HISTORY OF IRENE PRIMARY SCHOOL
Irene village is named after Irene Nellmapius, whose father owned the Irene Estate.
Irene Primary School was officially opened on 17 May 1901 during the Anglo Boer War. Irene was at that time a concentration camp for Boer women and children. The camp commander saw the need for a school for the children in the camp and so he started Irene Camp School, with two hundred and sixty learners and six educators. The first principal was Mr Liebbrandt.
Historical Photos from Isabel Maree:
Irene – The Camp
A Burghers’ Refugee camp (Concentration Camp) of about 3,700 people (April 1901) was sited at Irene on both sides of the river.
Irene the Camp School 1902
Irene Camp May 1902
Camp school teachers at the Irene Burghers’ Camp.
“Miss Scott, Miss Taylor, Marie and me” i.e. Ethel Martin
(Ethel Martin is in front, kneeling)
Marie is Marie O’Connor
Irene Camp group – May 1902
Group of camp aid workers, at Mr. Russell’s.
Top left is Ethel
Irene Mr Russell 1902
Boer War photo from Beverly Ussher’s album.
Members of British Army and Camp aid workers, at Mr.Russell’s.
Irene August 1902 – Col. Pickwood’s lunch
“Colonel Pickwood’s lunch (Mr. Russell, Mr. Ellis, Capt. Luja and we four).”
I think Ethel is on extreme right, with Marie next to her.
Colonel Pickwood was commander of the military camp adjoining the Irene Burghers’ Camp.
Irene picnic August 1902
Irene School staff 1902
School established in Boer concentration camp for Boer children.
Ethel is sitting, centre front, I think.
Burghers Camp, Irene near Pretoria – a Boer War concentration camp
Boer War photo from Beverly Ussher’s album.
Irene Camp – Aid workers May 1902
Boer War photo from Beverley Ussher’s album.
A Boer War concentration camp – the Burghers Camp, Irene near Pretoria.
Left – right: Camp assistant Josiah Babada, and camp teachers:
Ethel Martin, Marie O’Connor and Miss Scott.
They staffed the camp school for Boer children and aided Boer women.
Policeman’s Cottage remain today
This building was called the Policeman’s Cottage. In 1954 it was moved to its present site and in 1978 it was declared a national monument. This building was used as the library for many years. Today it is a technology class.
The Irene Chapel
The Chapel of St. Francis was built in 1994 from donations received from learners, parents, past learners and present and past members of staff, as well as friends of the school. As far as possible, the planners have tried to keep the buildings looking the same.
None of the original school buildings are still in existence. The oldest existing part of the school consists of classrooms 15, 16 and 17, which were built in 1922. In 1948, the wood and iron building was added to the school. This building was called the Policeman’s Cottage. In 1954 it was moved to its present site and in 1978 it was declared a national monument. This building was used as the library for many years. Today it is a technology class.
Irene Primary School started out as a dual-medium school. This means that classes were conducted in both English and Afrikaans. In 1977 the school said farewell to its Afrikaans-speaking learners when Laerskool Doringkloof was opened.
Over the years Irene Primary has had many dedicated principals and educators. Mr R E Schormann, who became principal in 1927, remained at the school for thirty six years. Mr G P Pretorius was the principal at Irene when Laerskool Doringkloof was established. Mr Pretorius retired due to ill health at the end of 1977. Mr T de Wet, who had been vice-principal at Irene from 1974, was appointed principal at the beginning of 1978. After twenty very successful years, Mr de Wet retired and Mr Davis was appointed the principal in 1999.
From Irene’s humble beginnings, it has grown into a school with a proud tradition and heritage. Many new buildings have been added over the years – the school hall, the new administration block, the new media centre and science laboratory. The Chapel of St. Francis was built in 1994 from donations received from learners, parents, past learners and present and past members of staff, as well as friends of the school. As far as possible, the planners have tried to keep the buildings looking the same. The only buildings in a different style are the tuck shop, the chapel and pavilion at the tennis courts – these are built out of Irene stone.
The school’s motto AGITE STATIM, which means DO IT NOW, has been an inspiration to many of Irene’s past learners. The school badge was designed by Mrs Schormann. Mr Pretorius introduced the motto which was inspired by two poems given to him by Mrs Monica van der Byl. The motto was incorporated into the badge in 1970.