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Watch: Souvenir rugby jersey revealed for Hilton’s 150th anniversary

Brett Armstrong, organiser of Hilton College’s 150th anniversary celebrations next year, holds the souvenir rugby jersey based on the kit worn at the school’s first match, back in the 19th Century. Picture: Duncan Guy

Brett Armstrong, organiser of Hilton College’s 150th anniversary celebrations next year, holds the souvenir rugby jersey based on the kit worn at the school’s first match, back in the 19th Century. Picture: Duncan Guy

Published Nov 12, 2021

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HILTON College has brought out a black-and-white rugby jersey based on the kit worn nearly 150 years ago when its team went on horseback into Pietermaritzburg to play its first match.

The school turns 150 next year.

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Its art and culture director, Paul Venter, said the match was against Bishops College, which no longer exists.

“Because we played in black and white there is a suggestion that that is where the province got its colours from,” Venter said.

A further anecdotal story was that HV Ellis, the school’s second headmaster, attended the founding of the Natal Rugby Union at a meeting held in a hotel in the provincial capital.

“Ellis brought it from his alma mater, Rugby School in England. He also brought the fleur-de-lys.”

Venter said Bishops College was one of the few schools in Pietermaritzburg to play rugby and before Maritzburg College.

“Hilton played them and then, when Bishops closed down, the only games Hilton could get would be against the sides of regiments based in Fort Napier and around Maritzburg, until Maritzburg College and other schools started playing the game.”

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Venter said Maritzburg College and Hilton College went on to become the only schools in the province to win the club championships, which would have been the Murray Cup back in the 1880s and 1890s.

The school is planning a celebratory weekend in April. One of the highlights will be its Derby, against arch-rival Michaelhouse. Other events are a gala dinner, a theatre production, a day out on the school’s estate and international polo at nearby Lion’s River, in which Hiltonians are scheduled to be participating.

Last year the Independent on Saturday reported on the school’s search for its oldest living old boy, leading to Michael Hathorn, a medical doctor and one-time anti-apartheid activist, presenting himself from London where he lived after having to slip out of South Africa.

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He turns 100 on April 8, two weeks before the celebrations, said 150th anniversary organiser, Brett Armstrong.

Current headmaster George Harris said that with the growth of Hilton village, the school was becoming less out of the way on a farm.

“So it’s a wonderful opportunity for people who live close by to really understand the school and its place within the small community and within broader KZN and South Africa. It’s a fantastic story to be a part of.”

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The Independent on Saturday

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