Thu, 15 Apr 2004 00:00
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We profile Bishops, the school where many things started.

School profile

We profile Bishops, the school where many things started.

The Diocesan Collegiate School was founded by Bishop Gray, the first Anglican bishop of Cape Town in 1849 at his house, Bishopscourt in Cape Town.  He founded two schools there – one for blacks and one for settlers’ sons.  Living with schools was hard for the bishop and he then established the schools elsewhere.  The blacks moved to grand accommodation near the city, where Zonnebloem College now is.  This left the bishop short of money and so he bought an unproductive farm in Rondebosch, and there the settlers’ sons ran wild. 

The school did not prosper till Canon George Ogilvie arrived from prosperous St George’s Grammar School, attached to St George’s Cathedral in the city.  The canon brought some boys with him and the bishop’s school flourished.  It became the Diocesan College, but that too was a mouthful and its was generally refereed to as the bishop’s school – hence its nickname.  Bishops is far more widely known by that name.

The school was originally mainly a boarding school but since the 1970s it has had more day scholars than boarders.  For some years it ran university classes, but in 1910 those classes went off to the South African College.

The school had only three principals between 1919 and 1982 – Harold Birt, Hubert Kidd, the first layman to be principal, and Anthony Mallett.  Since then it has had three more.

Now the school runs in three sections – a pre-primary school, a primary school and the college which has some post-matrics each year.


Name of school:  Diocesan College
Motto of school:  Pro fide et patria (For faith and fatherland)
Date of foundation:  1849
School address:  Diocesan College, Campground Road, Rondebosch.  7700

Rugby at Bishops

There is a myth that William Webb Ellis started rugby.  There is also a myth that Canon Ogilvie brought rugby to South Africa.  In fact he detested the game and did not want Bishops to play it.  What he brought to South Africa in 1861 was a form of football at a time when there was no game called soccer and rugby football was played only at Rugby School.  Canon Ogilvie’s game was based on what was played at his old school, Winchester College in Hampshire.  George Ogilvie was a remarkable personality.  His nickname was Gog and the game played at the Cape was often referred to as Gog’s Game or Gogball.

Bishops got the Cape playing football of this kind, starting with the South African College.  Bishops and SACS may well have played each other as far back as 1892.

Eventually clubs were formed, Hamiltons in 1875 and then Villagers to start with, and then in the late 1870s the rugby game was brought to the Cape and became generally accepted, as it had become in England in 1871.  Then the Western Province RFU was formed to regulate the game in the Western Province.  Bishops, like SACS and then Victoria College out at Stellenbosch, played in the Grand Challenge competition of the WP RFU. That all changed with the coming of the school.

In those early days Bishops had the advantage of coaching, especially by HH Castens, a South African old boy of Rugby School and Oxford.  Then it also had the great South African rugby personality and thinker of last century ion Barry Heatlie, whose nickname was usually Fairy but also Ox.

Heatlie, who helped to found the Old Diocesans’ Union, also formed an Old Diocesans RFC.  In forming the old boys’ union he – or rather his wife –had worked out colours.  The predominant colour was green.  In days when dyeing was the simplest way of getting rugby jerseys, the OD RFC decided to use green – myrtle green.

Touring teams came to South Africa in 1891, 1896 and 1903.  In those days the local union would appoint a captain who would pick a team to represent South Africa and give them jerseys to play in.  When Heatlie became captain in 1896 he gave them his club’s jerseys – and South Africa won for the first time.  When he was again made captain in 1903 he gave his teams green jerseys again and South Africa won a series for the first time.  And so South Africa still plays in green jerseys.

In 1903 Gerald Orpen of SACS and two Bishops men, Fairy Heatlie and Biddy Anderson, pushed through a recommendation that the springbok be added to the jersey.  It had been intended for 1903 but first came to pass in 1906.

Famous players

Bishops has had many players who have represented South Africa.  As the school elects a Rhodes Scholar each year some of its players have represented overseas countries as well.

The following is the list of those acknowledged as Bishops internationals:

South Africa: Mauritz van Buuren, Harry Boyes, who was the first secretary of the SA Rugby Board when it was founded in 1889, Frank Guthrie, Bill Bisset, Jack Hartley, who is the youngest player ever to have represented South Africa, Charlie van Renen and his brother Willie, Percy Twentyman Jones, who became the president of the WP RFU and also played cricket for South Africa, Biddy Anderson, who captained South Africa at cricket and refereed a Test, FR Myburgh, Paul Scott, Davey Cope, the first man to kick a goal for South Africa in a test, who was killed in a train smash at Mostert’s Hoek on his way to a Currie Cup tournament, Theo Samuels who first scored a try for South Africa, Barry Heatlie (captain),  Long George Devenish, who was for years a national selector, Joe Barry, Syd Ashley, Bertie Gibbs, Paddy Carolin (captain), who first devised the 3-4-1 scrum formation and regretted doing so, Mary Jackson, Barley Burdett, who died in World War I, Noel Howe-Browne, Bai Wrentmore, Geoff Grey, who became a national selector,  DO Williams,. George D’Alton, John Apsey (Prep only), Dendy Lawton, Howard Watt, Dennis Fry and his brother Stephen (captain), Tommy Gentles, Bobby Johns, Peter Whipp, Dugald Macdonald, Guy Kebble, Christian Stewart, Robbie Fleck, Selborne Boome, David von Hoesslin and Hanyani Shimange (Prep only). 

Fleck, Boome and Von Hoesslin were in the same team at Bishops, when the star was Herschelle Gibbs. They played together in a test.

For England: Reg Hands, Tuppy Owen-Smith (captain), Ossie Newton Thompson, Clive van Ryneveld, Christopher Newton Thompson (wartime), Stuart Abbott

For Scotland: Harold McCowat, Beak Steyn, Mike Dickson, Donald Macdonald

For Wales:  Mike Davies, Haldane Luscombe

For Canada:  Christian Stewart
For Zimbabwe: Mark Neill, Russell Ashley-Cooper (Many others played for Rhodesia)

For Australia: Daniel Vickermann

For Argentina: Barry Heatlie - which means that he played for two countries.

In addition Bill Bisset and Biddy Anderson refereed tests.

Famous Coaches

Undoubtedly the two most influential Bishops coaches were Pile Rees, after whom the 1st XV field was name and Basil Bey.  Rees started his coaching the team in 1922 and eventually stopped in 1962, Bey from 1972 to 1998.

Traditional Rivals

The Bishops-SACS match is the oldest in South Africa, if not in the world of schools matches.  The two teams still play twice a year.  Bishops first played Stellenbosch in 1876 and still plays Paul Roos Gymnasium.  There is also the annual match with St Andrew’s, whom Bishops first played in 1896.  Bishops and Rondebosh are about 400m apart down Tullyallen Road and the rival between the two is probably the keenest of all.  The schools play twice a year.  Other established traditional opponents are Wynberg, Paarl Boys’ High and Paarl Gymnasium.