“…education is not the work of the school only, but the joint effort of the home and the school, which must work in the closest of co-operation and harmony….”

1948 – 1958

In August 1948, John Harrington Whiteford was appointed as Headmaster of Sir John Adamson Junior High School. He showed immediately that he understood clearly what was expected of him – the Principal’s path in a school like Sir John Adamson is a stony one. He proved that he had courage, enthusiasm, sympathy, tact, a sense of justice and an understanding of and sympathy with children.

J H Whiteford was born in Barrow-in-Furness, Lanchashire and came to South Africa at the age of ten. He was educated at Jeppe High School and later went to the University of the Witwatersrand, where he obtained a B A Honours degree. While at the Johannesburg Teachers’ Training College, he won the honour of being elected the Best Student. His interests while at the University were varied – he was captain of the Rifle Club, and president of the Dramatic Society for several years.

From 1925 to 1938 he held the post of English and Art Master at Parktown Boys’ High School. He left there in 1939 to take up the post of Lecturer in English at the Johannesburg Teachers’ Training College.

War broke our and he joined the S.A.E.C. For five years he served as a captain in the 85th Camouflage Company of Engineers. After the war he returned to the Johannesburg Teachers’ Training College and lectured in English until his appointment to Sir John Adamson High School in August, 1948.


Extract from the Headmaster’s Letter of 1951:
“Very few schools in the Transvaal can have passed through so many changes of status as ours: few schools, indeed, are as old, so perhaps they have not had our opportunities of being, at one time or another, every type of school the province has known, except the School Farm. And now we are a high school! The outward and visible signs of our enhanced status are still lacking, however, none of the material improvements considered necessary for the establishment of a High School have been provided. True we are having the building painted but that was promised years ago: our attempt to increase the size of the totally inadequate grounds was defeated by the uncooperative attitude of the City Council, and even our request for the temporary addition of the veld “pavement” outside the school is being held up. There seems to be only one solution, and that is the building of a new real High School, with all the ground and facilities now known to be essential, further west in the Mondeor- Robertsham- Crown Gardens area, and our speedy transfer to it. Here is a task worthy of the best efforts of all parents, and what a magnificent legacy to all future Adamsonians it would be!

Inwardly, spiritually, the school has changed. Not much, perhaps, but quite certainly, for the children who came into it at the beginning of the year included those who will go on through the school to matriculate, some of them to go on from there to University and professions, and all, we hope to a richer and fuller life than those whose education in the school necessarily stopped at Form III. Let me here plead once more for the full and proper education of pupils, especially girls, as they are such vitally important members of our community, Nowadays, it is so easy for our girls to get good jobs after Form III, that the temptation to leave school and start work, is difficult to resist, but both parents and girls are losing a great deal more than the salary of the first two years of work could ever buy; they are losing the two most valuable years of school life, when personality and character have their best chance to develop. Please let your daughters stay to Matric. Dress has improved greatly, but there are still some parents who are so regardless of their children’s interests, that they permit them to dress differently from the others, to the detriment of their confidence and happiness in school……

There are, I know, always so many things to do at home, that parents sometimes feel that they cannot do much to educate their own children. But there must not be TOO many things to do, for education is not the work of the school only, but the joint effort of the home and the school, which must work in the closest co-operation and harmony. We become, therefore all teachers together – you teach at home and we teach at school – and as I believe there is no greater or more important work than teaching, I welcome you most heartily as colleagues in our task of bringing up better and happier men and women.

Extract from the Headmaster’s Letter of 1953:
Let us therefore, all work together: come to the school and all its functions; join with your children in that which is all their life while they are scholars and make their school a better place for them. You interest will be reflected most noticeably in your children’s improved attainment in work and play.

Extract from the Headmaster’s Letter of 1954:
The day is coming nearer when I shall be able to announce that we are really to have a new School. At present all I can say is that our need for a new school is acknowledged, and that steps are being taken to acquire the 20 acres of ground required for it…..This early start on the building will impose a task on all parents, however, for the School will be required to pay the Province the sum of 2000 pounds to ensure that the new school hall will be included in the building plans….we will all, school and parents together, have to work hard to raise the money in the shortest possible time.

One thing we do need to is Weather Prophet, or perhaps, better still, an agreement with the Farmers’ Union that for the next fete they will make up to the estimated total the proceeds that we lose through rain. This year, for the third time, the fete was a washout, and what is worse, the  Fun Fair that was to run for three nights in the school grounds and bring in lots of money, was washed out as well…I do hope there is a drought (temporarily) on the day of our next Fete…..

I am amazed at the number of parents who believe that schools are quite different now from the schools the parents themselves attended. One of the extraordinary beliefs such parents have is that their children do not have homework nowadays. Perhaps this is a form of wish fulfilment: the parents may have disliked homework so much themselves that they are quite ready to believe their offspring who tell them “We don’t get homework now.” The surprise of these same parents at the low position in class of their sons and daughters, and their inability to understand why they can’t control their children, are simply indications that these parents are not fitted, by education or experience, to undertake the most important and responsible
task of bring up children…..

Our last headmaster, Mr Bovet, is, as always, a source of help, and we are indebted to him for the use of the Forest High grounds for our Athletic Sports.

Extract from the Headmaster’s Letter of 1954:
You can imagine the well earned feeling of achievement when it was announced on 11th May this year that our site of 10 morgen at Winchester Hills had been bought by the Province for 30 000 pounds. The Governing Body deserves, and gets, the heartiest thanks of us all. Since May things have moved forward, for the plans of the new school, to accommodate 750 pupils, have been drawn and approved. The scheme includes a hall…The decision of the Provincial Administration to include the hall in our new building without the payment of 2000 pounds by the school has relieved the Governing Body and the Parents’ Association of an immediate burden…..

There is a lot of talk nowadays about juvenile delinquency, and we, as parents and citizens, should be gravely concerned about it…. A former Director of Education in Natal spoke of the “pap” psychology which parents use in training their children, allowing them to do, say and take what they like. It is time that all parents of school pupils realised that youngsters are still only children who must be disciplined in obedience, honesty, reliability, habits of work etc…..

Extract from the Headmaster’s Letter of 1955:
There are repeated warnings in everyday life against being too optimistic – or believing the promises of governmental authority and I should have taken heed of those warnings. For years now I have written to you of the efforts of the Governing Body to acquire a new site and a new school, and at the end of last year told you of the acquisition of the site the completion of the plans and the hope we had that building would start early in 1956. What a hope! Our new building was not merely moved down the priority list, it was remove from it altogether and put on a list of schools to be built in the unknown future, when the Province has money to spend on us.

That this is disheartening for our pupils and parents, Staff and Governing Body, it is hardly necessary to say, but it has, in addition, an effect outside the school. With a fully developed high school less than a mile away from us here, parents of pupils in the feeder schools want to send their children to it and are reluctant to send their sons and daughters to a school which has no grounds or the facilities needed in high school. Consequently Forest High School is grossly over-crowded and our building is not even full; all the advantages of the facilities at Forest cannot be equally or even reasonably distributed among more children than they were intended to accommodate, and so all the high school children in the Southern Suburbs suffer because of the delay in building our new school.

The new site, however, is the scene of a certain amount of activity Mr Jacobs and Mr Vogel with a dozen or so boys marked off the area of the main sports ground, which will be 200 yards square, and the City Engineer’s Cleansing Department has made a good start on filling the south-west corner. A good deal of rubbish has been dumped, by unauthorized persons, on other parts of the ground, to the annoyance of the City Health Department and ourselves; accordingly representations have been made to the Department to have the site fenced.

We are grateful to the Governing Body for all the work they have done towards getting our new school and hope that all the delays and setbacks will not lead them to think all their efforts are in vain.

Extract from the Headmaster’s Letter of 1955:
At long last you have had the wonderful news that the building of the new school has started.  It was a great pleasure to be to be present, on 24 October, when the site was “handed over” by officials of the Province to the representative of James Thompson, the builders.

Even before the preliminary discussions were over, James Thompson’s truck with the offices for the clerks of works, stores, tools, etc. was there. Work started on Monday, 28 October, and already a great deal has been done, so that by the time the builders start their holidays, most of the foundations will have been laid. By this time next year the building should be nearly completed and we expect to open the school in January, 1959…. the ceremony of “Turning the First Sod” was arranged for 10 August. This was one of the happiest functions we have had at school, a large number of parents and other friends of the school attending to see His Worship the Mayor (Councillor Max Goodman) symbolically start the digging of the foundations and to watch the planting of the 16 trees which will line the entrance drive…

The school’s new badge has been registered with the government authorities and will be in general use next year, on blazers and on stationery…

The Asiatic flu epidemic is now only a vague memory…it is interesting to note that of the total enrolment of 464, there were 153 absent one day, nearly a third of the school….