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!