St John's College

Welcome to our 110th Gaudy Day celebration in the form of our second ‘Virtual Gaudy Day’ online on Saturday 16 October from 8 am for you to enjoy at your leisure.

We have the traditional Gaudy Day service in the Memorial Chapel with music and singing from our College and Prep boys and Old Johannians, along with the presentation of the Golden Eagle Award to this year’s recipients - Des Lindberg and Fr Jarvis Palmer - as well as curated tours of our schools and grounds.

Let us come together and celebrate our shared love for St John's College.

The Golden Eagle Award, introduced in 2004 by the Old Johannian Association in partnership with St John’s College, recognises and celebrates the extraordinary impact that Old Johannians have made in South Africa and internationally. The award is an acknowledgement of the remarkable contributions by Old Johannians who have “made a difference” in their community, industry, arena of life or field of study, and have been valued ambassadors of the St John’s values of Lux, Vita, Caritas.

This year we are proud to announce that the Golden Eagle Award goes to two exceptional and deserving Old Johannians, Rev Jarvis Palmer and Des Lindberg.

Des Lindberg

Desmond Charles Lindberg joined St John's Preparatory in Lower III, completing his Matric in the College in 1958, followed by Sixth Form in 1959. He graduated from the University of the Witwatersrand with a BA in English, isiZulu and African Politics, where, already gaining popularity as a folk singer, he met his beloved Dawn.

Des and Dawn Lindberg made a unique and significant contribution to the performing arts throughout their partnership and marriage. For years, as 20th-century troubadours, Des and Dawn toured South Africa and neighbouring countries with their particular brand of folk music. As a duo, they had a string of hits and albums over the years, most famously The Seagull's Name Was Nelson, first released in 1971. The lyrics were a disguised lament for Nelson Mandela, then imprisoned on Robben Island.

Des is particularly proud to have won a SARI award for his song Die Gezoem van die Bye. He attributes his achievement to the fine teaching of Afrikaans by the legendary St John's teacher Maxie Burger.

Des and Dawn later branched out into the world of theatre, seeking a way to leverage the cultural arts to challenge the emerging and crippling apartheid strictures. In 1973, they obtained the rights to the provocative and spell-binding Broadway musical Godspell, the first mixed-race professional production of a Broadway-style musical to play in South Africa publicly. Veteran cultural administrator Ismail Mahomed said that this Godspell production was a principled and revolutionary protest against the apartheid state and the complicit church.

With their success, the Lindbergs' invested in a number of barrier-breaking and celebrated productions over the years and over 800 of their legendary Sunday-night soirées, which took place at their gracious Houghton home. The soirées displayed the brilliant diversity of South African musicians, poets and entertainers in front of live audiences in our darkest hours as a nation. Those who performed included Abigail Kubeka, Hugh Masekela, Johnny Clegg, Sipho Mchunu, the Soweto String Quartet, Oswald Mtshali and John Kani.

Dawn was instrumental in founding the Naledi Theatre Awards in 2004. The Naledi's recognise and reward excellence in the performing arts and raise awareness of the abundant talent on our South African stages. In all that they did, Des and Dawn worked tirelessly in the cultural and performing arts worlds. They fervently believed that the rich diversity of the artists with whom they worked were reflective of the emerging, vibrant and collaborative South African society they were helping to build.

The story of Des and Dawn is a thoroughly South African story that unfolded against a backdrop of political turbulence, national unrest, international sanctions and the most challenging, often hostile, environment for artists.

For a decade, Des served as Vice Chairman of Promat Colleges which boldly addressed the inequality between black and white in the South African Education system. Promat successfully built an antidote to Bantu Education.

Dawn passed away from COVID-19 in December 2020, leaving a gaping hole in Des' life. He is currently finalising the memoir of their life together for 55 years, and the book is entitled Every Day is an Opening Night. Our story, he says, is a joyful one, and we share it as a celebration of life.

His grandson Shia is currently a student in St John's Preparatory and his granddaughter Zaria is at St Mary's School, Waverley. The Golden Eagle is presented to Des Lindberg for devoting his life, marriage, music, and steadfast belief in our nation's artistic talents to courageously paint a better, bolder, and more just landscape for us to inherit and enjoy. The ethos of selfless service to others, encapsulated in the college motto, Lux Vita Caritas, is evident in all that he does. We are honoured to have Des Lindbergh as our Golden Eagle Award recipient for 2021.

Father Jarvis Palmer

Father Neville Jarvis Palmer, known to everyone as JP, served as chaplain at St John's College for twenty years.

Shortly after his ordination, Father JP enlisted as an army chaplain and served in North Africa at the beginning of the Second World War. Many stories of his courage, moral actions, and devoted service to his fellow soldiers, often with no regard for his own safety, are reminiscent of Father Eustace Hill.

Father JP joined St John's College in 1946 as a school chaplain. The apartheid years were a time that brought some remarkable people to the fore within the St John's community. Those like Father JP were ready to stand up for their faith and their beliefs. Throughout his ministry at St John's, he was devoted and meticulous in his care of the Chapels and ensuring the dignity and reverence of each expression of liturgical worship he led for the St John's community.

Father JP was renowned for his great faith and unconventional but outstanding pastoral gifts and loved by boys and staff alike. He was approachable, generous, good-humoured, understanding and devoted in his chaplain ministry. His 'open house' welcomed and supported hundreds of boys and staff over the years, many of whom would find a deep solace and strength in his faith, rapport and humble care.

His Divinity classes could verge on the anarchic, with many impromptu dramatisations and engaging dialogues delighted and instructed the boys in their faith. He is well remembered for taking boys to visit the communities of Soweto and Sophiatown, which they had never experienced before. Many boys left the school enlightened by his teaching, mentoring and life force, with their eyes more fully opened to the society in which they lived. A colleague of Father JP says: "JP was an unforgettable presence in my life at St John's. He was a remarkable man and unique in living his life humbly. Everybody loved JP, and his indelible mark remains on all of us."

Father JP retired from St John's College in 1966 and continued his ministry at the Cathedral Church of Saint Mary the Virgin in Johannesburg. Father JP died at home on Ash Wednesday in 1982. Those who knew him well believe that he gave St John's College the most fruitful and profound years of his ministry.

The Golden Eagle Award is presented to Father JP for his faith-filled, challenging, and loving service to St John's boys, sta,ff and families. The ethos of selfless service to others, encapsulated in the college motto, Lux Vita Caritas, is evident in all he did for the St John's community. We are honoured to have Father JP as our Golden Eagle Award recipient for 2021.

Welcome back to St John's College . . .