Ashleigh Nefdt

Every week, Perdeby looks at the hidden wonderful and weird things that happen on campus. This week we’ll look at the history of Rag in collaboration with UP Archives.

Rag, or Reach Out and Give, has come a long way since it was first introduced. From “flying saucers” to Rag queens and weird and wonderful floats, Rag has made a name for itself in UP history. In honour of that, Perdeby has decided to compile a list of a few random Rag facts.


Rag has been around for almost 200 years
Rag probably didn’t exist for most of us up until a few years ago. However, the festival has been around since 1820, when it started as most things in history seem to, as a rivalry. This was between University College London and King’s College London. It was so competitive that it became what is now known as Rag.


When Rag made its way to South Africa, Pretoria students were the first ones to embrace it
There has long been disputes between UCT and Tuks students over “who was first”. The age-old question has been answered, and yes, it was Tuks. In 1925, people paid to watch the initiation of first year students in Church Square, Pretoria, and the spectacle raised £197 which all went to charity, starting the famous occasion we now know as Rag.




Students went to extreme measures to attract audiences- like telling people UFOs would be present- and even the police believed it
In 1955, a rumour that a flying saucer would be landing in Church Square on the day of Rag spread out. Students put up posters announcing the arrival of the UFO, gaining so much attention that the South African Air Force and SABC received phone calls and had to go monitor the situation for safety reasons. Well, a flying saucer did arrive, and the only threat it posed  was a BCom student Simon Kamstra dressed in a yellow alien-like suit.



Rag was almost taken away from students a few times
As Rag became more and more popular, university authorities were worried that it was becoming less controlled. It went so far that in 1986, authorities held a not-so-secretive meeting to control and “rationalise” Rag.


The Rag Queens have changed a lot since the early days
And not just in terms of inclusivity either, but also as a representation of women in general. Before, a Rag queen was essentially a pretty face, or a dolled-up symbol of the event, whereas now, the Rag queen yields far more respect and responsibility.


Rag floats have been weird and wonderful
From the first few floats which were pretty traditional, to “flying saucers” and “giant loaves of bread” (yes, you read that correctly), all the way to 2016’s explosion of uniqueness in an “all around the world” theme, Rag has proven that it is the epitome of student creativity.


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