13 July, 2024, 01:10


30 Nov 2019 We've upgraded the Forum software to the latest update, and new users should now be able to register and sign on again.

Mbeya School 1955-1959

Started by Anne Smithyman, 24 July, 2009, 14:33

Previous topic - Next topic

Anne Smithyman

24 July, 2009, 14:33 Last Edit: 27 July, 2009, 13:57 by Anne Smithyman
Mbeya School for 5 years.
Things I remember:
Mr Waddington was the headmaster when I went there in form 2 in 1955 as a day scholar. My teachers were Miss Swift and Miss Steere. In 1956 my teacher was Miss Thompson (3a) and Mr. Francis became headmaster. In 1957 I was in 4a with Mr McCleery; in 1958 I was in 5a.

In my first year at Mbeya, I was a day scholar as my father was the British Government D.C. in Mbeya. Then we were transferred to Zanzibar and I had to fly to Mbeya with my brother, Michael. I think that the terms were very long then. After a week, I announced to my brother that I had had enough of this and would go home now! He broke the terrible news to me that I had another 5-6 weeks at boarding school.

There were various games in fashion each term - like jacks or pick-up-sticks or skipping. We loved playing with Dinky cars creating long roads in the dirt dongas. We played hospitals, lying on the steps behind the assembly hall. We used to learn dancing in the hall; I remember the Scottish dancing and dancing the polka. We had old fashioned roller skates and used to have a track next to the gym and fly round and round for hours.

We used to have the job of raising the union jack on the flagpole at assembly. First it had to be folded correctly, with a loop in it so it would break out when it reached the top. You had to be careful that you did not get it upside down.

For the annual fancy dress event you had to line up and present yourself with a partner, curtsey or bow to the headmaster and his wife. This was in the assembly area in front of the hall. Once my brother went as a Viking warrior and I was a Spanish dancer. I was very envious of my brother's outfit.

Next to the hall there was an anti room which had cabinets with shallow drawers and a magnificent butterfly collection. Scientifically arranged.
Behind the hall was a music room where I learnt to play the recorder. If you were in the choir you wore a white surplice over a dark skirt.

In the River Garden there was a fast flowing stream and water was taken away from it for irrigation in concrete lined furrows. On the other side to the right was a huge baobab tree - you could climb this to a certain level, round and round. Many of us would be in it at once.
Once we went on an outing to visit an Indian girl's school. I had never really met Indians and this left a big impression on me.
When the Mau Mau rebellion was on, we were sent home a week early and the school was used as a 'refugee' camp for families from Kenya. I seem to remember that we had lights mounted on dormitories at night in preparation for a possible attack? Certainly there were guards around the dormitories.

In the girls toilet block at the end of the senior classrooms, we shimmied up the walls and climbed into the roof space. We then climbed along under the roof through all the classrooms. We made a small hole in the board so we could peer down into the classrooms. We had to move along on the wooden struts so as not to fall through the light board. We travelled right along to the area behind the stage in the hall. The classrooms were in a "U" shape behind the assembly hall. Facing the hall, the junior classrooms were to the right and the senior ones to the left. The headmaster's office was across the road on the way to the River Garden.

I was a Brownie and then became a Girl Guide. These groups were taken very seriously. There were all sorts of tasks we had to complete, gaining badges: how to follow a trail; how to build a fire; various knots to tie. Once we went on overnight camp into an area near the teachers' accommodation. While the Catholic girls were at church on the Sunday some of us raided the orchard and ate the fruit. We were in terrible trouble when we were found out.

In my last year they built a rifle range in the River Garden and a wall to hold the targets.
We would lie down across the river and shoot at the targets on the near side of the river. You had to cross the bridge to get your target to see how you had done.
The whole senior class climbed the mountain 'Mbeya Peak', behind the school. It took the whole day and was a fiasco. Some kids were meant to carry the water and the fruit / lunch. We got to the top, had a wonderful view of the school below us, and then found that all the water and fruit had been eaten by the hungry carriers. We were parched with thirst. There was a free for all dash back down the mountain. Out of control we were desperate for water. Some kids asked Africans for water. I remember dashing back into Burton dormitories bathroom and drinking gallons.

In the bathroom there were 4 baths in a line and for bath time you lined up naked with your towel to await your turn for a bath. I remember lining up for inoculations outside the sanatorium and being terrified as the word was passed back along the line that the needle was blunt and that it had broken in one of the kid's arms. I seemed to spend quite a bit of time in the sanatorium with bronchitis and used to play with cards, building tall constructions.

Girls would be punished with the wet tacky. I remember the whole dormitory lining up for this once.

In my final year, 1959, we were told we had to do the new exam, the 11+ and we all lined up in front of the refectory to do the exam. I was then told that I did not need to do this as I was going to school in South Africa.

You could have a boyfriend and this was organised by empowering a go-between to approach him and ask him if he was interesting in being your boy-friend. That was as far as it went!
We loved playing in the fir trees beyond the playing fields. Inside the forest there were tunnels that looked full of snakes and spiders. We believed that the Germans had made them and did not go into them. Did anyone? We had a special route climbing from fir tree to fir tree, often at quite a height, and we felt this to be very daring.

There were two dogs at Mbeya School, one called 'Poppy' and another daschund called 'Whisky'; we loved them. We had chameleons and believed that if you put them on your red jumper that they would pop in the effort to change their colour to red! Then the little African boys brought us baby pigeons and sold them to us, saying that they would kill them otherwise. The pigeons always died anyway. The teachers found out and stopped the purchasing of baby birds.

I was friends with Sandra Blain, Janet Rutter, Christine Mountain and my younger cousin, Diana Wren. My brother, Michael Smithyman is two years older than me. He was in Stanley house and a very good sportsman. He went to Lushoto School for at least a year after leaving Mbeya School.

It's amazing what you can remember when you start to think about those days! I think that we were lucky to be there, we had wonderful school grounds, good, if stern teachers and a solid education. There never was a sense that girls were any less than the boys. We were in the same classrooms, did serious sports, learnt to shoot, tie knots, make fires. I give thanks for all those experiences.

I have various old Mbeya school magazine from 1956 and 1957 and small personal photographs. At first they had only 2 terms in the year, later 3 and produced a school magazine either 2 or 3 per year.
Here below is a photo of the front cover of "The Mbeyan". The photo below is of speech day with Headmaster, Mr Francis and his wife, I am on the right, Sandra Blain on the left. I think that this is 1956. The thrid picture is of Christine Mountain and myself in our choir outfits.

Chuck Thompson

Wow, you have really added to Richard Allen's memories of Mbeya school...can you expand on Big Uggy up in Top Firs?  I was at Mbeya for my first two years of school starting in 1961...most of my brothers attended Mbeya...William (then known a Willy) who is now 60, Ruston (Rusty) who drowned in 1960 (he would have been 67 this year).  My brother Elwood went to school in Canada until he was 12 then to Kongwa.  My brother Clint was not registered for Mbeya for some reason and couldn't go...instead he went to Kongwa as a 7 year old and live in dorms with older boys... My Dad's partner's family (with whom we were raised like close relatives) also went to Mbeya...Linde, Johnny and Irene Baker...

You are right, they really did boarding school well (if, as you say, stern). Our days were filled with school, sports and cubs, scouts, guides, etc...

Chuck Thompson

Richard Allen

More great memories Anne. My older brother, David, has read my memoires and is suprised at the level of detail we remember at such an early age. The shooting range must have had a short life since I don't recall it's existence and it would have acted like a magnet for me since my ambition at that time was to become a soldier. (5/6 years later that ambition was made into reality). I think the schools motto should have been 'Spare the Rod, Spoil the Child', but it was still a good  place to be.

As for Chuck's question about the tree 'Big Uggy', The name itself came from a comic book character at the time who I beleive was called 'Little Uggy'. This tree had the look of a Lebanese Cedar with at least two very large broad branches at the right height for 7 - 11 year old kids to climb onto. Looking from the direction of the Assembly Hall it was located in the left hand portion of the strip of trees that separated the two football/Hockey fields. A track (made by little feet) ran through the centre of the strip and up through the left hand woded area towards the main road.


Richard Allen

Memories. What they do to you. In my last comment I said I couldn't remember the shooting range, however, in one of my letters home I clearly stated that we went down to the shooting range on Wednesday for target practice. Ho hum

Andy Mackay

Mr Morgan was the headmaster when I attended Mbeya School  (1959-1961). He was a fantastic guy - a perfect role model. When he learned about my father having throat cancer, he seemed to take me under his wing. I was given the great privelege of dining on his table. He also squeezed me into the small group of kids who could practice rifle shooting - something which I enjoyed intensely. He was also terrific as a Cub leader, having us crossing the river Garden on a huge A-frame which we built from bamboo. He organised exciting trails to follow through the fur-trees, and Cubs meetings were always a delight.

Richard Allen

Hi Andy,
Though your name doesn't ring any bells after 50 years we must have been friends (or maybe rivals). I also dined on the Head's table, was in his Cub group and remember the A Frame and was in the rifle group.

David Milner

OK, I have just found this site and I am at the stage in life when I feel I should try and record some of my early childhood for my kids and future grandchildren to learn about.  I am amazed by Anne's recall of events and detail at Mbeya some of which rings a bell but much does not.   I cannot even remember the names of friends or staff and, if anyone remembers me, please get in touch. I remember some details which may bring a smile of recognition to the faces of other colonial kids reading this.   they are:-
*  We lived in Dar and travelled to Mbeya in an old bus.   We whittled propellors out of bits of wood and held them out of the bus window to see them spin in the wind.
*  I had a pet chameleon at the school and I used to point it at flies on the windows and watch as it caught them with its tongue.
*  We pulled Dinky toy cars along little mud roads, that we had made, with string.
*  We caught catfish with string and a bent pin in a stream close to the dormitories.
*  We slept on thin mattresses that were supported with strip of cow hide strung across and wooden bedstead.
*  We had a German nurse who injected a whole line of boys with the same needle one after the other (getting to the front of the queue meant you got the needle when it was still sharp)!    She also demanded that you defecate samples on demand - not easy.
*  I can still tap out the rythm that was beaten onto a huge native drum to announce meal times.
*  I remember passing out with the heat when we attended outdoor church services on Sundays - I have been an atheist ever since.
*  We at unripe peaches that we stole from an orchard next to our dormitories and were promptly ill with stomach ache.
*  We explored the fir tree forests, that surrounded then school, and found various relics from the days that the German occupied the area.   This included an old hand gun.
*  I was also very envious of day boys and girls who could go home at the end of school.
Does this sound familiar to anyone?  It would be great to hear if it does and if you have any photos.
David Milner

Anne Smithyman

27 February, 2010, 00:47 #7 Last Edit: 27 February, 2010, 01:16 by Anne Smithyman
HI, good to read the post from David Miller. Can you remember which house you were in?
I loved the dinky car games in the sand. I can even remember where - as you left the school towards the main entrance there was a playing field on the right. Just before that there was a row of fir trees and a ditch. The ditch was my dinky playing spot!

I have the school magazines from 1956 and 1957 and they make for interesting reading.
The great excitement of 1956 was the visit by Princess Margaret. (12 October).

There were many clubs for the kids: for example: Collectors Club, Modelling CLub, Gardening CLub, Hill Climbing & Photography Club, Music Club and the Chess Club. The yearly Fancy Dress was a big event and I can remember how we had to line up before advancing and bowing or curtseying to the headmaster & his wife. I did find in my reading of one of the magazines that the river that went through the river garden was called the Nsofwe River.

David, I think that you are a little younger than I am.  I found your name in the successes in High Jump and in the Cub news. We all were encouraged to join the Clubs, Scouts, Brownies and Guides!

David Milner

I believe I was in Stanley house and I may even have started at the school in 1954 not 56.  I was born in March 1947 if that helps with the age gap!  I remember the place you mention where we played with Dinky toys.   We used to cut escarpments into the side of the ditch and pull cars along them with string trying to avoid them falling off.

Anne Smithyman

The Mbeyan school magazine was started in 1956, the same year that Mr Francis started as head master. It is interesting to read that when the Wallingtons came to Mbeya School in 1942 there were 75 students. When they left 13 years later there were approx 300 students (almost 50% female / male). (in 1957 there were 321 kids there) Mr. Wallington laid out the playing fields.

When i first went to Mbeya School there were only 2 terms a year. this changed to 3 terms. One of them was almost 3 months long - very long for kids so young to be away from their parents. My brother, Mike Smithyman was in Stanley.
do you remember Mrs McBride?

David Milner

Unfortunately my memory of Mbeya is not as good as I would like.   I don't remember any of the staff by name although the German nurse made a lasting impression!   If you have any photographs of the whole school year groups, or each house, from that time, I would be interested in seeing it.

Simon Watson

Hi David & Other Mbeyaites....

I hope you dont mind me entering YOUR school conversations,but 75% of what you experienced as regards your "Cammi", props and Dinky toys are the same. I was at Sao-Hill,(The Southern Highland's School) about 250 miles East of Mbeya,  between 1957-1960 and also lived in Dar. I was in Mbeya for my dad's local leave in 1959 and whilst there played cricket,tennis and golf. I also climbed Loleza Mountain. We stayed in a Quest House somewhere and with Dr.Currie and family.He may have been your school Doctor? .... Kwaheri. Simon.

David Milner

Hi Simon,
Where in Dar did you live?   We lived in both Oyster Bay and Kurasini at various times.  Did you ever get out to Honeymoon or Lighthouse Island or eat somosas and drink ice cold coke in the Corner Cafe?

Simon Watson

Hi David,

We lived in Oyster Bay, off the Bagamoyo Road to the East between 1961-1967.Before that for 7 years in Tanga. Tanga was far better than Dar!! I was in Boarding School in the UK from 1961 so I used to fly back 3 times a year. Lighthouse Island definately and Somosas only at the Gymkhana Club and my mother's bridge parties...(boring!)



I don't think Somosas where boring. When we went to the movies, always used to buy a couple of Somosas. (delicious)