As early as 1841 Bishop Bonnaud planned to start a Catholic High school in Bangalore. But this proposal took concrete shape only in 1854 when the priests of the Missions Etrangeres de Paris (MEP) bought a plot of land for a sum of Rs.1000/- at St. Johns Hill. Bangalore Fr. Bouteloup had a house constructed in 1854 at a cost of Rs.3000/- and this was named St. Joseph’s Seminary. This house also contained an orphanage and a residential school.
The Madras University was established in 1858 and hence boarders could be admitted to prepare for the matriculation examination of the Madras University. Fr. Charbonnaux who was in-charge of the school made this entry in his diary; “We decided to open a school for European boys. As a knowledge of English in necessary to our Indian pupils and that of Canarese to European boy we determined to build a wing and a kitchen adjoining the Seminary.” This was the beginning of St. Joseph’s College. In the nomenclature of the day, in European usage a college was what today we would call a high school and what we would call today a college would be termed University. By May 1865 a new house was built to take in the orphans and boarders of the school.
It was difficult for the three departments, seminary, orphanage and school to function in the same building. Hence in 1875 the orphanage was transferred to St. Patrick’s Church and still exists as St. Patrick’s Orphanage. The Seminary for all practical purposes closed down and hence the entire campus with all the buildings was utilized for the school and the boarding house. The school had a total of 144 students, 64 boarders and 80 day scholars.
The next important development was the change made by the very able new Rector, Fr. Maurice Vissac in 1882. He had the school affiliated to the Madras University as a second grade college which could prepare and send students for the F.A. (First Arts) exams. In 1884, 2 candidates appeared for this exam and qualified successfully.
Fr. Vissac was in the tradition of nation builders. He wanted the school to be located in the heart of the Cantonment in a big campus. For this purpose he purchased a property called Rocklands next to the Madras Bank, the present State Bank of India, and next to the Good Shepherd Convent. He was the architect of the stately buildings on Museum Road whose foundation stone was laid in 1894. He also saw to it that two French priests from the diocese were sent to England to qualify themselves to teach in the school. He sent Fr. Froger and Fr. Schmitt who returned to Bangalore qualified with the M.A. of the London University.
In 1898 the College, that is the school, transferred from St. John’s Hill to the new buildings on Museum Road with a complement of 100 boarders and 89 day scholars. An attack of plague made parents remove their children from Bangalore in 1902 bringing down the strength of the school to 157.
To Fr. Vissac should go the honour of being the real founder of St. Joseph’s College. After 20 years of tireless service he handed over the Rectorship to a worthy successor whom he had groomed, Fr. Froger. He was Rector from 1903 to 1913 and from 1915 to 1916. The beautiful oil paintings which adorned the walls of the refectories of the priests and the boarders were the products of the brush and easel of Fr. Froger.
The school was growing in strength from 100 boarders and 57 day scholars in 1903 to 239 boarders and 183 day scholars in 1913. To accommodate such a large number of boarders two new blocks were added to the original block and an immense playground called New Field was purchased in what in now Vittal Mallya Road next to Mallya Hospital. This was a tank bed and the land had to be drained to prepare extensive play fields for the students.
The St. Joseph’s College in 1910 adopted the High School Examination System giving up the Old matriculation system. Perhaps this was the time when the school took the name St. Joseph’s European High School. The University had also abolished the F.A. and replaced it with the Intermediate Arts Exam.
The St. Joseph’s College, that is the European High School, was the mother of other institutions, the St. Joseph’s Indian High School and the St. Joseph’s (University) College.
In 1904 Fr. Blaise was the first Princip0al of the Indian High School which was located in the stuffy cellars under the primary department of the European High School. It was time that the Indian High School had its own buildings. The next Principal of the Indian High School from 1912 was Fr. Aucouturier.
Fr. Froger generously gifted his personal property, named Thornley Bank, at the junction of Residency Road and Museum Road for the construction of the building of the new Indian High School. Fr. Aucouturier constructed a magnificent building of three floors.
It was time for the Intermediate section to develop on its own. Moreover, the European section was expanding and all the classrooms were required by the school. In 1923 the Intermediate classes cut off from the school and were housed for the time being on the top floor of the newly constructed Indian High School. Fr. Argaut who was in-charge of the Intermediate section started work on constructing a spacious building for the University classes. He succeeded in upgrading the College in 1928 to a first grade college with the B.A. degree.
Hence we now have 3 distinct institutions with three principals but under one rector: St. Joseph’s European High School, St. Joseph’s Indian High School and St. Joseph’s College.
The heads of the institution are worthy of mention: Fr. Leo Vanpeene from 1916 to 1923 and Fr. J.B. Argaut.
The school prepared boys for the Bangalore Middle and High School examinations and for what was commonly called the Junior and Senior Cambridge examinations.
The French Fathers (MEP) were finding it difficult to staff the school. The slaughter of the young men on the battle field of Europe in the 1914 – 1918 war had practically destroyed a whole generation of men, some of whom would have become priests and joined the MEP. The Bishop of Mysore, Msgr. Despastures under whose jurisdiction came Bangalore at that time decided to find a suitable religious order to whom he could entrust these institutions thus freeing his priests for pastoral ministry. His efforts to get the Canons of St. Maurice from Switzerland did not succeed as well as his efforts to get orders of teaching brothers. He had earlier tried unsuccessfully to get the Jesuits, the Priests of the Society of Jesus founded by St. Ignatius Loyola, who were well known throughout the world as educationists to take over these institutions. The Bishop now approached the General of the Jesuits in Rome with the same appeal. He appointed a Visitor to study the matter on the spot. The visitor Fr. Van Kalken is endowed by the General with almost plenipotentiary powers to take a decision. In February 1937 he wrote to the Superior of the Jesuit Mission in Mangalore that Fr. General had approved that the Society of Jesus would accept the generous offer of the Bishop of Mysore and if the Mangalore mission of the Jesuits could not provide sufficient Jesuits then the Visitor would invite Jesuits from other Indian missions to offer their services for this work.
All the institutions of St. Joseph’s College, namely European High School and boarding house, Indian High School and St. Joseph’s College with the extensive playgrounds at New Fields, Lal Bagh Road and South Parade (M.G. Road) were thus transferred to Jesuit Management.
The first Rector under the new dispensation was Fr. A. Ambruzzi S.J. . The first Principal of the school was Fr. L. Proserpio who later was appointed the Bishop of Calicut. Some priests of the old dispensation continued to work in the school to effect a smooth transition.
Besides the Jesuits who came from Mangalore, Italians and Indians, there were Jesuits from various missions of different nationalities. Frs. Wigny and Fischer, Belgians from Calcutta Province, Fr. Scicluna a Maltese also from Calcutta, Fr. Lambert an Englishman from Madras Province, Fr Starace from Ceylon Fr. Benoit a German from Poona Province.
The Italian Government with its leader Mussolini aligned itself with Hitler in the Axis against the British Allied troops in the Second World War from 1939 to 1945. Hence all the Italians and German Fathers became enemy aliens and were interned. Hence the Jesuit superiors had to find Indians to man the school. Fr.E.J. Jacques an Anglo Indian with an M.A. degree from the University of London and Fr. Studerus a Swiss and hence a neutral had to fill up the vacancies.
With the coming of Independence to our country the European High School lost many of its privileges. During the British period Anglo Indian school received grant in aid for teachers’ salaries at a much higher rate than teachers in SSLC school. These schools had their own examination system with a special Inspector of Schools to oversee these schools. Moreover they prepared students to appear for the Junior and Senior Cambridge examinations. The umbilical cord with England was shortly cut because our country was going through a severe shortage of foreign exchange and the University of Cambridge was continually raising the fee structure of the exam because of post war inflation in England. The Government of India was unwilling to release foreign exchange for students to appear for these examinations. In its place the Anglo Indian Association under the leadership of Mr. Frank Anthony, its President who was an M.P. organized the Indian School Certificate Council which developed two examinations at the end of Standards ten and twelve called the I.C.S.E. and the I.S.C. exams. All the Anglo Indian Schools now prepare students for these exams.
It may be an anomaly but the name St. Joseph’s European High School was changed to St. Joseph’s Boys High School only in 1968. The name may have to be changed again since from this year, 2007, girls are admitted to Stds. 11 and 12.
The old buildings had served their purpose and had withstood the ravages of the times for almost a century. But they were no longer functional. Some buildings had developed cracks. The classrooms were too small having been constructed for a class strength of maximum 25 Whereas now the average strength is at least 50. The boarding house was closed because an ever expanding city required admissions for larger and larger number of students year by year . The larger areas occupied by just a few boarders with their requirements of dormitories, study halls. Refectories, kitchens etc. could be better used to increase the strength of day scholars.
Every challenge brings up a person endowed with the courage, faith and ability to complete God’s plan. Such a person was the Principal Fr. Michael John who trusting in God and convinced of the loyal support of the Old Boys and the parents initiated plans to construct a completely new school building with a floor area of more than three times the old school building with all the facilities which children need for education today.
The School is blessed with an Old Boys Association which is fiercely loyal to the school and will not spare any effort to assist the school in its plans for development and renewal. The Parent Teacher Associations of the School is always supportive of every effort of the Management for the development of the school.
St. Joseph’s Boys High School is a Jesuit school which strives to inculcate in each and every one of its students Jesuit ideals: to prepare men and women who will give themselves in service to others, to strive for excellence and not just competitiveness. The motto of the school is “FIDE ET LABORE”. This has inspired countless generation of youngsters to give of their best for God and country and society. Faith in God and as the school anthem says ” Faith and Toil, conquerless alliance wherein we clasp human hands unto God’s” It is this inspiration that makes every Josephite know and feel that he is empowered to scale new heights in learning, sports, service and giving generously of himself in the service of others. Our inspiration is that simple man St. Joseph of Nazareth, the foster father of Jesus, whom the Lord God lead in faith utilizing his toil to bring to fulfillment the divine plan.
– By Fr. Hedwig Da’Costa SJ