GTC Old Girls Reunion and Celebration of Founder’s Day

Grahamstown Training College closed in 1975 but its spirit lives on.   It was the only college in South  Africa that was begun by the head of a religious order and Mother Cecile made sure that although a state curriculum would be followed and salaries would be paid by the Department of Education, the buildings would be owned by the Church and the sisters of the Community of The Resurrection would be involved in teaching and taking care of the students where possible.  There was a strong Christian Ethos at the college and all denominations were catered for.  It was a happy place where we learned to work hard and play hard.  There were very few day girls so a great camaraderie existed among the students who lived together in four houses, Lincoln, Bangor, Canterbury and Winchester.  Although we spent only a short time of our lives there, they were important years that shaped us for the future. 

The buildings still stand and now belong to Rhodes University. Two of the houses, Canterbury and Winchester are still used as  residences today.   Lincoln House is used by the Faculty of Law, the college block by The Faculty of Education and Bangor House by The Faculty of Environmental Science.

On the weekend of Friday 30 November to Sunday 2 December the following Old Girls, plus a few others who popped into some of the functions, attended a reunion and celebrated Founder’s Day in the St Mary and All Angels Chapel.

1. Margie Gordon Antrobus – Winchester – 1966-1968.

 2. Jenny Musgrave-Newton Attridge – Winchester – 1966-1968.

3. Barbie Asher Bennett – Canterbury – 1970-1972.

4. Jenny Timm Borchardt – Lincoln – 1970-1972.

5. Dianne Randell Burrell – Lincoln – 1970-1972

6.  Colleen Bryce Byron – Canterbury – 1971-1973

7. Iona Hockly Cowley – Lincoln – 1970-1972.

8.  Shann Weber de Smidt –Winchester – 1973-1975.

9.  Helen Pnematicatos Fenwick – Lincoln – 1971-1973.

10. Shirley Goercke Fletcher – Winchester – 1953-1955.

11. Pam Roux Gush – Bangor – 1970-1972.

12.  Betty Hartzenberg Hartzenberg – Lincoln – 1956-1957.

13.  Ros Lachenicht Holderness – Lincoln – 1966-1969.

14. Heather Howell Howell – Lincoln – 1957-1959.

15.  Merle Acton Keough – Canterbury – 1967-1968.

16.  Jenny Gowar Mitchell – Winchester – 1961-1962.

17.  Gwynne Fergusson Nieuwoudt – Winchester – 1966-1967.

18.  Jacky Piderit Olckers – Bangor – 1963-1965.

19.  Pam Smith Pedrick – Winchester – 1966-1968.

20.  Helen Powell Renton – Bangor – 1957-1958.

21.  Janet Scorer Rice – Winchester – 1966-1968.

22.  Elizabeth Owen-Johnston Veitch – Winchester – 1966-1967.

23.  Denise Packer Weldon – Winchester – 1963-1965.

24.  Jill Dower Rothman – Bangor – 1966-1967.

Many others would have loved to have been with us but for various reasons were unable to make it.  Astrid Corvett was very sorry to miss it but she finds it very difficult to travel these days.  She wrote to wish us a happy reunion :-

My Dear College Friends

Thank you for letting me be a small part of your reunion. I hope you have all enjoyed the newsletters and the photo albums we compiled which thanks to Liz and Sister Carol are now in The Cory Library. It was a real treat to compile them.  Laurie  introduced the magic of photos and colour and Sister Carol has been wonderful in getting them in the right place.

I have been reading old newsletters when Old Girls were able to take their children – very small – to the reunions and picnics and sports matches and dances were arranged. Now we would be taking grandchildren and great-grandchildren!

I had polio after my first year and the sisters were landed with me with a thumb that stuck out backwards and were very good about caring for me as they could not put me on a train for three days with no one to meet me.  My mother had not replied to their letter.  What a treat it was to be Senior Anglican in my Third Year.

Sister Nonnie/Virginia reluctantly allowed me to take over the newsletter when it became too difficult for her.  Each of our three sons  helped get them good to read as the news poured in.

It is sad that we no longer have a bus from the airport to Grahamstown but we are with you in spirit and look forward to news and photographs.

Have a wonderful time together 

With love from 

Laurie and Astrid Gorvett

Bangor House
Photo credit – Shann de Smidt

Flowering trees outside Canterbury House 
Photo credit – Barbie Bennett

In the past the attendees of the College Reunions have stayed in Winchester and/or Canterbury but because fewer attended this year, it was not worthwhile for Rhodes to keep on staff to look after us so we all found our own accommodation in town.

It was with a great deal of excitement and anticipation that Heather Howell (1957 to 1959) and I (1971 to 1973) boarded a plane to Port Elizabeth.   We were on the first leg of our trip back to our student days!  It’s another hour and half drive from PE airport to Grahamstown and how we enjoyed that drive in  our nippy, hired Nissen.

The weekend started with a welcome dinner at Red Cafe in High Street.  

Clockwise – Betty Hartzenberg, Helen(Powell) Renton, Iona (Hockly) Cowley, Colleen (Bryce) Byron,
Pam (Smith) Pedrick, Jenny (Musgrave-Newton) Attridge, Janet (Scorer) Rice, 
Jenny (Gowar) Mitchell, Merle (Acton) Keough, Denise (Packer) Weldon, Jacky (Piderit) Olckers
I was super excited to meet up with these two Lincoln girls, Jenny and Di – second years in my first – 1971. 

It was a lovely first evening catching up with friends both from our time and others we’d made friends with at previous reunions.

On Saturday morning we met on Lincoln Lawn for photographs.   

The Old Girls from all over the country who came to Grahamstown specially for this reunion
Back Row – Iona (Hockly) Cowley, Colleen (Bryce) Byron,  Jacky (Piderit) Olckers, Helen (Powell) Renton,
Merle (Acton) Keough, Jenny (Timm) Borchardt, Di  (Randell )Burrell,  Cynthia (Keeton ) O’Ehley, Heather Howell
Middle Row – Barbie (Asher) Bennett,  Jill  (Dower) Rothman, Denise (Packer) Weldon, Jenny (Gowar) Mitchell,
Pam (Smith) Pedrick, Janet (Scorer) Rice, Margie (G0rd0n) Antrobus,  Ros (Lachenicht) Holderness
Front Row – Pam (Roux) Gush,  Gwynne (Ferguson) Nieuwoudt,   Helen (Pnematicatos) Fenwick,
Liz  (Owen-Johnston) Veitch, Jenny (Musgrave-Newton) Attridge, Shann(Weber) de Smidt
Heather Howell and Helen (Powell) Renton – Two of the fifties girls!
1965 to 1969
Back Row – Jenny (Musgrave-Newton) Attridge, Janet (Scorer) Rice, Cynthia (Keeton) O’Ehley,
Ros (Lachenicht) Holderness
Front Row – Pam (Smith) Pedrick, Gwynne (Ferguson) Nieuwoudt,
Merle (Acton) Keough, Liz (Owen-Johnston) Veitch, Margie (Gordon)Antrobus
1960 to 1965
Jenny (Gowar) Mitchell, Jacky (Piderit) Olckers, Denise (Packer) Weldon, Jill (Dower) Rothman
1970s
Shann (Weber) de Smidt, Di (Randell) Burrell, Jenny (Timm) Borchardt,
Barbie (Asher) Bennett, Iona (Hockly) Cowley,
Front: Colleen (Bryce) Byron, Helen (Pnematicatos) Fenwick, Pam (Roux) Gush

Then there were the fun photos.  Some of the Old Girls decided to hug a tree.

Jenny (Timm) Bochardt, Pam (Roux) Gush, Di (Randall) Burrell, Iona (Hockly) Cowley, Barbie (Asher) Bennett

I dared Jenny and Barbie to go into the bell tower and ring the Chapel bell – a job that they each had to do early in the morning to call the students to prayer.

Jenny and Barbie reliving their bell ringing days!

The next bit of fun was going along to Cory Library where there was an exhibition of Training College photo albums and memorabilia. 

Thanks to Liz de Wet who looked after all the TC memorabilia and organised this visit for us
Discovering some sentimental old photographs 
Jill and Denise pouring over the old memories
Photo credit – Shann de Smidt
Shann de Smidt’s photo says it all – browsing through the albums and remembering our student days.

Before going to lunch at The Mad Hatters Coffee Shop we all filed into Chapel to practice singing the Te Deum for our service the following day.

Chapel of St Mary and All The Angels
Photo Credit – Barbie Bennett
Our beautiful chapel

The foundation stone for the building of The Chapel of St Mary and All the Angels was laid on 2 June 1915 and the completed building was consecrated on 14 October 1916. Sister Margaret who was a trained artist painted the fresco in the apse between 1924 and 1929 and she used students as her models.

Thanks to Marcus Mostert for providing the music and patiently coaching the croaky old ladies though their singing.  What an awesome and patient young man!

At lunch time, The Mad Hatter’s Coffee Shop opened its doors and welcomed us with a lovely message on their chalk board. 

 We enjoyed quiche and coffee and once again had a tremendous time catching up with old friends.

Liz,  Merle and Margie
Jacky, Denise, Heather and Helen

Pam, Janet, Jenny and Liz (From Cory Library)

Jill, Gwynne, Jenny and  Ros
Barbie, Colleen and Iona

Denise and Jacky behaving like students again –  Mad Girls in Mad Hats

It is 124 years since The Grahamstown Training College first opened it’s doors to train teachers and we have never forgotten that it all started with Mother Cecile who also started the Community of The Resurrection.  Today the community has just a few sisters faithfully working in Grahamstown.   Some of our Old Girls had tea with them on Saturday afternoon.  One of our oldest members, Beth Denton, who is in her nineties, managed to make it to this function.  Thanks to Barbie Bennett and Shann de Smidt for the photographs.

Gwynne, Beth and Iona
Colleen, Beth and Ros
Margie, Beth and Iona
Tea with the sisters – their beautifully behaved foster children in the doorway

On Saturday evening we all donned our glad rags to enjoy our Gala Dinner.  Reverend Eric Kelly spoke to us about his book  on the History of The Training College – “Faithful to the Vision” of  which most of us are now proud owners.   

Reverend Eric Kelly

After dinner  old girls from the fifties. sixties and seventies shared their memories of college life.  

Heather Howell on GTC in the 50s.

“When unexpectedly asked to speak on “GTC in the 50’s” I thought it appropriate to use the memories of Janet (Louw) Welsh who died in 2010. “

Extracts from an address given by Janet at St Cyprians Cathedral, Kimberley 

20 February 2004.  (The historic facts have been omitted.)

I arrived at GTC in Jan 1954 – a bit apprehensive,never having been to boarding school, and yet excited as this was the beginning of a new phase of my life.  I was duly installed in my cubicle on the second floor of Canterbury House which had been built onto the college block in 1907 and was the first of the Houses for boarding students.  The whole floor had obviously been one large dormitory which was now divided by partitions into cubicles.  The partitions reached neither the floor nor the ceilings.  Each “cube”contained a single bed, a chest of drawers, a wash-stand with jug and basin and a curtain behind the door which served as a wardrobe.  There was barely space to open the drawers and with arms outstretched one could touch both sides of the “cube”.  There were 3 bathrooms with incredibly small baths and a red line painted to show the maximum amount of water allowed.  There were 2 separate loos.  The modern miss would probably have turned tail and run!  In retrospect they were 2 very happy years in which we covered a vast amount of work, had lots of fun and formed friendships which still exist 50 years later.

Rules we had aplenty, and some students found them very tiresome and too much like the boarding schools from which they had so recently been liberated.  There was so much work that we didn’t really have much time for gallivanting.  In summer we rose early and sleepily dived into the (often) pea green swimming pool to train for the Bronze Medal life saving certificate which we all had to do and some of us were crazy enough to go on to do the Silver Medal in our second year as this ensured a good symbol for Gym at the end of the year!  In winter we rose early to play netball and when it was too dark to do that, we had a literature lecture before breakfast so that we had time for netball when it was light!  It was a scramble to make beds, tidy “cube”and dash off to breakfast at the correct time.  Breakfast and dinner in the evening were “formal” meals, so if one was late and arrived after grace had been said, one walked the length of the hall,up onto the stage to the Sister in charge and apologised.  We then went to Chapel.  Lectures began at 9:00 with breaks for tea and lunch and finished at 3:30.   Sport began at 4 o’clock.   Most evenings, after dinner we attended chapel – especially the Anglicans – other denominations had some evenings off.  We then went to“study” and had to be in the college block working until 9 o’clock, after which we returned to our residences for coffee and biscuits…. known as “Table Mountain biscuits” because it was said that during the making the raisins had been thrown into the dough from the top of the mountain and very few had hit the target.  The coffee had stood on the slow combustion stove in the basement since the early afternoon, so it contained “whales” ……. our term for the floating bits of skin.  “Lights out” was at 10 p.m.  On Saturday mornings we had to be in the College block until 12 noon.  We could only go to town for essential shopping – nobody ever defined “essential”!!

Each hostel had a Sister in charge plus a Matron.  We had tiny Sister Ethelwyn, of indeterminable age and false teeth that didn’t fit so clacked when she spoke,but she was very sweet and kind.  We called her “The Mighty Mouse”.  However,our Matron was another story…… a real tartar…… and heaven help you if she took a dislike to you for some real or imagined transgression.  During my second year we had Sister Joyce,who seldom spoke and frequently sat on the lawn trimming the edge with nail scissors!   The academic staff was headed by Sister Truda, a rather aloof woman, and a deputy-principal Sister Madeleine,an ethereal lady who didn’t walk but glided and she was very approachable.  She had a room in Canterbury at the top of the stairs on our floor.  She succeeded in frightening the wits out of one of my friends when she glided, fully robed in a white night dress and cap, from the bathroom in near darkness where she had been bathing by candlelight.  Most of the lecturers were lay people and most were very good.

Needless to say, some were rather eccentric and some a bit weird. The gym mistress was a real character …. a sergeant-major.  When you stood teetering on the edge of the pool and she yelled from the opposite side “JUMP!” you jumped.

For gym and sport, we wore 4 gore skirts (you know how straight the hems hang?) in a dark blue, just above our knees, with shapeless lighter blue shirts, white socks & black tackies. So as not to tempt the gardeners we wore longer ordinary “over skirts”to lectures!!  What an assortment of colours, shapes & designs these were. In winter we wore long navy socks with this garb.  Each term each student was assigned a gym class at one of the local schools, so we set off laden with all sorts of apparatus – balls, tins, beanbags, a bat or two, ropes & hoops, for your appointed school dressed as above. Oh! … and lesson notes.  If the school was distant you went by bike,yours or a borrowed one.   If your gym class was at the Convent you did not include any exercise which would expose the little girls’ panties!   At least we wore white for tennis matches.   Tradition had it that our 1sttennis team would play against St Paul’s (College of the Transfiguration).  When the match was at College, we had chocolate cake for tea & for the return match they had cucumber sandwiches to offer.

In the summer terms, one was allowed out on 5 ”week nights” and in winter 3 per term,some of which had to be used for “cultural activities”. We had to be in by 11 p.m.   St Paul’s College used to occasionally have a “Balloon debate” and some of us went to this cultural activity.  I can’t remember what a balloon debate was. Sometimes we babysat for priests’ families. That meant you usually got a nice tea. We could also go out on Saturday evenings until 11…… not to restaurants, not that many of us could ever afford to do that and on Sunday evenings we went to “Church & Social” until 10pm. Most denominations had a young peoples’ gathering after evening worship but that didn’t mean that all who signed out for this went there. We had to sign out whenever we left College grounds and sign in on return.  Hotels were out of bounds unless accompanied by your parents.  First Years were allowed to attend 3 dances and 2nd Years 5.  One of these had to be your own house dance and in your final year the leaving students dance. What scheming went on to get partners!  If one girl in your group knew a student at Rhodes, the poor fellow would be asked to get the required number of blind dates for her friends.  Once he had them there was the matching up of tall and short — all by telephone.  When you were called to the door, you hadn’t a clue who would find waiting for you and most of your friends, who were still waiting for their dates, were hanging out of the windows to see who you had got.   Some were fine, and some were disasters.  Luckily, it was not far to get home if it was a College dance and you had to be in by 12:15!!!

Sadly, college closed at the end of 1975.

Having been the “voice” for Janet’s memories, I would just like to add that in those days one became a qualified teacher after 2 years and as I did a 3rd  year in IST (Infant School Teaching), I was allowed to cast off most of those rules.  They did not apply to qualified teachers!  We still signed out and had to be back by the time the person at the door went off duty and I think hotels were off limits to 3rd years too.

I arrived at GTC 3 years after Janet but during my first 2 years conditions were very much the same except that we had gym lessons before breakfast and not netball, so it was less complicated by the lack of day light as we simply switched the lights on in the gym. We had an exam every Saturday morning as by then they had introduced a system of “continuous evaluation” ….. which helped me lose my fear of exams.

We did, however, have the same rules for Formal Meals and I once attempted to avoid the apology for my tardiness by crawling to my table on all fours,but the excited voices and the swiveling heads plotted my progress to such an extent that I was obliged to stand up and walk shame-facedly to “top table”.

Thank you to Heather for sharing Janet’s and her own memories.  

Janet (Scorer) Rice had us in stitches reminiscing about her and her friends’ antics in the sixties and Helen (Pnematicatos) Fenwick spoke about how grateful she was to have made it to college at all.

Janet (Scorer) Rice – Once the ring-leader of the mischief makers – Now the chief organiser of our Reunions
Now pillars of society but mischievous students back in the day.
Pam (Smith) Pedrick, Liz (Owen-Johnston) Veitch and Jenny (Musgrave-Newton) Attridge
Two of the sisters, Shirley (Goercke) Fletcher, Helen (Powell) Renton, Denise (Packer) Weldon, Jacky (Piderit) Olckers
Barbie (Acton) Bennett, Pam (Roux) Gush, Iona (Hockly) Cowley,
Jenny (Timm) Borchardt, Di (Randall) Burrell, Shann (Weber) De Smidt
Terry Mitchell, Jenny (Gowar) Mitchell, Mother Zelma, Colleen (Bryce) Byron, Heather Howell

Thanks to Barbie Bennett for creating such beautiful table decorations and Gwynne  Nieuwoudt for lending her stunning candelabras.

On Sunday the weekend ended with a memorable Founder’s Day Service led by our own Jenny (Gowar)Mitchell.   Once again she gave an inspirational sermon using kitchen spoons as an object lesson!

Thank you Margie Antrobus for all you did to see that the Chapel was ready for our use and that the service went smoothly.

Thanks too to Pam (Roux) Gush for accompanying us for the singing of the hymns.
Janet brought in the Canterbury Candle and reminded us of its story 

There was a beautiful Jacaranda Tree outside Canterbury House but it had to be felled when Rhodes did renovations to the building.  The girls were very upset about this so their Warden, Coral Waite, arranged for a branch to be cured and then carved into a candle stick.  Ms Waite later married and became Mrs Surtees.  When she and her new husband left Grahamstown, they donated the candle to the Presbyterian Church.  Every time The Old Girls have a reunion it is lent to them for the Founder’s Day Service and it
is lit in remembrance of all deceased Sisters and Old Girls. It has become a tradition for the youngest “Old Girl” to carry it out at the end of the service. 

During the service some of our Old Girls read prayers and the Gospel Reading

Cynthia O’Ehley – Prayer for Educational Institutions
Merle (Acton) Keough – Prayer for Children
Shirley (Goercke) Fletcher  – Gospel Reading
Helen Renton -Prayer for our Country
Sister Carol – Prayers for Religious Communities and for our Homes
Shann our youngest Old Girl carries out The Canterbury Candle while, Betty one of our oldest, follows with the flowers which were placed on the graves of deceased sisters.
Old Girls paying homage to the late Sister Lilian Frances

After Chapel we said our final goodbyes and enjoyed a delicious Tea on the lawns outside the chapel and in front of Lincoln.

The sisters with their lovely children
A lovely spread
Carol (Woodhead) Prentis, Ros (Lachenicht) Holderness, Denise (Packer) Weldon
Liz chats to one of our older “Old Girls” Shirley Fletcher who is in her eighties and still teaches at Kingswood !

What an awesome weekend it was!   Heather and I spent an extra night at our lodgings as did Janet, Jenny and Pam and we all met for dinner at Gino’s on Sunday night.  Once again we behaved and laughed like the students we used to be before returning to serious business of being adults the following day!

Heather, Jenny, Janet, Pam, Helen

Thank you Janet, Jenny and Pam for your brilliant organisation of this reunion.  Thanks too, to Barbie, Margie, Gwynne, Pam Gush, Jenny Mitchell and others who helped to make this such a successful event.  

We do not want these reunions to end.   If you are reading this and wishing you’d been there, please plan to join us in two years time – it might be at a different time of year and The Fab Four – Janet, Jenny, Pam and Liz will let you know in good time.

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