|18 Apr 2023|
DIOCESAN COLLEGE PREPARATORY SCHOOL (BISHOPS PREP) IN CAPE TOWN SOUTH AFRICA RECENTLY HONOURED ARCHBISHOP DESMOND MPILO TUTU ON MONDAY 27 MARCH 2023 AT A CEREMONY AT THE SCHOOL.
It was a glorious autumn morning in Cape Town, the writer Paul Murray just back from Cambridge, at his post as the school historian attending a very significant ceremony in the life of Bishops Diocesan College Preparatory School situated at the foot of Devil’s Peak in Rondebosch.
Mr Greg Brown, the Headmaster of Bishops Prep, opened a ceremony to honour the Late Archbishop Desmond Tutu, attended by representatives from The Desmond and Leah Tutu Legacy Foundation, including the CEO Janet Jobson, Tony Reeler the Principal of the College, and Bishop Joshua Louw of the Anglican Church of Southern Africa, and honoured guests. The school Chaplain, The Reverend Monwabisi Peter, conducted the ceremony of the blessing of the Memorial. In attendance were the boys of the Prep school and staff and invited guests.
Desmond Mpilo Tutu (1931 – 2021) was a South African clergyman, who rose to the highest position in the Anglican Church in Southern Africa (ACSA), namely as its Archbishop. In 1984, then Bishop Tutu, he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. When he became the Archbishop of Cape Town in 1986, he also became Bishops’ Visitor, until 1996 when he retired from that position. ACSA has always been in fellowship with the Church of England, and the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby pays regular visits to South Africa. The following link contains footage of His Grace’s recent visit: https://www.timeslive.co.za/news/south-africa/2022-11-25-robben-island-is-what-comes-out-of-the-darkness-archbishop-of-canterbury/ when he addressed the congregation of St George the Martyr, Cape Town’s Anglican Cathedral.
The Cathedral itself has strong ties not only with the English Church but also the British Royal Family, many of whom visited there; including Prince Albert the son of Queen Victoria, who came there on 27 February 1881; as well as the Duke of Cornwall, the future King George V and his wife Mary of Teck in 1901 (Mary, the year before, laid the foundation stone of School House at Bishops, designed by the architect Sir Herbert Baker); the Prince of Wales in 1925 (subsequently King Edward VIII who would abdicate the throne); followed by King George VI and his family in 1947; Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip (1995, 2002); as well as Prince Charles (now King Charles III) and Lady Camilla (in 2011, when the writer of this article met and shook hands with His Royal Highness). Most recently (2019) the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, Prince Harry and Meghan Merkel visited there. The links of Bishops Prep School as an Anglican school are therefore still strong with the English Church, of whom the Monarch is the supreme head.
The Tutu Memorial is a project that was planned in 2022 in tandem with the refurbishment of the Rossall precinct at the Prep. The name Rossall is also the name of a school in Fleetwood, in Lancashire, England, but in Rondebosch Cape Town it was one of the existing farms purchased in 1919 for six thousand pounds from the Blackburn family, to accommodate 40 borders and have a classroom capacity of 50 to 60 boys. This heralded the start of the Prep, with the purchase of not only Rossall but also of the Stanmore Estate. One needs to cast one’s mind back to 1919/20 to that time just more than 100 years ago with the founding of Bishops Prep. Today, many young Prep School boys enjoy the world class sporting facilities that the school offers, not least the Rossall Field and Pavilion under the shadow of Table Mountain. One of the Cambridge Magdalene College’s much-loved Fellows, Michael Keall, himself once a Prep School Head, known as a cricket-loving Headmaster of three English schools, who sadly died in 2019, loved his visits to Bishops. He is what one would term a ‘swallow’ a person from Britain who would spend the summer months in the lovely Cape Mediterranean climate, with his own apartment within a stone’s throw from the Rossall field.
Mr Brown explained in one of the school’s newsletters the eighteen-month process that resulted in the new Rossall project which now includes the Tutu Memorial. For this Memorial, every boy in the school painted a tile on which his ‘view’ of Archbishop Tutu is represented. Inscribed on the Memorial are the words of Archbishop Tutu:
“Differences are not intended to separate, to alienate.
We are different precisely in order to realise our need of one another”.
During his time as Visitor to the school, His Grace paid several visits to Bishops, principally on official occasions although there were other times that were not. The following link shows Archbishop Tutu with Mr Guy Pearson the school’s fourteenth Principal, approaching the venue with an international audience, which he was to address in 2021; https://www.litnet.co.za/the-passing-of-desmond-tutu-26-december-2021-a-few-memories/ Archbishop Tutu adored children and there are very many photographs of His Grace surrounded by children such as the one at the occasion of the Arch (as he was often called) opening the Music School at St Joseph’s Senior School at Ballymun in Dublin https://www.alamy.com/stock-photo-archbishop-desmond-tutu-with-school-children-at-the-opening-of-the-110325065.html I personally recall an occasion at St George’s Cathedral, Cape Town, when Mr. Dean was attempting to give His Grace a ‘break’ by keeping children eager to be photographed in his presence, at bay, to which Archbishop Tutu protested and said, they should come and stand around him for the photograph.
At the ceremony for the blessing of the Tutu Memorial at Bishops, Mr Brown explained Archbishop Tutu’s strong stance for justice, fairness and peace in South Africa and the world; a stand he took with great courage, determination, compassion and love. In this way Mr Brown explained Archbishop Tutu as a ‘warrior for hope’. So, the memorial ‘stands as an injunction to live lives based on his example’. Mr Brown also explained that the ceremony was to celebrate the re-invention of the Rossall space - or its makeover - and to remember all those who had occupied the space at some stage, even as far back when the first inhabitants lived there.
The Tutu Memorial at Bishops Prep in Cape Town, at the foot of Devil’s Peak (Table Mountain), with the tiles adorning the base of the memorial, each one hand-painted by the students of Bishops Prep. (Photograph by Paul Murray).
Following on Mr Brown’s address, one of the senior pupils, Khalil Crookes, addressed the audience. He said that Archbishop Desmond Tutu’s passing at the end of 2021 was an extremely sad moment for South Africa. He further said that as South Africa and the world reflected on the life of the Archbishop, so it was also an opportunity for all of us to celebrate the life of a truly remarkable person. Although small in stature, the Arch loomed large for his courage and resolve to fight for justice. Khalil also contextualized the Memorial in terms of how each boy in the Prep in 2022 had decorated a tile with reference to Desmond Tutu, from his own image of who the Arch was and what he meant to that person; resulting in 384 tiles covering the sides of the memorial. The previous year’s seniors had donated a Fever Tree (Vachellia xanthoploea) that now stands in the center of the court. The symbolism of the tree is that it is found across many parts of Eastern and Southern Africa, the continent that the Archbishop so loved.
Khalil asked for us to ‘be a community that embraces and celebrates our diversity, the uniqueness that each of us brings to this school, creating a place where all feel welcome and know that they belong’. It was Khalil’s explicit wish that the memorial ‘be a reminder of the humble and powerful man that Archbishop Desmond Tutu was’.
He ended by asking each person present to be an inspiration to others… and so to follow in His Grace’s footsteps and ‘to live lives of kindness, love and courage, striving for justice and fairness in the desire to create a better space and world’.
With thanks to Dr Paul Murray who also writes on South African political affairs.
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