How four PE Schools became One
Once upon a time, the diocese of Port Elizabeth was home to seven prestigious Catholic high schools. Today, there are only three, but the history, traditions and ethos of the four former schools are not lost.
While Port Elizabeth’s Holy Rosary Convent, Marist Brothers’ College and Trinity High School no longer exist, their legacies and ethos prevail today in St Dominic’s Priory School.
St Dominic’s is a co-educational independent Catholic school from Grade Pre-R to Grade 12. It is the end result of various Port Elizabeth independent Catholic schools coming together on one piece of land.
The school has a long and proud history from different corners of the city.
Holy Rosary Convent School for junior and high school girls was opened in 1867 by the Cabra Dominican Sisters, who had first arrived in South Africa in 1863.
It occupied beautiful premises in Bird Street, in central Port Elizabeth, and many old girls remember especially the chapel fondly.
This girls’ school closed in 1982. The junior school girls transferred to St Dominic’s Priory and the high school girls continued their schooling on the same premises,but in a new co-ed school called Trinity High School.
St Dominic’s Priory School for junior and high school girls, including boarders, was founded on the current St Dominic’s Priory premises in 1900. After 1983, the high school girls moved to Trinity High School and the priory school became a junior day school for boys and girls.
The first Marist Brothers’ College in the Eastern Cape was founded in 1875 in Port Elizabeth, from where the brothers opened another school in Uitenhage in 1884.
In 1952 this school for junior and high school boys was transferred to Walmer as St Patrick’s Marist Brothers’ College. This school was closed and sold by the brothers in 1982.
The Walmer Park shopping mall was built on the premises’high school boys transferred to Trinity High School and junior school boys transferred to St Dominic’s Priory.
Trinity was formed in 1983 from the amalgamation of Holy Rosary Convent, St Dominic’s Priory (high school girls only), and St Patrick’s Marist Brothers’ College, Walmer (the high school classes only). In 2000, Trinity High School closed and the boys and girls from Grades 8 to 12 transferred to St Dominic’s Priory. The premises in Bird Street (the old Holy Rosary Convent) were sold.
From 2000 all the preceding Catholic independent schools in Port Elizabeth came together on the same premises at St Dominic’s Priory. The staff, boys and girls of Trinity joined with the junior school at Priory under one board of governors to form St Dominic’s Priory School.
The junior school and high school were administered separately with their own school management structures until January of 2013 when they were amalgamated under a single management and administration.
“We share the premises with the sisters of the priory, a number of whom have lived and worked in the Port Elizabeth community for years and some who have come here to retire,” said the school’s Esme Verfuss, head of academics.
“Many of our alumni remember Sr Anne, Sr Servatius and Sr Margaret Kelly,pioneer sisters of education.”
“With the proud tradition of Dominican and Marist schooling across South Africa and the world, we see ourselves as part of a much wider community and tradition of excellent Catholic education,” Mrs Verfuss said.
The school’s name refers to the Dominican tradition, but learners wear the colours and blazers of all Marist schools.
“We remember the schools that went before,” said Mrs Verfuss. The school’s past pupils’ association is called the Shamrocks’ signifying the three schools in one that we have become.
The Shamrocks emblem seeks to honour the current school as well as those that went before. The former students of Trinity, Holy Rosary and Marist Brothers are part of the school’s tradition and are considered “part of the family”.
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