There are four Houses. On entry to the College, all students are placed in a House (if there is a family connection with a particular House, students are able to join that House).
Students compete in these Houses for School Athletics Day, Swimming Sports and Cross Country, and enjoy the opportunity to participate in sport and have fun while mixing with other Year levels. There is also an annual Inter-House Debating competition. The House system is an important part of the Student Support network at Columba whereby younger girls can value the friendship and support of girls.
The House system was introduced at Columba in 1933.
Braemar House: This was named after Braemar House, 10 Moray Place, Dunedin, a small private school founded in 1887 by Miss Jessie Dick. It was bought in 1895 by the three Miller sisters who ran it successfully until 1914 when the Presbyterian Church bought the school and its pupils became part of the newly-established Columba College. The badge of this school was a thistle and the motto was “Je sème à tous vents” (I sow to all winds and my harvest none can measure). Both of these can be seen in the entry to Columba’s Braemar Science block.
Girton House: Girton was also a private school founded in 1886 by Miss Caroline Freeman. It was situated in Tennyson Street, near Otago Girls’ High School. Its badge was a lamp and the motto was: “Alere Flammam” (Nourish the flame). Miss Frances Ross was First Assistant at Girton, eventually becoming Co-Principal. Girton College formally closed in December 1914 as Miss Ross was to be the first Principal of the new Columba College on Highgate. The College has many mementoes of this early Girton College and the Girton teaching block contains the Caroline Freeman Theatre and the Frances Ross Common Room.
Iona House: Iona is an island off the coast of Scotland. It was here that Columba, a monk self-exiled from Ireland, established a Christian community with twelve other monks in the sixth century AD. From this base he made many, often dangerous, journeys to the Scottish mainland to preach to warring tribes. Columba, whose name in Latin means “dove”, is credited with bringing Christianity to many parts of Scotland. The College’s badge contains a dove emblem and the College itself established by the Presbyterian Church, bears the saint’s name. June 9th is kept at the College as St. Columba’s Day.
Solway House: Solway also relates to Scotland. Over 150 years before Saint Columba, another monk, Saint Ninian first preached the Christian message in Scotland. He was born in south-west Scotland near the Firth of Solway - a stretch of water between Scotland and England. After completing his religious training in Rome he built the first stone church at Whithorn near his birthplace about 397 AD. He made many missionary journeys to convert the people of this area and beyond. He also established a training centre for monks and the teacher of Saint Columba is said to have studied at Ninian’s centre.
Saint Ninian died about 432 AD and is credited with having first introduced Christianity to a large part of Scotland before Saint Columba continued the work more than a century later.
So two Houses are named after early private schools in Dunedin which gave Columba College its first pupils. The other two Houses are steeped in Scottish church history. This creates a pleasing balance for a Presbyterian Church school firmly established in Dunedin since 1915.