We profile Welkom Gimnasium of the Goldfields.
Gold made Welkom. There was no other reason for a farming area in the northern Orange Free State to become a bustling, thriving town. In 1946 a major gold discovery was made on a farm called Welkom and in 1947 the town came into being, declared a city in 1968 after a period of rapid but planned growth. In fact, with Sir Ernest Oppenheimer and Anglo-American in charge, the town was laid out before a brick was laid, which probably makes it unique amongst the world’s towns. A million trees were planted and traffic ordered by circles. It is the second largest town in the Free State
Gold had been discovered in the Free State in the 19th century and mined at Vredefort but it was not till the accidental discovery on the farm that it really became the centre of a gold rush. Drilling for water struck gold, and soon people came flocking from all over the world to the new goldfields with other towns such as Odendaalsrus, Kroonstad, Virginia and Hennemann.
Welkom Gimnasium was founded din 1953. It is a co-ed school with about 920 pupils and a boarding establishment to house about 90.
Its motto is Wees Sterk Daar’s Werk (Be strong – there’s work to do).
The school’s rugby falls within the province which used to be called Northern Free State and is now called the Griffons, from the mythical, bird-like creature which guards treasure, an appropriate name for the goldfields.
Numerous provincial players have gone through the school and three Springboks – Gerrie Sonnekus, Christo Ferreira and Lukas van Biljon.
The school has nine rugby teams, and the big match of the year is against Goudveld which attracts a crowd of about 10 000. Other rivals include Hoêrskool Kroonstad and Afrikaanse Hoêrskool in Kroonstad and Hentie Cilliers in Virginia.