Die storie van die Plek begin in ‘n tyd waar Suid Afrika nog niks meer as ‘n kolonie was nie…

In 1799 is die oorspronklike plaashuis voltooi wat vandag die onderste verdieping van die huidige Old Bachelors beslaan. Lord Charles Somerset het die grond in 1817 aan P.J. Cats en P.A. de Vos besorg as leningplaas.

Op hierdie stadium het ‘n grondpad voor Bachelors verbybeweeg en omdat Ryneveldstraat eers in 1832 aangelê is, staan die res van Stellenbosch skeef in verhouding met Wilgenhof. (Dit sluit natuurlik die Joodse sinagoge en die Ingenieursfakulteit uit, maar ons almal weet dat hulle ook spesies van hul eie is…)

Die Stellenbosch Spirit Association omskep die waenhuis in 1832 tot ‘n stokery en in 1840 doop die nuwe eienaar JP de Villiers dit Grossdale. Later sou dit ook bekend wees as ‘Bosman se Stokery’ of net ‘Die Stokery’, ‘n naam wat selfs vandag nie onvanpas sal wees nie. Na menigte veranderinge van eienaars en aktiwiteite, het Roelof Louw in 1875 ‘n tweede verdieping op Bachelors laat aanbou en die losies uitverhuur aan kosgangers op die dorp.

Na aanleiding van die menigte wilgerbome op die eiendom, is die naam verander na Willow Grove of net ‘The Willows’, ‘n naam wat sy vrou voorgestel het. In 1902 koop Christiaan Marais ‘The Willows’ en as direkteur van die “Board of Managers of Wilgenhof Boarding Establishment” het hy in 1903 Wilgenhof se wiele aan die rol gekry. As ‘n “huis voor jongelingen die van elders in Zuid-Afrika herwaarts komen ter voortzetting hunnen studren” het die eerste Wilgenhoffers gearriveer met Jannie Meyer as huisvader. In 1904 kon die koshuis 110 inwoners huisves (Bachelors ingesluit) en in dieselfde jaar word Bob Loubsher Wilgenhof se eerste Springbok rugbyspeler. (Miskien het Paul Roos, mede-koshuisvader, iets daarmee tedoen gehad…) Dit was die begin van ‘n 45 jaar tydperk (1904 – 1949) waar geen Springboktoets gespeel is sonder ‘n Wilgenhoffer in sy geledere nie.
In 1906 is nuwelinge die eerste keer gedoop in Wilgenhof en alhoewel die aktiwiteite en benaming van die verwelkoming verskeie kere aangepas is, bly dit ‘n feit (soos ‘n koei) dat geen Wilgenhoffer dieselfde is na die eerste paar weke nie. Dit is altyd interessant om te hoor hoe ander mense bespiegel en uitvis oor die doopverwante aktiwiteite van Wilgenhof. Miskien soek hulle ook na die waarheid…

In 1906 is ook besluit om die stuk vlei droog te lê sodat die tennisklub grondbane in gebruik kon neem. Dit het ‘n instelling geword vir nuwelinge om aan die begin van die jaar die tennisbane droog (en vas) te trap. Die instandhouding van die tennisbane is in 1925 oorgeneem deur die universiteit, maar met die agteruitgang van diens (en ‘n behoefte om nie die bane te verwaarloos soos die bane elders op kampus nie) is die tennisbane in 2003 oorgedoen. Amanda Coetzer het die nuwe bane ingewy en sodoende kan Wilgenhof nie net spog met die luuksheid van 2 tennisbane nie, maar ook met die goeie kwaliteit daarvan.

Vanaf 1910 was Wilgenhoffers bekend met die feit dat ‘Big Nights’ bestaan en in die volgende paar jaar het die koshuis verskeie strukture en reëls die lig laat sien. In 1916 is Wilgenhof deur Victoria College (die universiteit se voorganger) gekoop vir 6000 pond en in 1918 word die koshuis universiteitseiendom nadat die US in die lewe geroep is. ‘n Strewe om die koshuis self te regeer (te “run”) het ontstaan en die wens is in 1920 bewaarheid toe die huiskomitee alle bestuur van Wilgenhof oorgeneem het. Daardie jaar se Olimpiese Spele in Antwerpen (België) is ook bygewoon deur die SA-hekkieskampioen, Arrie van Heerden, wat toe nog in Wilgenhof woonagtig was.

1924 sal altyd onthou word vir die groot rugbywedstryd waar die “Res van Stellenbosch” die “Hof der Wilgen” die stryd aangesê het. Nie net is die koshuisvlag (en wapen) met die geleentheid gebore nie, maar het die huislied ook ontstaan (deur Victor Potgieter). Die “Res van Stellenbosch” is 12-9 verslaan en Wilgenhof-rugby het nooit weer teruggekyk nie. (Wilgenhof het immers al 8 keer die gesogte Sauerbeker gewen – ‘n groot prestasie vir ‘n relatiewe klein koshuis.)

Tokkelokke (Kweekskoolstudente) is as ‘n bedreiging gesien en in 1925 is besluit om toegang tot hierdie spesie te weier. (Hierdie reël is egter nie altyd ewe doeltreffend toegepas nie, want verskeie Sondae preek oud-onderprimarius, Hannes Koornhof, by Moedergemeente…) In 1929 is Reckless, Wilgenhof se nasionale sport tot en met die val van die Berlynse Muur in 1989, in die lewe geroep.
‘n Sanggroep, die Troebadoers, het in 1934 ontstaan, maar die volgende jaar is hul naam verander na die Kraaie. Met hul kenwysie, “O, dis weer die Kraaie van Wilgenhof”, was hulle die eerste serenade-groep op Matieland en die Kraaieloop, tydens die aand van Predikatedag, het ‘n jaarlikse instelling geword. Dit kan met redelike sekerheid gesê word dat die Kraaie een van Wilgenhof se bekendste kenmerke is.

In 1944 is Hamelhof gebou en aanvanklik het 17 (van die mees) senior Wilgenhoffers daar ingetrek, terwyl hulle steeds deel van die koshuis gebly het. Die matrone en werkers het in Bachelors gewoon en later het Dr. Danie Craven hom daar gevestig. In 1981 het die nuwe Inwonende Hoof, Hennie de Vos, besluit om in Hamelhof in te trek, met die seniors wat na Bachelors toe skuif. Hierdie stand van sake is vandag nog in gebruik.

Dr. Danie Craven – Meneer Rugby soos hy wêreldwyd bekend was – het in 1949 teruggekeer na Wilgenhof as Besoekende Hoof. Op hierdie stadium was die koshuis nie meer in ‘n goeie toestand nie: dit is byvoorbeeld nie ideaal om jou mede-Wilgenhoffers deur die vloere dop te hou nie. Die universiteit het ook in daardie jaar besluit om die eiendom waarop Wilgenhof vandag nog staan aan die Departement van Onderwys te verkoop. Oud-Wilgenhoffers was geskok en verontwaardig met die gedagte dat die Plek gesloop gaan word en uiteindelik is ‘n kans om oorlewing bewerkstellig: 15000 pond moes in tien jaar bymekaar geskraap word. Dr. Wilcocks se stelling: “You haven’t a hope” het die situasie goed opgesom.

Maar daar is nie rekening gehou met die “Spirit of Willows” waarvan Oubaas Markotter destyds verwys het nie. Na menigte reünies, fondinsamelings, optredes en plate van die Kraaie is die 15000 pond-merk in die spreekwoordelike beseringstyd, bereik. Op 10 Desember 1959 oorhandig Dr. Craven die gesogte tjek aan die rektor, prof. H.B. Thom. Hierdie spesiale tjek kan vandag nog in die koshuis se argief gesien word. Hierdie bedrag was die helfte van die koste om die nuwe Plek te bou met die universiteit wat die ander helfte bygebring het. In 1962 is die koshuis gesloop en moes die huidige Wilgenhoffers hulself tydelik vestig in Denneoord. Die hoeksteen van die nuwe Plek is op 22 Maart 1963 gelê en in 1964 het die Wilgenhoffers teruggekeer na ‘n koshuis wat in dieselfde styl as sy voorganger gebou is. (Die oplettendes het ‘n ekstra vloer en vleuel bespeur.) Die waterwiel is ook van die braak na die nuwe Plek vervoer en het net skuins regs van Bachelors sy stelling ingeneem.

Sewentien Wilgenhoffers het in 1962 die eerste Wilgenhof-Trans-Afrika-Toer meegemaak wat sover noord soos Kilimanjaro gevorder het. Sederdien is nog vyf trans-Afrika toere aangepak met die laaste een in 2012. Met die 2004 weergawe het die WTAT ook ‘n liefdadigsheid aspek aangeneem en onder andere bydraes gelewer tot landmynslagoffer organisasies. Dit is ‘n sprekende voorbeeld van die manier waarop Wilgenhof betekenisvolle gemeenskapsprojekte aanpak. Ander projekte sluit “coke en buns” in waar Wilgenhoffers elke Donderdag hulle middagete aan die nagskuiling skenk.

Dr. Craven word Inwonende Hoof in 1967 en behou hierdie posisie tot 8 Oktober 1981. Die slaweklok, wat daagliks die tyd aandui wanneer honger mae aan Fedics blootgestel word, is ook in 1967 ingewy. Met die aanlê van die sementblad in die tantrap (1969) het “busts” ontstaan en het die Os in die Bos uitgesterf. Met die modernisering van die mensdom het ‘n mengelmoes van veranderinge en nuwe idees (en tradisies) Wilgenhof getref, maar “the more things change, the more they stay the same.”

Die eeufees is in 2003 gehou en meer as ‘n duisend (die helfte van alle pre-6-voet-Wilgenhoffers) het die fesstelikhede bygewoon. Vir meeste was dit ‘n onvergeetlike ervaring om die Plek weer te ervaar – die Plek waar hulle die beste tyd van hul lewens gehad het.

Tydens die laaste 10 jaar het Wilgenhof net aanhou voortbou. Die pub is oorgedoen, daar is ‘n gym gebou en die tantrap is opgradeer na ‘n luukse braaikamer. Jake White het ‘n kans gehad om die Wit Trein te kom afrig (maar ongelukkig in die semi-finaal vasgeval) en sukses was behaal in menigde ander sport ligas. Wilgenhof se Carry-6-Packer rock show het geweldig momentum opgetel en staan nou bekend as een van die grootste gebeurtenisse op kampus se sosiale kalender.

Ja, Wilgenhof het al (te veel) die wind van voor gekry en daarom is die Bekfluitjie se geskiedenis deurtrek met tugsake, skorsings en die jaloesie van die malende massas. Maar die Plek staan nog steeds en “die Plek sal bly” terwyl die rondloperkatte smul aan al die dooie pappegaaie.

En natuurlik is die Plek in sy moer! Bravo.

The story of ‘die Plek’ begins in a time when South Africa was still just a colony…

The 1799 the original farmhouse was completed which is today the bottom floor of Old Bachelors building. Lord Charles Somerset allocated the land to P.J. Cats and P.A. de Vos as hired farm in 1817.

At that stage the dirt road went past Old Bachelors and – because Ryneveld Street was only built in 1832 – the rest of Stellenbosch is skew with respect to Wilgenhof. (This obviously excludes the Jewish Synagogue and the Engineering Faculty but we all know that they are also unique species…)

The Stellenbosch Spirit Association repurposed the building to a distillery in 1832 and in 1840 the new owner, J.P. de Villiers, renamed the building to Grossdale. Later it would be known as ‘Bosman se Stokery’ (Bosman’s Distillery) or plainly ‘Die Stokery’ (The Distillery), a name that would be fitting even today. Afters many changes of owner and activity, Roelof Louw built a second floor in 1875 and started offering accommodation to boarders in the town.

Due to the many willow trees on the property, the name was changes to Willow Grove of just ‘The Willows’, a name that his wife suggested. In 1902 Christiaan Marais bought The Willows and as director of the Board of Managers of Wilgenhof Boarding Establishment he truly got Wilgenhof going in 1903. As a “huis voor jongelingen die elders in Zuid-Afrika herwaarts komen ter voortzetting hunnen studren” (house for youngsters from elsewhere in South African coming here for the continuation of their studies) the first Wilgenhoffers arrived with Jannie Meyer as house father. In 1904 the residence could take 110 boarders (Bachelors included) and in the same year Bob Loubsher became Wilgenhof’s first Springbok rugby player. (Perhaps Paul Roos, fellow house father, had something to do with that…) This was the beginning of a 45 year period (1904 – 1949) where no Springbok test match was played without a Wilgenhoffer in the ranks.

In 1906 the newcomers were initiated in Wilgenhof for the first time and although the activities and names changed multiple times, it is a persistent phenomenon that Wilgenhoffers are no longer the same after the first few weeks. It is always interesting to hear people speculate and fish around about initiation-related activities in Wilgenhof. Perhaps they are seeking the truth…

In 1906 the decision was also made to dry out the vlei next to the building to be used as tennis courts. It became a habit for newcomers to ensure that the tennis courts are maintained each year. The maintenance of the tennis courts was taken over by the university in 1925, but with the worsening of their work (and a need not to neglect the courts like elsewhere on campus) the tennis courts were renovated in 2003. Amanda Coetzer helped to inaugurate the new courts so that Wilgenhof can boast not only the luxury of two tennis courts, but with their good quality.

From 1910 in was known that Wilgenhof has ‘Big Nights’ and in the next few years the residence underwent quite a few changes in terms of structures and rules. In 1916 Wilgenhof was bought by Victoria College (the university’s predecessor) for 6000 pounds and in 1918 the residence became university property after the SU was created. A desire to run the residence ourselves was realised in 1920 when the house committee took over all administrative responsibilities for Wilgenhof. In that year the Olympic Games took place in Antwerp (Belgium) and was attended by the South African hurdles champion and at that time still-resident in Wilgenhof, Arrie van Heerden.

1924 will always be remembered for the big rugby game between the “Rest of Stellenbosch” and “Hof der Wilgen”. Not only was the residence’s flag (and badge) born with this occasion, but also the house song (by Victor Potgieter).The “Rest of Stellenbosch” was defeated 12-9 and Wilgenhof rugby never looked back. (Wilgenhof has won the Sauer Trophy eight times -  a bit accomplishment for a relatively small residence.)

A singing group, the Troebadoers (Troubadours) originated in 1934, but changed their name to the Kraaie (Crows) the next year. With their signature tune “O, dis weer die Kraaie van Wilgenhof” (Oh, here are the Kraaie of Wilgenhof again…) they became the first serenade group in Matieland and the first Kraaieloop (where the group goes around campus serenading at different women’s residences) took place on predicate day and has become an annual tradition. It can be said with relative certainty that the Kraaie are one of Wilgenhof’s most well-known features.

In 1944 Hamelhof was built and initially 17 (of the most) senior Wilgenhoffers moved into Hamelhof, while still remaining part of the residence. The matron and workers stayed in Bachelors and later Dr Danie Craven lived there. In 1981 a new resident head, Hennie de Vos, decided to stay in Hamelhof with the seniors moving into Bachelors. This state of affairs still persists today.

Dr Danie Craven – Mister Rugby as he is known world-wide – returned to Wilgenhof in 1949 as Visiting Head. At this stage the residence was no longer in a good state: it was, for example, not strange to see your fellow Wilgenhoffers through the floors. The university also decided in that year to sell the property on which Wilgenhof stands to the Department of Education. Old Wilgenhoffers were shocked and appalled at the idea that “Die Plek” would be bulldozed and a chance for survival was negotiated: 15 000 pounds would have to be collected to save the residence. Dr Wilcocks – the rector at that stage – stated: “You haven’t a hope.”

But the ‘Spirit of Willows’ that Oubaas Markotter coined a while before, would exceed everyone’s expectations. After many reunions, fundraisers, performances, and records by the Kraaie, the 15 000 pound goal was reached in the proverbial injury time. On 10 December 1959, Dr Craven handed over the prized cheque to the rector, prof. H.B, Thom. This special cheque can still be seen in the residence’s archive today. The amount was half of the price of building a new ‘Plek’ with the university contributing the other half. In 1962 the residence was destroyed and the then-Wilgenhoffers had to stay in Denneoord. The corner stone of the new ‘Plek’ was laid on 22 March 2963 and in 1964 the Wilgenhoffers returned to the residence built in the same style as the previous one for the first time (the more astute ones observed a new floor and a new wing). The water wheel was also transported from the Braak to the new ‘Plek’ and took its place next to Bachelors.

Seventeen Wilgenhoffers departed on the first Wilgenhof Trans-Africa Tour in 1962 which went as far north af Kilimanjaro. Since then, five more trans-Africa tours were undertaken with the last one in 2014. With the 2004 version the WTAT also took on a charity aspect where contributions were made to land mine victim organisations. It is a good example of one of the ways in which Wilgenhof undertakes meaningful community projects. Other projects include ‘coke and buns’ where Wilgenhoffers donate their lunch to the night shelter every Thursday.

Dr Craven became Resident Head in 1967 and held this position until 8 October 1981. The ‘slaweklok’ (the big bell), which summons hungry Wilgenhoffers to the dining hall each day, was also built in 1967. With the construction of the cement slab in the tantrap in 1969, the ‘busts’ came into being and ‘Os in die Bos’ (a habit of braaiing in the woods that existed behind the residence) went extinct. The modernisation of humanity brought a myriad of changes and new ideas (and traditions) to Wilgenhof, but “the more things change, the more they stay the same.”

The centenary reunion was held in 2003 and more than a thousand (half the pre-6-foot Wilgenhoffers) attended the festivities. For the most part it was an unforgettable experience to see the ‘Plek’ again – the ‘Plek’ where they spent the best days of their lives.

During the last ten years Wilgenhof has continued to grow. The pub was renovated, a gymnasium was built, the Tantrap was upgraded to a luxurious braai area. Jake White had a chance to coach the Wit Trein (White Train – the first rugby team) but unfortunately lost out in the semi-final and success was achieved in many other sporting leagues. Wilgenhof’s Carry-6-Packer rock show has picked up momentum enormously and is one of the campus’s big social events.

Yes, Wilgenhof has got a lot of headwind and therefore the ‘Bekfluitjie’ (Harmonica – one of Wilgenhof’s many names) has a history of disciplinary hearings, expulsions and jealousy from the masses. But the ‘Plek’ still stands and ‘die Plek sal bly’ (‘the Plek is here to stay’) while stray cats feast on dead parrots.

And, of course, die Plek is in sy moer! Bravo.