In the late 1980s a Bloemfontein furniture dealer bought an antique bell at an auction and decided to install it in his store, to be rung each time a sale was made. When he took it home and cleaned it up he found that some words had been engraved on it.
The inscription read: This bell, given in May 1897 to Jeppestown Grammar School, established by the Witwatersrand Council of Education, February 1897.” It was the original Jeppe school bell and it was presumed lost forever.
The dealer contacted the then headmaster of Jeppe, Mr Kevin Tait, and offered to give it to the school in exchange for another bell to ring in his shop. The deal was done and the bell returned to its original home. It was installed in the garden outside the War Memorial for a while, then taken down and put in storage. It remained there for over 10 years, without anyone quite knowing where to put it.
Then came Covid-19, and the need to do something special to commemorate the class of 2020 who had to endure the most unusual of matric years ever, and who have triumphed despite it. Headmaster, Mr Jackson, decided that the bell should be installed as a memorial to the matrics of this difficult year and that a new tradition should be started. The outgoing matrics will each ring the bell at their valedictory assembly as they depart the school and at the beginning of the next year the new grade 8s will ring the bell at their induction assembly, as they enter it.
On Tuesday night, at the 2020 Valedictory Assembly, outgoing head boy Liam Thomas became the first to ring the bell and set what will become a valued tradition in motion. We are looking forward to welcoming our 2021 grade 8s in January and watching them take the next step.