Realising a pipe dream

11 July 2002
MARTIN Desmond's studies have come full circle at UCT. Desmond is graduating on Friday with a PhD in art historical studies, 45 years after he dropped out of his first year in architecture because of financial difficulties. "My father could not afford the UCT fees, so I worked part-time to pay my way, but at the end of my first year I was not sure if I could carry on living the way I was.

Fate stepped in and I was offered a job as a commercial artist at Old Mutual and it paid almost double what I was earning at my part-time architectural job and so I left university but it always bothered me that I had dropped out," he explains.

He would return to UCT in 1991, to read for his Masters degree through the Faculty of Fine Art and Architecture as it was then known and it was during this period that he developed ideas around the thesis for his PhD, titled The Churches of Bishop Robert Gray and Mrs Sophia Gray – an historical and architectural review.

My PhD was really a continuation of my Masters, where I had looked at the churches in the Cape Peninsula and why they had been a church building boom around 1880 to the turn of the century."

Martin says that his drive to do his PhD was supported by his former employers the National Monuments Council (now the South African Heritage Resources Agency) whose policy it was to encourage anyone with the firm to carry on studying.

Around that time I became interested in ecclesiology, which is the science of building churches, and converted to Anglicanism and was drawn in to the history of the Anglican Church, and that is were I read about Bishop Robert Gray and his wife, who designed about 40 churches in the Cape, Natal and St. Helena," he explains.

Having retired and completed his studies, Martin wants to focus his attentions on the upcoming Edinburgh Military Tattoo in August where he will be playing his bagpipes with the Cape Town Highlanders.

Friday the 12th of July 2002

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