Based in London; Formerly of New York, Buenos Aires, Fife, and the Western Cape. Saoránach d'Éirinn.
A writer, blogger, historian, and web designer born in New York, educated in Argentina, Scotland, and South Africa, and now based in London. read more

St. Alban’s College: 1907-2007

ASTUTE READERS OF the Buenos Aires Herald, itself over one hundred and thirty years old, would have noticed in the paid announcements section a week ago Sunday the following notification:

St. Alban’s College in its centenary year, announces the Annual Prize Giving, to be held on Founder’s Day, Sat. Aug. 11 at 8pm, at R. Falcón 250, Lomas de Zamora. Guests of honour are Mr. John MacArdle (grandnephew of the founder) and Messrs. Christopher and Lawrence Towers (grandsons of one of the founding students). Special guests are the Old Ps of 80-plus-years old, captained by Mr. Remo Nino of 97 (No 223 in the register. At the school from 1923-25). SAPA [South Americna Piping Association] band and dancers will entertain. Refreshments served. All Old Philomathians and friends welcome.

And so, dear old St. Alban’s, down Argentine way, has reached its centenary year. The school was founded in 1907 by the Rev’d George Henry Knight-Clarke, an Anglican clergyman, to educate the numerous British children in the region. It was originally founded as the Quilmes Grammar School in the city of that name, but moved in 1923 to Lomas de Zamora (another suburb of Buenos Aires) and took ‘the first of Britain’s sons to die‘ as its patron.

Rev’d Knight-Clarke, at left, looking every bit the dour Anglican clergyman. At right, the bust of Knight-Clarke on the school grounds which, as the inscription at its base proclaims, was a gift of “The Boarders of the 60th Anniversary Year to the College. St. Alban’s Day 1967”.

The house system was inaugurated in 1927 with the foundation of Sparta, Athens, and Corinth. The first letters of the three houses are the initials of the school. 1927 also saw the foundation of the Old Philomathian Club of old boys. The name comes from the school motto: Philomathes – Polymathes which is loosely translated as “He who loves learning will be very learned”.

In 1930, the primary school was founded, and eight years later the current coat of arms was adopted. In 1944, Rev’d Knight-Clarke died and the Rev’d Douglas H. Burton (O.P. 1923-1929) took over as temporary head of the school. Two years later, John Edward (Juan Eduardo) Vibart (O.P. 1916-1920) took over permanently as headmaster. In June 1953, the College observed a holiday to celebrate the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II. In 1960, St. Alban’s went on its first international rugby tour to the British School of Montevideo, across the Rio de la Plata in Uruguay.

St. Alban’s students in the 1960’s, along with a young lady. Girls were first admitted in 1974.

Queen Elizabeth II, in the tenth year of her reign, bestowed the Order of the British Empire on the Headmaster, John Edward Vibart. Perhaps inspired by this event, the Honourable Order of the Laurel Leaf was founded the following year in 1964, for students and Old Philomathians of high regard. In 1967, John Edward Vibart OBE died and is succeeded by Eduardo Roger Vibart (O.P. 1935-1944), often known as “E.V.” The current head, John Ronald Vibart (below), took the helm in 1978. In 1999, Queen Elizabeth II made John R. Vibart an Officer of the Order of the British Empire, and the O.B.E. was presented to him by Sir Robin Christopher, the British Ambassador to the Argentine Republic.

Among the Old Philomathians, David Leake MBE (O.P. 1944-1952) was named Anglican Bishop of Argentina, (he has since retired to England), while Ernesto Carlos Alvarez is the current Ambassador of the Argentine Republic to India.

Much to the consternation of students.

The school began sending teams on tours not just to Uruguay or Chile but overseas with a visit to the Cowley School of England in 1972. Since that time the College has gone on a number of tours to Britain, Europe, Australia, New Zealand, and elsewhere. In turn, schools from abroad have come to visit St. Alban’s and compete against the school in rugby, (field) hockey, and cricket. For the centenary, the school is currently being visited by St. Alban’s College of Pretoria, South Africa.

The London Routemaster buses are the pride of St. Alban’s. Every school hopes to out-British all the other schools and I’m sure Mr. Vibart’s eyes gleamed when he saw the opportunity of aquiring these two original London buses. We would ride them on sports days from the school to the 27-acre grounds of the Old Philomathian Club. They were fun to ride in, of course, but they reeked of fumes. No wonder London Transport had retired them!

A supporter of Club San Albano, the Old Philomathian rugby club.

Robert Leggat ’54 runs a site for Old Philomathians and has collected reminiscences from some. Francis Edwards, at St. Alban’s from 1947 to 1957, recalls the Rev. Franklin, a teacher at the College and priest at the Anglican parish.

And what about Padre Franklin from Holy Trinity Church, and those endless Evensong services we were dragged to? “Oh God our help in Ages past, our Hope for years to come”. Sang that a few hundred times over the years at Holy Trinity! I remember Padre Franklin drifting off to sleep in class, and us tip-toeing out of the room leaving him there!

Field Day, 2001, and not a single person facing the camera.

Robert Leggat contributes his own memories of Rev’d Franklin:

Another unusual teacher we had was Mr. Franklin. Revd., I should say. He taught us Religious Studies and Literature. I say “taught” rather loosely, for in the heat of the day, aided by a gentle crescendo of humming from us all, he would almost invariably drop off to sleep.

He was a bit of a rogue in his own way. At the end of term we would be given marks for the term and also for the exams., as I recall. These marks were totally fictitious and not once did we ever have a test! Later he became a bishop, which confirmed my teenage misgivings about the Church of England! Mind you, I was almost invariably in the first two for both subjects, because I belonged to the choir.

The splendid salon of the main building, which was originally an old estancia. Below, from right to left, the Headmaster with his daughter and son, who help run the school, below the coffered ceiling of the salon.

Mr. Leggat further recalls that some students exhibited a rather mischievous spirit against one of the teachers.

There was a Mr. Hartles – a small, bald-headed martinet who had this tremendous gift of antagonising everybody. He was a football referee in real life. I’m not quite sure what he taught, but his style was to humiliate everyone who crossed his path. He never knew who it was who removed all the wheels from his Ford Popular – his pride and joy, before that certain person left! There it was in the quad, balanced on four bricks, not a wheel in sight.

Last, but certainly not least, the Red Lion Coffee Shoppe, wherein a young Cusack first became a habitual tea drinker. He has been grateful ever since.

A service of thanksgiving was held at Holy Trinity to give thanks to God for allowing St. Alban’s to flourish for one hundred years. I am certainly grateful for my very little time down in Argentina, not only to God, but to all the wonderful people — teachers, staff, friends, and families — who made that country such a warm and welcoming place to me. They will not be forgotten, and my love and appreciation of Argentina, warts and all, has only grown since that time. I hope and pray that St. Alban’s will flourish for yet another century, and that Argentina will be blessed with the peace, order, and prosperity which has proved so elusive of late.

Philomathes – Polymathes

This post was published on Monday, August 13th, 2007 10:13 pm. It has been categorised under Argentina and been tagged under , , .
Robert Leggat
14 Aug 2007 6:56 am

Greetings from a now ageing O.P. (1954)!

Robert H.
14 Aug 2007 7:11 am

Did Gussie Fink-Nottle hand out the prizes while heavily under the sauce?

Elizabeth S.
14 Aug 2007 8:01 am

That was Market Snodsbury, dear, not Buenos Aires.

14 Aug 2007 9:47 am

That was cool, Andrew. I enjoyed that.

R.J. O'Hara
15 Aug 2007 1:50 pm

It’s encouraging to know that house systems are starting to become more common in schools (including public schools) in the US:

16 Aug 2007 9:40 am

That is encouraging. One of my friends teaches at this fine school:

Andrew Heath
20 Aug 2007 5:52 pm

It was interesting to see how some outposts of British culture, in this case St. Alban’s College in Buenos Aires, appear to maintain the old ways better than do the Brits themselves. The article took me back to my school days in Surrey.
I was also amazed to read the name John McArdle in the newspaper item (2nd pic down). An Argentine named John McArdle lived in Greenwich CT from about 1990 to 1995, was a colleague of mine in Manhattan, and we played golf a few times. My friend Martin Bercetche in Buenos Aires who also knew him in CT, confirms that “our” John McArdle also went to St. Alban’s College but has not heard of or seen him in years. Chances are very good that we are speaking of one and the same person.
I see it is too late to ask if anyone attending the Annual Prize Giving would pass on my good wishes to JMcA. Perhaps someone could let me know where he is living today?

Anne Bredahl de Glarbo
19 Mar 2008 8:35 pm

Living in Mexico City from 98-03 my family and I became good friends of Patricia and John McArdle. Sadly we all lost contact when we moved. By coincidence I came across the Buenos Aires Herald from August 13, 2007 and Andrew Heath’s amazing comment, and likewise, I would appreciate a contact for John McArdle.

Gaston Le Roy
30 Jun 2009 2:55 pm

This beautiful hosted us for their centenary in2007..The school i was from is also called St Albans college from South Africa.We played all the majot sports rugby, hockey and basketball.Our 1st team won with our 2nds not being so lucky but dont know about the others.Argentina was a beautiful country with very welcoming ppl.And St albans hosting us put the cherry on the cake that being our las game of the tour.will be good to visit again

Joseph McDonald
20 Mar 2012 2:59 am

A bit of a surprise finding this site. I left St. Alban’s in 1954 and returned to the US with my parents. I spent four years in the Stony Brook School and then went off to undergraduate and gradate study in Philadelphia. I now live in Tennessee and teach and do academic management in Alabama.

I remember Mr. Cohen, especially for his work with the Scripture Union and his camps, to which I went without fail, in places such as Necochea and Sierra de la Ventana. I was also a favourite of the Rev. Mr. Franklin because my father, a missionary and scripture teacher, adored the (English) Revised Version and despised all American translations, a sentiment vigorously (well, as vigorously as he ever did anything) endorsed by Mr. Franklin.

Bob Leggat and I discovered each other on a tour bus in Sitka, Alaska in 2005 or 06. He was the paying customer; I was the driver/tour guide/history and culture lecturer/historic sites docent. The university college where I taught and managed the library and computer centre was going broke and I had to do something in the summer to pay the mortgage and feed my wife and four children. We had a most entertaining visit, which included his story of pinching (the now famous Rev.) Luis Palau’s pencil box (or was it the other way round?)

SAC needs an ethnographer/archivist to recover and maintain the school’s story and history and its place in the culture of Anglo Argentina. I still miss the steam engines of the FCNGR and the impossibly long train rides to Bariloche. Even Bahia Blanca seemed too far, but the trip was always appealing.


Miguel Webb
24 Apr 2012 9:37 pm

Hi all!!!. I was in SAC from 53 to 57, Corinth for ever! Looking over the current college on its magnificent webbsite I relish the changes but dearly regret that the old dining room, with its unforgetable photos of our heroes, like “Turi” Best and others cannot be seen on the site. I left when I began to be interested in girls, so I did not graduate there.
Years later, working as a pediatrician in Comodoro Rivadavia I would love to find my Compañeros Patagónicos of the time, a gang of unruly Tehuelches like the Runnacles, Petchard, Humphreys, Reed etc.
Like Joseph McDonald, Mr Charly Cohen was my hero: the best master I have ever had; kind, extremely inteligent, made a bloody good tea in Crusaders in Temperley, and was an extraordinary camp master. Quequén with “Henry” the bull, Sierra de la Ventana where he went up and down the sierra two times to our once, and last Futalaufquen, where I vowed eventualy to live in Patagonia.

Robert Yates
10 Feb 2013 5:01 am

Greetings: It is wonderful to see how much SAC has
grown since I attended there 1948-1956. The superb
British educational system prepared me for College
in the USA. I had many good teachers but my favorite
teacher was Mr. Cohen. I attended Purdue University
from 1957 to 1966, received a PhD in Electrical
Engineering. After spending 46 years in the defense
business in the radar systems field, I am now retired
at the age of 72. However, I will probably start
consulting shortly. I would love to hear from people
I went to school with.
Best regards Robert D Yates (aka Yates 1)

Alejandro de Beruti
11 Apr 2013 8:41 pm

My son went to St Albans and y have to accept that that scholl it´s different for the others. I hope he´ll remember for ever the beautiful experiencie of his pass in St Albans. Best Wishes.

Alec Woodgate
26 Apr 2013 6:42 am

G’Day friends of SAC, I was a boarder for too long!!!
(1954-1961)But my time there prepared me for things ahead.
Joined my family in UK, got a couple of degrees
and M.commerce)then took my wife and son to Australia
where I started my own financial planning business.
Never played rugby again since leaving SAC which I
regret.I feel a bit at odds when the pumas and wallabies play play each other as I barrack for them both.The pumas have certainly come a long way and deserve their place in the Southern Hemisphere Championship.
Will correspond with any contemporary who makes the
Regards Alec

francis C. edwards
4 Aug 2013 2:43 am

Sawmy name mentioned in connection with Padre Franklin’s siestas in the classroom..certainly Mr.Cohen had an impact on my life and the lives of hundreds of students that attended St.Albans over the years. His camps were fun, and I got to go to one in Quequen..great Christian! I have too many stories about my 10 years at SAC to write them all down, but one of my favorites was John Vibart, who I first knew as a prefect in 1947! He made me kneel down with buttons under each knee, and two or three textbooks on my head, and vowed to “kill me” if any of the books fell off! Those were the days, my friends!

Mache Lopa
25 Nov 2013 10:01 pm

Lamentablemente el gobierno municipal de Lomas de Zamora,en una absurda decisión, prohibió el uso de ambos Routemasters, para que sus alumnos puedan desplazarse, hasta el campo de deportes,situado en Corimayo en Burzaco,distante a unos diez kilómetros desde el colegio. Los Routemasters permanecen en Ramón Falcón 250,inmóviles!

Deseamos que prontamente,puedan dar libertad, a los vehículos símbolo de St.Alban´s College!!

Susana Duchini
2 Jan 2017 12:51 am

Love St Alban’s, incredible history, I was a secondary teacher during the ’80s. So many dear friends whom I still see every now and then. So many unforgettable moments in my mind
Susan Duchini

Patrick Rendtorff i
2 Jan 2017 2:16 am

I truly cherish many great memories of the years spent at St. Alban´s ( 1958-1963), when both JE Vibart and John Vibart inspired us to be better souls ! I shall be delighted to travel from Brazil to take part in any event being organized for the 110th school anniversary this year! It was a great honour to be part of the mentioned first rugby tour to Montevideo and recognize both Rene Bylevldt and Middleton ii in the published 60´s photo. My congratulation for the selected photos included in this article, as they bring wonderful images back to life !

robert d yates
30 Apr 2017 3:36 am

It seems in my only post (Feb 2013) I did not include my e-mail address so here it is:

Would love to hear from old classmates.
Best regards
Robert D Yates ( aka yates 1)

robert d yates ( aka yates 1)
1 Nov 2017 3:57 am

Greetings to all: Do you know if anyone took over Peter Handscome’s OP newsletter from Florida, USA. He had a fantastic newsletter and an address book of many OP’s in the USA, Canada and Mexico.
I thought I retired in 2012 but soon got back to work as a radar consultant, and then in 2014 as a part-time employee with AECOM. Still at it since I find it keeps the mind active. Christina and I still live in Huntington Beach, CA. Our son Peter works in Switzerland and has two children Laura 18 and Nicolas 16.
In reading the comments above, Charlie Cohen is mentioned. I learned a lot from him, especially mathematics. I went to his Cruzaders teas which were fantastic, but unfortunately not to his camps. I did not see any mention of another teacher Hearle (aka cana heuca probably because of the little cane he carried with him). He also taught me algebra. Regards to all and do drop by if you are in area. Phone number is 310-505-3849. Best Regards Robert Yates (1948-1956)

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