"Summa diligentia laboro"
Alexandra High School was born in a climate of confidence. In the 1950’s the province acquired a two-storey house in Alexandra Road, and, subsequently, the adjoining properties near the famous Alexandra Park.
The first 53 pupils began their high school careers in the first of those old residences., 53 Alexandra Road. The remaining houses were later demolished to make way for the construction of Founders’ House which was first occupied in 1966. The first classrooms were in the lounge and two of the bedrooms, while the dining room served as the Headmaster’s office. Two prefabs were added and served as a laboratory and general purpose room. During 1960, work continued on the construction of the present school and in January 1961, the new intake of second formers occupied the middle floor of the south wing. The third form remained in the old house and eventually moved to the new building at the beginning of the second term. Construction continued and the school gradually occupied more and more of the south and middle wings of the school.
The first assembly of the school was held under a magnificent jacaranda tree sited next to the driveway from Alexandra Road to the school hall, roughly in line with the present squash courts. Present at the assembly on February 23, 1960 were the Director of Education, Mr L Beibuyck, the school’s inspector, Mr R Steer, the first Headmaster, Mr F H Udal, the Vice Principal, Mr B Butler and five members of staff. Sadly the shady old Jacaranda, known as “The Assembly Tree”, was blown down in a freak storm in 1982. The historic bronze plaque which marked the assembly tree is now housed in the foyer of the school.
In 1961 assemblies were held in the ground floor science laboratory (complete with grand piano) and in 1962 in what was then the music room beneath the hall, now part of the woodwork / metalwork complex. The hall was completed later in 1962 and assemblies have been held there since.
The boys themselves helped to plant lawns and trees and a team of labourers with stonemasonry skills later built the terraces using stone excavated from the levelling of the sports fields. Fires were lit around huge boulders and once the rocks were heated they were split, thus providing the stone needed.
The first speech day took place at the end of 1961 and was held in what is now the lower ground floor of the middle wing. For a number of years this was an open area with only a concrete floor and pillars supporting the two floors above. All speech days since 1962 have been held in the school hall.
The first athletic sports day took place on 9th September 1961 and was won by Boyd’s with 121 points. Shepstone’s were last with 15!
Mr Udal retired at the end of 1969 and was replaced by Mr Richard Hurworth. During his tenure, the school grew considerably both in numbers and in reputation. Founders’ House was full and had a waiting list, school finances were sound and Alex did well on the sports field.
Mr Roy Beaumont followed Mr Hurworth as Headmaster and he was succeeded by Mr Andrew Layman who brought a new vision to the school. In the early 1990’s, Alex underwent significant changes, establishing itself as a leader in response to the demands of a ‘new’ South Africa. The first non-white pupil was admitted in June 1991 into Standard VII, and he, Wiseman Khumalo, was appointed Deputy Head Prefect when he reached standard X in 1994. In the meantime, at the beginning of 1992, the School became co-educational and now boasts a school population which reflects a non-racial, non-sexist society.
QUEEN ALEXANDRA – AFTER WHOM THE SCHOOL WAS NAMED
Alexandra Caroline, queen consort of England, was born in Copenhagen, Denmark in 1844. In 1863, at the age of 19, the beautiful and vivacious Alexandra married Edward VIII, Prince of Wales. As Queen, Alexandra became very popular as a result of her great charm and dedication to her family. She had a strong character and did much to help the poor and suffering.An original life-sized portrait of Queen Alexandra is housed permanently in the school library. This portrait originally hung in “Kings House” in Durban – the official residence of the old governors, and the Royal family and State President when on visits. When the Republic came into being in1961, the portrait was transferred to the Natal Museum in Loop Street, where it hung until 1983. In that year, it was donated to Alexandra High,the companion portrait of King Edward being given to King Edward School in Johannesburg.
THE SCHOOL BADGE, HOUSES AND MOTTO
Mr Udal, the first headmaster, designed the school emblem himself , using the Maltese Cross from the royal coat of arms of Queen Alexandra, the elephant indicating Pietermaritzburg, and the Wildebeest of Natal.
Maltese Cross - Mr Leo Boyd, M.E.C. for Education in the N.P.A at the time of the school’s inception and ex-mayor of Durban was a Knight of da Game in the Roman Catholic Church. The cross was given to Boyd’s House as their symbol.
Mr C B Downs, Mayor of Pietermaritzburg, was approached for permission to use part of the city’s coat of arms – hence the Elephant – emblem of Downs House.
Mr Allison, three times mayor of Pietermaritzburg, M.P.C. and freeman of this city, as well as a neighbour of the school who took a great interest in Alex, had Allison's House named after him, and the Stars from the City’s Coat of Arms formed the symbol of this house.
Shepstone House was named after Mr D G Shepstone, Administrator of Natal at the time of the purchase of land for the school, and as he had attended Queen Elizabeth’s coronation, the crown was to be Shepstone’s symbol.
Succeeding Mr Shepstone as Administrator, was Mr (later Senator) A E Trollip, who also took a keen interest in the school. He was approached for permission to use part of the Natal badge – hence the Wildebeest (provided they faced the correct way and had white manes and tails!). These wildebeest are the symbol of Trollips House.
For the motto, Mr Udal’s own signet ring bore the words, Tant Que je Puis – archaic French, meaning “I do my best”. Mr Lamond , a colleague of Mr Udal’s at Maritzburg College translated this into the Latin, Summa diligentia laboro. Then Mr Udal and his wife chose the distinctive colours of sky blue and maroon, and with the help of a local outfitter, devised a full range of blazers, badges, colours, rugby jerseys and all the other uniform needs of a school. Until the early 80’s, Colours and Honours blazers were sky blue. Due to problems in sourcing affordable material, they were changed to Navy Blue. Straw ‘bashers’ were compulsory headwear for all pupils until shortly before Mr Hurworth retired. Founders’ House pupils continued with ‘bashers’ as part of their uniform.
THE MURAL ON THE SCHOOL HALL
The plaque was designed and built by the late Miss Syliva Baxter. It took her months of hard work, with sometimes a stretch of 48 hours’ work on moulding, colouring and baking the clay. It was fired in forty six pieces of ceramic clay, measuring 4 meters by 2 metres and its mass is over a ton. Metallic oxides were used to give it its beautiful colouring.
The Plaque is a symbolic representation of the Holy Trinity. The lips represent the word of God, "let there be light" as shown on the open page of the book.The eye is the all-seeing eye of God, stressed further by the four cardinal points of the compass, with the eye as the hub. The bird, a stylised dove, represents the Spirit.The scale pans and feather are there as a reminder that conscience should weigh as light as a feather.The torch signifies the light of learning.The "clouds" indicate the formlessness of the earth before the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.Dry land (Africa) and the waters can be distinguished; so, too, can night (stars) and day. The firmament the waters is there also.
The plaque was unveiled by the late Senator A E Trollip, then Administrator of Natal, when the School was officially opened on the 25 September 1964.