The Old Diocesan found itself next to a significant monument in Cape Town, earlier this week. The monument was designed by Joseph Michael Solomon (1897-1903F) to commemorate the deaths of Captain Robert Falcon Scott and his companions during their 1910-1913 British Antarctic Expedition. Today, the monument consist of a bronze argosy, representing the Terra Nova, their polar expedition ship. Originally the argosy was made of Elands River Stone. On 15 May 1916 John X. Merriman (1851-1855F) unveiled the memorial monument. It became weather beaten, and was irraparably damaged in June 1948. Bronze was thus used in the replica.
J.M. Solomon was appointed College Architect from 1916, until his death on 26 August 1920. ODs will recognize his handiwork, for he also designed the cover of what has long been The Diocesan College Magazine. Solomon was also the architect who designed the University of Cape Town's Upper Campus. Dr Paul Murray (current HOD of History and College Archivist) explains that Solomon, as a Founders boy, designed the Jameson Steps to be aligned with the Founders clock tower. Luke Scott (1990G) describes in Push the Limit (Bishops hockey publication) how this visual axes line connects the Founders clock tower, School House tower, the Mitre tower, Table Mountain, and Devil's Peak beyond. Michael Walker (1957O) explains in The Architects of Diocesan College that there was huge pressure on Solomon after he was appointed as architect by the UCT Building Committee in 1917. A growing workload, financial restraints by the Building committee, and continual drawing adaptions to the curvature of the mountain slope, fuelled this pressure. On the day when the first sod was turned, it rained heavily. Solomon contacted influenza, and together with depression from the stress of all the pressure, shot himself in his home at The Woolsack.
John X Merriman had just finished his term as Prime Minister of the Cape Colony when Scott passed on his way to Antactica. Merriman entertained Scott, who had just joined up with his crew, at his farm in Stellenbosch. In Melbourne Scott first became aware of a possible race by Roald Amundsen to the South Pole. Scott, however, insisted that he would not sacrifice the expedition's scientific goals to win the race to the Pole. In his book, Antarctic Impressions, Peter Steyn (1955O), gives credit to Scott's scientific achievement of discovering breeding Emperor Penguins. What is so remarkable, is the apalling weather that the adults experience as they incubate the eggs in the coldest conditions known to any form of life. Peter discribes it as one of the highlights of his birdwatching career to have experienced what Scott's scientific men discovered.
On 03 January 1912 Captain Scott made a very interesting decision: from their group of 8, he chose 5 to advance to the South Pole, and 3 to return. Rations had to be re-organised, for the plan (due to logistical and safety reasons) had actually always been to send a party of only 4 on the final stretch to the Pole. One of the 3 men due to return, was "Teddy" Evans, later Admiral Lord Mountevans. Their return journey is an epic tale of survival in itself, but Evans' life was essentially saved by his two companions, Crean and Lashly. He actually dedicated his book, South with Scott, in thanksgiving to the two of them. In 1955 he wrote another book,The Antarctic Challenged, but by then Crean and Lashly had passed away. Now what is interesting about this last man to have seen Captain Scott alive, is that he was the guest speaker at the 1933 Bishops Prizegiving! Extracts from his speech could still hold true today: "The motto for young South Africans should be "South Africa First" and the way to put South Africa first is to give the best that is in you for South Africa. Grow up in the thought that the best living conditions in the world are here - God has given you a magnificent land, a splendid climate, and every natural advantage, and if you cut out snobbishness, laziness, jealousy, greed, and selfishness from your natures, and substitute loyalty to your country, fair play, understanding, enthusiasm and general nice-mindedness, and you are true to yourselves, and true to your friends, you will have done nearly all that is possible to be worthy of those fine South Africans who died for you in places like Delville Wood." For more pictures of the Memorial Monument, click on 'Photos' and "OD Updates".
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