History and Traditions

Archives

Much of our valued heritage is being collected, categorised and made available to current and past students for their interest. The Archives are growing and any contribution is welcomed.

Foundation

Columba College was established in 1915 by the Presbyterian Church of Aotearoa New Zealand as a private day and boarding school for girls with co-educational primary classes and a kindergarten.

The compelling force behind the establishment of the College was a local Presbyterian Minister, The Rev. Alexander Whyte, who was a firm believer in Church Schools and wanted to advance the higher education of the young women of Dunedin and Otago. As convener of Dunedin Presbytery, Alexander Whyte was well placed to promote his vision of a Presbyterian girls' school, and it was in 1913 that Dunedin Presbytery approved the proposal to found Columba College.

The history of two earlier private girls' schools in Dunedin is closely interwoven with that of Columba College - Girton College and Braemar House School. Both of these schools provided many of the first pupils of Columba College when it opened in 1915 on the historic Bishopscourt site.

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The Rev. Alexander Whyte, a key figure in the foundation of Columba College 

Girton College

Girton College was established in 1886 in Tennyson Street, Dunedin by Miss Caroline Freeman, the first woman graduate of the University of Otago. Miss Freeman later went on to found a second Girton College in Latimer Square, Christchurch.

In 1911 Miss Frances Ross, M.A., by then co-Principal of Girton, bought the Dunedin Girton College. Miss Ross went on to become the first Principal of Columba College in 1915.

Girton College crest

A silver lamp

Girton College motto

"Alere flammam"
(Nourish the flame)

 

Braemar House School

Braemar House School was a small private non-denominational school for girls in Moray Place, Dunedin, first run by Miss Jessie W. Dick, and then from 1895 until its closure in 1914 by three Scottish sisters, the Misses Miller. In 1914 when the goodwill of the school was bought by Columba College, the buildings were purchased by the Y.W.C.A. and the school moved to the Bishopscourt site for the last term of its existence.

Braemar House School badge

A Scottish thistle

Motto

"Je sème à tous vents"
(I sow to all winds and my harvest none can measure)

 

Both Girton College and Braemar House School handed on strong traditions to the new school, Columba College, and well-established reputations for sound learning.

Bishopscourt

The property of Bishopscourt was bought for the establishment of Columba College for £5,200 in 1914.

However, the history of the property goes back to the first Anglican Bishop of Otago and Southland, Bishop Nevill, who built Bishopscourt which dates from 1871-72 to the design of William Mason. Bishop Nevill sold the property in 1878.

Bishopscourt which is today one of the two boarding residences at Columba College is still the focal point of the campus. It has a Grade 1 listing with the New Zealand Historic Places Trust and over the years sympathetic refurbishment has been carried out by the Columba College Board of Governors.

St. Columba

St. Columba, whose name means "dove" in Latin, was an Irish nobleman and monk who founded an abbey on the island of Iona off the west coast of Scotland during the sixth century, and whose combination of missionary zeal and considerable political acumen enabled him and his followers to establish the Christian religion in the Scottish south-west during his life-time.

In addition to his dedication to scholarship, St. Columba was renowned for his profound spiritual life. Both of these emphases are preserved by the Iona community which occupies to this day the island of Iona first settled by St. Columba as his place of ministry.

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Bishopscourt past

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Bishopscourt present

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Stained Glass Window of St. Columba, Chapel of Edinburgh Castle

School Crest

A dove which symbolically represents the abiding presence of the Holy Spirit of the Christian faith and the Saint after whom the College is named.

crestLargeBestBlue 

School Motto

"Gratia et Disciplina Bona"
(Grace and Good Discipline)

The motto was taken from the Latin verses inscribed in the Staffordshire pottery floor tiles in the vestibule and front hall of Bishopscourt.

"Et moenies gratiam et disciplinam bonam coram Deo et hominibus"
- Proverbs, Chapter 3, Verse 4
(So shalt thou find favour and good understanding between God and man)

 

School Song

The School Song was commissioned by the students of 1989 as their gift to the College in its 75th Jubilee year, 1990.

It was written by Cilla McQueen, a well-known New Zealand poet and Old Girl of the College, with music by Anthony Ritchie, a distinguished New Zealand composer.

The poet has made skilful use of the symbol of the dove and St. Columba's association with the island of Iona to create a memorable School Song:

 

One day when you're wondering
where you belong
When life's getting hard
and the journey seems long 

A familiar music
drifts into your mind
And you don't have to try 
to remember the song

Song of wings in the air
and the sea-bright path
Remember the island
that lives in your heart

For the song that you hear
is the song of Columba
The dove who's among us
and teaches us love

A song that is woven
of friendship and learning
The song of your days
in the home of the dove

Song of wings in the air
and the sea-bright path
Remember the island
that lives in your heart.

School Karakia

E TE ATUA
MO TE KURA HOMAI TO TAUTOKO,TO AWHINA,TO WAIRUA,
KI A TATOU KATOA.
NO REIRA, KIA MAU TE MANA OU KAI TAHU WHANUI
MO AKE, AKE, AKE,
AMINE.

Eternal Father,
We ask you to bless our School and each of us with the loving support, help and guidance of your Holy Spirit.
So may we always uphold the mana of our wider Kai Tahu family.
Amen 

Blessing

MARINO NUI O TE OMA NGARU KI A KOE
MARINO NUI O TE HAU KI A KOE
MARINO NUI O TE PAPATUANUKU KI A KOE
MARINO NUI O NGA WHETU KI A KOE
MARINO NUI O TE TAMAITI O TE MARINO
KI A KOUTOU KATOA
AMINE.

Deep peace of the running wave to you
Deep peace of the flowing air to you
Deep peace of the quiet earth to you
Deep peace of the shining stars to you
Deep peace of the Son of Peace
Be with you all,
Amen

The Karakia and Blessing in Maori were commissioned by the students of 2009. They were written by Cilla McQueen with the assistance of Paitu Whaitiri. 

Integration

Columba College became integrated as a composite school under the terms of the Private Schools' Integration Act on the 31st January, 1994.

The School is committed to retaining its Special Character.

History of the Hill Jack Property

The decision made in 2002 to purchase the Hill Jack property, more recently known as the Dunedin Academy, will undoubtedly be recorded as one of the College's most significant development strategies, along with the expansion of our present site and the building of the Girton classroom block.  This extra land with its scope for development in future years also provides the College with more green space for our present students.

Like the Bishopscourt site, the Hill Jack property has an interesting early history.  The story begins with Mr Archibald Hill Jack who bought the property in March 1863 for 800 pounds sterling.  That was at a time when Highgate was known as High Street and the Roslyn area was called the Township of Linden.

It is thought the original wooden homestead was built by Mr Hill Jack in the 1890's.  It was called "Romanoff" by the family but for many years has been known locally as "Hill Jack".

Born in 1836, Archibald Hill Jack was of Scottish descent, emigrating to New Zealand in 1865 and marrying Kate Mary Willis soon after his arrival here.  The marriage produced six children but only four of them survived to adulthood.

Archibald Hill Jack became a prominent and wealthy businessman in Dunedin, and a local benefactor.  He was a major influence in the building of St. John's Anglican Church in Roslyn in 1880 and his dedication to the parish never faltered, serving for many years as Parish Warden and Vicar's Warden.

After her husband's death in 1912, Mrs Kate Mary Hill Jack inherited the Hill Jack property and it was on her death in 1929 that the property was bequeathed to Dunedin for the care of incurable and crippled children.

Since the 1930's there have been many changes to the property, both in use and in additions.  During World War II Hill Jack was commandeered under the War Emergency Regulations and was used as a convalescent home for wounded soldiers.  After the war, it was leased to the Otago Hospital Board and for over thirty years was put to use as a training school for nurses, convalescent home, chest hospital and principally as a maternity home.  The maternity home stirs memories for many local people as apparently 10,597 babies were born at Hill Jack.

The hospital finally closed its doors to patients in 1967 and due to financial and political restraints Hill Jack remained unoccupied for many years.  In March 1988 Hill Jack was purchased privately and was operated as the Dunedin Academy, a Vocational Training Institute, until its purchase by the Columba College Board of Governors in July 2002.

During 2003 and over the Christmas holidays extensive upgrading of the buildings and site was carried out, with one central brick block demolished to enhance the green space and 'flow' around the new campus.  One of the relocatables was moved across to the Hill Jack campus, and the two others sold to John McGlashan College.

The 2004 school year began on Tuesday, 27th January with pupils, parents and staff all taking pleasure and pride in the new facilities provided by the Hill Jack campus.

HillJackProperty

Purchase of Nancy Blackwell House (former Plunket Rooms)

In 2006 the School purchased the former Plunket Rooms on the Oban Street and Tyne Street corner of the Hill Jack campus and converted it into an Art Room for the use of Years 7 to 13 students.  It is now used as a Junior School classroom.

A competition was held to name the property with two students (Chloe Anson in Year 7 and Laura Schep in Year 8) choosing the winning name - Nancy Blackwell House. Nancy Blackwell was the first Dux of Columba College.

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Nancy Blackwell House

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Nancy Blackwell
First Dux, 1915