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
1_Harrismith 2_Free State / Vrystaat 7_Confessions 8_Nostalgia Family

Shoot Me

We should have been more biblical. Us Swanie kids should have listened in Sunday School and been a lot more faithfully Biblical.

Doesn’t the Bible say quite clearly and unambiguously, ‘Obey Your Father’!? And Pieter Gerhardus said quite clearly and unambiguously, ‘Shoot Me When I Turn Sixty!’

We shoulda been obedient children.

~~~oo0oo~~~

Luckily for him (now aged 98) the Bible might also say ‘Obey Your Mother.’ Does it? Lemme check.

Yep. Ephesians 6 v1 – Children, obey your parents in the Lord: for this is right.

~~~oo0oo~~~

On the other hand, our disobedience (or mine, as a son) could have led to this:

If a man have a stubborn and rebellious son, . . . that, when they have chastened him, will not hearken unto them: Then shall his father and his mother (Ah, Mom woulda saved me) lay hold on him, and bring him out unto the elders of his city, and unto the gate of his place . . . And all the men of his city shall stone him with stones, that he die . . . (Blimey! But God Loves ya! Eish!) – Deuteronomy Chapter 21 v18

~~~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
1_Harrismith 2_Free State / Vrystaat 8_Nostalgia Family

Mary and the Prinsloos

92yr-old Mother Mary told me a story tonight:

Ina Prinsloo came into the bottle store one day many years ago to get stuff for a party. Said, “Don’t tell Egbert. I’m arranging a surprise party for him.”

She bought plenty of grog.

Later Egbert came in. Tongue-in-cheek he said: “I don’t like this Harrismith tradition on your birthday. People fall all over you and you have to buy them food and drink!”

He also bought plenty of grog.

Dear old honest Mom was torn: I didn’t know what to say . .

~~~oo0oo~~~

I didn’t know this: Mom met Ina when she first started nursing at the Boksburg-Benoni hospital – her very first hospital. Egbert was a houseman there and that’s where he and Ina met. Years later Egbert joined a general practice in Harrismith. They stayed and raised their kids and became a big and well loved part of the town.

Categories
1_Harrismith 2_Free State / Vrystaat 8_Nostalgia Family

Ancient Caskie Connections

In February 2021, out of the blue, Leo Caskie Wade wrote:

Good morning Rob.
I thought the Caskies in SA were something of the past.
I am 81 years old and my Caskie connections were from Harrismith years ago.
Should you feel inclined I would like to hear from you.
Regards - Leo wade

Rob Caskie replied: Good morning, Leo,
Thank you for your email which arrived as a great surprise. Yes, indeed, our family also stems from the Caskie family in Harrismith. Our cousin Sheila Swanepoel knows far more about the family and early Harrismith days than I do.
Neither I nor my brother have children, so this line of the Caskie family unfortunately dies with us. Our father, Alexander Maynard Caskie (Taffy) died on 6 March 1989, aged 61. His brothers and both parents passed on early in our father’s life.

Enter Sheila, she with the family info: Hello Leo, What a delightful surprise to make contact with another Caskie.

Alexander (Alec) Caskie was born in Scotland in 1839. He married Mary Craig, and they came to Harrismith from Pietermaritzburg. He was my great-great grandfather and Rob’s great grandfather.

They had two sons and two daughters: 1. Robert (Bob) married Doreen (Doe) and Rob is his grandson; 2. James (Jim) married Ethel and they had four kids; 3. Mary who is my great grandmother – she married John Francis Adam Bland II. She was my Mum’s beloved Granny Bland, who died in Harrismith in 1959, so she had me as a great-grandkid till I was three; 4. Jessie who married a Mr Tapling and then a Mr Tarling – she had no children.

– Sheila has this old cracked daguerreotype ** of Great-Great Gran Mary Craig Caskie with Great Gran Mary Caskie Bland on her lap – see the many marys

Alec Caskie died in Harrismith on 14 August 1926.

My Mum Mary – grandaughter of young Mary on the lap above – is 92, still alive and well, and now living in Pietermaritzburg. She remembers all the Harrismith Caskies very well.  She and Taffy (Rob’s father) were both born in 1928 and were great mates when they were little.

There are three Caskie homes in HS – all beautifully restored, all in Stuart Street. We grew up in this one from 1960 to 1973. It had been owned by the original Alec Caskie .

– 95 Stuart Street –
– view from that front stoep – or veranda –

It turns out Leo Caskie Wade is the grandson of Janet Caskie, who came to Harrismith from Australia, and Harrismith’s well-known doctor Leo Hoenigsberger, who our gran Annie insisted on calling Dr ‘Henningsberg’. A great friend of her Dad, our great grandfather, Stewart Bain, he was the family GP as well as the Harrismith government doctor, or ‘district surgeon’.

One day, driving back to town from his duties at the prison, he missed the bridge and his car landed in ‘the spruit with the name.’ The Kak Spruit. Only his pride was injured. In the meantime, back in town, the hostess of the weekly bridge evening was getting a bit perturbed as Dr H hadn’t arrived yet and they couldn’t start playing bridge without him. She ‘phoned the Hoenigsberger home and was told by Dr H’s young son Max: “No, I don’t think my father will be coming tonight. He’s had enough bridge for one day.”

After decades of hearing this story from mother Mary, here’s Leo Caskie Wade to add some more detail:

“Leo Hoenigsberger, methodical, careful and pedantic as he was, was rushing in his huge German Sperber motorcar over the narrow bridge that led to the Harrismith Hospital. It was an emergency. He crashed over the side into the river and was admitted to his own hospital.

Now fast forward to the mid-1970’s. I am at university in Durban; I am asked to take an Italian female exchange student to digs where she would stay over the week-end on her way to Rhodes University. I dropped her at the gate to return later to take her out. When I arrived she was not ready yet, and in chatting to the elderly German landlady I discovered she was my grandfather Dr Leo Hoenigsberger’s theatre nurse! She had nursed him after the said crash. She wanted to know all about the Harrismith family etc. What a coincidence!”

~~oo0oo~~~

** The ‘Two Marys’ photo: To make the image, a daguerreotypist would polish a sheet of silver-plated copper to a mirror finish, treat it with fumes that made its surface light sensitive, expose it in a camera for as long as was judged to be necessary, which could be as little as a few seconds for brightly sunlit subjects or much longer with less intense lighting; make the resulting latent image on it visible by fuming it with mercury vapour; remove its sensitivity to light by liquid chemical treatment, rinse and dry it, then seal the easily marred result behind glass in a protective enclosure. (thanks, wikipedia)

~~~oo0oo~~~

– Sheila’s ‘Two Marys’ daguerreotype: As is and ‘digitally doctored’ –

Mary Caskie Bland’s Stuart Street home:

– Granny Bland’s house 13 Stuart Street –

~~~oo0oo~~~

Sheils found this handwritten note – most likely written by Alec Caskie himself – among her gran Annie’s effects. Annie was his granddaughter:

– H.M.S. Vanguard – In 1862 it left Liverpool, reaching Australia on 3 June, probably via SA –

Born at Kilmarnock Dec 1839. Brought up in Stewarton where his father’s folks lived for several centuries. Was sent to the parish school under Mr Sinclair Sincular ?. Graduated in the big college of the worlds.

” survived 4yrs to the (WHOLE LINE MISSING) ” in __ of the large __ __ __ questions involved __ __(HM ??)  Paul to release political prisoners.
” Am a JP for many years.” A freemason for 40 years, passed through the chair three times and am affiliated with several other Lodges. Belong to all the churches and a number of _____. I have served on the village management for 35 years barring 2 years I was out. I have been several times mayor retiring for good in March 1921. I have served on the Hospital board; learning / licensing? board; on the Library committee; the (?Ways – maybe ‘Ways and Means’) Board. The Literary Society. Have (?passed) the (?port) on many occasions. __ under Dr. and I. __. Married Mary Craig daughter of Robb Craig, High Street (?Stewarton__). Sailed on the Vanguard from Glasgow to South Africa – 1862 – 69 days passage. Was (?pro cantor) and organist Rev Campbell _____ Church for Maritzburg, where I have lived for about 10 years. Came to Harrismith in 1873 where I have lived since.
(those of you who can read old bullets’ 19th century spidery inkwell-and-quill handwriting, please click on the pic bottom right below and do some deciphering and add it in the comments!).

~~~oo0oo~~~

. . and a pleasantly flattering bio in Afrikaans (by historian FA Steytler’s Die Geskiedenis van Harrismith, 1932) which I translate here:

Grew up in difficult circumstances; not much schooling; worked on a farm as a boy; then apprenticed to a lumberjack (or timber merchant?); Came to PMB and started as a builder; poor health saw him seek ‘higher altitude’ and move to Harrismith for the climate in 1873; seemed to suit him! He built the landdroskantoor, the hofsaal (magistrates court and offices), and the town gaol; Disaster struck in 1874 when the house he was renting (the Ou Pastorie of Ds Macmillan) burnt down; he lost all he possessed; he then decided to take advantage of the increased traffic between Durban’s harbour and Kimberley’s diamond fields and open a hotel – the Commercial (later called the Grand National), which he ran as hotelier till 1899; He was described as pleasant in company, a keen debater, with many friends; He did an incredible amount for the town. Town Councillor; Mayor 1896 to 1899, 1904, 1910-1911 and 1920. For fifty years he was involved in almost everything the municipality established or started: eg. electric light, water supply, town hall, Victoria Lake in the park, the pine plantation on the slopes of Platberg, etc. A member of the Hospital Board, a director of the Building Society, the School Commission, Library Committee, etc. A prominent Freemason; Active in politics: he stood for the Unionist Party for the Harrismith seat in the Union Parliament, but lost the election to Kommandant Jan Meyer. Died 14 August 1926, aged 86.

~~~oo0oo~~~

Sheila also has an undated newspaper article about the death of one John Caskie in Kilmarnock, Scotland – brother? cousin? He served in the 72nd Highlanders and saw action in the Crimean War (1855) and the Indian Mutiny. John was likely a relative, as Annie Bland kept this article amongst her papers.

~~~oo0oo~~~

Potted Caskie history (like all my history ‘lessons’: pinch o’ salt): The Caskies originated in the Galloway – Dumfries region of Scotland. The name is the anglicization of the pre-10th century Gaelic ‘MacAscaidh’ which derives from the Old Norse personal name ‘Asketill’, and translates as ‘The cauldron of the gods.’ How’s that!? The first recorded spelling of the family name is that of Thom McKasky, 1494, Edinburgh, during the reign of King James IV of Scotland. Surnames became necessary when governments introduced personal taxation, so no wonder the Scots kept spellin’ them different! Stewarton seems to be known for Ayrshire cattle, body snatching and being a good place to leave, but of course – I may be wrong.

~~~oo0oo~~~

Sheila made a Caskie Family Tree. Anyone with more info, please add / amend (as I have) so it can be improved / updated! Simply do it in the comments here, or email sheila@sheila.co.za

~~~oo0oo~~~

Categories
1_Harrismith 2_Free State / Vrystaat 3_USA 7_Confessions 8_Nostalgia Family

Dad’s Van

Larry wrote to me – old-fashioned ink and paper, lick the stamp, seal the envelope and drop it into a postbox – on 4 Nov 1970, his 19th birthday.

He was getting brochures for Dad for a van – Ford, Chev and Dodge. ‘I’m glad your father is really getting interested in the scheme of getting a van. If he is serious about importing me too (to come with the van), I could be ready to leave in June. It seems a bit too good to be true, so I am not counting on it at all.’ It didn’t happen. The van did.

– 1973 Ford Econoline van –

The old man needed a delivery van for the bottle store. Twelve years of Joseph faithfully delivering booze to the needy on his bicycle clearly wasn’t hacking it anymore.

– Joseph’s bicycle stands idle –

People needed their dop on the double; their brannewyn and beer briefly; their cane kona manje; their Paarl Perle pronto; This called for a V8! A five litre V8 – 302 cubic inches of inefficiency was ordered from across the Atlantic. Two pedals, one to GO one to STOP; it was automatic . . . hydromatic, greased lightning!

It was a delivery van, so no windows were needed. These were only cut in the week it arrived. Then it needed to be fitted out to take crates of beer: Two beds, a fridge and a stove were fitted above the new green carpets.

A test run was called for: I drove it to Joburg, loaded it up with fellow students and headed for Hillbrow. At the lights on the uphill section of Quartz or Twist street some unsuspecting sucker pulled up alongside.

I gave him a withering look and revved the V8, which didn’t really growl, the ole man refusing to tweak the exhaust like it could have been tweaked. It sounded OK, but not “like God clearing his throat.”

I changed feet, stomping down hard on the brake with my left and pressing down on the accelerator with my right. A fraction before the light turned green I let go the brake and the bus squealed and roared and bucked as we gunned off up the hill. Dunno if the other bloke even noticed but we were hosing ourselves – we had fun.

The van cost the ole man R1500 and then shipping it across the Atlantic another R1500.

~~~oo0oo~~~

We got up to a few other stunts with the van.

Categories
1_Harrismith 2_Free State / Vrystaat 8_Nostalgia Family

Chronic. Terminal?

The Harrismith Chronicle started publishing in 1903. Annie was ten years old, still living in the cottage behind the Royal Hotel. Eighty years later the paper celebrated. That milestone edition included our dear old Annie’s obituary. She’d reached ninety. Lovingly cared for from when Frank in died in 1943 right to the end forty years later, by her daughter Mary, our loving Mom.

Now in 2020 comes more sad news. After 117 years, the old Chronic has folded. Maybe it won’t be the end? Maybe someone can revive it in digital form, online? Sure hope so.

~~~oo0oo~~~

On the 23 March 2021 came a glimmer of hope:

Dandre Kleyn commented on my post Chronic. Terminal?

Interesting post and very nice to read. So, good news, the Harrismith Chronicle is being revived! The 1st new issue is hitting the shelves 25 March 2021. New ownership and a new newspaper coming to you.

Categories
1_Harrismith 2_Free State / Vrystaat 8_Nostalgia Family

Drunken Revelry

OK, not really; more a reverie on drink – a nostalgic lookback on a bottle store. Platberg Bottle Store / Drankwinkel in Harrismith, the Vrystaat. The Swanepoel family business. We all worked here at times.

We were talking about the trinkets, decor and marketing stuff. Like those big blow-up bottles hanging from the ceiling. Turns out big sister Barbara kept some of them from way back when:

Younger sister Sheila has some whisky jugs; and I had found an old familiar brandy-making figure online:

..

This is where they were displayed, along with the statues of Johnny Walker whisky, Dewars White Label whisky’s Scottish soldier ‘drum major’, Black & White whisky with their two Scotty dogs, Beefeater Gin’s ‘beefeater’, etc. Spot them below:

~~~oo0oo~~~