A large gathering of the Goor Koor – that assembly of happy inebriates led and accompanied by virtual-teetotaller Mary Methodist, our Mom, gathered together – assembled, amassed – on the occasion of Mom’s 45th birthday. Usually there were far fewer of them gathered at any one time, an occasional Lubricated Quartet perhaps, but this was a special occasion!
And Sheila – thanks goodness! – took pictures. She was in matric at the time, I was in Oklahoma, Barbara in Pietermaritzburg.
. . and here – precious picture! – Mary at the keyboard and Hugo Wessels right there, ready to belt out a number! Two very talented people, 45 years old, who were in matric together in 1945. And this fun gathering happened 45 years ago, as Mom is now 90! I think all my stats are right . . .
Wonderful memories of crawling down the long passage to get nearer to the sound of Mom playing the piano; Also of sundry ‘choir members’ over the years, belting out popular songs with high enthusiasm and various degrees of talent. If spotted by any of the choir it would be ‘Hello Kosie!’ – if spotted by Mom or Dad it would be ‘Get back to bed!’
Also memories of the smell of ash trays! Always plenty of ash trays. Ours were from tyre companies, so they were glass inside miniature Dunlop or Goodyear tyres!
The Studley Tool Chest: Made out of mahogany, rosewood, walnut, ebony, and mother of pearl.
Henry O. Studley (1838–1925) was a carpenter, organ and piano maker, who worked for the Smith Organ Co. and later for the Poole Piano Company of Quincy, Massachusetts. He is best known for creating the famous Studley Tool Chest, a wall hanging tool chest that cunningly holds 218 tools in a space that takes up about a metre by half a metre of wall space when closed.
I wrote about this in Feb 2014. I got responses:
Steve Reed wrote: In his entire married life, Henry Studley only came inside the house at mealtimes and to sleep. Otherwise he was out in the shed. Must have had a bag of a wife.
Me: Or just his pri-horities right ?
Talking about living in the shed: Did I tell you my ole man bought himself a new lathe? Brand-new wood lathe with a 1m gap between the headstock and the tailstock. The headstock can swivel so he can turn bigger bowls – and turn them sitting down. Says he can’t die now for at least three years to justify the purchase and to finish the chisel handles and tables he has in mind . . . ninety one and counting . . .
Went to visit the other day. Their tenants have left and I found the ole man in the second house on top of a stepladder, muttering that they’d left their curtains up. Bitched good-humouredly when I took over and removed the rest of the curtains: ‘What do you think? I’m too old to climb a stepladder?’ Uh, yes, Dad.
Now he wants to buy a new kombi – with the old lady’s money! Goat . . .
Peter Brauer wrote: I’m with your old man on this one. Want a job done properly… do it yourself
Me: Want a job done properly, procrastinate till it no longer needs doing . . most peaceful*, cost-effective method I’ve found.
*under the new regime. Under the old regime this method was NOT peaceful . .
Brauer: I don’t know what procrastinate means, but stuff it, I’ll find out tomorrow.
A memorial stone. This story started in Pietermaritzburg, grew in Pretoria – and ended up here:
The beautiful delta of the Skagit River in North-West Washington state! Up on the Pacific coast; up near Canada; not too far off the exact opposite side of the world. Here’s where South Africa lies if you could look right through the world from Above the Pacific Ocean:
It happened like this:
My dear cousins: On Sunday August 11 my family and I are holding a memorial for my mother. When she died so unexpectedly in March 1974 I was a long way away. I did not participate in any of the funeral arrangements and I did not attend the funeral.
After cousin Lizzie died I had a “conversation” with Koosie and he asked me where my mother was buried and I realized, to my shame, that I did not know and have not since been able to find out.
So on Sunday, a day before her 109th birthday and 45 years after she died, I am symbolically bringing her home to me and to my family. We have chosen for her headstone a rock we collected from a nearby river and it will pass from me, to my daughter, to my grandson and beyond in ongoing commemoration.
Please send your prayers and loving thoughts our way and join us in recognition of Adriana Wilhelmina Swanepoel Solomon, my beloved mother and your Auntie Janie.
Much love to you all, Shirley
dear Cousins: Thanks and appreciation to all of you for your thoughts
and prayers. We spent a heartfelt couple of hours together talking
about Adriana and the Swanepoels. Warren was not with us as he is
visiting friends in Nebraska. We looked through the old shoebox of
pictures and told the old stories that, by this time, are part of the
family cannon and are probably quite richly embellished. We laughed,
we teared up, we remembered other family members who are no longer
with us. We brought out the big Atlas and checked out where exactly
South Africa is, we took down the pictures that have been on the wall
for years and examined them more closely: the four Swanepoel siblings
taken when Pieter was around two, the montage of the ten cousins that
I cherish, the wedding picture of my parents. All in all, it was a
lovely time, topped off by my reading the kind and thoughtful
messages that you sent us. Our love from our family to yours.
Hi Shirley, What a beautiful gesture. Our thoughts will be with you on Sunday. I can still remember the time that my dad went to Aunt Liz’s funeral and ended up having to bury two sisters. He was so sad at the time. May they all rest in peace. Love from us. Solly
That’s beautiful Shirley. My thoughts are with you and I have put a reminder on my phone. I’ll drink a toast Sunday! ( I did – Jerepigo!). Auntie Janie will enjoy Washington, the Northwest and the river, I’m sure! Love, Koos – P.S. The last time I saw her was 1973 in Apache, Oklahoma and friends took a polaroid picture:
Dear Shirley, You and your family are in our thoughts and prayers today. May your commemoration bring the peace in your heart that you so long sought for. Remember, those we so dearly love, don’t go away, they walk beside us every day. Love you all, Johan
Dear Cousin Shirley, Thank you for sharing the family memorial for your mother with your cousins. May your family be richly blessed for placing her at the centre of your lives on this day.
Although 10 200 plus miles separate us, know that we will be with you in heart and spirit on this memorable occasion. To this end, a proverb, a prayer, a photo and a couple of fond memories for you.
An appropriate Hebrew proverb: Say not in grief ‘she is no more’ but live in thankfulness that she was.
A prayer for the occasion: Lord of all, we praise you for Aunty A who rests peacefully in your presence. Give all who remember her grace to follow in her footsteps as she followed the way of your Son. Thank you for the memory of Aunty A who you unexpectedly gathered to you. May our memories of her lead our hearts from the things we can see to the unseen things we trust you for. Lead us too until we enter the eternal rest you have prepared for us. We ask this in your precious name Lord. Amen.
A photo of the Swanepoel sisters taken in Camperdown when Aunty A visited. Two ladies who remain dear to me to this day.
A couple of fond memories of a lady with class: Aunty A was the only Aunt I knew – I can’t remember meeting any of my Dad’s sisters. Aunty A was always very kind to me. When given our first pass from the Air Force Gymnasium in 1964 it was Aunty A who collected me to spend a delightful Sunday in their home at 54?Prospect Street, Hatfield, Pretoria. It only occurred to me much later why she and Uncle Solly gave me a spare box set of King Lear long-player records with the subtle suggestion that it would improve my English! Clearly Mathematics and Science was my forte and not languages. After having qualified to give flying instruction at Central Flying School Dunnottar and trying to be an officer and a gentleman whilst vigorously courting the East Rand chicks, it was Aunty A who suggested that taking them to ballet shows at the Aula Theatre at Pretoria University would impress them favourably. She accompanied us on occasion but didn’t seem too impressed with the company I was keeping at that stage. Aunty A helped me select and purchase a 1968 painting of the artist Christiaan Saint Peter Nice one Sunday afternoon at the Magnolia Dell. This artist has since passed on but subsequently became well known and his paintings continue to grow in value. The painting hangs in the study serving as a reminder of the good times we spent together. Aunty A was not just classy but fun-loving too. Travelling together from Pretoria to Camperdown in my recently acquired MGB GT (before entering the Free State where the traffic cops always laid in wait for unsuspecting speedsters) I can’t quite remember whether it was Aunty A who wanted to know how fast this thing can go or me who wanted to show her? Other than with my lady companions, Aunty A was truly impressed with what the MG could do given that it was a sporting offspring of her Morris Cowley which she used to drive hell-for-leather down Burnett Street heading for the City. Her memory remains indelible in my mind.
Here’s wishing you every success and many happy memories of the day! With love, Cousin Jack G
I was reading about Andrew Geddes Bain, geologist, road engineer, palaeontologist and explorer in the Cape up to 1864, and his son Thomas Charles Bain, road engineer in the Cape up to 1888, when it suddenly struck me!
First, let’s see what these two very capable men achieved: Andrew Geddes Bain built eight mountain passes, including the famous Bain’s Kloof Pass, which opened up the route to the interior from Cape Town. And he had thirteen children. His son Thomas Charles Bain built nineteen passes! His crowning glory was the Swartberg Pass that connects Oudtshoorn in the Little Karoo with Prince Albert beyond the Swartberg mountains in the open plains of the Great Karoo. And he had thirteen children.
And I suddenly knew exactly what happened when my Great-Grandfather Stewart Bain and his brother James Bain got off the ship in Durban in 1880. They were fishermen from the tiny fishing village of Wick, in the far north-eastern corner of Scotland, used to being ‘knee-high in brine, mud, and herring refuse.’
People in Durban asked them: ‘Bain? Are you the famous Bain road builders? We need road builders here. Can you build bridges too?’
And I know just what the brothers Bain said. ‘Roads? Och aye, we can build roads. And bridges? We can build them with one hand tied behind our back.’ The old ‘funny you should mention that! I happen to very good at it . . . ‘
And so they built the railway bridges between Ladysmith and Harrismith, learning as they went, ‘upskilling’, thus helping the railroad reach that wonderful picturesque town in the shadow of Platberg. This made them enough money to buy or build a hotel each, marry, have children – only seven and eight apiece, though – and become leading citizens of ve dorp.
Then one of the seven had two children; and one of those had me! And here I am.
edit: I wrote nine kids in the pic, but I think it was worse – only seven.
Think I’m being unkind to Wick, village of my ancestors? Read what Robert Louis Stevenson wrote about it to his mother when he stayed there in 1868:
‘Certainly Wick in itself possesses no beauty: bare, grey shores, grim grey houses, grim grey sea; not even the gleam of red tiles; not even the greenness of a tree. The southerly heights, when I came here, were black with people, fishers waiting on wind and night. Now all the boats have beaten out of the bay, and the Wick men stay indoors or wrangle on the quays with dissatisfied fish-curers, knee-high in brine, mud, and herring refuse. The day when the boats put out to go home to the Hebrides, the girl here told me there was ‘a black wind’; and on going out, I found the epithet as justifiable as it was picturesque. A cold, BLACK southerly wind, with occasional rising showers of rain; it was a fine sight to see the boats beat out a-teeth of it. In Wick I have never heard any one greet his neighbour with the usual ‘Fine day’ or ‘Good morning.’ Both come shaking their heads, and both say, ‘Breezy, breezy!’ And such is the atrocious quality of the climate, that the remark is almost invariably justified by the fact. The streets are full of the Highland fishers, lubberly, stupid, inconceivably lazy and heavy to move. You bruise against them, tumble over them, elbow them against the wall — all to no purpose; they will not budge; and you are forced to leave the pavement every step.’
Now read a sterling and spirited defence of our ancestral dorp by Janis Paterson – also a descendant of the Bains of Wick who read my post and reached for her quill (I have paraphrased somewhat):
Ya boo sucks to RLS! Robert Louis Stevenson, was a sickly child. His father and his uncles were engineers who built lighthouses all over Scotland. Robert was sent to Wick, likely to get involved in building a breakwater there with his Uncle. But he was more interested in writing stories and was just not cut out for this sort of work. I believe he was also ill while in Wick. The first attempt at building the breakwater was washed away during a storm and also the second attempt. The work was then abandoned. I therefore propose that Robert just didn’t want to be in Wick, was ill, fed up with the weather and just wanted to get away to concentrate on his writing. The Stevenson family must have been excellent engineers, as all the lighthouses are still standing. Did Robert also feel that he was a failure as an apprentice engineer?
Stick it to him, Janis! How dare he call Wick fishy? Or smelly!? Or breezy!?
Janis adds ‘Read this book review:’ ‘ . . .fourteen lighthouses dotting the Scottish coast were all built by the same Stevenson family that produced Robert Louis Stevenson, Scotland’s most famous novelist. Who, unlike the rest of his strong-willed, determined family, was certainly not up to the astonishing rigours of lighthouse building.’Janis was right! 😉 All HE could do was scribble – like me . .
Annie was one of the seven Royal Bains in Harrismith. She was born in the cottage behind the hotel where her parents Stewart and Janet raised all the kids.
Her daughter Mary says they were Ginger, Stewart, Carrie, Jessie, Annie, Hector and Bennett. Only Hector got off his bum and got a job – he went off to become a bank manager in Ndola, Northern Rhodesia, now Zambia. The rest hung around the hotel and had fun, got married, whatever. Ginger played polo; Carrie got married and left for Australia. Stuart did a bit of work on their farm, Sarclet, not far out of town on the Jo’burg road. None of the other six felt compelled to move on, up or out. After all, Dad was the Lord Mayor of the metropolis and was known as The Grand Old Man of Harrismith, so enjoy!
When Annie married Frank Bland, she moved out to their farm Nuwejaarsvlei on the Witsieshoek road;
When the farm could no longer support the horseracing they moved in with Frank’s mother Granny Mary Bland, nee Caskie, now with two daughters, Pat and Mary. When Frank died aged 0nly 49, Annie and the girls stayed on. They were joined there by her sister Jessie when her husband __ Bell died; Then later they were joined by now married daughter Mary, husband Pieter Swanepoel, and daughter Barbara when they arrived back from his work in the Post Office in Pietermaritzburg.
Some time after that – maybe when Granny Bland died? – Annie moved into Randolph Stiller’s Central Hotel; She then left Harrismith for the first time in her life and went to stay with sister Jessie down in George for a few years; When Jessie died Annie returned to Harrismith and lived in John Annandale’s Grand National Hotel. John said to Mary he was battling to cope with hosting her, so Mary moved her home. Much to Pieter’s delight. NOT.
So Mary soon moved Annie into the old age home. Two years or so later, Mom remembers a night hosting bowling club friends to dinner when the phone rang. It was Sister Hermien Beyers from the home. “Jou Ma is nie lekker nie,” she said. Mom said I’ll be right over and drove straight there, she remembers in her red car wearing a navy blue dress. She sat with her dear Mom Annie holding her hand that night and knew when she died in the wee hours.
Her visitors the next morning included Mrs Woodcock and Miss Hawkins. Mom regrets not letting Miss Hawkins in to see Annie. She should have, she says. She remembers being fifteen years old and not allowed to see her Dad lying in Granny Bland’s home and has always been glad that she snuck in when no-one was watching and saw his body on his bed and so knew it really was true.
Part of the stone wall which surrounded Granny Bland’s home in Stuart Street, Harrismith; and the oak tree her grand-daughter Pat Bland planted.
Our great-grandmother ‘Granny Bland’ was a Caskie who married a Bland who begat Frank (JFA) Bland who married Annie Watson Bain. Bain Sisters Annie Bland and Jessie Bell lived there with Granny Bland after their husbands died. Her granddaughter – Annie’s daughter – Mary and great-granddaughter Barbara also lived there for a while, some sixty five years ago.
The old home now has an artist family living in it and has been beautifully restored.