Chopin Mom Used to Play – Nocturne E Flat Major Op.9 No.2

No.6 of Mom’s Chopin repetoire – played at night on the Bentley upright while we lay in bed listening down the other end of the long passage. Sometimes she would practice her hymns for Sundays – she played the organ at the Harrismith Methodist church for a hundred-odd years – sister Sheila christened her ‘Mary Methodist’ cos o’ that. Other times were not as classical, nor as holy – that would be when friends gathered round the piano full of smoke and booze and belted out popular tunes with various degrees of talent.

Thanks again to the pianist standing in for Mary now that she’s 91 and can no longer read her sheet music. She still plays, but her favourite popular tunes ‘off by heart.’

In the comments Sheila informs me it was a Venning – Barbara or her daughter Lel who first christened her Mary Methodist. Well, it stuck!

Today Fifty Years Ago

Today fifty years ago was also a Sunday. I know cos sister Sheila kept a diary in high school and every now and then she pops out with an entry that brings back a flood of memories. Even everyday entries like ‘had lunch at (place) with (people)’ can trigger memories and start some lovely reminiscing.

On the 5th April 1970 she wrote:

Climbed Mt aux Sources, had lunch at the waterfall and climbed down again.

“My descriptive writing was still under development” she now says! She was thirteen at the time.

Leading us were Mother Mary, Uncle Cappy and Auntie Joyce Joubert, two older boys Etienne Joubert and Whitey Fourie, myself, Sheila and Deon Joubert.

– the chain ladder around that era –

The feature pic of the chainladder is more recent – to show the surroundings – the second chain ladder on the right in that pic was added long after 1970. For wimps.

– the view from the edge of the amphitheatre near the lip of the Tugela Falls – taken September 1972 –
– the view of where we had lunch – taken from further east – internet pic –
– myself, Sheila The Diarist and Bets Key (nearest) on the edge – on a more recent trip –
– this was either 1993 or 1998 –
– a 1973 pic of the starting point of the hike – Sheila in matric here – wearing the white jacket –

~~~oo0oo~~~

Around April 1970:

Rhodesia under Ian Smith had just declared UDI, severing their last ties with Britain;

The 27 Club started, with Brian Jones, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, and Jim Morrison all dying at the age of 27 between 1969 and 1971.

Jumbo jet 747’s had been flying for about a year;

Apollo 13 was in space, having gone to the moon but not landed, after an oxygen tank had malfunctioned; The first moon landing had been eight months earlier;

We were singing 1969 and 1970 hits like – All Kinds Of Everything; Mama Told Me Not To Come; Build Me Up Buttercup; Crimson and Clover; Proud Mary; Come Together; and many MANY more! In the Summertime; My Baby Loves Lovin’; Ma Belle Amie; Yellow River; Beatles hits; Elvis hits; Creedence hits – a long list, seared into our memories, never to be forgotten.

~~~oo0oo~~~

I’ve never forgotten “kickin’ and a-gougin’ in the mud and the blood and the beer . . “

Chopin Mom Used to Play – Fantaisie-Impromptu Op.66

No.4 in a series of Chopin pieces our Mother Mary would play. Our childhood was filled with sublime music emanating from down the passage. I have invited sundry pianists to play them here as I have very few recordings on Mom’s classical playing!

Thank you, guest artists and youtube for standing in for Mom!

Mom still plays at 91, but can’t read the music anymore, so she plays her huge repertoire of popular songs from the 30’s to the 60’s maybe – ‘off by heart.’ I’ll post some of those later – with the REAL person playing!

Chopin Mom Used to Play – Waltz in C sharp minor Op.64 – 2

No.3 in a series of Chopin pieces our Mother Mary would play in our lounge in Harrismith back in the Sixties. Our childhood was filled with sublime music emanating from down the passage. I have invited sundry pianists to play them here as I have very few recordings on Mom’s classical playing! Thank you, guest artists and youtube!

Chopin Mom Used to Play – Minute Waltz

No.2 in a series – Mother Mary would play the Bentley upright piano in our lounge. My childhood was filled with sublime music emanating from down the passage.

SO: I have invited some lesser pianists to play in her stead. Thanks to them and to youtube!

Chopin Mom Used to Play – Grande Valse Brillante Op.18

Mother Mary would play the Bentley upright piano in our lounge. My childhood was filled with sublime music emanating from down the passage. My memory bank is filled with wonderful sounds that bring back mostly happy memories! At 91 she now plays her popular pieces from memory. Her classical pieces she would read the music – she can’t see well enough to do that anymore. Sister Sheila has recorded many of her popular songs, but we have few of her classics. A great pity. SO: I have invited some lesser (! I am slightly biased) pianists to play in her stead. Thanks to them and to youtube we can hear the music again!

Here’s No.1 – enjoy!

Buckle the Blacksmith

After Maritzburg College, Dad joined the General Post Office as an apprentice electrician. Around 1st April 1938. Here’s a spirit level he was issued that day:

– Spirit level – Wilson Lovatt & sons Wolverhampton –

While he was still apprenticing, he tried to enlist to join the WW2 war effort, but was sent back. He was transferred to Harrismith, from where he again made his way to Durban and was sent home again, finally being allowed to join after Oupa gave his reluctant blessing. He left for ‘up north’ in 1941.

While in Harrismith ca.1940, he met old Mr Buckle the Blacksmith down in McKechnie street, near the railway station. He was from England.

He ended up with a few tools from old man Buckle: a back saw and a set square with a beautiful brass inlay and brass leading edge.

Dad stayed on a plot outside town – townlands – and bought horses, schooled them and sold them for a profit. I assumed he’d had them shod by Buckle but he corrected me. Buckle was a blacksmith, upholsterer and wagon-maker. He didn’t shoe horses. That was up to Charlie Rustov, Harrismith’s only farrier.

From his plot out west of town he would ride out to Boschetto Agricultural College for Ladies on the slopes of Platberg, the mountain that dominates the town. Boschetto was where the girls were. The first time he went he met the formidable Miss Norah Miller, the founder and principal. Luckily for him she needed something done, he was able to help and so became a firm favourite of hers from the outset.

While he was telling the story Mom remembered a story about Norah: She knocked on someone’s door. Whoever answered went back and was asked ‘Who was there?’

They said, I don’t know, but she’s got one eye, one leg and a hell of a cough! Norah had one lens of her glasses frosted out, she wore a leg brace (probably childhood polio?) and smoked like a chimney. When her leg brace buckled, Dr Frank Reitz made her a new one. A better one. He would have loved that challenge. He was a hands-on fixer.

~~~oo0oo~~~

Harrismith author Leon Strachan found some fascinating info on Norah Miller’s leg – it was not polio. His source, Isobel Kemp (Dr Frank Reitz’s receptionist for thirty years): It was probably osteoporosis resulting in a hip fracture in 1928, only six years after she established her college. Usually this would have resulted in incapacity and excruciating pain, but Norah was in luck: she was in the right place at the right time, and knew just the right man, bold innovator and pioneering surgeon Frank Reitz.

He operated and joined the femur using an ordinary screw to hold the femur ends together! This trick would only become common decades later, in the fifties. Thirty years later she was still walking – with difficulty, but still mobile, and in charge of her college. When Cedara took over Boschetto she moved there, where she died in 1959, aged 79.

~~~oo0oo~~~

Random Ancestors – #1 Ginger Bain

I know little about my ancestors, so when a friendly Essex wideboy who is into genealogy liked one of my posts and spoke about an ancestor’s challenge, I thought I’d attempt a more modest challenge: Learn about family whose names are very familiar to me, yet I know very little about them.

Another prompt came from Texas, when old mate Free State Texan JP du Plessis asked, ‘Is GS Bain your great uncle?’ when he spotted him in a polo team with Dr Frank W Reitz.

Yes indeed, I said and so I’ll start with Ginger Bain, who I have written a little bit about before – about how his rugby genes were passed on to his great-great-grand-nephew. I notice he rode ‘Da Gama,’ captained the side and, the tournament being in Harrismith, Free State, they naturally won the ‘Duke of Westminster Cup.’ Right. Who’s the Duke of Westminster?

And did they use only one horse in those days? By the time I watched polo in Harrismith thirty years later, I thought each player had four horses at his disposal? Ah, I see the rules say at least two, up to four – ‘or even more.’ A lot of polo rules seem to be ‘by agreement.’

Ginger Bain was the first-born son of Stewart Bain and Janet Burley, who owned the Royal Hotel in Harrismith. Stewart had come to South Africa from Wick, a tiny fishing village in NE Scotland. Accompanied by his brother James, they ended up building bridges for the new rail line extension from Ladysmith to Harrismith. I speculate how that may have come about here.

  • – – – to be enhanced – – –

Flag Wappering

If it wasn’t for Arthur Kennedy the ladies of Harrismith would have had a more boring Republic Day in 1961. They would only have seen kids waving flags and men on horseback. Thanks to Arthur there was also a strapping male physique in a tight-fitting white leotard with a bulge in the broek. No ways the komitee vir die viering van hierdie groot dag would have arranged that. That needed Arthur Kennedy.

Here’s footage of the goings-on down at the pawiljoen in the President Brand Park that day. Preserved thanks to the old man Pieter Swanepoel filming it back then with his 8mm Eumig cine camera, and preserved thanks to his daughter Sheila recently having it digitised:

~~~oo0oo~~~

wappering – waving, fluttering

broek – trousers; leotard

komitee vir die viering van hierdie groot dag – prize committee to be on; demonstrated status and power; you got to have input into the celebrations of the day South Africa left the British Commonwealth – uiteindelik! You did not, on said committee, suggest that all South Africans be allowed to be present; if you had those kind of thoughts you would not be on the said komitee

uiteindelik! – at last! Free At Last! Thank Goddlemydee Free At Last! Oh, no that was Martin Luther King Jr

the flag – I know; I just prefer this one

~~~oo0oo~~~