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Armoria academica

QUEENSTOWN GIRLS’ HIGH SCHOOL, Queenstown, Eastern Cape.

Afrikaanse blasoen

Queenstown Girls’ High School

The arms were registered by the Bureau of Heraldry under a certificate issued on 7 June 1976. The blazon reads:

Arms: Argent, a cross gules; in the first quarter an aloe plant bearing three racemes proper.

Motto: Veritas et virtus.

About the arms:
This simple and effective coat of arms comprises only two elements:

1. The cross of St George, patron saint of England and therefore a significant figure among the largely English-speaking colonists who settled Queenstown and its district from 1853 onwards, following its conquest. The district had formerly been the home of the Xhosa chief Maqoma and his following. Maqoma was the right-hand son of Ngqika ka Mlawu and regent for his half-brother Sandile.

2. An aloe, most probably Aloe ferox, a typical plant of many parts of the Eastern Cape, and because of its height (often taller than an adult man) and the visibility over a distance of its yellow-orange-to-red blossoms, often taken as a symbol. It appears in the arms of the Eastern Cape Province and of the town of Walmer, and in the compartment (ground for supporters) of the arms of East London, and in the crest of Transkei.

This illustration shows the aloe plant coloured green, while the school uses an illustration showing it in black. In reality the fleshy, spined leaves are green (sometimes grey-green, and often stained with red) at the top of the plant, but soon die and shrivel, and the older ones hang suspended from the stem with a brownish or greyish colouring.

The blossoms only last for a few weeks, attracting many kinds of birds (especially sugarbirds and sunbirds) which often spoil the inflorescences. Many plants produce a second set of inflorescences after this. Orange-coloured fruits appear in place of the flowers, which are also favoured by birds.

When the fruits fall away, the dried-out “candelabra” of the inflorescences can remain on the plant for some months.

The motto translates as “Zealous and strict”.

Name of the school:
The school currently styles itself Queenstown Girls’ High School, possibly because this is the name the Cape Education Department used for it over many years.

But for a long time the school’s headmistresses referred to it as the “Girls’ High School, Queenstown”, a practice which resulted in a game played among the pupils, who said that the school did not have a proper name and then invented possible names for it. One such name (given with tongue firmly in cheek) was “St George’s Academy for Young Ladies”.

History of the school:
The history given on the school’s website recalls the day that Dr William Bisset Berry (later Sir Bisset) on 2 August 1875 took his daughter, Gwendoline Berry, and her friend, Wilhelmina Browne, to the Government boys’ public school and demanded that they be enrolled.

(The boys’ school is now called Queen’s College.)

“But this is a boys’ school. How can I admit them?” asked the principal, Mr Frederick Beswick.

But admit them he did, and that day in 1875 is today celebrated as the birthday of the girls’ school – which officially turned 125 in the year 2000.

Perhaps a more accurate date for the foundation of the girls’ school is 1898, when the girls and boys were separated and Miss Agnes Burt was appointed headmistress of the new Girls’ School.

She gave the school its motto: Veritas et Virtus. Zealous and strict, she won the admiration and affection of her girls.

In 1918 the school moved to its present home (greatly enlarged since then, but in the same original style) in Frost Street. The building is now surrounded by three girls’ hostels and extensive sports facilities.

In January 1991 the parents of the school opted for “Model C”, which meant that the school, for much of the 20th century racially exclusive against its will, could now admit pupils of any race. (More detail on this choice is given here.)

Afrikaanse blasoen:
Die skoolwapen se blasoen lui in Afrikaans:

Wapen: In silwer, ’n kruis van rooi; in die eerste kwartier ’n aalwynplant met drie blomtrosse van natuurlike kleur.

Leuse: Veritas et virtus.

Die leuse vertaal as: “Ywerig en streng” (of “Ernstig en presies”).

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  • Sources: History as given on the school website, and personal knowledge.

  • Illustration supplied by the school, and scanned by Howard Lancaster. Colours adjusted using MS Picture It!

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    Remarks, inquiries: Mike Oettle