Of belonging and nostalgia

Of belonging and nostalgia

Illustration of St Joseph's Boys' High School Paul Fernandes.

Way back in the 1850s, French missionaries decided to set up a school for European and Anglo Indian boys to be educated in Bangalore. As a result, in a remote part of the city called the St John’s Hill, in a house, the St Joseph’s seminary was established in the year 1854. It was also an orphanage for young boys. This marked the beginning of the St Joseph’s Boys’ High School and the subsequent institutions.  

Quick history

The school was initially called St. Joseph’s College, according to the European nomenclature of the day. What we now know as high school would be college and college would be a university. In the year 1858, Madras University was established and the students of the college were trained to pass their matriculation exams. 

By the year 1875, it was tough to manage the school, seminary and the orphanage, hence the orphanage was transferred to St. Patrick’s Church. The seminary closed down, while the school functioned in the same place. By then it had 144 students, of which 64 were boarders and 80 day scholars. 

Soon, there were plans to expand the school. Fr Maurice Vissac was instrumental in the expansion and he was also the architect of this school and the college building in Residency Road. Fr Vissac thought it was desirable to move towards the main area of the city. In 1893, a plot called the ‘Rocklands’, located in the heart of the cantonment (present-day Museum Road) was purchased and the foundation stone was laid in the year 1894. 

By the year 1898, the building on Museum Road was opened and it had 100 boarders and 89 day scholars. In the year 1910, it adopted the High School Examination System instead of the old matriculation system and it became St Joseph’s European High School. It is said to be the ‘mother’ of St Joseph’s Indian High School and St Joseph’s College. In the year 1937, the missionaries of Missions Etrangeres de Paris (MEP) or the French Fathers handed over the management of these institutions to the Jesuits. In the year 1968, it was renamed St Joseph’s Boys’ High School. In the 1990s, the near centenary building was crumbling and St Joseph’s College was shifted to the hostel grounds on Langford Road. The new building could now accommodate a strength of 3,500 students.

The St Joseph’s Boys’ High School, today, is a premier educational institution that offers quality learning, it takes in boys from pre-primary to class X and began admitting girls for classes XI and XII for ISC from the year 2007.

Old boys 

This year marks the 160th anniversary of St. Joseph’s Boys’ High School. The Old Boys Association(OBA) was first conceived in the year 1901. That year, Fr Blaise, the first principal of St Joseph’s Indian High School, convened a meeting of old students to form an association but nothing concrete materialised.

An attempt was made again in the year 1912 to structure the formation of the OBA, but with World War I close to 400 of the old boys were commissioned to fight in battles across the world.  

By the year 1918, when the war ended, the boys were back, they shared their experiences and were determined to form the OBA. Thus, on September 7, 1919, at its First General Body Meeting of the OBA the association was formally established with 32 members present. Stanley Lopez was elected the first president. The principal, Fr L Vanpeene was made the honorary president, Fr Cyril Browne at Bangalore and Mr Fairbairn at Madras were the two secretaries. The Procreator, Fr. Saint Germain was the first treasurer. An annual subscription of Rs three and a life membership of Rs 50 was finalised.

A founding member, Bill Fernandes, who lived till 101 years of age had attended 68 out of 74 general meetings of the OBA in his lifetime. In 1924, there were 222 members and today with chapters across four continents, besides connects in Coorg, Goa and Kerala and its headquarters in Bengaluru, the membership of the OBA is close to 7,000. 

This year the OBA of St Joseph’s Boys’ High School, Bengaluru came together between the August 31, to September 2, to celebrate the centenary of the formation of the OBA. Iconic cricketer and old boy Rahul Dravid released a coffee table book titled A Hundred Years - A Million Memories. The book documents the history of this institution and profiles its prominent old boys.  A special postal cover and twin stamps were also released.

The OBA has a host of distinguished members like J Y Pillay (diplomat), Rajeev Gowda (MP), Sabeer Bhatia, Irfan Razack (entrepreneurs), Robin Uthappa (cricketer), Nikhil Chinapa (VJ), Paul Fernandes (cartoonist) and so on. 

The OBA is focused on giving back to its alma mater in assisting the school management, teachers and staff, and students who need financial assistance for their studies and sports. The association is a dynamic group that has continued the tradition of service and excellence by offering scholarships, insurance for teachers and conducting competitions for the students.



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