Along Life’s Meri Way

Saturday 9 July 2011: 4 years 10 months on … Advantage ED

Last week came the news that Port Elizabeth’s stately King Edward Hotel on the Donkin Reserve (next door to the original Grey Institute Building), dating back to 1903, had closed its doors after 108 years.

She has left many a tale, many stories, many recollections, many memories, and long will they continue.

This weekend we have learned of the “End of the World”, the closure of the British tabloid newspaper, the News of the World, after 168 years.

It will leave many a tale, many stories, many recollections, many memories, and long will they continue.

One hundred years ago, at 12:13pm on 31 May 1911, the hull of the Titanic was launched in Belfast, Ireland. She “lived” for less than a year and, as we all know, sank on her maiden voyage from Southampton to New York on 15 April 1912.

She has left many a tale, many stories, many recollections, many memories, and long will they continue.

One hundred years ago, in 1911, a new Rector of Port Elizabeth’s The Grey Institute High School was installed. He was William Archer Way (b 1869) and would preside over the progress and development of the school during the next seventeen years of his reign, until he passed away in 1928.

He has left many a tale, many stories, many recollections, many memories, and long will they continue.

In fact, “his name has become legend, and history confirms the popular claim that his noble conception of education, imposed with such intellectual charm, did much to raise the school to its lofty stature it maintains so admirably to this day.” (1)

Upon his commencement as Rector, he identified two basic inadequacies in the school structure. The first was that of the 210 boys in the High School (then from Std 3 to matriculation), less than twelve were in the highest (matriculation) class.

The second cardinal weakness, in Mr Way’s opinion, was the absence of boarders.

He immediately acted and obtained temporary accommodation in the vicinity of the School on the Donkin Reserve for boys wishing to become boarders. The first house was Gowan Hill in Bird Street (directly opposite what was then the Collegiate Girls’ School). The second house, Rose Cottage, was added the following year, right next door to the Grey in Havelock Street (and opposite the King Edward Hotel) and a third house, Norwood, adjoining Gowan Hill, was added a few months later.

Eleven youths, who had been with Mr Way at Graaff-Reinet High School (he had previously been at Dale in King William’s Town and then Graaff-Reinet) soon joined him in Port Elizabeth and became the nucleus of the boarding establishment of The Grey.

Those eleven lads from Graaff-Reinet (with recognisable surnames still today) were Bernard, Eric and Guy Hobson, Everitt and Petrus Enslin, George and Cecil Davenport, Wilfred Lee, Edward Wille, Gert Bekker, and one surnamed Dodds.

So, today 100 years later, we wish Grey’s Boarding House, the nucleus of the School (and now known as Meriway – after Rectors Meredith and Way) a very Happy 100th Birthday!

It has left many a tale, many stories, many recollections, many memories, and long will they continue with the many boarders who have resided there (including me as Boarding House Master (1984 – 1986) and Sean as boarder and prefect (2009 – 2010)).

Interestingly, as Grey’s First Cricket Team returns from touring England tomorrow, it is also 100 years ago in 1911 that Rector Way (who also played in the First XI) invited the first English cricket professional, H. Myers (from the Yorkshire Country Eleven) to spend the summer in Port Elizabeth coaching the boys.

During the first four years of his tenure (1911 – 1915) and as the First World War Clouds gathered, Rector Way would also oversee the planning, building and moving of the Grey (High School) from the Donkin Reserve to its present site and magnificent buildings on the Mill Park campus.

For the next four years, therefore, there will be a number of 100-year milestones in the life of the school to commemorate and celebrate.

Congratulations!

(1) ‘Neath The Tower (Part 2) – A.M. Pollock