The history of Porter School

Margaret Koopman, Meadowridge

I read the article about the Porter evictions with interest (“Porter evictions loom”, Bulletin, August 25).

A few years ago when the South African Riding for the Disabled Association were to be evicted from their premises on Brommersvlei Road because of a land-claim award, I assisted in researching alternative premises for their excellent, generous endeavour.

The alternative property I investigated was the Porter School. Most Capetonians are unaware of the history of the Porter School.

A book was published in 1997 by JL McCracken titled New Light at the Cape of Good Hope: William Porter, the Father of Cape Liberalism. It was published by Ulster Historical Foundation. There is also a Wikipedia biography on him where it can be seen that he was a man ahead of his times.

Your journalist may or may not know that William Porter was the Attorney General of the Cape of Colony from 1839 to1865. An Irishman and a bachelor, when he retired from his position as attorney general and Cape politics and returned to Ireland in 1873, he left a bequest of a considerable amount of money at the time. The bequest specified that it was either to be spent on a reform school for troubled youths of Cape Town, or for bursaries for young women to acquire a university education.

The bequest was to be administered by the incoming Attorney General of the Cape Colony and his/her successors. The Reform School was the favoured choice and if my memory serves me, was originally based at Valkenberg, but I may be wrong. The original property was sold and a new property was purchased in Tokai. The Porter bequest property is quite considerable in size and located on prime real estate, stretching across Orpen Road to where The Range (on Porter bequest property) is situated.

I would be very curious to know what the Western Cape Government intends for the property as I am sure the bequest must be lodged somewhere and be binding on our provincial government.