My intention was to go to the University of Cape Town but, to do this, I first had to pass the Matriculation examination. So that I should not have to wait too long before I could to the university I made up my mind to take only one year to do this, thus I went back to school (my old school again) and was accepted into Std 10. I knew that I would have to do the Std 9 setworks etc., in addition to those that would be done in Std 10. My chief difficulty was, however, that in Stds 7 and 8 I had not done any Latin, as I did not think that Latin would help in my aim of going to sea, so I did mathematics in addition to arithmetic. Now I had to pass in Latin before I could “major” in English at the University, which was my intention. My programme was therefore this: everyday after school I did all the homework that I was set and then read a chapter in one of the Std 9 setbooks, but also learned by heart a page of the Latin grammar book. Fortunately in those days my memory was very good. There were only six of us in the Std 10 class so we got more or less individual attention from our teachers, all of whom knew me and did their best to help me, giving me extra tuition after school, etc. I was fond of games and so played Rugby football, one or two practices in the week and usually a match on Saturday. To keep fit I used, after supper each day, to walk at a good pace along the Beach Road as far as the Sea Point Pavilion and then back again, then resting for a few minutes to get my breathing and heart beats back to normal and then doing my homework, etc. Very often my sister Hettie, who was in her second year at ‘varsity , accompanied me on this walk, which made it pleasanter. When the June tests came in school I did not do very well but, once again, my teachers were very good to me and pointed out my mistakes, etc. The school Rugby year ended in August so that I then had more time in which to read and learn.
With November came the final tests. And real tests they were. There were times when I despaired of ever passing, especially in Latin. When the last examination had been done I felt absolutely deflated. I walked a lot, bathed a lot, slept a lot and worried a lot!
Meanwhile two of my sisters had gained “vacation work” in the Matriculation Examination office, where they had to go through all the examination papers as they were marked, to check the marks and the totals as given by the examiners and to draw up the lists of those who had passed and the class in which they had done so. For these examinations there were three classes, First, Second and Third and those candidates whose totals were less than those for a Third Class had, of course, failed. They knew my examination number so they were on the look out for my scripts! When they did the totalling of my papers they found that I had gained just four marks short of a First Class pass, so they got out all my scripts and went over each one, hoping to find that one or other of the examiners had made a mistake in totalling my marks so that the missing four marks could be found. But all in vain. I was very sad when I learned how close I’d been to a First Class pass but, in the circumstances, felt that it was really better than I had hoped.
Photo by courtesy of CapeTownToday.co.za with thanks.