’s founding by Col John Graham of Fintry.

The original badge used by the school was a shield bearing a plain St Andrew’s cross (the royal badge for Scotland) ensigned by an episcopal mitre. The school arms incorporate the mitre into the chief (the top part of the shield, which is black).

The coat of arms appears (in a line illustration) on the dust-jacket of the official school history, St Andrew’s College, Grahamstown, 1855-1955, by Ronald Currey, written in time for the school’s centenary in 1955, although the book itself makes no reference whatever to the arms.

It would appear that a grant must have been obtained from the College of Arms, and that it was received in Grahamstown just in time for inclusion on the dust-jacket of the book, which had already been printed.
badge of St Andrew’s Prep School

A third St Andrew’s cross is familiar to anyone who knows Grahamstown, contained within a blue shield outline. This is the official badge of St Andrew’s Preparatory School (see below).

This badge can also be seen in use on items of uniform worn by college boys.

Its most familiar occurrence is on the pockets of white school shirts, but sad to say it is also stitched in blue thread on other items of clothing, including navy blue blazer pockets. Here the blue-white contrast is sacrificed (ignoring the rule of tincture) for a pointless convenience.

There is also a fourth badge, the significance of which the school has not explained to me, which appears to predate the granting of arms to the College. It appears to have been supplanted in part by a blazer badge of the arms, but apparently still has some use. It is a pale blue shield with a red saltire, ensigned by an episcopal mitre.

About the school:
St Andrew’s was founded in 1855 at the behest of John Armstrong, first Anglican Bishop of Grahamstown. Armstrong (who only served as bishop for two years before his death) had been consecrated bishop on St Andrew’s Day (30 November) 1853 in Lambeth parish church, London, together with John William Colenso, first Bishop of Natal.

St Andrew – the New Testament Apostle, who is incidentally also patron saint of Scotland – is the patron saint of missions, and both Armstrong and Colenso had a strong urge towards mission work.

St Andrew’s was intended to be not only an avowedly Christian grammar school in the English mould, but also a school for “Kaffir” (Xhosa) youth (see below) and a theological training school. All three directions were pursued, but in the long run it is the grammar school that has survived.

The college Armstrong founded incorporated the already existing St George’s Grammar School,[1] founded in 1848 by Robert Gray, first Anglican Bishop of Cape Town and until 1852 directly responsible for the Eastern Province and Natal.

It is a measure of the lack of co-ordination with regard to education in the Grahamstown Diocese at the time that a second cathedral grammar school was begun on the same premises once the pupils of the erstwhile St George’s had moved to the site occupied to this day by St Andrew’s.

Other diocesan grammar schools were subsequently begun in Port Elizabeth and King William’s Town. The Port Elizabeth school did not last long, falling victim to an economic recession and then being overtaken by the foundation of the Grey Institute, endowed by the Governor, Sir George Grey.

The King William’s Town diocesan grammar school was incorporated with that town’s Undenominational Grammar School; the successor institution is now called Dale College.

St Andrew’s College was incorporated by an Act of the Cape Parliament in September 1887. It has since been controlled by a council composed of communicant members of the Anglican Church, administering the school in terms of a trust deed, leaving its internal economy and discipline in the hands of the principal, who in terms of the 1887 Act was required to be a cleric.

The bishop of the diocese is ex officio Visitor to the college.

St Andrew’s is the oldest of a group of high schools in the Eastern Cape known as ____ College, and perhaps with the most justification, since it was among the first of them (from 1874) to teach at post-matriculation level in what became known as the College Department of St Andrew’s.

The pre-matriculation classes, or forms, were referred to as St Andrew’s Diocesan School.

When Rhodes University College was formed in 1904, the College Department of St Andrew’s was the only survivor of these ventures into university-level instruction, and was consequently incorporated into the university-to-be.

The matriculation class, Form V – until then part of the College Department – remained as part of the school, which continued to be called St Andrew’s College.

St Andrew’s College has a fraternal relationship with St Andrew’s Preparatory School (founded in 1884). The prep school has always been a neighbour of and traditionally been a feeder to the high school (or college).
badge of the Diocesan School for Girls

Even today, when the two St Andrew’s schools and the Diocesan School for Girls (founded in 1874; its initialese badge is shown at right) are co-ordinated to a high degree, the prep school does not share the high school’s coat of arms. However, all three schools belong to the United Schools Trust, as does Western Province Preparatory School, in Claremont, Cape Town.

The South African Parliament revised and affirmed the school’s original incorporation in 1932, changing the head’s title (despite argument from the floor of the House that it was un-South African) back to headmaster (as originally designated by Bishop Armstrong), and making it possible for a layman to be head of the school.

The first non-clerical headmaster was appointed towards the end of 1937.

In 1937, with the sanction of the Department of Defence, the St Andrew’s army cadet corps[2] (affiliated to the town regiment, First City) became a kilted unit, wearing the tartan of Graham of Montrose.

(In the same year, First City – which until 1910 had long had a Highland Company – also became fully kilted. A decade later the Duke of Montrose, Chief of Clan Graham and a father of St Andrew’s pupils, was appointed Honorary Colonel.)

The kilt, as a cadet uniform, came under Defence disapprobation in the 1950s, but it is still worn on appropriate occasions.

Only in 1940 was school uniform – grey flannels, school blazer, white shirt and dark blue tie – introduced as everyday dress at St Andrew’s College. Previously this style of dress had been in use only on Sundays.

In 1946 a refinement was added: the pocket badge worn by the college acquired a wreath of thistles around the St Andrew’s cross. For the first time since 1904 it was possible to distinguish by means of the badge between a college boy and a prep school boy. A further introduction, yet later, was the school shirt with badge stitched into the pocket.

Mullins family:
No history of St Andrew’s can be regarded as complete without mention of the family of Robert John Mullins – one which has been part of the St Andrew’s/DSG family since its inception and remains so to this day.

Robert was a boy of 16 when he accompanied Bishop and Mrs Armstrong aboard the Cossipore to the Cape of Good Hope in 1854. His diary records much detail about the voyage, as well as his wonder at seeing Table Mountain – the very first mountain he had seen – on the day of their arrival 29 September. He writes:

“Michaelmas Day. Land sighted at daybreak. I could scarcely spare time to go down and dress, I was so excited. After breakfast we could see roads and a few houses, the Lion’s Head and the Rump.

“The Bishop offered up a beautiful extempore prayer to the Almighty for having preserved us through so long a voyage. Oh it was a glorious sight after 10 weeks at sea. Table Mountain looks very grand.

“The telegraph people on the Rump signalled us into the Bay. The Captain was rather ashamed and put up ‘70’ when asked, ‘How many days out?’ I do not ever remember having enjoyed a view so much. I had never seen a mountain before.”[3]

The Bishop’s party spent some days at Bishop’s Court, Bishop Gray’s residence in Wynberg, and exploring the mountainous area around the estate. They sailed for Port Elizabeth aboard the SS Natal on 7 October and landed on the 10th.

Robert, a chatechist, soon became part of Bishop Armstrong’s extension of the Church’s mission among Bantu-speakers, but had an ongoing personal involvement in St Andrew’s, starting when he was 20 and joined the staff for a spell as a teacher. Both school histories quote an early incident: “Many boys will recollect the breathless silence produced in the school when Mr. Mullins soundly boxed the ears of a youth who, when called upon for his work, presented himself with a book in one hand and a half-eaten bun in the other, dividing his attention equally between the two.”

Ordained a priest not long after this, Mullins spent some years as a missionary among the Ciskeian Xhosa, living for a short spell at the kraal of chief Mhala. Although he was only with Mhala for a matter of months before he was moved to another kraal, he was known for the rest of his life as Umfundisi Umhala.

In 1862 he married Jennie Roe (then 16), who bore him 14 children and is remembered fondly by later generations as Granny Mullins.[4]

Mullins returned to St Andrew’s to head the variously named division of the school which taught black males, more usually adults than boys, and was first called the Native Branch and afterwards the Kaffir Institution.[5]

Robert Mullins was not its founder (it was begun in 1859 under the Rev H R Woodrooffe), but succeeded Woodrooffe in 1864. Terry Stevens remarks: “It is interesting to ponder that the first classroom built at St Andrew’s College, in the position it occupies today, was for Blacks. This is surely without parallel in South Africa.” Mullins used the room until 1872 when a shop across Worcester Street (“Beck’s Store”) was bought and transferred to “Robert John Mullins in his capacity as the Principal of the Kaffir Institute in Grahamstown or to his successors in office . . .”

The Institution was separated from St Andrew’s in 1867, and came to an end in 1907, after Robert John’s[6] death, although its work was continued at St Matthew’s Mission, Keiskammahoek.

Robert John’s descendants have been so deeply involved in St Andrew’s and in the Prep School that Jimmy Mullins (who left the College in 1939)[7] calculated that their service as teachers and as school governors totalled more than 500 years!

The Prep School began life as a division of the senior boys’ school, but it is thanks to the Rev Robert George Mullins (Robert John’s eldest son and third child) that it became separated.

Robert George, known as Bollai (1885), was priested in 1894 and served as Anglican rector at Komga from 1896. In 1897 he married Evangeline Grace Tyler.

Educated at Oxford, Bollai had while in England spent a year with his uncle, the Rev George Henry Mullins, a housemaster at Uppingham school. Stevens writes: “As he was living in a school house, he learned the workings of an English Public School and those of the entirely separate Preparatory School bearing its name.”

The Prep School was first begun under a Miss Battye in 1885. She was succeeded in 1888 by Robert John’s eldest daughter, Jane, who was in 1899 joined by her sister Ethel. In 1900 Jane left to marry, and Ethel continued until 1904, when Robert George took charge.

In 1930 he was succeeded by his much younger brother, Major Arthur Gilbert (Alec) Mullins (1904). In 1947 Bollai’s son Griff (1924) became headmaster, and continued in office until 1970 – giving the Prep School a total of 66 years under a Mullins head.

A stalwart of the Prep School was Robert John and Jennie’s 10th child, Gyneth Helen, known to all as Nonie. She joined the staff in 1903, taking charge of the youngest boys, and keeping this responsibility the rest of her life. Stevens notes a remark passed during the Second World War:[8] “One of the troops in Egypt was heard to say: ‘Who is this Nonie who seems to be Aunt to half the regiment?’”

He notes that Bollai’s daughter Gwenlli Woods said: “I had always heard that it was General Pienaar[9] who said this. I was living with Aunt Nonie at 1 Pear Lane when the story came through. She was very thrilled to hear it, and rather honoured.”

The school has its own website here.

Afrikaanse blasoen:
Die skoolwapen kan in Afrikaans so geblasoeneer word:

Wapen: Skuins gevierendeel tussen die arms van ’n skuinskruis van silwer: 1 & 4: In rooi, ’n ring van goud; 2 & 3 in blou, ’n mantelskulp van goud; op ’n swart skildhoof, ’n biskopsmus van goud, die linte weerskante uitgesprei.

Leuse: Nec aspera terrent.

[1] Not to be confused with St George’s Grammar School in Cape Town, also founded by Bishop Gray, which survives to this day, albeit no longer accommodated on the grounds of the cathedral in Cape Town.

[2] In addition to the army cadets, the College also had, for many years, a naval cadet detachment.

[3] This and following quotations chiefly from The Time of Our Lives; St Andrew’s College 1855-1990 by Terry Stevens (privately published).

[4] Stevens quotes Bobby van der Riet as saying: “I remember old Granny Mullins in her voluminous black dresses and lace cap, much resembling the pictures of Queen Victoria towards the end of her reign. She was the kindest and most charming old lady one could ever wish to meet, and her daughters could not be otherwise.”

[5] This name appears in quotation marks in both school histories. However, it was formally the name of the institution at the time.

The difficulty lies in the fact that while today the word Kaffir is entirely an unacceptable word, a deep insult, and strongly associated with apartheid, it was at the time the word accepted in colonial society not only as being entirely acceptable, but was seen as the proper name in European languages of the Xhosa people.

St Andrew’s was not unique in using the word. Bishop Gray’s institution in Cape Town for black pupils (like the Diocesan College [Bishop’s] it was founded at Bishop’s Court, but was an entirely separate institution) was called the Kaffir College.

[6] Robert John served many years also as a Canon of Grahamstown’s cathedral (while at the Institute), and in his later years was known for his long white beard.

[7] Stevens uses the notation of giving in brackets the year an Andrean left the College. This I have also followed.

[8] The regiment is not named, but it must surely have been First City, since the boys of St Andrew’s (and those of Graeme College, Kingswood College and St Aidan’s College) largely joined the town regiment.

[9] Major-General D H (Dan) Pienaar, CB, DSO and bar, who commanded the 1st South African Division in Egypt, and notably at the Battle of El Alamein.


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  • Sources: St Andrew’s College, Grahamstown, 1855-1955, by Ronald Currey (Basil Blackwell, London), and the book by Terry Stevens, both loaned by the school.

  • Illustrations: main illustration from a black-and-white image on the dustjacket of The Time of Our Lives, colours adjusted using MS Picture It!; badges of St Andrew’s Preparatory School and the Diocesan School for Girls also from The Time of Our Lives; old school badge from a cigarette card issued in the 1930s by the United Tobacco Companies (South).

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    Comments, queries: Mike Oettle

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