Local news

Fabulous reads: Delving into the history of Michaelhouse

Book overview - Stars of the Morning: A History of Michaelhouse - 1896 - 2021 by Gary Ralfe,

Stars of the Morning: A History of Michaelhouse – 1896 – 2021, Gary Ralfe, Jonathan Ball Publishers, ISBN: 9781776192939

ESTABLISHED in Pietermaritzburg in 1896 and transferred to rural Balgowan in 1901, Michaelhouse has been one of South Africa’s premier senior boarding schools for boys for more than a century.

As a diocesan school, set up on the model of the great English public schools, from the start, Michaelhouse was aimed to shape the whole boy – academically, spiritually and on the playing field.

Stars of the Morning chronicles the history of the school, from the move to Balgowan and the indelible imprint left by the two world wars to the impact of load-shedding and Covid-19. Author Gary Ralfe has a long and storied connection with Michaelhouse – as an Old Boy, grandparent, governor, chairman, trustee and benefactor. He draws on archival sources, interviews and extensive research to tell this complex and fascinating story.

While the success of a school is measured by such things as matric results, sports scores and participation in clubs and societies, the running of an institution also involves maintaining enrolment, balancing the budget and building (and maintaining) top-class facilities. Stars of the Morning weaves all these themes together with the spiritual and pastoral ethos that is the heart of Michaelhouse.

In many ways, the history of Michaelhouse mirrors the history of South Africa as the nation moved from colonialism and apartheid to democracy and transformation. Stars of the Morning interleaves the history of the nation with the development of the school, showing how successive rectors navigated the challenges of an evolving society and political dispensation.


Gary Ralfe. Photo: Submitted


Gary Ralfe, a former head boy of Michaelhouse, is the former managing director of the De Beers Group. After a History Tripos at St John’s College, Cambridge, he joined Anglo-American Corporation in October 1966. Ralfe worked for nearly 40 years for Anglo-American and its sister company, De Beers.

His last posting was managing director of the De Beers Group. Shortly after his retirement from De Beers in 2006, he was elected to the Board of Governors of Michaelhouse and in rapid succession was appointed deputy chairman and then chairman for nine years.

Related Articles

Back to top button