History of the McGregor Secondary School
From “A History of the McGregor NG Congregation”, a Master of Theology Thesis by L.W. Breytenbach (Stellenbosch).
“Whatever happened, a village was created on Over-den-Berg. The community - or certainly the N.G. members - did not immediately build a church as did the neighbouring community of Robertson. Lady Grey (or Over-den-Berg as it was called in the beginning) connected up as a ward of the Nederduitse Gereformeerde Parish of Robertson.
“ As such the members were served spiritually by the ministers of Robertson – first by the substitute clergyman Rev. W. Robertson of Swellendam and then by Rev. C.H. de Smidt, the first minister at Robertson. From 1862 it was served by Rev. Andrew McGregor after whom the village was later named.
Since, because of the size of the parish, the minister did not often visit Lady Grey, missionaries, and in particular the Rev. Stephan Weich, helped to take care of the spiritual needs of this community”
The thesis mentioned that poor people of the parish also had difficulty in attending divine service or confirmation classes in Robertson as they had no transport and could not afford the journey.
“In time, the idea of breaking away from the Robertson parish and forming their own parish at Lady Grey began to take hold. The first step taken was to nominate seven “Direkteuren of the Lady Grey Ward” at a meeting held on 10 March 1901. These seven members (all seven were later to serve on the first church council of the new parish) were required to prepare the way for separation. They carried out this duty with dedication.
“Concerning the practical side of the matter, the proposed new parish already owned two erven to build a church. This was land which A.P. Brönn had donated and which Rev. S. Weich had acquired earlier for church use. The seven authors of the letter had also undertaken to guarantee the salary of the new minister for three years.
“Apart from the responsibilities listed above, the first commission of the church council of McGregor had the task of negotiating with the school commission regarding the use of school property. After consultation the following agreement was reached: the church would have full use of the school hall. However the church would have to pay half of the rates and taxes on the building. The church council was permitted to use one room in the teacher’s house as a vestry provided that the church council built another room “in place thereof”.
“These negotiations between the church council and the school commission laid the foundation of a continuing good relationship between church and school in Lady Grey, later called McGregor.”
Extracts from the Lady Grey (now McGregor) School Commission Minutes
“1 August 1867:
The object of the meeting was to welcome the teacher, Mr. Livesly. At the meeting it was agreed that the land on which the school stood, together with the buildings thereon would be bought from Mr. J.P. van Reenen for the sum of £ 120. The size of the property was given as four erven with water rights on two erven. The Commission would pay interest of 6% on the £ 120 from 1 January 1868.
The Chairman of the meeting was Rev. A.G. McGregor and the teacher acted as Secretary.
“On 15 August 1867
Mr. J.F. Wessels acted as Chairman but there was apparently nothing of great importance placed before the Commission.
“However, on 2 October the beacons for the school’s land were checked and a Committee, consisting of Messrs. S. Malherbe, J.F. Wessels, P.D. Geldenhuis, C.J. du Toit and F.J. de Wet was appointed to direct the school’s case.
“At a Special Meeting held on 25 January 1868 it was decided that a country bazaar would be held on 15 February to raise money to pay for the purchase of the school grounds and buildings.
“On 30 June 1868 Rev. McGregor was able to announce that he had written to Mr. van Reenen asking him to deliver the title Deeds of the land on 1 August at which time the full price would be paid. The Commission had already collected £ 25 and would borrow a further £ 80 from Mr. Erasmus to be able to pay off the capital owing on the buildings. However, by the end of August it was announced that no title deeds had been forthcoming.
On 17 December 1873 the Commission again dealt with the purchase of the school property. The transaction was confirmed in a letter from Mr. D.J. van Reenen, son of the person from whom the land was purchased several years before. This person had now reached maturity. It was decided that no interest would be paid on the outstanding amount after 31 December of that year, since the Commission had received no title deed. However, the Chairman, Rev. McGregor, was able to announce on 19 August of the following year that he had received the title deed and that he had paid the purchase price together with interest, an amount of £ 160, to Mr. van Reenen.”
“On 16 December 1875 it was decided to build a new residence for the teacher and a commission was appointed to supervise building of the residence as well as a new school. These buildings were delivered by Mr. A.J. Schoonwinkel in September 1876.”
On 1 August 1867 Mr. Livesly was welcomed. He left for Mossel Bay at the end of 1874.
His successor, Mr. J.A. de Schmidt, apparently left at the end of March 1884. Then Mr. Collins of Graaff-Reinet was chosen on 29 March 1884, and when he did not assume duties, Mr. Weich of Stellenbosch was appointed.
(From an essay by van der Sandt de Villiers, formerly Std. VI and son of the headmaster of the McGregor Secondary School)
In another essay written by A. van Reenen formerly of Standard 5, which appeared in the 1938 School Yearbook:
“The school was formerly the (wine) cellar of the farm and it had an earthen floor. The desks were large stumps over which planks were placed. Every Saturday two girls had to smear the floor of the building (with cow dung) and two boys had to fetch water and scrub the desks.
“A new teacher’s residence and a new school were built later. Religious services were also held in the school and when another building was erected for the school it was suggested that the old school building be enlarged for a church. However, most of the public opposed this and preferred to have a new church built. So there were differences of opinion and Mr. A. van Reenen suggested that he circulate two collection lists; one for enlarging the school and the other for a new church. At the next meeting the lists were handed to the Church Council. On the list for enlarging the school hall nothing had been promised while £ 1700 was on the other list. The church was built and, together with the pews and the organ cost about £ 8650.
Later the manse was also built and Mr. C. Payne gave a donation of £ 500 towards this. The first minister was Rev. Weber.”
In the Headmaster’s Report which appeared in the same issue of the yearbook:
“It must also be mentioned that the school has designed a school crest with the motto “ALWAYS HIGHER”
From the above it is clear that:
- Whilst the school commenced operations in August 1867 the classes initially took place in an old cellar with somewhat primitive amenities,
- The teacher’s residence and new school were built later,
- Since the Hall and teacher’s residence form part of the same building they must have been completed in 1876 as indicated on the gable of the Hall and
- The inscription on the same gable is not the school motto (as I originally thought) but a phrase in Hebrew(?) stating some sort of religious message. This would have been completely in keeping with affairs as they were at that time since the school hall was used for divine services and was to continue in such use for another +/- 25 years.
- The date shown on the gable is consistent with the information given above, i.e. that the School Commission only took transfer of the property in August 1874, that the new school and teacher’s house (which form two buildings) were then built (decision to build December 1875) and these were delivered in September 1876.
[There's a file on the history of the school in the museum cabinet]
[Thanks are given to Mrs. Marilyn Poole for help with this page]
Side view of the school building at the turn of the 19th/20th century, with the teacher's flat on the right.
The school children at the turn of the 19th/20th century.