1_Harrismith, 2_Free State / Vrystaat, 8_Nostalgia

Boschetto Agricultural College

I know very little about Boschetto Agricultural College on the slopes below Platberg and above the town of Harrismith, Free State, so I’m writing this hoping someone who knows more will make sure we preserve the history.

‘No successful South African settlement for women’s agricultural or horticultural training appeared until Miss Norah Miller, an émigré from the Edinburgh College of Domestic Service, acquired a farm and began receiving students in 1922, forming the basis for the Boschetto Agricultural College.’

– it’s somewhere near here . . –

‘Boschetto’ is Italian for a copse or grove – and there are a few of them in that picture.

– a plaque for Boschetto’s founder, in the Anglican church, Harrismith –

I found a 1931 video clip on Boschetto showing the students working in the grounds of the college. Platberg can be seen in the background. The students are seen milking a cow, making butter, spraying trees with fertiliser or pesticide, and tending to beehives wearing protective clothing. The clip is worth watching if only to shake your head at the jolly, gung-ho, empire-confident British what-what voice of the narrator!

– the west end of Platberg in a still capture from that 1931 video –

Here’s something on a Boschetto graduate:

Gwendaline Bessie Ryan was born on 22 January1917 in Keiskammahoek, Cape, the daughter of Hugh Joseph Ryan and Louise Alvilde Thesen. She was educated at Boschetto Agricultural College in Harrismith. Gwen founded a dairy farm at Charlesford, on the Phantom Pass near Knysna, and was a keen horsewoman – in one article she is called the doyenne of Cape polocrosse – and was a well known horse breeder. Gwen also bred racehorses. She ran a horse livery yard and riding school from the farm and held regular polocrosse events at the Old Drift.

Gwendaline married Col Robert Devenish, Dep Commissioner South African Police, son of Robert Devenish, of Rush Hill, county Roscommon, Ireland, on 29 Nov 1952. Gwendaline died on 8 August 2002, in Knysna, Western Cape, and is buried in Knysna cemetery.

More Boschetto old girls Mary remembers:

Rosemary Dyke-Wells was in or near Kruger Park in the 50’s. Mom & Dad Pieter & Mary Bland Swanepoel visited her on their honeymoon.

Sir George Albu‘s daughters;

Sir Percy Fitzpatrick‘s daughter, who dated Michael Hastings for a while.


Sources: Burke’s Landed Gentry Of Ireland, 1976 p1037

Una Monk, New Horizons: A Hundred Years of Women’s Migration (London: Her Majesty’s Stationery Office, 1963), p. 137 (quoting Lady Aberdeen);

Wolseley, Gardening for Women (cit. n. 1), p. 234 (on the Canadian situation);


Also Harrismith’s best blog deoudehuizeyard.

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