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[Information provided by Cathedral & John Connon Alumni Association]

1860. A full century had passed since the machinations of Clive had got the better of Siraj-ud-daulah at Plassey. The War for Indian Independence had been unequivocally won by the British, the last Mughal had been banished to Burma and Queen Victoria had been proclaimed Empress of India. Educational facilities had to be provided for the children of the steadily increasing number of English administrators, soldiers and traders who were coming out to live in India. Indeed this was the year in which Lord Canning issued a Minute proposing to provide free sites and half the cost of building schools if public bodies would bear the rest of the expense and undertake their management.
It was in this year that Bishop Harding and the Cathedral Chaplain decided to open a Grammar School within the walled city of Bombay with Mr. Gilder as the Headmaster. Within a few months Mr. Gilder was ordained priest and left the school for missionary work, but this small establishment together with an even smaller school for girls run by Mrs. Willing were to be the first of many strands which were eventually joined together to form the Cathedral School as we know it today.
On October 1st, 1875, a Choir School was established with the primary object of providing choristers for St. Thomas’ Cathedral. Rev. J.D.Mckay was appointed Headmaster and 26 pupils were put on the rolls immediately. Mrs. Mckay was prepared to undertake the supervision of a Girls’ School which would have some connection with the Boys’ School .THE SCOTTISH SCHOOLS
In the meantime, in 1876 The Bombay Scottish Education Society had been founded. As the Society did not have a School, the first classes were held in temporary premises in Meadows Street till a house was hired at 9, Horny Road. Two years later the Adelphi Hotel in Byculla was purchased for Rs. 50,000, and an additional school was opened there. This remained the headquarters of the Society till 1881 when a beautiful building was put up on the Esplanade costing Rs. 87,000. The new school at the Esplanade was named after Mr. John Connon, a well known philanthropist and Chief Registrar of Bombay. In 1902 the Society took over the small school conducted by the Wesleyen Church in Colaba Causeway. This virtually became the kindergarten department of the John Connon School till it was closed in 1920, when the accommodation became unsuitable. At that time many Europeans lived in Byculla, and in 1912, the Society decided to build a new School in Agripada, which was opened by Lord Sydenham.
Byculla was well served by schools in those days. The Bombay Diocesan Society had opened a High School in Love Lane, in 1878, this school was amalgamated with the Choir School under the name of the Cathedral High School. Rs. 50,000 was collected by grants and public subscriptions and the Government Paper purchased with this sum forms the major portion of the present endowment settled by Trust Deed on the Cathedral High School.
THE CATHEDRAL BOYS’ SCHOOLThe Government granted permission for a school to be established at the Esplanade. The funds collected from the public were considerably enhanced by a generous contribution from the Society for promoting Christian Knowledge. Unfortunately, it was soon realised that the building on the Esplanade was quite unsuitable: it was badly planned and allowed no room for expansion, and the thoroughfares on three sides and the cab stand at the door made it impossible for the master to make himself heard over the traffic noises. In 1893 the building was sold to the Oriental Life Assurance Co., and with the proceeds the present Senior School building, a happy blend of Gothic and Indian architecture, was erected and occupied in 1896.
The management of the school was vested in a Governing Body comprising the Bishop of Bombay, the Archdeacon, the Senior Presidency Chaplain, the Chaplain of Byculla, the Garrison Chaplain and five laymen, who had to be members of the Church of England and were co-opted whenever there was a vacancy.

In 1880, the Girls’ School was started under the supervision of Mrs.Evans, wife of the Headmaster of the Boys’ School. It was housed in the Old High Court, where the boys had also been shifted temporarily. The girls had to sit in tiers in a gallery, while the teacher shouted up at them, standing a whole floor below. In 1883 a house was taken on Elphinstone Circle for the mistresses and the boarders and the Old High Court was vacated. At the same time negotiations were entered into with the Sisters of the All Saints Community who were asked to take over the management of the school, with the Governing body retaining control and direction of the school and the Senior Presidency Chaplain being responsible for the religious instruction of the pupils. The number of pupils increased and an Infant School also having been added, it was decided to utilise the whole building for school purposes, and when even this was found insufficient, the building on Napier Road which now houses our Middle School, was taken over.

In 1860 there had been talk of having one big school to serve the needs of all the European children. Such a plan was found impractical even in those days, and as the number of European families increased and the residential areas they occupied became more and more widespread, many small schools, each linked to a particular branch of the Christian Church sprang up.
All the European Schools had the same broad aims and it was obviously desirable that they should all maintain the same standards. Moreover it was found that some schools were cramped for space while others did not have enough pupils to make the schools viable prevailed when in 1922 an advertisement appeared calling all Scotsmen to attend a public meeting in the Town Hall.
The Chairman, Sir Norman Mcleod, who was also the Chief Justice, asked the audience to consider what could be done to save the Scottish Education Society, which was in grave financial difficulties. After a short preliminary discussion a dour silence fell upon the assembly which was startlingly broken when Col. Hammond, the Principal of the Cathedral Boys’ School, who was attending the meeting, suggested that the Cathedral Schools and the Scottish Schools should join forces instead of competing against each other. After an initial pause the idea was applauded enthusiastically and so, was the Anglo-Scottish Education Society conceived. It took over two years for the legal ramifications of the amalgamation to be completed, but even before that was achieved the reorganisation of the schools had been effected, with Col.Hammond as the Principal. The Schools were now divided as follows:THE CATHEDRAL BOYS’ SCHOOL,
Outram Road (Now Purshottamdas Thakurdas Marg) – Boys’ Stds. I, and IV to IX.THE CATHEDRAL GIRLS’ SCHOOL
Napier Road, Kindergarten Department and Girls’ Stds. I, and IV to IX.JOHN CONNON SCHOOL
Esplanade Road (Now Mahatma Gandhi Road) Boys’ Stds. I to IV and Girls’ Stds. II and III.The Boys’ School, which included one floor of what is now the Siddharth College, our present neighbour, had furnished quarters for seven assistant masters, thirty boarders, and a matron. The Principal also had a comfortable flat in the same premises. The John Connon provided accommodation for the All Saints’ Sisters and three mistresses.At the end of the first year’s working of the amalgamated schools the Principal reported that they had 524 pupils on their rolls: 334 boys and 190 girls. These were classified by race, too: 404 Europeans and Anglo-Indians, 104 Parsees and 16 others. These included the pupils of the Byculla School (which had been run by the Bombay Scottish Education Society at the time of the amalgamation). The Byculla School had been reduced to a Kindergarten School with a Headmistress in charge, the services of the Headmaster having been dispensed with. Looking at the register one finds a comparatively large number of ‘native’ names in the Byculla School, and therefore, it is not surprising to read that in 1929 it was closed down because “the European population whom it was built to serve has moved from Agripada. There is not sufficient demand to justify the expense of continuing to run it.” In 1930 the building was handed over to the Missionary Settlement for University Women.The “Grand Alliance” of 1922 was almost exactly half-way down the history we are attempting to trace. The latter half of this saga has three major organisational changes to report: the closing down of the Boarding establishment, the building of the Malabar Hill Infant School and the introduction of co-education. The boarding section was closed in 1948. Many of the Europeans had gone back to England, and since all the boarders had been Europeans, it was decided to close down that section and relinquish the building which had housed them. Our head hamal, Bhagwan, remembers working in the School’s dining room, and recalls the punctiliousness which marked everything run by the British.The Malabar Hill Infant School was founded in 1965. The building was planned with enough imagination and foresight to be considered modern even today after twenty years. The thousands of children who have passed through it will always cherish their memories of it, and this is probably due in large measure to the grace and charm of the lady who was Headmistress of this establishment for a long time, Mrs. Uma Bannerjee.
In the sixties, co-education was still viewed with trepidation, and when in 1965, the Principal, Rev. Ridding, stated that the only way to solve the financial and organisational problems of the school was to make it co-educational, many parents thought that he was embarking on a course he would not be able to control, and some parents withdrew their children. In fact, some people felt so strongly about it that they went to court to stop the school from proceeding with these plans. Justice Lentin, (a name which was to become synonymous with courageous judgements two decades later) weighed the legal points carefully and pronounced that the School had every right to introduce co-education if it so wished. Armed with this judgements, Rev. Mr. Ridding, who was firmly committed to his plan, managed to convince a sufficient number of the Board members and the parents to bring it into effect. The “merger” was more smoothly processed than had been feared possible, and within a couple of years the boys and girls found it difficult to believe that there had been a time when they had studied in separate buildings. And some of the parents who had withdrawn their children brought them back !Today the old Boys’ School is the Senior School with classes from Stds. VIII to XII, with four sections in each except the two highest; the old Girls’ School is the Middle School with classes fromStds. V to VII; the John Connon School is the Junior School, where we have pupils in Stds. III to IV; and the Malabar Hill School has Transition Classes and three sections each of Standards I and II.

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