Milton High School

Selborne Avenue, Bulawayo

No Ancient Pile by kind permission Michael Bullivant (author)

A History of Milton School
M F Bullivant

Michael Bullivant, who contributed a distinguished monograph on Milton to "Renowned Rhodesian Schools" has now published a full scale history to mark the School's 75th Anniversary. It is a work which should be on the shelves of every Miltonian!

The "prehistory" of Milton is dealt with at greater length. I learnt a lot about the political pressures which led to the closing of St. John's School. But a close connection continued between St. John's Church and Milton so long as the latter remained in Borrow Street. Archdeacon Harker, whose rectory was opposite the school worked closely with the first Head, de Beer, who sent him as many choristers as he required and rewarded boarders who went to Sunday church with a bacon and egg breakfast.

School historians have difficulty in maintaining interest once the rough and tumble of the pioneering days has been left behind. (Milton boarders used to need a punt to cross the quad in the rainy season). One distinguished head succeeds another, a hostel goes up here, a playing field is laid out there - and the reader dozes gently off. Michael has avoided bathos by including a mass of colourful detail, much of it in the appendix to each chapter entitled "Odds & Ends"; and his obvious enthusiasm for and pride in the school holds the reader's attention. Eulogies are restrained, and the occasional squeeze of lemon (usually at the expense of the Ministry of Education) saves the mixture from becoming over rich. It is humiliating for a reviewer to have to admit that he cannot put his finger on any faults, but that is now my predicament. Speaking personally, as one who shares the first head's indifference to organized sport, I could have spared some of the long tale of sporting successes to learn what was going on in the classrooms, the slow slide for example, from the humanities to the natural sciences. (Not but what, as late as 1968, the school could still produce a magnificent Latin howler). And why, from Michael of all men, do we hear so little of Milton music.

My other grouse concerns modern education in general. The author gleefully records the so-called "sparetime" activities which are always being added to the curriculum. Fair enough; except that religion is not one of them. Anyone who tries to organise a confirmation class soon discovers the modern child has no spare time. "Leisure activities" have destroyed leisure.

There remains however, one resort for the frustrated reviewer. Ignoring the banquet provided, he may loudly demand further courses (These may require months of further research - but who cares about that?)

Very well then; in these sociological days, we are told very little about the impact of Milton School on the nation at large or the city. For example: Plumtree School has often been called the nursery of the Rhodesian Front (I hope that is not an indelicate remark). Did Milton contribute MP's to the Front or some other party? How many OM's have been chosen as alderman or mayors, or served on the Bulawayo City Council?

What professions or careers has, say, the class of 1960 taken up? How many have emigrated and where to? Do Miltonians tend to marry Evelyns or is Townsend or the Convent preferred? Do their sons follow them to Milton or has zoning put a stop to all that?

That should keep the author happily occupied until he has produced a second edition, But, if not, I promise to think up some further conundrums, any time he asks.

The book contains many photographs and ends with six appendices; that on "Milton at War" describes some enthralling adventures of OM's in World War II. Michael has certainly done his part in making "Milton, a name of resound of ages".


The complete edition



  1. St. John’s School,                                         1898 – 1910 ................ Page 1
  2. Dab’s School,                                                1910 – 1924 ................. Page 11
  3. Colonel Brady and "The New School",    1925 – 1930 ................ Page 20
  4. Livingston and the "Modern Side",          1930 – 1939 ................ Page 28
  5. War and Peace - and Expansion,              1939 – 1955 ................ Page 48
  6. Messiter-Tooze and the Golden Jubilee, 1956 – 1963 ................ Page 57
  7. Brett and Academic Excellence,                1964 – 1969 ................ Page 68
  8. "The Leading Boys' School",                      1970 – 1985 ................ Page 77

AFTERWORD - The Seventy-fifth Birthday ....................................... Page 97

APPENDIX A - The Milton Sonnet ..................................................... Page 100

APPENDIX B - The First Milton Address ........................................... Page 103

APPENDIX C - Milton Verse .............................................................. Page 111

APPENDIX D - Milton at War ............................................................ Page 127

APPENDIX E - Pat Judson ................................................................. Page 154

APPENDIX F - Lists and Tables ......................................................... Page 159

                             Scholarships and Bursaries ....................................... Page 164



As no second edition of 'No Ancient Pile' seems likely much before the centenary in 2010, it is perhaps appropriate to list some corrections prior to that date! The following have been brought to my attention by various people and are all, I think, of interest - any further amendments for future publication will be welcomed.

Robin Ewbank, Dean of Bulawayo, contributed the following note:

'On page 4 of "No Ancient Pile" we read that Rhodes distributed the end-of-year prizes at St. John's in 1900. Further research shows this is not quite accurate.

'There was no prize-giving at the end of 1900 for the sufficient reason that there were no prizes. The war had prevented their arrival from Cape Town. 'It was decided to hold the ceremony on 21st June 1901 which was the last day of the second term and shortly before the Nativity of St. John Baptist. Rhodes happened to be in Bulawayo that week and at the last moment agreed to distribute the prizes.

'The pupils, 123 in number, were drawn up on a stage erected over the choir-stalls in the church and were revealed when the curtain which separated chancel from nave was drawn back. They gave an entertainment - songs, recitations, comic dialogues, musical drill - which the reporter from the Chronicle found more interesting than he expected.

'Wimbush, the Rector, was in the Chair and introduced the guest of honour. Over sixty pupils, half the school, received prizes, and Rhodes, who had only nine months to live, gave rather a rambling speech.

'He praised the Right-of-Entry system which he said was unique in this country. For example, at St. John's there were twenty Jewish children whom the Rabbi instructed. He then enlarged upon the benefits of state-provided education, if combined with the Right of Entry. This part of his speech can hardly have been agreeable to those who were struggling to build up St. John's as a denominational school.

'However, the children gave three cheers for the speaker who next day left Bulawayo, never to return.'

Facing P.40 is a photograph of H.R.H. Prince George inspecting cadets and in the text on P.46 this occasion is referred to with the bracketed note that the Prince. Later became King George VI. This is quite wrong: H.R.H. Prince George was, of course, the Duke of Kent who was killed in an air crash in 1942; the future George VI was Prince Albert – he took the name George on succeeding to the throne in honour of his father, but remained 'Bertie' to family and friends until his dying day.

The illustration of the interior of the Dining Hall in 1929 printed between pages 38 and 39 has been reversed, as reference to the 1985 view between pages 96 and 97 will show.

The photograph of the West Wing of the School and Charter house in the early 1940's, between pages 48 and 49, is probably misdated; the car in the picture is almost certainly Colonel Brady's which means that the photograph in all likelihood was taken by 1930. This in turn casts suspicion on the dates of the other photographs in this group as it would seem that all of them were taken at the same time.

The list of Selous prizewinners on P.169 ends in 1936; there were in fact two further winners. both in 1951: M G H Yates and R G Stephens - who is now Chairman of the School Council. The two names were omitted from both Honours Boards and books and the earlier omission will be rectified very shortly. The Selous Prize was a prestigious essay competition whose subjects were to be related to the open air, wild life etc. matters close to the benefactor's heart. Although the winning essayist only received a book, his school was more generously treated, gaining £100, no inconsiderable sum even in 1951.


Illustrations (pdf version)

The nave of St. John's, c.1900
St. John's Church, c.1899
St. John's School, 1906
Milton High School, 1910
Milton House, 1911
Sir William Milton
E.B. De Beer
The First XV, 1913
The Staff of Milton High School, c.1921
The Calvary, St. John's Cathedral
St. John's Choir Outing, c.1920
Lt. Col. J.B. Brady, D.S.O
"The Prince of Wales with his Miltonian Shooting Party", July 1925
The Laying of the Foundation Stone, 5 August 1926
Building a School, 1927
Milton School Prefects, 1926   
Sir John Chancellor inspects the Cadets
Sir John Chancellor unveils the portrait of Alfred Beit
The Main School Block, 1929
The Main School Entrance, 1929
The Beit Memorial Hall, 1929
The War Memorial, 1929
Charter House, 1929
The Dining Hall - Exterior, 1929
The Dining Hall -Interior, 1929
House Common Room, 1929
School Library, 1929
A Form Room, 1929
Practice at the Cricket Nets, 1929
Inspection of "G" Platoon by H.R.H. Prince George
Aerial View of Milton from Selborne Avenue, 1936
Aerial View of Milton from Townsend Road, 1936
Aerial View of Milton from Selborne Avenue, 1941
Aerial View of Hostels, looking north, c.1945
The Rainy Season, early 1940s
The Beit Hall from the Main Quad, early 1940s
The Dining Hall and Pioneer House, early 1940s
The West Wing of the School and Charter House, early 1940s
H.G. Livingston
L.R. Morgan
W. Gebbie
A. Ball
Classrooms, 1951
Classrooms erected in 12 days by Les Playford, 1951
Golden Jubilee Speech Day, 1960
J.H. Downing
C.R. Messiter-Tooze
The Opening of the Sixth Form  Centre, 1961
P.M. Brett
R.K. Gracie
Aerial View of Milton from Selborne Avenue, 1958
Aerial View of Milton from Selborne Avenue, 1978
Aerial View of Milton from the Playing Fields, 1978
Aerial View of Milton from the Thompson Fields, 1978
E. Andersen
H. Fincham
The Original Badge and the Present One
The Deputy Prime Minister demonstrates the marimbas, 1983
Pat Judson