ABOUT THE OD OFFICE
A Short History
The OD Union Offices at the foot of the Avenue
Although the College Magazine, first published in 1886, had always contained news of past pupils of Bishops, the OD Union was not formed until ten years later, in 1896. Prior to that, though, an OD Rugby Club had been formed and informal Old Boys Dinners had taken place, both at Bishops and in Johannesburg, where a ‘branch’ of the OD Union was formed a month before the OD Union itself was constituted in April 1896.
The Early Objectives
The early objectives of the Union were ‘a bursary or building fund, a register of ODs and a common annual day’. In 1897 ‘Foundation Day’ dinners were held in Cape Town, Johannesburg and Kimberley on 15th March – the actual date on which Bishops had opened its doors in Maynier’s Cottage, Bishopscourt, in 1849. By 1907 there were 140 members of the OD Union. Life Membership was introduced in 1920; the subscription for this was £7 10s! Total membership now stands at well over 6000 and Life Membership costs R2500.
There had been several Honorary Secretaries before the appointment, in 1908, of Frank Reid, then aged 23, who had been one of the two original and pre-will Rhodes Scholars. This was probably the most important decision the Committee has ever made, for in his 47 years as Honorary Secretary, Frank Reid developed the worldwide concept of the OD Union, increased the membership total significantly, compiled an astonishing record-system of ODs long before the days of computers and databases, and greatly expanded the OD Notes in the College Magazine, especially during the two World Wars, when his letters from the front made compelling and moving reading.
Frank Reid had worked from home and on his retirement in 1954 an office for the new secretary, Owen Owen-Smith, OD, was provided in School House and the post became ‘an exceedingly modestly remunerated appointment’, more in the nature of an honorarium, as it has remained ever since. In 1964 the OD Office moved to the newly-built Administration Block, and in January 2001 the Union moved to the present OD Offices and Committee Room (now called ‘The George Hodgson Room’) in part of the Sanatorium Building at the far end of the Avenue. Secretaries since Owen-Smith have been Gilbert Hunneyball (ex-Vice-Principal of Bishops), George Hodgson (for 23 years), Herby Selfe, Brian Bamford, and, since 1996, Brian de Kock. All of these, apart from Gilbert Hunneyball, have been ODs themselves.
Class Reunions have become a vital part of OD activities, each year seeing seven or eight such reunions, usually staged at least partly at Bishops.
Objects of the OD Union
The objects of the Union are to bring together past students of the Diocesan College and the Diocesan Preparatory and Pre-Preparatory Schools (hereinafter referred to jointly as ‘Bishops’), to keep them in touch with Bishops and the present students, to promote the interests and welfare of Bishops and to administer a fund to provide financial assistance for descendants of present and past members of the Union to be educated at Bishops.