Tennyson Mackay 2013

Tennyson Ronald Mackay was born in Nqeleni, in the former Transkei on 26 April 1926. He grew up in tough conditions herding cattle, milking cows, looking after sheep and goats and ploughing fields.  

After choosing teaching as a career, Tennyson graduated from the Zonnebloem Teachers Training College in Cape Town in 1945. He subsequently held positions at Luckhoff Secondary School in Stellenbosch, Kokstad Primary School, Tabankulu Primary School, Hillbrow Primary School in Lusikisiki and Alpha Primary School in Port Elizabeth where he taught from 1961 until his retirement.

He introduced cultural activities at his school, particularly music, and the Alpha school choirs were well-known for many years.  However, Tennyson would not take part in the apartheid school eisteddfods and went against the then Coloured Affairs department, never hoisting the old South African flag or allowing the learners and educators at Alpha Primary School to sing Die Stem.

Tennyson was an excellent all-round sports person – taking part in boxing, swimming and soccer and playing rugby for Transkei and Border Union. Throughout his life, he only played in and promoted non-racial sport. He ran a boxing club at the Toynbee Club in Gelvandale, where he trained young boys in order to keep them off the streets and help them to protect themselves. He became a sport administrator and worked in non-racial sport receiving numerous awards from the World Boxing Council, the Eastern Province Primary School Sports Board and the Eastern Province Sports Council Honorary Award.

He was a political activist involved in the struggle against apartheid – taking a stand against the system which rendered black people inferior. He was a member of the Teachers League of South Africa (TLSA) and the Unity Movement and was active in non-racial sport, under the banner of the South African Council of Sport, SACOS, advocating that there could be no normal sport in an abnormal society.

During his career, he served on the Eastern Province Primary Schools Sports Board, the SA National Boxing Control Commission, was chairperson of the Board of PE United Professional Soccer Club, was treasurer and later chairperson of the SA Amateur Boxing Association and was a member of the Transitional Metro Council in Port Elizabeth.

Tennyson married Ethel Mildred in 1949 and had four children. Mildred passed away in 2010, after 61 years of marriage. In 2011, he married Yvonne Lentoor.

In his role as a school principal, Tennyson Mackay was known as strict and stern, kind, loving, inspiring, full of humour, supportive, always demanding the most out of everyone – you had to give your best. He was never satisfied with mediocre or second best. He had high standards and would encourage everyone to do their best.

For his incredible dedication to education and non-racial sport and for his unwavering stance on transformation, equality and social justice, Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University is honoured to present Tennyson Ronald Mackay with the Council Prestige Award.