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In 1896, a French Jesuit Priest, Father Marc Barthelemy, opened the door of a small corrugated-iron, two-windowed hut to admit the first six pupils to Bulawayo Boys’ School. The date was January 13 and the boys were Leonard and Lancelot Makin, Hubert and William Halder, Edgar Rorke and Otto Cooper.
The first assistant teacher was Father Nicot. In 1898 a more permanent brick building was erected, and Fathers James Nesser and Francis Johanny joined the staff. In that year the Cadet Corps was also established, and in December, at the first prize-giving, the school assumed the title ‘St. George’s Boys’ Public School’. The first English Jesuit, Father Thomas Gardner, joined the staff in 1902 and it was he who was instrumental in establishing organised games like cricket and soccer. 1902 was also the year that the first Rhodes scholarships were awarded in Rhodesia (Zimbabwe) and the recipients were two St. George’s boys, Albert Bisset and Woodford Gilbert. In 1912 a new and much larger two storey school building, designed by Fr. Barthelemy and constructed by contract craftsmen, was opened by Earl Grey. In the First World War, 198 Old Georgians (OGs) volunteered for service and 26 were killed.
In 1921 the Old Georgians’ Association was founded with Mr D. Blackbeard as its first president.
Soon thereafter increasing thought was given to finding an alternative site for the school since it had become too large for the property in the centre of Bulawayo. Various options were considered, including the rather radical one of relocating completely to the Hartmann Hill site on the northern edge of Salisbury (Harare) which had been largely underutilised since it been granted to the Jesuits in 1892 in recognition of Father Andrew Hartmann’s services as Chaplain to the pioneer settler column in 1890. With this decision having been agreed on in 1924, Fr. Aloysius Leboeuf, who had already designed various church related buildings in the country, including the Catholic Cathedral, prepared the necessary architectural drawings, and a team of skilled Jesuit Brothers set about building the new school, assisted by bricklayers and artisans trained at Chishawasha Mission. Included among the craftsmen was Brother John Conway S.J. who was to be involved in the construction of every subsequent school building, as well as all of the necessary carpentry at the College, until his death in 1961. The College opened its doors on Hartmann Hill on 31 January 1927, having effectively closed the school in Bulawayo after the Academy on 29 November 1926. Included among the 110 boarders signed up for the new school were many who had been at St. George’s in Bulawayo.
The school’s magazine, The Chronicle, was first published in 1933 and, apart from a 10 year gap caused principally by the Second World War, it has continued as an annual feature. Two years later, Sir Robert Stanley opened The Beit Hall.
1939 saw the outbreak of the Second World War: 438 OGs served in it, with 58 losing their lives.
As time passed and finances allowed, various building projects were undertaken, including the Library in 1940, then the ‘Monastery’ and later the ‘Priory’ (dormitories). 1955 saw the completion of the new dormitory wing and the new laboratories.
Meanwhile, with encouragement and support from the Jesuits the Presentation sisters opened St. Michael’s in February 1951 as a Preparatory School for St. George’s. Then, in 1956, with the College struggling to cope with the increasing numbers of applications for school places, a decision was taken in principle to create a new middle school and the old waterworks reserve at the bottom of the Hill was purchased from the Municipality and work commenced on the construction of Hartmann House. It opened its doors on 29 January 1957 and catered for some 80 boarders and 70 day scholars in Standards 4 and 5 (Grades 6 and 7 nowadays).
Within St George’s itself, the amenities block along the northern boundary of the school was opened in 1965 and 1969 saw the Trident Project being launched. This resulted in a new swimming pool, the Cricket Pavilion, and, in 1973, the new Chapel. Also constructed in that era was an extension to the laboratory block, adjoining the ‘Monastery’ and ‘Priory’, and two out of the originally planned four squash courts were built in 1978.
To cope with a new influx of pupils in the early years of Independence, as well as an increased focus on computer training, the Bulawayo Wing was opened in 1983. Thereafter, with the ratio of boarders to day scholars having gradually reversed and the need for boarding facilities decreasing steadily, the amenities block was converted into classrooms, whilst some of the older class rooms were subdivided. In addition, what had been dormitories were converted in study places for senior pupils.
Meanwhile similar alterations were taking place at Hartmann House to cater for its increased numbers following the transfer from St. Michael’s of Grades 4 and 5 in January 1979, as well as the general post 1980 influx already mentioned. The next phase of actual new building development saw the opening of a large new hall at Hartmann House in2013. This was followed by the building and commissioning of the Paul Miki Early Childhood Development complex at Hartmann in 2017 following a strategic decision taken in 2015 (??) that the middle school should “grow down” and become a fully- fledged junior school to the College catering by the year 2020(?) for classes Grade Zero to Grade 7. This has meant effectively that whilst strong links will continue to be maintained with St. Michael’s, it would no longer be seen as the preparatory school to the College.
Since its inception, the College’s enrolment of pupils had grown to 795 in 2020, the numbers having jumped again with the admission of girls into the 6th Form for the first time on a full time basis. The pupil numbers at Hartmann House meanwhile stand at 432.
To date, there have been 38 Rhodes Scholarships awarded to the school’s alumni, with the latest recipient being Simon Williams in 2008.
Pupils from the College have represented this country almost from the very beginning, but notable achievements in the last 30 years or so have included the fact that in 1992, three members of the 19-strong Zimbabwe Olympic Team were either staff or pupils of St. George’s and at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, Old Georgian Brian Dzingai was a finalist in the 200 metres sprint. Another OG, Mike Nicholson, has represented Zimbabwe as a shottist at two Olympics – 2004 and 2012. Another Olympian that year was former Head Boy and Old Georgian, James Fraser-Mackenzie, who competed as a rower. Even more recently, but this time representing other countries, we have witnessed Sam Curran playing for the England Cricket Test side, and his older brother, Tom, being selected as a member of the 2019 England T20 World Cricket squad. Competing against England in the final of that competition was another OG, Colin de Grandhomme, playing for New Zealand.
Over the years, 28 Old Georgians have been ordained as Catholic priests, including 13 as Jesuits. One of these alumni, Father Stephen Buckland SJ, served as the Jesuit Provincial of Zimbabwe.
Sadly, 2007 saw the departure of one of the College’s most faithful and longest-serving members of staff, Father Hugh Ross SJ. He left the school after 52 years of service, to retire to England where he died in 2016.
St George’s is immensely proud of the achievements of its pupils and of the staff who have served it down the years.