In 1893, when Fernando Pessoa was five years old his father died of tuberculosis. Two years later his mother became engaged to Commander João Miguel Rosa, at that time appointed Portuguese consul in Durban, capital of the British colony of Natal in South Africa. The prospect of having to leave Portugal led to Pessoa writing his first poem dedicated to his mother. The marriage took place by proxy in Lisbon in December 1895 and next January Fernando Pessoa and his mother sailed to Durban.
Pessoa aged 7,10,13 and 17
He was sent to a convent school run by Irish nuns where he stayed for three years. In 1899 he moved on to Durban High School where he stayed till 1901, getting excellent reports and various school prizes. The headmaster, W.H. Nichols, was a classicist and humanist, who encouraged and influenced the precocious Fernando Pessoa. In 1901 he passed his Higher Certificate with distinction. The family moved to Lisbon but a year later he returned to Durban alone to prepare himself to enter the Cape University. He not only passed the exam but was also awarded the Queen Victoria Memorial Prize for the best English Essay, although English was his second language. In 1904 Fernando Pessoa passed his Intermediate exam at the Cape University. During this time he wrote numerous poems in English, some of them in the newspaper The Natal Mercury that still exists today.
It was decided that Fernando Pessoa should return to Lisbon for university education. He sailed alone in 1905. He had just turned seventeen.
In Fernando Pessoa´s work it seems he had forgotten Durban, but Durban hasn´t forgotten him: in 1985 a bust of Fernando Pessoa was inaugurated in Durban City Centre.
More recently, in 2005, his bust and a plaque with his famous saying: «Deus quer, o Homem sonha, a obra nasce»(God wills, man dreams, the work is born) written in English and Portuguese is on display in Durban High School.
Durban High School Entrance
Lisboa,Eugénio, L.C. Taylor. A Centenary Pessoa. Carcanet, 1995