Boys' and Girls' Grammar Schools, Suva, Fiji

 A PERSONAL RECOLLECTION BY ROD EWINS, AND INCLUDING SCHOOL PHOTOS CONTRIBUTED BY A NUMBER OF BOYS' AND GIRLS' GRAMMAR EX-STUDENTS

THIS PAGE ©2000-2012

I. Boys' and Girls' Grammar Schools, Suva. 1918-1960

Click on thumbnails to enlarge

1. Boys' Grammar School, from Victoria Pde.  (Co-Operative Postcard #126, 1930s?)

 2. Boys' Grammar School in far distance, GPH in foreground, Albert Park right foreground. (Photo Rob Wright, early 1950s, courtesy Mark Harvey)

 

 3. Boys' Grammar School, from the playing field.

 

4. Girls' Grammar School Hostel
The lower two photographs were published in "Fiji: Handbook of the Colony", published by authority of H.Craigie, the Government Printer, in 1937 (pp.48-9). For reasons, no doubt, of wartime austerity, the next volume, published in 1941, had few pictures, using a limited set of the same plates. Whether because the "zinco" printing plate was damaged (there are signs in the 1937 print that this was the case), the BGS photo was omitted from the 1941 volume, whereas the GGS image actually printed rather better the second time round (pp.36-7).

The building in Selbourne St. shown as (4) above, originally housed the Suva Public School. In 1917 it was decided to construct a Boys' Grammar School, and land was reclaimed for this purpose off Victoria Parade, beside the Carnegie Library. It opened on July 8th 1918 (1-3), and the vacated building "up the hill" became the Girls' Grammar School. The BGS playground shown in (3) was developed on new land reclaimed during 1923.

The process of reclamation was continuing well into the 1960s. In the 1940s land was created on which "temporary" wooden buildings were constructed, and by 1950 most of the BGS teaching activities removed to there (further discussion below). In the 1950s the space where the Fiji Travel Lodge stands, between the old BGS and the Grand Pacific Hotel (2) was a very rough work in progress known to BGS schoolboys as "The Reclamation". It was officially out of bounds to us, which made it irresistible, and many toy boat races were held in the pools and drains on that land. The "boats" were generally a sliver of very light vau (Hibiscus tiliaceus) wood with a large dry leaf such as a makita (Parinari laurina) stuck into it as a sail. Better still was hopping over the sea wall at low tide and conducting the races in the rivulets. The current in these pools combined with the sea breeze to race these little craft along at breakneck speed. Naturally, going over the sea wall was even more illegal than going into "The Reclamation", but the occasional administration of two or three whacks of the cane must have seemed a worthwhile risk, because I remember doing it quite regularly.

Small boys attended the Girls Grammar School until the end of Standard 2 (about Grade 4) when the average age was about 8. I never knew whether this was because they were deemed as yet harmless to little girls (an unsafe assumption!), or was a humane attempt to defer the inevitable bullying by bigger boys until the little ones were presumed better able to withstand it (an equally misplaced confidence). I attended the GGS for only one year in 1949, by which time all teaching and administration was done in a rambling assortment of timber buildings across the road from the fine original structure (4), which functioned exclusively as the girls' hostel (I have no photos of those buildings over the road, if anyone does, and would be willing to share them, I would be grateful. Please contact me).

In 1950 I 'graduated' to the BGS. That year Std.3 classes were still being held in the main building shown in (1) and (3), which also housed the boarders, and the Headmaster's office was there too. All higher classes and other administrative activities had already moved across the playground to "temporary" wooden buildings that are still in place over half a century later. Standard 3 migrated there in 1951, and from then on only the assembly hall and library (such as it was) remained in the "big" building, with a small-bore rifle range for the Cadets located underneath the far end. Last time I visited the not-so-temporary buildings in the 1990s they housed the Fiji Department of Immigration and maintained virtually unchanged the austere impersonality they had in the 50s. I was sure I could still smell the chalk. (Again, I have no photos of the buildings in question. Please contact me if you are willing to share any you may have.)

Like its sister building up the hill, the main building thenceforth served only as a school hostel building, though through the 1950s school assemblies, school dances etc. continued to be held in the large hall of the main building, the only space large enough for these activities. There was also a small-bore rifle range under the corner of the buiding on the far left of photo (3), used by the school cadets (see below). Near this grew a cumquat tree that copiously produced possibly the sourest fruit yet evolved by the plant kingdom. Lemons, even limes, were almost saccharine by comparison. Eating these toxic little objects was, like most interesting things in and around the school, forbidden — one might have assumed an unnecessary rule in this case. However like most other prohibited things, this gave it an otherwise unwarranted appeal, and eating them was flagrantly and enthusiastically engaged in at every opportunity. It was de rigeur to prove how tough you were by eating them without pulling a face — something I never achieved, though some even managed a rather horrible rictus-like grin that never quite counterfeited enjoyment.

I completed my preparation for the world at the BGS at the end of Form 6 in 1956. In 1957 a Form 6a was inaugurated, for those who couldn't bear to tear themselves away, but that certainly didn't describe me — I couldn't wait to leave! In 1960 the two schools were to amalgamate as Suva Grammar School and remove to Veiuto, still facing the sea and further along the continuation of Victoria Parade towards Suva Point. I will have to leave the story of the "new" post-1960 Suva Grammar School to others who know it.

2. Grammar Schools 1940-47

I have a couple of photos in my family album courtesy of my brother Terry (Terrence David Ewins, 1930-1997) whose last year at Grammar was 1945. I was not yet at school that year, still living a blissful life around the other side of the island, spending Saturdays playing with other kids at the Namosau Tennis Courts where my Dad played tennis each weekend. Gerald Patterson, Arthur Edwards, Bill Waddingham, Alan Donald and Peter Sellars have kindly supplemented Terry's photos with several from their collections, and they and my sister Beverley have all contributed information on names. I thank all of them very much. But there are still some faces we don't have names for, and if you have any idea who these are, please do contact me so that the record is complete.

(i)   Littlies GGS Either 1940 Primer 4 or 1941 Standard 1. I am grateful to Alan Donald for the photo and some of the names, and to Bob Barrack for filling in the gaps and confirming the year and level.

(ii)   Primary school photo GGS 1945 probably Std. 2.

(iii)  Std. 3, GGS 1946

(iv)  Seniors School photo BGS/GGS With wartime conditions still in play, the Girls' and Boys' Grammar Schools had more interaction including the use of mainly women teachers, most of the men having by that time left.

(v)   Informal group BGS/GGS

(vi)  Upper and middle formers BGS

(vii)  Seniors BGS

(viii) Lower formers BGS

(ix)  Upper formers 1946 or 47

(x)   An impromptu music group, GGS

3. High School, BGS 1950-52

I actually started at Grammar in 1949, attending Standard 2 at the GGS under the caring eye of Miss Sibyl Norton (later Mrs Richard Creigh). If anyone knows of her whereabouts I would love to write and tell her what a great job she did with her "littlies". I went "down the hill" to the BGS for Std. 3 in 1950, a very rude shock encountering as class teacher perhaps the worst of the sadistic bullies the BGS did seem to attract to its teaching ranks in those days. Fortunately, during the year even the apparently remarkably unseeing administration could no longer overlook his transgressions and got shot of him. He moved from Fiji to one of the neighbouring island groups, but was back before too many years to serve a gaol sentence at Korovou — for embezzlement, I believe it was. We kids would sometimes see him working clearing roadsides with all of the other kaivesu, and would jeer and make rude faces at him. Some small revenge.

Though I don't have any of my own pictures of my first couple of years at the BGS, thanks to Bill Waddingham I now have two photos from 1950 on this page, one of Form 4 and one of the school hockey team, "The Hornets". I only seem to have one photo in my own collection from that period, of the "Scripture Union" in 1952, when I was in Form 2. This is a vague memory only, since I don't recall that either I nor many of my classmates were particularly religious (with one or two exceptions, who tended to do penance for that fact at the hands of the humorists and bullies). I expect it was an initiative of one of the teachers who was religious and the school felt it was good for their image. Or it may have been an outgrowth of the Scripture classes we had for an hour one afternoon each week, when ministers and priests would come to the school and conduct something rather reminiscent of Sunday School, with those who would admit to adherance to their creed. I briefly tried the Anglican and Methodist sessions, but didn't care for either and finally settled on the Presbyterian, solely because I (and all of us in that group) really liked the warm and grandfatherly Mr. McDiarmid who ran those sessions. After all these years, strangely, I can still picture his benevolent features and silver white hair, though I am sad to say I can't remember a single lesson! I can identify only a few of the faces in this photo at this distance in time, if anyone using this site can identify others, again, please contact me.

(i)  Form 4, 1950

(ii) Hockey team ("Hornets") 1950

(iii) Scripture Union 1952

(iv) Hockey team 1952

4. Girls' Grammar School 1952

This photo was kindly contributed via Larry Waddingham. The names are a joint effort by several contributors. Unknowns are shown with question marks, and those in red are not certain. Any other GGS photos anyone could contribute to this page would be very welcome. Please send me an email with the photo as an attachment in as high a resolution as you can manage.

• Girl Guides & Brownies, 1952

5. Boys' Grammar School, Upper forms in 1954-6

These are some class-photographs from the mid-fifties. If anyone has corrections or additions to my identifications I will be pleased to hear from them — please contact me. For help with a fair few of the identifications I am grateful to my old mate and classmate Barry Gardner, whose memory for such things is way better than mine! For the Form 3, 1954 photo I am grateful to Liz Waring. and for the Form 4, 1955 photo I also thank Frank (Mick) Ryan.

• Form 3, 1954 with class-master Joe Gibson

• Form 4, 1954 with class-master John Mason

 School cadets 1954 with parade officers Arthur Edwards and Noel Proctor. Thanks to Peter Kerrigan for this photo.

Form 4, 1955 with class-master Ivan Lawson

• Form 6, 1956 students only, outside the "temporary" building that was home

• Form 6, 1956 with headmaster, Glen Anstice

 Prefects and house captains, 1956 near the sea-wall, with Joske's Thumb and Mount Korobaba in the background.

 School cadets 1956 No.1 Platoon, Bren-gun squad, on parade with Victoria Parade in the background. NCOs are Blair Hunt (Sgt, centre and front), Vin Lobendahn (Cpl, standing alone on far left) and Rod Ewins (LCpl, far right).

 

Boys' Grammar School Badge, 1950s (photo courtesy Bill Waddingham)

THIS PAGE © Rod Ewins 2000-2010. Please note that the text and photo captions on this site are copyright ©Rod Ewins 2014. In the case of the photos themselves the copyright should be presumed to reside with the original photographers. Anyone wishing to reference this material is requested NOT to appropriate it, but to provide a link to it. That keeps all of us happy.