She actually did. My sister Barbara’s granma lived at 131 Boom Street Pietermaritzburg.
Right across the road was this school. Going to the Afrikaans school would have meant a bus ride, and Oupa was frugal.
And so started the ver-engels-ing of Dad. The rooinek-erisation. Pieter Gerhardus became ‘Peter’.
*ver-engels – Anglicisation
*rooinek – Boer word for Poms – anyone from ‘England’ – any of those islands left of France. Literally ‘red necks’ – but not American rednecks. NB: This excluded those Irishmen who fought for the Boers against the plundering, wicked, invading, looting Poms. Even though Irishmen can have very red necks.
From here (the way I understand it) they all went to Havelock Road Primary; Yanie the oldest went on to matriculate at Girls High; Lizzie the second child went on to Russell High School adjacent to the little school across the road, leaving in Std 8 to go and work; Boet finished Std 6 at Havelock Road and got his first job at Edel’s Shoe Factory, his second in Howick at Dunlop. On the way back one day he crashed his motorbike and injured himself badly. Lizzie arranged a bursary for Dad the youngest to go to Maritzburg College where he left in April in his matric year to join the post office as an apprentice electrician.
Our distant cousin Hugh Bland has been doing some wonderful detective work sniffing out the Bland family history.
Today Hugh found the grave of Josiah Benjamin Adam Bland.
Josiah Benjamin Adam Bland was born in 1799 in ‘the UK’ – England, I guess! He arrived at the Cape in 1825 on the good ship Nautilus, under the care of the ship’s captain, a Mr Tripe. The voyage cost his family £42. He got a job on a wine farm, in the Drakenstein area of Stellenbosch, met his future wife Cecelia there (du Plessis?), married her, packed their belongings in a Cape cart and trekked to Mossel Bay. They found land on the Gourits river and settled there. Their first son, John Francis Adam, was born, followed by eight more children. John the eldest then married Nellie de Villiers and had a son, John Francis Adam II. He and Nellie left for inland while the baby was just a few months old. They headed for Colesberg, Bloemfontein, Winburg and on to Harrismith, where they settled ‘in a house not far from the centre of town’ – 13 Stuart Street, maybe?.
Back in Mossel Bay Josiah Benjamin Adam Bland (JBA) became mayor and the main street is still called Bland Street. He died in 1861. His grave is hidden in thick bush on a farm in the Wydersrivier district near Riversdal.
The farmer very kindly took Hugh to the gravesite. Hugh says you can still read the inscription on the gravestone – it’s indistinct, but there’s no doubt that it’s JBA’s grave. He says it was “quite a moment” for him – JBA was buried there 156 yrs ago and Hugh wondered when a Bland last stood at that grave.
Hugh put two proteas – which it looks like he skoffel’d out nearby? – on the grave; then laid his shadow next to his great-great-great grandfather and took this pic:
The Harrismith Branch of the Blands:
Josiah Benjamin Adam Bland had a daughter, Annie Emmett Bland, who married Louis Botha, Boer war general who became the first President of the Union of South Africa in 1910.
He also had a son John Francis Adam Bland (JFA), born in 1836.
This JFA I later trekked inland ca.1861 to Harrismith in the Orange River Colony with a small baby – John Francis Adam Bland the Second – JFA II. This started ‘our branch’ of the Blands, The Vrystaat Blands. One of them – I must try and find out who – would end up as a prisoner of war in Ceylon for doing the right thing and fighting for his new homeland against the invading thieving British in the Boer war of 1899-1902.
John Francis Adam Bland II married Mary Caskie, who became the beloved Granny Bland of Harrismith. They had five sons of whom our grandfather Frank was the oldest, again: John Francis Adam; JFA III.
Hugh found out that JFA the First died on 10 September 1891 aged 55, and is buried in the lost, dusty, verlate metropolis of Senekal, Vrystaat. In Harrismith Granny Bland buried her husband JFA II and four of her five boys, including JFA III. As Sheila said, ‘What a tragic life.’ Poor Granny Bland! She loved her grandaughter Mary, our Mom, and she lived long enough to know us, her great grandkids before she died in 1959. So in that she was Lucky Granny Bland! We knew Bunty, the only child who outlived her, very well. He died in 1974 and joined his father JFA II, his mother, and his four brothers in the family grave in Harrismith.
JFA III married Annie Watson Bain – our granny Annie Bland. Known as just Annie. They farmed racehorses and clean fingernails on the farm Nuwejaarsvlei on the Nuwejaarspruit outside Harrismith on the road to Witsieshoek, towards the Drakensberg. He died in 1943 while my Mom Mary and her older sister Pat were still at school. Pat died in 1974. Mom Mary then looked after Annie until she died aged ninety in 1983. Mom Mary is still alive and well. She turned ninety in September 2018.
(I’m hoping sister Sheila will fact-check me here! Also that cousin Hugh will tell us what happened to the misguided Bland branch that didn’t go to the Vrystaat, but got lost and ended up in Zimbabwe. They lived near Oliviershoek for a while before trekking on. Hugh tells tales of transport riding, ox wagons, meeting Percy Fitzpatrick, farming in Rhodesia and other exaggerations . . )
Annie’s oldest daughter Pat Bland – married Bill Cowie, and had two daughters Frankie & Gemma; Bill worked in Blyvooruitsig on the gold mine; We would see them on their way to their wonderful Wild Coast fishing trips. They called Blyvooruitsig ‘Blayfore.’
Mary Bland second and youngest daughter – married Pieter Swanepoel in 1951
Bland might sound bland, but hey, the surname is thought to derive from Old English (ge)bland meaning ‘storm’, or ‘commotion’. Don’t use dictionaries that say, ‘dull, flavorless, or just plain ‘blah.’ Use the Merriam-Webster that says it means ‘smooth and soothing in manner or quality;’ or use vocabulary.com that says it means ‘alluring;’ or try ‘flattering’ from the Bland Family History on ancestry.com; That’s better.
Some of the information on Josiah Benjamin Adam Bland first coming to the Cape I got from the book And Not To Yield about Susan Bland. Susan was born in Harrismith, had a brother Willie, married a Theo Allison and lived seven miles outside Harrismith farming ostriches for a while.
And Not To Yield by Penelope Matthews, Watermark Press – ISBN 978-0-620-58162-2
Mr Pretorius was a new teacher in Harrismith. This is back in the ‘forties. One Geography lesson he asked a question and the answer he wanted was the town “Heilbron”.
Johnny Priest (chosen perhaps because the teacher knew he wouldn’t know?) answered “The Free State” at which Mr P lifted his eyes to the heavens, rolled them and sighed sarcastically “Why don’t you just say The Union of South Africa?” at which Johnny hastened to say, “I meant the Union of South Africa”.
High school teachers Mr Coetzee taught Afrikaans and Mrs Coetzee taught English. One day in matric she asked Linden Weakley a question. He was slouched low in his chair with his legs stretched in front of him and crossed, his feet almost under her desk. He was a languid chap, Linden. He answered as he was, not moving. “Uncross your legs” she said. So he did. “I mean GET UP!” she said, more sharply this time.
Once Mom was playing tennis with Linden when their opponent got cramp in a leg. Mom, ever helpful, went to the net to tell him to how to cope and what to do ti get rid of it. “Let him keep his cramp” said Linden “I want to win this match!”.
Toilets were outside, well away from the house, usually at the back border of the yard where the alley ran past so the ‘Night Car’, or ‘Honey Cart’, could get to them easily. If you had a big yard it could be a long walk. Mrs de Beer used to say theirs was “Halfway to Warden”!
“Oh, the embarrasment”, says Mother Mary, “of meeting the Honey Cart at night when walking home from the bioscope!”
Jack Shannon was dancing with Brenda Longbottom from across the road at Granny Bland’s once. Watching them, Annie said critically, “He can’t dance for toffee.”
Mom’s doctor in Harrismith was Dr Hoenigsberger, who was married to Janet Caskie, an Australian cousin of Mom’s Granny Bland. They lived in a big brick house similar to Granny Bland’s, just over the road. He was the government doctor (district surgeon) and part of his job was to attend to the inmates in the Harrismith Gaol. On the way back from there one day he hit the bridge over the Kakspruit and landed up in the spruit below the bridge. He was taken home, a bit shaken.
Later one of his friend phoned the house and one of his sons (Leo or Max) answered. “Hello, is the doctor in? We want him to come around and play bridge with us” said the voice.
“No, I think he’s had enough bridge for one day” answered the son.
Wealthy Casper Badenhorst was apparently very tight with a dollar. Had plenty, spent little. When Harrismith people free-wheeled downhill in their cars they would say “Ons ry nou op Casper se petrol”.
After matric Mary went to do nursing at the Boksburg-Benoni hospital. Older sister Pat had gone there three years before, with Janet. Pat was highly regarded by her colleagues and she took Mom to her first ward, ward 10 in the old block to introduce her to the nurse already there, Nurse Groenewald. The ward was on the fourth floor and they got into the old rattle-trap lift but no go – it was out of order. She found out it was often that way.
So they started off up the stairs at speed. Mom got to the top out of breath. She soon got fitter and learnt to run up those steps with ease.
“Ons ry nou op Casper se petrol” – We’re riding on Casper’s petrol
” . . and over the hills lay long fields of barley and of rye
and through the fields a road runs by . . .“
Douglas Wright Esq would wax poetical after a few beers, quoting Alfred, Lord Tennyson out on the Vrystaat vlaktes. I spose that’s what happens if you get sent to a soutpiel school in the colonies.
I see now he was misquoting Tennyson – or maybe I misremember and he was spot on? Anyway, I prefer his version. It’s hardwired in my brain now.
In my mind’s eye dear ole Dougie is wandering across the veld with a shotgun in the crook of his arm, deerstalker on his head, waxing forth . . . .
The rest, L to R:
Tony Porrell, Koos Swanepoel, Nev Shave, Charlie Deane, Dirk Odendaal, Ian Fyvie, Rob Spilsbury, Nick Leslie, Doug Wright wearing the black beret, John Venning, Mike Curnow, Tabs Fyvie and Guy Kirk
Other Dougie things I remember:
‘Let’s play Bok Bok Staan Styf! Hoeveel fingers op jou lyf?’
‘We must play pennetjie!’ – urgently suggested after a few beers. We never did.
His fox terrier — (name?)
His cottage on Glen Khyber, their plot in the shadow of Platberg, away from the big house. It was right on the verdant banks of a little stream that flowed down from Khyber Pass into the beautiful Kak Spruit as it tumbled down from Platberg on its way to the Wilge River. Glen Khyber was below Platberg’s steep, narrow, stony Khyber Pass.
Doug’s story about Tabs Fyvie when Tabs was little: Dougie asked him “Did you have any rain?” and Tabs answered “Not much but they were big drops”.
How we used to walk to Glen Khyber from Birdhaven and wake Doug up in his cottage (him probably hung over) and Barbara would show him her whispy ponytail at eye level as he lay in bed and say “Look Doug, my ponytail!”.
1. Birdhaven – the ruins; 2. Glen Khyber – Doug’s cottage the green roof;
3. Jack Levick’s plot; 4. Kakspruit
soutpiel – English-speaking South African; said to have one foot in SA, the other foot in England, his penis hanging in the sea, so ‘salt penis’
Bok Bok Staan Styf! Hoeveel fingers op jou lyf? – weird game where you jump on each others’ backs! amiright?
pennetjie – game where you scratch a hole in the ground and use a stick to prevent your opponent from tossing his stick into the hole; amiright?
Kak Spruit – Shit Creek; Stream flowing down from the top of Platberg past Dougie’s plot Glen Khyber, then past our plot Birdhaven
Didn’t steal much as a kid. But I did slug down a bottle of Monis red grapejuice on the quiet in the back storeroom of the Platberg Bottle Store / Drankwinkel working for Mom & Dad one Saturday morning. You can see the door to the storeroom in the pic. Warm, straight out of one of those cardboard boxes all the bottles were packed in.
That afternoon we went for a long drive out Witsieshoek way in the beige 1956 Morris Isis (no, not Islamic State of Iraq & Syria, just Isis, after the river in England that most call the Thames).
After a while the car door had to be flung open for me to have a hearty grapey chunder out onto the gravel road in the veld. It would have looked like blood, so I imagine a confession then also would have had to take place. Can’t remember.
I haven’t liked red grape juice since. Communion in the teetotal Methodist church had me being possibly the only sinner rudely reminded of theft and puke every time the shed for you came round. Divine retribution? Communion? Confession? He does seem to move in mysterious ways!
Here’s the cave on the Witsieshoek road:
As an aside –
The Morris Isis was named after the River Isis – which is actually just the Thames in Oxford. The Morris Isis was “designed for work in the Dominions, Colonies and Protectorates” . . . “the factory’s output . . . is entirely for export. Great attention was given to providing a low appearance without sacrifice of ground clearance. The all-metal 5-seater saloon body is stated to be practically indestructible and climate-proof.”
The 1956 version had the fascinatingly bizarre feature that both the gear lever and the handbrake were on the floor to the right of the driver, wedged in the narrow space between the seat and the driver’s door. When changing gear it looked like you were fiddling for something you’d dropped between your right thigh and the door.
The Morris Isis Series II was based on the Morris Oxford Series III. The engine power increased to 90 bhp. The manual version had a four-speed box operated by a short gearstick located on the right-hand side of the front bench seat. The handbrake lever was located just behind the gearstick.
Sales remained weak, and the line ended in 1958. It had a top speed of 90 mph and could accelerate from 0-60 mph in 17.6 seconds. Fuel consumption of 26.2 miles per imperial gallon (10.8 litres/100 km) was recorded. The test car cost UK£1025 including taxes.
Veld & Vlei at Greystones on the banks of Wagendrift Dam in the July holidays of 1972, my matric – or ‘senior’ – year of high school. It was a ‘Leadership School’ – ‘a physical and mental challenge,’ they said. Sheila’s diary tells me I was taken there on Friday 30 June 1972 by family friend Dr Dick Venning.
Memories of a busy first week: The tough obstacle course – carry that 44-gal drum over the wall without letting it touch the wall! Other obstacles, including tight underground tunnels. And HURRY!
Chilly winter nights in these old canvas bell tents – we slept like logs. Cross-country runs; PT by military instructors. What’s with this love for things military? Brief naked immersion swims in the frigid water of the dam every morning after a 2,5km run; The lazy bliss of sailing an ‘Enterprise’ dinghy out of reach of anything strenuous!
Then the second week: Being chosen as patrol leader of Uys Patrol; A preparatory two-day hike in the area. One of our patrol was a chubby, whiny lad, so we spent some effort nursing him home. He was worth it: good sense of humour! Poor bugger’s thighs rubbed red and sore on the walk!
I had no camera, no photos, the only record I still have of the course is my vivid memories – and the blue felt badge they gave us on completion.
But then I found a website – www.hofland.co.uk – by someone who had been on the same 1972 winter course as me – Willem Hofland from the Natal South Coast. He had these black & white pics which I am very grateful to be able to use! He also has his course report and certificate. I wonder what they said on them, as our course was cut short. His images are very blurry but you can read the word PASS – so they must have decided we’d done enough to get certificates? I now only have the felt badge.
Then the climax, the big challenge: The course-ending six-day hike! We drove by bus to the magic Giants Castle region in the Drakensberg.
We set off with our laden rucksacks down the valley, up the other side towards the snow-topped peaks, heading for Langalabilele Pass and the High ‘Berg. We had walked about 5km when a faint shout sounded and continued non-stop until we stopped and searched for the source.
It was an instructor chasing after us and telling us to “Turn around, abort the hike, return to Greystones! Walk SLOWLY!” Someone had come down with meningitis and the whole course was ending early! Sheila’s diary records my folks were phoned on 12 July and asked to fetch me. We were given big white pills to swallow and sent home with strict instructions to take it easy: No physical exercise.
But our rucksacks were packed . . . . and our wanderlust aroused, so I’m afraid I headed straight off to Mt aux Sources soon after getting home. Up the chain ladder onto the escarpment and on to the lip of the Tugela Falls, sleeping outside the mountain hut. Greg Seibert may have accompanied me. I forget who else.
That’s what I remembered. Today, however, 48yrs later, Sheila has given me the letters I wrote home, so I also know this: So much for vivid memories!
My first letter was two days into the course and the main concern was ‘PLEEZ send my rucksack! The rucksack I have been issued with is absolutely messed up!’ (see at the end – Mom did send it). I was fit, as shown by my maximums. I had done 63 step-ups with weights. The camp record was 64. ‘The assault course instructor is a sadist.’ Please send the rucksack! They have arranged for parcel deliveries. Mom’s letter back said she had sent the rucksack – and ‘look inside.’ Moms are great!
The next letter was Monday 3rd July 1972 – Early morning run and naked dip in the dam; sailing and canoeing. Our patrol won both canoe races (‘natch!’ I wrote, being very keen on canoeing at the time) and we won Best Patrol of the Day. ‘Today Monday was much tougher: The assault course consists of eleven obstacles and we only completed five! Only one of the six patrols completed the course. They took one hour and seventeen minutes. The course record is twelve minutes and fifty seconds! PT was based on maximums. My first round took 10 mins 42 seconds, then a run. I did the second round in 10 mins dead. Dead’s the word! I met Stephen Middlemost. A good chap.’
The last letter was on day 9: Our first free morning. On day 7 they had given us twenty minutes to get ready and leave on a two day expedition. Find your way by map to various waypoints. There was ‘not much discipline’ in our patrol. ‘Leaders had been chosen who were not leaders’ (according to yours truly!) and not much hard hiking was done. I saw we were way behind schedule so ‘I tried to push them, but they just got mad and rested often and long.’ I did all the map and compass work and ‘they would argue like mad as to our direction without ever looking at the map!’ By nightfall we were about halfway to our intended destination. We camped and ‘the boys just wanted to turn around and go back. I refused and eventually they agreed to try and finish the course! In the morning we only set off at 9am! I worked out shortcuts for them while one of the guys and I walked to the beacons and took bearings; we would then catch up to them again. We walked along to ‘a chorus of moaning and swearing, mainly at me for ‘rushing them.’ Anyway, eventually we crossed the Bushmans River in the dark and arrived back at camp at 7.30pm. At least we did finish the course! And luckily there was a good supper waiting.’
On the evening of that ninth day we chose patrol leaders; seventy two boys, six patrols; I was chosen to lead Uys Patrol. ‘My deputy is Reg Wilkins, a very good chap: funny, determined, stubborn, etc. but we’ll go great. Our quartermaster is Neville Slade, also a great guy, very conscientious.’
Our full patrol is Eric Cohen, Arthur Lees-Rolfe, John Peterson, Nev Slade, Clyde Nunn, Reg Wilkins, Rusty du Plessis, Bud Marouchos, and me. We lost Rob Hohls abseiling when a big rock fell on his head.
In a letter home: I lost or mislaid my boots; I should find them. Cuthberts made a lousy job of fixing them. R3!! On the first hike I lost half of both heels; on the two-day expedition the other halves came off and the whole sole is coming off, starting at the toe.’
I was so looking forward to the high ‘Berg hike. That was MY territory! None of these city slickers and beach bums knew the high ‘Berg and I did. But it was not to be . .
More odds and sods I found, scanned and tossed. Warning: Boring! – only those who were there will be interested:
July 2020 – Found a diary I kept on the course.
Later that year I got a hilarious raunchy letter from my cool-dude side-kick Nev Slade:
Excerpts: He moans about swotting for matric; He says ‘now listen you Free State Fuckup’ (‘that’s the best I have thought up for a long time’) and invites me to a post-matric party – a good thrash! He reports getting as ‘canned as a coot’ at a disco; he says he’ll set me up with a sexy partner; threatens, if I don’t pitch at his thrash, to come to the Free State and castrate me! Signs himself off: ‘Great Poet and man who survived Veld & Vlei’ – Nev Slade, Bridgewood, Dargle Rail
Ah, a mystery solved: We did NOT get completion certificates.
So Hofland could not have been on the July 1972 course, I guess. Still, thanks for the photos! ( I see his course certificate says G14).
I gave a talk to Harrismith Rotary club afterwards, telling them all about it, expressing my disappointment on not doing the high Berg hike; and thanking them for sponsoring me on this lovely adventure.
Another postscript: I now know, from another hilarious and rude letter from Nev Slade, something about our hike up Mt aux Sources. Nev had been to a polocrosse tournament in Greytown where he almost broke his arm due to rough treatment from Transvalers who were “the dirtiest, wildest pigs you’ve ever come across,” – in fact they were “just like Freestaters in the wild Swanepoel tradition.” He couldn’t think of a worse insult! What a lekker oke! Anyway, obviously replying to my letter he says “Wow, you’re lucky to have seen a lammergeier so close up! Lend me some of your luck sometime won’t you?”
A letter! Sheila found a letter written to me by Mom while I was on camp. She filled me in on happenings in the metropolis of Harrismith in my absence:
1. Two heart attacks – Jonathan McCloy’s Dad and Ds Ras. Lulu was at home with her Dad, but De Wet was away playing Craven Week rugby. He hastened home; Ds in hospital under heavy sedation.
2. When Eastern Free State won a game at Craven Week, Rudolph Gabba Coetzee had to speak on the radio! Big news for one who did not do much public speaking!
3. I had an interview straight after my course in Estcourt to apply for a Rotary Exchange Student posting. It was right near Veld in Vlei in Estcourt, so Mom said I should stay with my cousin Marlene – ‘and try and get a haircut in Estcourt before the interview’ – Yeah, like that was going to happen!!
4. They had stayed at a caravan park with Sheila. It was lousy, no lights, no hot water and a long list of other things wrong.
And lastly, when she was about to send me the rucksack I had requested, her friend Harriet vdMerwe saw her and said, No Mary! You can’t send it empty! Put some goodies in it! So she had included sweets and dried fruit.
My lift from JHB dropped me off at home. The dorp was empty, where WAS everyone?
I phoned 2630 pring pring pring. Or was it 2603 priiiiing priiiing priiiing? I forget. Can you fetch me? No, get yourself here quick, we’re going to Warden to scare some guineafowls. Now.
What could I do? The imported white Ford Econoline 302 cu. inch V8 van was in the garage, I knew where the keys were, and the folks were away. And after all, I’d only be using it to get to Gailian then hop into Tabs’ bakkie and away we’d go. What could possibly go wrong? Oh, and I’d better borrow Dad’s 12-gauge shotgun, too.
As I drew up next to the prefab on Gailian a cry of Perfect! A real shooting brake! went up and six gentlemen holding shotguns and beers piled in, calling Tommy the German Pointer in with them. No, guys, hang on, I said feebly . .
The day at Warden was a blur but the drive back came into sharp focus. We ‘had to’ pull in to the pub in Warden. I of course, had suggested we go straight home, but that went down like a lead balloon. Blithely ignored. In the pub the barman took one look at us and refused to serve us. Someone who shall remain nameless but whose surname maybe started with a G fetched his shotgun and casually aimed it at the expensive bottles of hooch above the barman’s head whereupon he suddenly remembered our order and delivered seven beers pronto. When we decided we’d like to play snooker same thing: A Simpson-like character aimed a shotgun at the cue ball and the cues were produced with alacrity. And chalk.
When to my huge relief, we finally got going, the G-man, who was riding shotgun on my right (the van was Left-Hand-Drive), sat on the windowsill and three of Warden’s four streetlamps went ‘pop’.
Now I KNEW I was going to jail forever. Putting my head down and roaring for home I wasn’t stopping again for NOBODY. Except the gentle tickle of a shotgun against my ear persuaded me otherwise and I stopped as instructed with my headlights shining on the Eeram sign. A firing squad lined up, three kneeling in front and four standing behind them. This is for Ram, guys, he’s getting married next weekend! BLAM!! The ‘Ee’ disappeared, and there was ‘ram’. Nor do I believe it.
I finally got home and looked at the van. Holy cow! Dog hair, guineafowl feathers and the mud and the blood and the beer all over the carpets and upholstery of Dad’s Ford Econoline V8 camper van! 302 cu. inches. I set to work cleaning it. And cleaning it. And scrubbing it. Still it stank of that mixture. In desperation, I took a jerrycan and spread petrol liberally on the carpet and scrubbed again.
When the folks got home I made a full – OK, partial – confession: Dad, I spilled some petrol in your van, but I’ve cleaned it all up. Sorry about that!
the mud and the blood and the beer – Johnny Cash –
Mary and Manie Wessels Rietvlei joined the folks Mary and Pieter Swanepoel for Xmas 1979 at 37 Piet Uys street. Barbara and Jeff, Koos and Sheila and Annie were there, too. As was poor Selina! Hopefully she got time off for being on duty on Xmas day!
Looks like colour film hadn’t been fully invented yet . .