Categories
8_Nostalgia 9_KwaZuluNatal Family school sport

Internet Fame

The ole man got a visit from his alma mater. Now he’s on the internets at maritzburgcollege.co.za! Their article follows, modified, with spelling and grammar corrected by me (non-College):

– Big Sis Lizzie with barefoot young Pieter –

A few weeks ago, we popped in for a quick chat with Mr. Pieter Swanepoel. Class of 1939 – so he finished College before World War II started! (I have him as class of ’38, College?)

Mr. Swanepoel gives a lot of credit to his older sister for him getting to College. He says his family were not wealthy, as his Dad had been seriously affected by the Great Depression of the 1930s. Fortunately, he kept his job throughout – but he always felt pressure to get money for his family of six. To help her Dad, Pieter’s older sister stopped school at Russell High School early to get a job. Pieter was still at junior school in Havelock Road, just below the railway station where his father worked. Sister Lizzie used to get him to read every night, even though he wasn’t particularly partial to it! She also helped him to apply for College and motivated – successfully – for him to secure a scholarship.

..

..

..

– one of these sadistic old goats, no doubt –

He remembers one of his first classes was a Latin lesson with the headmaster, Mr Pape; he was walking around the class talking with the boys, and Pieter decided he needed to look very serious and studious to keep out of trouble. Pape walked over to him and said, “Why are you frowning at my teaching?” and promptly lashed him a few good whacks there and then. All lessons took place in Clark House which doubled as dormitories and class rooms. His sister encouraged him to knuckle down at school and take the more difficult courses like Latin and Math, to give himself a head start.

He excelled at sport, and athletics was his particular passion. He won the best athlete prizes in 4th and 5th form and recalls College doing very well in inter-school meets. See the results from 5th form in 1937 here.

..

– first car –

The school itself was a little out of town and there were very few buildings nearby.

Much of the conversation among the boys was about either about Philip Nel, who was then Springbok rugby captain, or the global tensions developing in Europe with Nazism on the rise. As it was, Pieter didn’t finish 6th Form; he left College in early 1939 (1938 we think) to take his trade exams at the post office and started working there to earn money for the family. And soon bought his first car.

He left the post office to join the army once South Africa joined the Union Defense Force. He was part of the 14th South African Armored Brigade as a radio operator and spent most of the war fighting across Italy. The impact of war on him and his friends was rather marked. In Abyssinia in North East Africa – present day Somalia – seven of his friends and Old Collegians were killed in action in a terrible incident where the Italian officer raised a white flag indicating surrender, but once the South African troops of the Natal Carbineers dropped their guard, they were attacked in an ambush killing twelve men. Two of his friends were among those College boys, Hornby and Berlyn (read more about the White Flag Incident here).

– proposed trophy for the u/15 athetics champ – handmade by the 1937 u/15 athletics champ –

Mr. Swanepoel has his class photo still and in the notes below he lists seven of his class of twenty-five that were killed in World War II. Almost a third of his 5th form class! The loss of some of these friends took a long time to come to terms with. He spent time in Egypt and in Italy and Cairo. Interestingly, his inauspicious start to Latin lessons with Mr. Pape had some good consequences. Once in Italy, he found that the grammar and etymology of Italian was similar to Latin and he picked up the language very quickly, allowing him to speak to the local citizens. He found this a very useful skill and was soon able to converse for the army and on a personal level. He found the locals to be very friendly and accommodating. After the fighting stopped he was offered a position in Japan before returning home, but he opted to return to SA.

He survived the war and returned to Harrismith where he married, started a family and farmed (well, bought, schooled and sold horses). He still has a love for horses, and talks with fondness of some of his horses and the excellent ponies he bred from Basotho stock. He remains a passionate Old Boy and is an avid woodworker. He has made a number of wooden articles for the school to use.

Family is very important to him as are his friendships. He remained friendly with all his class mates and attends the Veteran’s luncheon and Reunion whenever he can (phew!). He has been very disappointed about the current lack of events due to COVID and looks forward to being back on campus. He met our last centenarian Cyril Crompton at the 150th reunion. Cyril passed away a few years back at the age of one hundred. Mr. Swanepoel wishes the current boys well, and encourages them to be diligent and work hard as the opportunity at College is not something afforded to everyone. Saint Pieter.

~~~oo0oo~~~

Categories
8_Nostalgia 9_KwaZuluNatal Family school sport

College Junior Champ

As he said to the Maritzburg College chap who came round to interview him: He excelled at sport, and athletics was his particular passion. He won the best athlete prizes in 4th and 5th form.

He recalls College doing very well in inter-school meets:

~~~oo0oo~~~

Categories
8_Nostalgia 9_KwaZuluNatal Family

Who You Gonna Call?

For a while I was an obstetric ambulance driver.

A short while. Early one morning in 1983.

So Wendy wakes the Reed and announces it’s time; Stacey the firstborn is on her way and they need to get to the hospital sommer right now. Oka-ay, now where did the Reed put his car keys?

Searching for stuff when you’re not completely calm is fruitless. Rather phone Koos. Who comes roaring around the corner into 10th Avenue, Berea, Durban, KwaZuluNatal, South Africa at three ay emm in the grey and grey 1965 Concorde deluxe four door column shift Opel. Or was it my puke-green 1974 Peugeot 404 station wagon? Memory fades and it could be either. Anyway, it’s a good thing we have vehicles like this for times like these. Spacious bench seats. Ample boep-room between seats.

I whisk them off to the hospital in no time. Efficiently. The robots change when I go through, the clouds dissolve and the sky turns blue . . thanks, Don Maclean. The Concorde is stable around the corners, swift on the straights.

Wendy was in the ward long before 4am the way I remember things.

Stacey, on the other hand, appeared in that ward only at about 6pm that evening. She’s still laid back.

~~~oo0oo~~~

Decades later we discussed the details.

May 2021, Steve Reed wrote: Was it from there (Whittington Court) that you made your pre-dawn mercy mission to the obstetrics department on 8th June 1983? Possibly not, because you bought that flat in 1984 or were you renting it before then?

Me: Memories dim and are very malleable. Mine is of getting into my puke-green Pukealot stasiewa OHS 5688 outside my residential hotel on the Berea – or perhaps the Communal house in Hunt Road.

Wie weet?

But not Whittington.

Where did I drive to? I remember Debbin North, but no more detail except I dimly see a flat, not a house? Where were you when Stace was born?

Steve: We were living in 10th Avenue – a little duplex near Greyville a few streets up from Windorah. You visited us there after Stacey was born. I remember your living in a flat not very far away …  closer to what was Berea Road. I remember it being pretty spartan – Were you sharing with someone?

I think it may have been your Opel that you came round the corner on two wheels but memory murky. Maybe it was the Pukalot.

I had been spray painting a cot for Stacey’s arrival. Slammed the tip up garage door  shut and went to bed with  all keys locked inside the garage.   Another set of keys had been left at work in Durban North. Somehow I had no key for either of our cars.

Me: Ah! I might have been staying with Dave Thorrington-Smith in his flat near Botanic Gardens.

So you took Stace home to 10th Avenue? Amazing. I was convinced I roared across the mighty Umgeni River. In the stasiewa, I thought, cos I was imagining being an ambumince driver.

Steve: At 5am you took a moer of a lot of waking up… but damn I was happy to see you. Bliksem!

~~~oo0oo~~~

Categories
1_Harrismith 2_Free State / Vrystaat 8_Nostalgia 9_KwaZuluNatal Family

The Swansonian Museum

Scottish courts have an office of The Keeper of the Rolls.

In every generation there is (hopefully) a vault-keeper, one who guards the links and knows they are precious. *

In our family the Keeper of the Rolls and our Vault-Keeper is Sheila in her flat on the Berea in Durban.

– eish – photo albums –

Sheila’s busy scanning, saving and tossing to try and get some space back! Her lucky friends are receiving envelopes of pictures with the admonition, ‘Take these and go!’

I catch what I can and add to my blogs. One day – a book! – ?

~~~oo0oo~~~

* In every generation there is a vault-keeper, one who guards the links and knows they are precious. paraphrased from author Dani Shapiro

Categories
6_Canoe & Kayak Rivers 7_Confessions 8_Nostalgia 9_KwaZuluNatal

Whittington Court

‘We think it’s him, but we haven’t been able to catch him. He must distribute the leaflets in the absolute dead of night, probly just pre-dawn. They’re scurrilous. Well, we’ll see if they end when you move in.’

Owners in the shareblock building were gossiping about the mystery vendetta that had been waged for a long time in the block. Someone pecked away on an old typewriter, telling tales (and truths?) about other residents and criticising what the managing committee did and didn’t do for the building. They suspected their mystery person was the owner I had just bought from, and they were looking forward to his leaving to stay far away in the little dorp of Richmond out in the sticks.

My first own home! A spacious, high-ceilinged one (‘and a half’) bedroom flat in a good-looking ‘Art Deco’ building in Marriot Road one block up from Cowey Road.

– the stairs to my door – which cascaded as Vomit Waterfall one night, rumour had it –

On the day I moved in I was ambushed by a gang of Kingfisher Canoe Club mates who had spread the word ‘Party at Swanie’s New Place Tonight!’ The electricity wasn’t yet connected, but no problem to these hooligans: They dangled an extension cord out the window and politely asked the elderly couple below me to please plug it in. Bless ’em they did, and hats off to them they withstood the temptation to switch off as the noise lasted long into the night! There was some excess (did I mention they were canoeists!?) and tales – exaggerated surely? – were told of vomit streaming down the steps.

Once I settled in and my fellow occupants realised I was obviously the innocent party in the opening night cacophony (ahem!), I was told more about the strange old geezer I’d bought from. And I was told of a mysterious campaign of leaflets surreptitiously distributed, pointing out people’s faults and complaining of things not done, etc. in harsh language. They suspected it was him, but were never able to prove it. Soon I was able to solve the mystery: A secret compartment in the lounge cupboard revealed copies of his printed leaflets – the vendetta stash!

~~~oo0oo~~~

I bought ca.1984 for R45 000. Sold ca.1992 for R90 000. I saw it offered for sale recently (2021) for R967 000. That’s where I found these pics – someone has opened up the small kitchen so now the lounge and kitchen are all one big room. It looks great.

~~~oo0oo~~~

Categories
1_Harrismith 2_Free State / Vrystaat 8_Nostalgia 9_KwaZuluNatal Wildlife, Game Reserves

Where Eagles Dare

We drove off the dirt road and onto a green hill, stopped the light blue Holden station wagon and walked up to the top of the low hill which ended in a steep cliff overlooking Natal down below. About 30m below us (I’d guess) was a nest, just as Robbie Sharratt had told Dad there would be, and on the nest was an eagle chick.

– location Normandien Pass arrowed – detail in inset –

The main reason the ole man had taken his dearly beloved son on an outing was his new Canon FT QL SLR camera with a 200mm telephoto lens. It needed a subject, and there was the Black Eagle chick right there in the hot sun. Aquila verreauxii, now called Verreaux’s Eagle.

The way I recall it, we got pics of the nest and the chick, and a parent landed on or near the nest while we waited, but I could be imagining that part. Wonder where those pics are? I’d guess this was ca.1965 when I was ten years old.

It looked something like this (this pic from the Western Cape Black Eagle Project ):

The top pic was taken at Giants Castle in the Drakensberg by ‘Veronesi.’

~~~oo0oo~~~

Categories
6_Canoe & Kayak Rivers 9_KwaZuluNatal sport

Launch Aborted

After a long gap from paddling I decided to relaunch my river paddling career, striking fear into the heart of all contenders.

I would need a boat. Being a cheapskate I searched far and wide, high and low and I found one far and low. In PMB dorp. A certain gentleman in fibreglass, Hugh ‘user-friendly’ Raw had one for sale at a bargain price. His glowing description of the craft made me know this was the boat with which to relaunch – OK, launch – my competitive career in river paddling.

At Hugh’s place he showed me the boat and it did indeed look pristine. I went to pick it up and load it on my kombi’s roofrack, but Hugh held me back with a firm, ‘NO. Let me have that done for you!’ Customer service, I thought. User-friendly. So I watched as he got his two biggest workers to load the boat for me, which they did with ease. Big, strapping lads.

On the way back to Durban the kombi seemed to be struggling. I had to gear down on the hills, never had that before. Strong headwind, I thought.

The boat stayed there till Thursday, the big day. The first day of my relaunched paddling life. The dice on the Umgeni river outside my Club, Kingfisher. And then I understood. Getting the boat down off my roofrack took a Herculean effort. When I plopped it into the water the Umgeni rose two inches.

I can say this: Rands-per-Kg – pound-for-pound – I got the best bargain from Hugh ‘user-friendly’ Raw of that century.

While I was contemplating thus, and thinking I’m loving being back on the water, what kept me away so long, Ernie yelled at me through his megaphone and the water exploded around me. What the hell!? All these fools around me suddenly went berserk, water was flying everywhere. It took a few minutes before calm returned and I was sitting bobbing on the disturbed surface. This tranquility was again ruined by Ernie yelling through that same damned megaphone: ‘Swanie what are you waiting for!?’

Jeesh! I headed off after the flotilla disappearing in the distance and after twenty or thirty strokes it suddenly came to back to me in a blinding flash of realisation: I knew why I had stopped paddling. It’s damned hard work.

And race days are noisy, chaotic things.

~~~oo0oo~~~

Categories
1_Harrismith 8_Nostalgia 9_KwaZuluNatal school sport

Uh, Correction, Mis Betfit

Here’s a re-post – I’m running out of things to say as the era of this blog recedes ever-further into the mists of time – and the misseds of my time. This blog’s era ends around about when I met Aitch – 1985-eish. Post-aitch, marriage, kids and other catastrophes, and current stuff are over at bewilderbeast.org

In 1969 a bunch of us were taken to Durban to watch a rugby test match – Springboks against the Australian Wallabies. “Our” Tommy Bedford was captain of the ‘Boks. We didn’t know it, but it was to be one of his last games.

Schoolboy “seats” were flat on your bum on the grass in front of the main stand at Kings Park. Looking around we spotted old Ella Bedford – “Mis Betfit” as her pupils called her – Harrismith’s English-as-second-language teacher. Also: Springbok captain’s Mom! Hence our feeling like special guests! She was up in the stands directly behind us. Sitting next to her was a really spunky blonde so we whistled and hooted and waved until she returned the wave.

Tommy Bedford Springbok
– This is Ella, a Harrismith teacher’s son –

Back at school the next week ‘Mis Betfit’ told us how her daughter-in-law had turned to her and said: “Ooh look, those boys are waving at me!” And she replied (and some of you will hear her tone of voice in your mind’s ear): “No they’re not! They’re my boys. They’re waving at me!”

We just smiled, thinking ‘So, Mis Betfit isn’t always right’. Here’s Jane. We did NOT mistake her for Mis Betfit.

jane-bedford-portrait

“corrections of corrections of corrections”

Mrs Bedford taught English to people not exactly enamoured of the language. Apparently anything you got wrong had to be fixed below your work under the heading “corrections”. Anything you got wrong in your corrections had to be fixed under the heading “corrections of corrections”. Mistakes in those would be “corrections of corrections of corrections”. And so on, ad infinitum! She never gave up. You WOULD get it all right eventually!

Stop Press! Today I saw an actual bona-fide example of this! Schoolmate Gerda van Schalkwyk has kept this for nigh-on fifty years!

– genuine rare Harrismith Africana ! – or is that Engels-cana? –

~~~oo0oo~~~

Tommy’s last game for the Boks came in 1971 against the French – again in Durban.

~~~oo0oo~~~

Two or three years later:

In matric the rugby season started and I suddenly thought: Why’m I playing rugby? I’m playing because people think I have to play rugby! I don’t.

So I didn’t.

It caused a mild little stir, especially for ou Vis, mnr Alberts in the primary school. He came up from the laerskool specially to politely voice his dismay. Nee man, jy moet ons tweede Tommy Bedford wees! he protested. That was optimistic. I had played some good rugby when I shot up and became the tallest in the team, not because of any real talent for the game – as I went on to prove.

~~~oo0oo~~~

ou Vis – nickname meaning old fish – dunno why

Nee man, jy moet ons tweede Tommy Bedford wees! – Don’t give up rugby. You should become our ‘second Tommy Bedford’ – Not.

~~oo0oo~~~

Meantime Jane Bedford has become famous in her own right in the African art world and Durban colonial circles, and sister Sheila and Jane have become good friends.

~~~oo0oo~~~

Also meanwhile, our sterling Mrs Bedford’s very famous brother – one of twelve siblings – Lourens vd Post, turned out to be a real cad a fraud, an adulterer and a downright liar. Fooled Prince Charlie, but then, that’s hardly a difficult achievement. The vegetables he talks to probably tell him fibs.

Categories
8_Nostalgia 9_KwaZuluNatal Wildlife, Game Reserves

My Neighbour Dr Clancey

I didn’t ever meet the famous old sub-species bird man*, but for a while he lived next door to me in Marriott Road. I was in Whittington Court, he was in Eden Gardens; I found this out when I spotted a nightjar at my window one night and got very excited; I listened every night and finally heard it – it was the freckled; Now more excited – a Freckled Nightjar in the city! – I was about to announce my discovery when I read Dr Clancey knew all about it – it roosted on his roof next door! The Eden Gardens had a flat roof and it was covered in stones or gravel. Good spot for a Freckled to conceal itself by day.

– Freckled Nightjar – Caprimulgus tristigma

So after I found info on the bird; and after Aitch and I had prowled around the gardens of his hotel at night and found our first Bush Squeaker frog one rainy night (Arthroleptis wahlbergi), I went looking for info on the man (usual warning here: This is me, approximate and amateur historian, giving my version of things – look at the references if you need accuracy).

Clancey was director of the Durban Museum and Art Gallery for thirty years until his retirement in 1982. He then continued as a research associate until his death in 2001, aged 83. He was a confirmed bachelor and the most ruthlessly dedicated and hardworking of ornithologists. He wrote a number of books of which The Birds of Natal and Zululand (1964), The Game Birds of South Africa (1967) and The Rare Birds of Southern Africa (1985) are now valuable Africana. Yeah, I hope so! I have two of them. So far my “investment” in bird books has been a damp squib.

– dodgy Pommy fraud Meinertzhagen with bustard –

As a young man ca.1949 he was a field assistant to the famous British military and ornithological fraud, Colonel Richard Meinertzhagen, a dodgy, lying, philandering Englishman who faked much of his life and got away with murdering his wife. They once nearly shot each other in a heated disagreement over bustards in Namibia. Guns were drawn before the hired skinner stepped between the protagonists. Sanity prevailed and tempers cooled. On another occasion Clancey fell ill in a remote spot and was abandoned to his fate by Meinertzhagen. Clancey was not given his due by Meinertzhagen in his writings – those who knew Meinertzhagen were not surprised.

In 1950 Clancey moved to South Africa, to Durban as curator of the museum.

– Durban Natural Sciences Museum is in the City Hall –

Years later, Clancey had a famous professional rivalry with Colonel John Vincent, one time head of the Natal Parks Board and himself an ornithologist of note. One one occasion Vincent had him arrested for collecting without a permit. His shotgun was confiscated. Undeterred, Clancey bought it back at a subsequent auction.

He must have rubbed people up the wrong way! Vincent Parker prominent atlasser and bird survey guru, in his 1999 The Atlas of the Birds of Sul do Save, southern Mozambique, also didn’t give Clancey his due, ignoring many of his records and relegating others to an appendix (‘subject to confirmation’), which ‘in most cases was quite unjustified’ (see the obituary in Ibis by Dowsett, Allan, and McGowan).

Clancey never had much regard for unnecessary luxury, and retired to a small room in a residential hotel – right next door to my Marriott road flat – in Durban. He continued to write papers, named 328 African bird taxa (more than any other contemporary scientist). The majority of his holotypes are in Durban Museum or the National Museum of Zimbabwe. R J Dowsett wrote: ‘I know of over 550 publications on African birds by Phillip Clancey, for most of which he was sole author (and not counting the sub-divisions of his miscellaneous taxonomic notes series).’ Later he increasingly devoted himself to his painting. His style was unmistakable, rich colours, attention to detail, and always the correct ecological background.

Any birder who has spent time in Natal will have seen these birds in just that habitat! Eminently recognisable.

Clancey donated his collection of some 5,500 mainly Western Palaearctic bird-skins to the National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh. He donated his collection over 32,000 bird-skins – a collection considered the finest in Africa – to the Durban Museum and Art Gallery.

And also – unbeknown to him – he was my neighbour.

~~~oo0oo~~~

References

~~~oo0oo~~~

* sub-species bird man? I think Clancey was that dreaded sub-species of ornithologists called a splitter! He keenly added sub-species to existing species if he felt they were different enough. He found many many birds in new localities, expanded the known range of many, and did find good sub-species. Plus, he found one new full species, the Lemon-Breasted Canary Crithagra citrinipectus in the Maputaland coastal grasslands.

~~~oo0oo~~~

Categories
1_Harrismith 2_Free State / Vrystaat 6_Canoe & Kayak Rivers 8_Nostalgia 9_KwaZuluNatal sport

Duzi 1972

(another re-post from earlier)

I canoed the Vrystaat Vlaktes thanks to Charles Ryder, who arrived in Harrismith in about 1968 or ’69 I’d guess, to start his electrical business, a rooinek from Natal. He roared into town in a light green Volvo 122S with a long white fibreglass thing on top of it like this:

I asked:
What’s that?
It’s a canoe
What’s a canoe?
You do the Dusi in it
What’s the Dusi?

Well, Charlie now knew he was deep behind the boerewors curtain! He patiently made me wiser and got me going and I got really excited the more I learned. I decided I just HAD TO do the Dusi. What could be more exciting than paddling your own canoe 120km over three days from Pietermaritzburg to the sparkling blue Indian Ocean at the Blue Lagoon in Durban? Charlie made it sound like the best, most adventurous thing you could possibly think of. He showed me how to paddle (how was I to know at the time he was making me a ‘Left Feather’?) and was so generous with his time. Both in paddling and with Harrismith’s first Boy Scouts troop, which he helped establish.

I started running in the mornings with a gang of friends. Tuffy Joubert, Louis Wessels, Fluffy Crawley, Leon Blignaut, who else? We called ourselves the mossies as we got up at sparrow’s fart. Then I would cycle about two miles  to the park in the afternoons and paddle on the flat water of the mighty Vulgar River in Charles’ Limfjorden, or Limfy, canoe, which he had kindly lent me/given to me. It was the fittest I’ve ever been, before or since.

Overnight I would leave it on the bank tethered to a weeping willow down there. One day around Christmas time with only a couple of weeks to go before Dusi I got there and it was missing. I searched high and low, to no avail. So I missed doing the Dusi. Not that I had done anything but train for it – I hadn’t entered, didn’t know where to, didn’t belong to a club, didn’t have a lift to the race, no seconds, nothing!

Still enthused, though, I persuaded my mate Jean Roux to join me in hitch-hiking to the race. We were going to do the Duzi! All except the part where you used a boat.

We got to Pietermaritzburg, and early the next morning to the start in Alexander Park. Milling around among the competitors and their helpers, we watched the start and as the last boats paddled off downstream Alxendra Park started emptying, everyone seemed in a big hurry to leave. We asked Wassup? and someone said, We’re Following Our Paddler! so we bummed a lift with some paddler’s seconds to the overnight stop at Dusi Bridge. We slept under the stars and cadged supper from all those friendly people. They let us continue with them the next day to the second overnight stop at Dip Tank and on the third and last day to the sea, the estuary at Blue Lagoon, following the race along the way.

I continued the search for my missing Limfy after we got back from watching the Dusi and eventually found a bottle floating in the Kakspruit, a little tributary that flows down from Platberg and enters the river downstream of the weir. It had a string attached to it. I pulled that up and slowly raised the boat – now painted black and blue, but clearly identifiable as I had completely rebuilt it after breaking it in half in a rapid in the valley between Swinburne and Harrismith. Come to remember, that’s why Charles gave it to me! I knew every inch of that boat: the kink in the repaired hull, the repaired cockpit, the wooden gunwales, brass screws, shaped wooden cross members, long wooden stringer, shaped wooden uprights from the cross members vertically up to the stringer, the white nylon deck, genkem glue to stick the deck onto the hull before screwing on the gunwales, the brass carrying handles, aluminium rudder and mechanism, steel cables, the lot. In great detail.

~~~oo0oo~~~

Except! I recently (2020) cleared out my garage under lockdown and discovered this: My notes preparing for the Duzi! I was less disorganised than I remember. I may not have DONE, but at least I did do a bit of planning! Check “Phone Mr Pearce” and “Buy canoe?” – uh, maybe not so very well organised!

Graeme Pope-Ellis won his first Duzi that year.