is the address given by Mrs McIntyre at Miss Joubert’s funeral.
Esmé Joubert came from two worlds - two continents really - in that she was
both Afrikaans and English in background - , but more than that, she always
seemed to have come from a different age – one where young women were ‘young
ladies, where refinement respect, consideration for others, modesty loyalty
and intellectual pursuits were the norm. And these qualities were what she
endeavoured to convey to her pupils in the classrooms of a lifetime.
Having spent some time in London as a young woman, moving in the diplomatic
circles of her uncle and aunt, she became something of an Anglophile and her
special interest was in the Victorian period, about which she read widely and
of which she had a prodigious knowledge, as well as a collection of beautiful
Afrikaans was her subject and she was expert at teaching grammar, or so I was
told by some of her pupils, but she did not just ‘teach’ – she ‘educated’
in the broadest sense, inculcating a love of literature in general, of beauty,
and a respect for civilised behaviour.
She was a very civilised person herself – refined, retiring, intensely
private. I always felt that she missed her true vocation – she should have
married – either a professor or a farmer and had a brood of children of her
own to care for, for she was a very nurturing person and ‘mothered’ her
pupils. She loved to cook for others and regularly provided, out of the blue,
comfort food for the staff when the pressure levels rose, for example during
exam time. She loved gardening and animals. An enduring image is of her
sitting at her desk in the classroom, with Buffy ensconced in a basket below
it, - though several other companions’ were to follow the fat little Jack
There wasn’t a selfish bone in her body in her body. She would constantly
give up precious time to help someone else with a problem. And it was always
done unobtrusively. She was a quiet person. I never heard her raise her voice.
Persuaded at one period of her life to move elsewhere on promotion, she was
not however equipped to protect herself from the attacks of malicious,
ambititious and petty nonentities – though she never spoke of that damaging
experience, nor did she ever condemn the perpetrators. That was not her style.
She came back to Rustenburg, to the school to which she had devoted herself,
to her position as Vice Principal and to the friends who lived by the same
values as she did – sadly most of those have gone now, too – Chloe Reid,
Elizabeth Cartwright, Deline Erdis and, recently, Margaret Thomson.
It was only after she retired that I fully realised how much Esmé Joubert had
contributed to the ‘ethos’ of the school as a whole.
We shall not see her like again.
In the school magazine of 1986, the year of Esmé’s retirement, there is a
collage of five photos of Miss Joubert holding Buffy and also a portrait of
them both by FRITHA LANGERMAN (1987). In a tribute, the late ELIZABETH
CARTWRIGHT (Staff 1952 - 1985) writes, ‘My association with Miss Joubert
stared approximately 30 years ago when as young unfledged teachers; we cowered
in a corner of the staffroom, totally overawed by the formidable ladies on the
Rustenburg staff. ..through the years she has continued to provide moral
support, a sense of humour to see our problems in perspective, and an
inexhaustible fund of information on history in general, and the Victorians,
her great love, in particular. She shared with me, as well as with her pupil,
her sensitive appreciation of literature, both English and Afrikaans, and her
talents in cooking and gardening. Her caring love and understanding was
extended to all with whom she came into contact.’
ANN SCHLEBUSCH (Leeuwenburg 1969) wrote:
‘Whole generations of girls have bloomed and
thrived under the loving care of this remarkable
teacher. … I remember how my friends and I
used to comment on what a wonderful mother Miss
Joubert would have made. We knew that she “knew”
us as only someone who loved could … she gave
and shared with all her heart.
Now that she and I are colleagues I see that her
concern extends to mothering the staff as well.
Whenever we are tired and irritable, a plate of
tasty, soothing food appears…..Miss Joubert is
a wise, fine person and Rustenburg will not find
another to fill her place.’
My own contact with Miss Joubert goes back to
the year she joined the Rustenburg staff. 50
years ago I was in her first Rustenburg matric
class and by April 1956, I was, for the first
time in my school career, really enjoying
Afrikaans lessons. Esmé had just returned from
her stay in London; her love of England showed
but then so did her deep feeling for this
country and her understanding of its history.
Our set-work books could have been tedious but
turned out to have been memorable. There is no
doubt that everyone’s marks improved by at
least a symbol. Both Mrs McIntyre and Ann
Schlebusch said how they felt she should have
married. We shall never know the story, but I
clearly remember a conversation in the library
when Charmian Plummer (Marais) was telling Miss
Joubert about her plans for the future, ‘and
then I’ll get married’ said Charmian. Miss
Joubert said quietly, ‘It’s not so easy to
get married’. In the years that followed, I
had some contact with Esmé as she and my
mother-in-law, the late ENID BERRISFORD (Staff),
were friends. I remember visiting the historic
Cape Dutch farm outside Wellington where she had
grown up and how her stepmother told me, ‘Esmé
really loves Rustenburg’. She had retired once
I joined the staff but was still very much a
quiet presence. She walked Buffy in the grounds
several times a day, she tended the flower beds
at the front door of the school and she
continued to provide the staff with treats from
her kitchen. She sold wonderful rusks for some
good cause. The late JUNE SACKS (Staff) had a
regular order until she died. Buffy was followed
by Gretel, a miniature Daschund bought by Mary
van Blerk. Then Esmé’s family felt she should
move closer to them in Paarl. It seems very
fitting that her ashes will be scattered in the
(an extract from an e-mail sent by her son - Tony)
Abbott (nee Hedding) who was a 'Rustibug' around 1922 (and mother of Moira Abbott E+/-1965) passed away peacefully
the weekend of 1 July 2006 - just short of her 96th birthday.
She alway enjoyed receiving your newsletters and insisted that I read them to her from cover to cover! we were both saddened to read of the death of Tommie, who had been such a pillar of strength to Moira during and, for a long time after, her time at Rustenburg.
We record with great sadness the death on
23 June 2005 of a former Headmistress of Rustenburg
High School for Girls, and reproduce a eulogy
delivered at a service in the Rosebank Methodist
Church by Mrs Jo McIntyre:
MARGARET THOMSON (1917 - 2005)
Zephne asked me to speak briefly about Margaret
Thomson from the point of view of Rustenburg
High School for Girls, I said that I felt very
honoured to be asked. In fact, I feel honoured
just to have known Margaret Thomson.
first contact with her was late in 1952. I had
been sent to Rustenburg as a student teacher
from U.C.T. and it was her first year as Headmistress.
She was thirty four years old. It was the beginning
of an era which was to span 28 years - until
she retired in December 1979.
renewed my acquaintance with Miss Thomson and
with the school when, in 1970, I came to teach
English there, so our association goes back
over thirty five years. Although I first came
to know her in her professional capacity in
latter years, she became both a mentor and a
impressions of Miss Thomson were that of her
style – always elegant, dressed beautifully
for any occasion in lovely clothes, she had
impeccable taste for good quality and this transmitted
to the school – but quality in all things –
in scholarship, in behaviour, in principles.
She expected the highest standards of her pupils
and of her staff and she had a talent for inspiring
both to achieve these goals, simply because
she never allowed herself to fall short of them.
She led by example.
also possessed, even in the frailty of recent
times, that indefinable "something",
call it ‘charisma’ or what you will, - that
sets apart those who possess it.
Thomson’s nearly three decades as Headmistress
took her through a period when there were major
changes in society’s standards and values. While
recognising the shifts in moral standards, for
she was, above all, a realist, she held true
to what were for her always the most important
qualities in a civilised society - compassion,
hard-work, integrity, courage - and these qualities
she endeavoured to inculcate in her "girls".
when severely provoked, she always appeared
calm and in control, for she exercised strict
self-discipline and restraint. One lovely story
was told by past pupil and member of staff,
Anne Schlebusch, - about the time that Miss
Thomson was teaching a Maths class and it was
during the usual silly season at Matric exam
time when the boys from neighbouring schools
go on the rampage. Anne recorded: "Single
minded Miss Thomson was, too: when dreadful
screams were echoing around the school (and
had been for some time), accompanied by bangs
and engine noises, she taught on. ...Long after
our curiosity was raging she merely turned to
the Head Girl, Pamela Farrell, and said, ‘Pamela,
would you mind going to see what’s going on?’
Our lesson continued, uninterrupted."
never heard her utter an ill-considered word;
she thought very carefully before speaking or
acting and she was invariably wise. One piece
of very valuable advice which she gave me at
the time of my appointment as her successor
was "always speak from a position of strength"
– what she meant was that one had to do one’s
homework very thoroughly before going public.
the restraint, she remained very human and humane.
She never lost the individual among the masses,
in the sense that she knew virtually every girl
in the school and knew her by name, but not
only this, - her interest in her pupils and
staff extended far beyond the classroom and
day-to-day business of teaching. She attended
an inordinate number of Society meetings, musical
performances and sports matches and she never
failed to support, encourage and congratulate
those who deserved it.
was intensely interested in her pupils and in
her staff – years after someone had left the
school she would meet her, remember her name,
the names of her family members and, in all probability, know what she had done with her
life in the interim.
great interest was not solely in the achievement
of academic honours for the school, - though
these there were in plenty, - but in the building
of character and in equipping each girl to go
out into a difficult world to live a useful
and fulfilling life.
her final Prize Giving in 1979 Margaret Thomson
used these words:
"...the foundations laid by my predecessors...
are those on which I have continued to build*
sound academic scholarship with as wide and
balanced a curriculum as possible, the development
of the potential of each pupil, and equally,
if not more important, the development of those
qualities such as compassion, integrity, initiative
and faith which will help the girls to face
the demands of the future and to serve their
words are, I believe, a fitting testimony
to her life’s work in Education.