School celebrates a proud heritage

Jessica Greathead, Father Andrew Simons (Uplands Chaplain), Chloe Greathead, (front) Sophie, Matt and Nicholas Greathead. The children all have fathers who attended the school. Their grandfather, Jimmie, came here and his mother, Emily, was the patron of the school chapel.

WHITE RIVER – As part of celebrating 2013 as its 85th year of existence, Uplands Preparatory School chose heritage as a theme. A number of themes are celebrated every term at Uplands.

One of the seven laid down by the Eco-schools Platinum Guidelines for the maintenance of one’s international flag status is heritage.

The school celebrates and takes pride in a number of families who have attended for three generations. The Greathead, Kay, More, Calder/Haig and Macgregor families are duly worthy of acknowledgement.

This year also marks the 90th year of one of the buildings, Webster House. It was designed by Mr Patrick Eagle, a public works architect in Pretoria who worked alongside the renowned Sir Herbert Baker. It was during this time that he was commissioned by Mr WA Webster to design his stately, double-storey home in White River. The property was sold to Uplands in 1945.

Professor Roger Fisher, an honoured heritage environmentalist and former head of the School of Architecture at the University of Pretoria, recently visited the school.

For a building to be registered as a heritage site, it needs to be more than

60 years old. Webster House met the age requirements, but Fisher advised the school to apply for a Blue Plaque to commemorate it as a significant site. The Mpumalanga Historical Interest Group will follow the school’s application. There are photographs on Fisher’s website at under ‘What’s up’.

A Blue Plaque fosters a sense of pride and helps to educate communities about history and architecture. It also plays a role in preserving significant spaces and places for the future. The building is in excellent condition and is currently used by the administrative staff on the lower level, while the upper section is occupied by girl boarders.

A love of one’s country goes hand in hand with the appreciation of the broader term “heritage”. It was decided that boards depicting the country’s national symbols would be created.

A few years ago a large South African flag was made at Uplands, using various coloured plastic bottle tops. This giant-sized flag was put up in the school’s audio-visual room.

It was the starting point of the idea to create a heritage wall. The plan to create new boards depicting South Africa’s national symbols was executed and a massive drive to collect bottle tops was started. An estimated 15 000 were needed. They were collected by families and friends of Uplands from as far afield as Bloemfontein and Johannesburg.

Under the heritage theme, it was decided to depict the five national symbols on the boards: The national fish – galjoen, the national tree – yellow wood, the national animal – springbok, the national flower – protea and the national bird – blue crane. It was decided to also include a board of Table Mountain, one of the new 7 Wonders of Nature and the rhino.

The boards were designed by an Uplands parent, Rosemary Hall and another parent, Nicola Gilfillan, who is an accomplished artist, helped to draw the basic outlines of the symbols onto the boards. The challenge went out to staff and children as to who would like to become involved. Some teachers took it upon themselves to have the boards in their classrooms for children to do in their spare time and small groups of pupils also assisted on their own.

Uplands challenges other schools to reuse plastic bottle tops in this meaningful way. It hopes that other communities will also reuse useful articles and benefit our environment at the same time.

Retha Nel

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