PRETORIA : Br Duggan Reviews the Past: 1972 Magazine
Bishop Cox and the priests of Pretoria were anxious to have a Brothers' school established in the Administrative Capital. Early in 1917 both Bishop Cox and Father Ryan O.M.I., Parish Priest of Pretoria, wrote to the then Superior General offering to secure a site for the school if a staff of Brothers could be promised. On this understanding the site on Lynnwood Road adjoining the University was purchased from Mr. Johan Rissik. Father Ryan O.M.I and other friends had collected the purchase money; Bishop Cox also contributed. The Brothers themselves were responsible for the erection of the College building and seven years later for the Brothers' residence.
The College was designed by the well-known Pretoria architect Mr. Rees-Poole and the builder was Mr. Pattison. The architects of the Brothers' residence were Messrs. Cowin, Powers and Ellis and the builders the firm of Clark & Downie (Pty) Ltd. It was not possible to begin the building of the College until 1921. Brother Barren then residing in Kimberley, had much to do with the plans and Brother J.J. Mullan, the founder of the KimberleyCollege, superintended the construction work. During this period Brother Mullan stayed at the Monastery next door as the guests of the Redemptorist Fathers.
Bishop Cox on Trinity Sunday 1921 laid the foundation stone and the new College was dedicated to St. Gabriel of Our Lady of Sorrows who had been recently canonised. The original foundation stone recording this dedication has been incorporated in the present College at MountEdmund. The new College was due for opening in January, 1922 but as it was not found possible to have the required staff of Brothers on the spot by that date the opening was postponed to the following September. On 31st August 1922, a week before school started, four Brothers: JL Hayes, TJ Enright, ED Duggan and PA Mc Kenna had arrived from Ireland and these with Brother Mullan as principal formed the first staff.
The day chosen for the opening was the feast of the Nativity of Our Lady, 8th September 1922 and twenty-five years to the day from the date of our first opening in Kimberley: 8th September 1897. Father Hayes C.SS.R., Rector of the Monastery, said Holy Mass in one of the College classrooms at and then proceeded to bless the Brothers' house and the classrooms.
The admission of pupils began at and by 10.30 all the classes had been formed and were in their appointed classrooms. Most of the work of this first day consisted of dialogue. Brothers and pupils becoming acquainted and discussing plans for the future. Brother Mullan did not much believe in unnecessary ceremonies and — believe it or not — work went on the first day until or thereabouts. I don't think there was any homework given on that day, but the following day and thereafter it was business as usual!
On the opening day there were fifty-six pupils — the small number being due to the unusual time of opening — but by the end of the year the registration had reached ninety; in January 1923 the number had reached 160. An advantage of this late opening was that it gave the new staff the opportunity of studying the South African education system and deciding on the course of studies for the new school year of 1923.
The classes in 1923 ranged from Standard Three to Junior Certificate of the University of South Africa. It was decided to introduce the College of Preceptors (London) Examinations as they were then being taken by practically all the private schools in South Africa. In 1923 the PretoriaCollege entered pupils for the Lower Forms, Preliminary and Junior Grades — the Senior Grade followed in 1924. The results of all these examinations were such as to merit from the editor of the Christian Brothers' Educational Record the following comment: "St.Gabriel's College, Pretoria is rapidly getting into its stride. This year, the second of its existence, 70 boys entered for examinations. The results which are detailed elsewhere in the Record would do credit to a long-established school." Bemhardt Klagsbrun took first place in the British Empire in the Junior College of Preceptors. In 1925 the College presented its first class for the Matriculation Examination of the Joint Matriculation Board. In the second year of the College's existence the Annual appeared.
In the mid 1960's the University of Pretoria urgently required our property to expand and offered an alternative agricultural site of theirs near Silverton. On 14 March 1968 Br. Leopold Kennedy turned the first sod at MountEdmund, the new CBC. On the 31st July the foundation stone was laid by Archbishop Gardner and on the 21st August the contract was signed between the College and the University of Pretoria for the taking over of the new site at MountEdmund. In January 1969 the Brothers moved into the new residence and travelled daily to the old College. In July 1969, the third term began in the brand new College at Mount Edmund, the present site, and in the following January the first boarders arrived.