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School historian fascinated by the incredible survival story of SACS

April 12, 2019
Canon Newth was the school’s longest serving Head of School, in the job for 38 years.

How would you describe the 134-year history of St Andrew’s Cathedral School in one word?

“Weird,” surmises the school’s official historian Victor Branson. “It has survived and flourished beyond any imagination.”

Branson, commissioned by the Head of School Dr Collier to write the first-ever official history of the school, says a unique school such as St Andrew’s deserves a unique history. He believes it’s the only surviving choir school in the Southern Hemisphere.

When you’re on the hunt for information when there’s little available, it doesn’t take a lot to make you excited – but some days you stumble upon gold. Last month, Victor was given the audiotapes of a never-before-heard interview with Canon Newth, the Head of School from 1941-1979.

“It was gold,” he says. “Newth was describing who he was and where he came from, and all the things I needed for the history.”

He cites the longest-serving headmaster’s determination to fight for the school, occasionally in the face of considerable opposition, as the reason for its present survival and flourishing.

Survival was, at one point, a feat on its own. There were times early in the school’s history where as few as 40 students were enrolled.

Now, in its 134th year, it’s time to put it all into one big story.

“There’s never been a history written of the school before,” he says. “We’re not starting with nothing, though. We have Canon Newth’s book, Serving a Great Cause, which is not a narrative history of the school but is a wonderful source of history.

“My method has been to use the skeleton of his work as the outline and structure, and then complement that with other resources I’ve located.”

The research takes a while – he’s only up to 1968 – but for Victor, it’s a joy.

“History was my first love because in school my strength was definitely in words and not numbers,” he says. “So doing this work is a great pleasure.”

The school’s official history book will be released next year. If you have any information or material you’d like to provide, please get in touch with Victor Branson at [email protected]