Cradle Rock

Story proposed by Tim Jackson Mon 1 Mar

This singular hard rock formation can be seen as an icon representing the ethos of St Marks School in the 1950’s and early 60’s.

The cluster of large granite boulders near the top of a steep slope, looked like a cradle. It nestled on the mountain in full sight of the school, a daily reminder of the challenge it posed every year.

St Marks was a small school with the boarders comprising the majority of pupils. Day bugs made up about a quarter of the school and were generally regarded with a slight sneer by boarders, who had no doubts that they represented the core and backbone of the school.

In keeping with the times, discipline was severe: corporal punishment for boys was administered by the Headmaster and his Deputy, all housemasters and prefects and sub-prefects. One had to be very diligent and careful not to commit some infraction incurring cuts – strikes with a cane, coathanger or in some cases a cricket bat.

Early morning runs in winter and swims in summer were compulsory. As were the cross-country runs after school in summer – about 4 miles of dust, then mud. If you were slow you had a very muddy bath. 

But the real glory was a test of toughness, witnessed by the whole school. It was  a fast cross country scramble across the valley through a gum forest, up the rockstrewn side of Malunge mountain, to seize the cup, placed on top of Cradle Rock.

All boys took part and points were awarded to your sports house depending on your time. To gain points you needed to complete the course in about 20 minutes.

We all ran barefoot in those days, helter skelter down from school, over the golf course bridge, then a choice had to be made. Either shorter but steeper and rougher, straight up through the trees and over the rocks, or around the side on the road past Jimmy’s Pool, then striking right up the hill, longer but faster. 

Michael Connolly won in ‘64 and Mapipa Long in ‘65. I believe the record time was about 14 minutes.

In the mischief and mayhem after year end exams and break-up day, some gentlemen who remain nameless, climbed the mountain under cover of darkness.

There they beautifully enhanced the front facade of Cradle Rock by painting in large white letters “Queens”.

Just in time too, as in 1967 the sports house was re-named Taylor to honour Miss Tilly Taylor, who had served the school for over 20 years.

The Cross of Lorraine, from our school badge, was painted large on the vertical rockface a few hundred yards away on the  same mountain, after Gordon Highlanders painted their badge there.

Those are some memories inspired by the Cradle Rock .

The paint on the rock has faded now and most of the trees are gone; there are houses quite close. But Cradle Rock endures.

(* To see a photo of the view of the rock taken from the school, go to the webpage by clicking the Title)

Photo courtesy of Mike Ellis, of course!

Author: manqindi

Post imperial wind drift. Swazi, British, Zimbabwe-Rhodesian, Irish, New Zealand citizen and resident, now in Queensland, Australia. 10th generation African of mainly European descent. Catholic upbringing, more free thinker now. BA and Law background. Altar boy, wages clerk, uncle, prefect, student, court clerk, prosecutor, magistrate, convoy escort, pensioner, HR Practitioner, husband, stepfather, father, bull terrier lover, telephone interviewer, Call Centre manager, HR manager, grandfather, author (amateur)

2 thoughts on “Cradle Rock”

  1. Nice story. I can imagine the stampede to get up the hill

    On Mon, 1 Mar 2021 at 5:53 am, sillysocksonfriday wrote:

    > manqindi posted: ” Story proposed by Tim Jackson Mon 1 Mar This singular > hard rock formation can be seen as an icon representing the ethos of St > Marks School in the 1950’s and early 60’s. The cluster of large granite > boulders near the top o” >


  2. Excellent. Thank you! Whenever possible I used to race our gardener, both on bicycles, past Liz James parents home and then back via the road to Pine valley, often running up to cradle rock to have a quick look at Mbabane and St.Marks. I marvelled at my freedom, having been an unwilling prisoner of a boarding school, scoffing at day bugs myself, at St.Andrews in Bloem, but with the intent to show the Marcian boarders that some day bugs are not easily beaten.
    Pete Rae, Donald Rankin and myself used to cycle up to climb the radio masts on the hill to the right of cradle rock and one day, I was behind them coming down, so raced down the short steep hill to the junction with the road back home. Going too fast to turn into the road, I went across the veld and unable to avoid an anthill, hit the thing full bore and went over the handle bars concussing myself. That was on a Sunday. I “woke up” on the Tuesday, not knowing how or where I had been, only remembering snippets of the event. The only description Pete had of the event was him turning to see me in a cloud of dust and bicycle summersaulting in the distance. Maybe that is why I now have some titanium holding my neck together…..


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