Categories
8_Nostalgia

Donald’s Fearfully Great Lizard

My mate Donald Coleman found, excavated and re-assembled a complete fossil back in about 1962. He was about ten years old at the time. I can see it now, at the back doorstep of their house at the foot of Platberg: About 500mm long I’d guess, every little bone in place. A stout, lizard-gecko-looking creature, it now seems to me. He found it thanks to the excavations for the new N3 bypass around the town which went right near the mountain end of Hector Street, which was where the Colemans lived.
Wonder what happened to it?

To me, searching in hindsight, it looked like a Lystrosaurus. It could be Thrinaxodon, common in the Karoo 235 million years ago – and has been found in Harrismith. Or maybe Cisticephalus.

It looked something like the top picture, but completely whole, not embedded in rock. Paleontologists surmise one of the smaller species looked like this:

– lystrosaurus –
– the location looks right – see the tip of Africa in Gondwanaland –
– the size looks right –

Dinosaur: “fearfully-great lizard” – as used by Homer in THE ILIAD, written around 760–710 BC. I looked it up: While everything said about Homer is subject to debate, the popular opinion is that he was a blind bard who composed and recited The Iliad and The Odyssey a few hundred years after the events described.

– lystrosaurus – another artist’s rendition –

Tragically, Donald died around 1972 in a car accident, or he would have told us exactly what his fossil was and where it is. I want to find it and have it assessed. If it’s a new species I’ll ask them to call it Harrysaurus donaldii !

  1. Our Swanepoel house
  2. Pierre du Plessis’ house
  3. Donald Coleman’s house
  4. Area fossil was found
  1. Hector Street Playground.jpg

I got some feedback – via Sheila to Eddie to Anne:

Donald’s lil boet Eddie: Hi Koos – I got this e-mail from Anne today and it’s in reply to a request from Sheila about Harrismith days – I think the fossil mystery may have been solved! I did like my theory about the farm burial though! Eddie had said earlier: I have an idea Donald buried it on a farm we lived on near Winterton – just to confuse future geologists!

Donald’s sister Anne: Hi Sheila – my memories are very hazy. We left Harrismith when I was nine years old. The vivid things I remember don’t really involve school. I remember going up Platberg frequently for picnics at the Gibson Dam; the new highway under construction close to Hector Street – so it became our playground and Donald found a fossilized small animal all intact – that is now at a museum somewhere – I thought Bergville. I also remember early morning Sunday swims at the public pool – Ken (my dad) had some arrangement with the caretaker and we used to pick up children in the neighborhood – definitely you guys.

I remember Miss Nicoll – Donald and I used to go to her everyday as a kind of pre-school – she was a formidable old lady with wild grey hair – she seemed to be about 6 feet tall – but that was probably because we were so small. She taught us to knit – even the boys – and to weave cushions and do cross stitch. And every year we had our items exhibited at the Harrismith Show – with great excitement. As far as school goes – I do remember that Donald was left handed but was forced to write with his right hand – his left hand was actually strapped behind his back !!!! And he came home from school and announced that his left hand was his “home hand” and his right was his “school hand”. Poor thing ! The mind boggles at how primitive some teaching methods were in those days. I also remember a teacher that had a leather strap on a stick and she would creep up behind you and give you a resounding smack if you were being idle! Did I make that up? Sounds like something out of Matilda! I wonder if anyone else remembers such a thing. (Me: Yep. Miss Jordan).

I do remember what fun it was to melt snow on the little stove in the classroom. I remember swimming in the gala at the public pool and it was night time. As far as the children I knew – there was Lesley Wessels whom I idolised and thought she was so beautiful. Then little Heather Mackenzie who was so sweet with amazing hair and blue eyes and freckles! I also really enjoyed the Wood family – I remember Anne and Lynette and that their mother was a kind lady and I loved going to spend the night there . Then there was Marian Searle – a bit older than me – I used to play there .

I remember Joan du Plessis teaching us to swim and Ken impressing on us that she was a springbok swimmer and the best teacher we could have. She did a really great job and when we left to go to Bergville we swam in the Christmas gala and cleaned up! Of course I remember your farm too Sheila – and I was riding a huge tricycle at great speed down a very long driveway and the front wheel came off and I fell off and skidded on my face.

I remember the carnation milk factory Christmas tree and that Jean made me a dress every year for the occasion . I remember the blossoms in the middle of the road above your house – and each year Ken took photos of us so that we could see how we had grown.

Gosh it takes me back! Will email should I remember further ! Lots of love Anne

– Me, Anne, Donald & Sheila –

Just left of this pic was the Coleman back door where Donald placed his fossil; and not far past the house in the background was where he found it. Platberg mountain in the far background.

~~~~oo0oo~~~~

Pics from wikipedia by Ghedoghedo – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,

Categories
8_Nostalgia

On Jumping Over a Rinkhals

This is actually older sister Barbara’s story. It’s her story because she was the brave one, and because she was about 50% older than me at the time, seeing I was four. She threatens to write it one day. In fact, she says she has written it down somewhere.

Here’s the way I remember it – probably modified by being told it over the years:

We lived on ‘the plot’ Birdhaven east of town on the forestry or sawmill road in Platberg’s morning shadow. One evening towards sunset we were playing in the back yard outside the kitchen door when Barbara needed to go inside to fetch something. Water to mix up some mud most probably? Near the door she came across a snake and took a flying leap over it (she would probably add ‘athletically’ or ‘gracefully’, but I bet there was a shriek involved about then).

I jumped up and ran closer to see a snake reared up and looking concerned. This caused me to show even more concern. Obviously it now posed a much greater threat, right? so I sensibly ran away, around the house and in at the front door. You know: Discretion? Valour?

After that I vaguely remember the black bakelite phone attached to the wall, the one you wound the handle energetically before picking up the modern one-piece ear-and-mouthpiece to give the live person on the other end the number you were looking for. I dunno who was phoning, wasn’t me.

telephone wall-mounted old

Here’s one of those phones in a museum

Then I remember the old man in the kitchen moving the stove with a stick in his hand and a box to guide the snake into.

I remember being told the rinkhals – for it was identified as such:  Hemachatus haemachatus if you’re looking it up – had “crawled into the back of the stove”.

And I remember being told that it was given to Tommy vd Bosch who would take it to the Durban Snake Park, poor thing – although I only thought “poor thing” years later now that I know it would have been better to release it where it belonged.

1990 Birdhaven Mum & Dad in the Kitchen
That kitchen door

Harrismith Birdhaven Rinkhals. jpg
That poor thing

=======ooo000ooo=======

The Rinkhals is endemic to Southern Africa. Though it resembles a cobra, spreads a hood and spits venom, it is not a true cobra and gives birth to live young. A grassland and wetland inhabitant, it feeds on frogs mainly, but also takes mammals and reptiles. When threatened it is very quick to disappear down a hole, but if cornered it will stand its ground, form a hood and spit, throwing the head forward when doing so, as it has a primitive spitting mechanism. The Rinkhals will also sham death very realistically, with its body turned upside down and mouth hanging open. Its venom is largely cytotoxic causing pain, swelling and potentially tissue damage. Bites are extremely rare and fatalities unheard of.

Categories
2_Free State / Vrystaat 7_Confessions travel

Woken by the Tamboekie

Harrismith was not richly endowed with pubs. It had kroegs, but pubs, not so much. So before the Holiday Inn brought mid-West America to the Vrystaat vlaktes, we were forced to drink and drive.

In those days the Road Safety slogan was Friends Don’t Tell Friends They Can’t Drive Because They’re Drunk Because Then Friends Will SHOW Friends How They Actually Drive Very Well When They’re Drunk.

Not as snappy as Speed Kills but nevertheless a very valid slogan.

Favoured watering holes were Little Switzerland on the Oliviershoek Pass and, because after a skinful you want to actually negotiate a whole mountain pass, the Royal Natal National Park Hotel.

One legend of Harrismith District Mobile Imbibing was Rob, whose surname will remain a secret because he might have become sensitive to this well-deserved reputation earned during his lengthy youth later when he was probably telling his own kids to BEHAVE themselves. And Speed Kills, and Wipe Your Feet, and Two Drinks is Enough, and Abstain until you’re Married, you young ‘uns, and other things that would have raised a knowing grin on the faces of his old friends if they had overheard this theoretical speech.

I mean, his rollovers (how many?) culminated in his lying on his neck on the roof of Steph’s white VW Beetle and when Steph said “Rob! Are you OK?!” he murmured “Shh! My favourite tune is playing” as he adjusted the radio tuner which had gone off a touch as the vehicle bollamakissied.

de Witts VW Beetle upside-down

Speaking of pubs, booze, cars and road safety:

The Catholics have it all wrong when they appoint Saints.

I mean NOT ONE of the barmen who put up with our shit has been nominated as far as I know – and they should be. They really deserve sainthood. Like the Little Switzerland barkeep who watched as we emptied the fine display of pampas grass in the foyer, stuck the stalks up our naked rears, set fire to the fronds and ran around the hotel corridors where innocent paying guests were slumbering, yelling “Flaming A’s! Call the Fire Brigade!” A pram was commandeered in the mock fire-fighting response – enough said, a grown man in a pram going Whee! Whaa! Whee! Whaa! – A fiasco.

Also a sainthood for Mother Mary, who loaned me her grey 1970 Ford Cortina to take an Aussie Exchange student there one night.

cortina 1970
like this one

On the way back I thought I heard faint snoring and a swish-swish-swish sound from far away. I woke up to find I was going along at a fair rate with tamboekie grass hitting the windscreen, Yabsley the Oz asleep on the seat next to me. I slammed on the anchors and got out to look. I didn’t have a clue if I’d gone off on the right or the left of the road, but following our track back through the long grass we found the road above the pass, reversed and wound our way home much soberer. Had I killed Michael Yabsley I’d have changed the course of Aussie politics, as he went on to become an MP and the Aussie Liberal Party’s federal treasurer.

There should have been a law against drinking and driving.

I do tell my kids to BEHAVE themselves, but I have a hard time keeping a straight face.

——-ooo000ooo——-

I found a 1963 video of Royal Natal National Park.

——-ooo000ooo——-

kroeg – males-only bars

bollamakissied – somersaulted; rolled

Categories
8_Nostalgia

Generaal Koos de la Rey, Lion of the West, and me

Koos de la Rey was the son of Adrianus Johannes Gijsbertus, so like me he was lucky he wasn’t given his father’s names. I could have been Gerhardus.

He was Brave
He is generally* regarded as the bravest of the Boer generals during the Boere Oorlog and as one of the leading figures of Boer independence.
As a guerilla his tactics proved extremely successful. He ran the Brits ragged in the Western Transvaal. 

*well, by us, his descendants anyway . . .

Gen de la Rey 2

He was Pragmatic
Before hostilities, De la Rey opposed the war until the last, but once he started fighting he fought to the Bitter Einde. Once he was accused of cowardice during a Volksraad session by President Paul Kruger. He replied that if the time for war came, he would be fighting long after Paul Kruger had given up and fled for safety. This prediction proved to be exactly accurate. Once the war was lost, he spent a lot of energy getting his people to accept the Treaty of Vereeniging, even traveling to Ceylon to encourage Boer prisoners of war to come home.

He was Chivalrous
De la Rey was noted for chivalrous behaviour towards his enemies. At Tweebosch on 7 March 1902 he captured Lieutenant General Lord Methuen (whose arse he had kicked earlier at Magersfontein) along with several hundred of his troops. The troops were sent back to their lines because de la Rey had no means to support them, and Methuen was also released since he had broken his leg when his own horse had fallen on him. De la Rey provided his personal cart to take Methuen to hospital in Klerksdorp.

Lord_Methuen02 – arse kicked, life saved

His Earlier Life
As a child De la Rey received very little formal education, and as a young man he worked as a transport rider on the routes serving the diamond diggings at Kimberley (so he probably visited Harrismith?). He and wife Nonnie had twelve children and they looked after another six children who lost their parents.

Me
Oh, and Generaal Koos de la Rey had a sister; She had a great great grandson also called Koos.
That’s me.

lodderssoutars-baldy B&W2 me

.

  • thanks, wikipedia for the war history, and sister Sheila for the family history
Categories
7_Confessions

Getting Around in the 70’s

School holidays. We have to DO something or we’ll go crazy!
Ma, we want to go and climb Mt aux Sources.
How are you going to get there?
We’ll hitch-hike.
Over my dead body! or words to that effect. NO, I think she meant.

So two days later we get home – me, Claudio Bellato and Carlos da Silva – drenched, muddy and weary, having reached Witsieshoek, but not the mountain, as the heavens had opened up, torrential rain turning the roads into quagmires. So the mountaineering goal of the expedition had been thwarted, but the main goal – having fun – had not!

Where have you been?!
To Mt aux Sources, like I said.
How did you get there?
We hitch-hiked, like I said.

One of our lifts was with one of the Trading Greys, dunno who exactly.
The rain bucketed down and I learnt a lot about driving in slick mud by watching him continuously turn into the skid on the muddy Witsieshoek road.

As always, Mother Mary couldn’t stay cross with me for long.
My companions on this adventure, Claudio and Carlos, loved it as much as I did.

The images show that same road in sunny weather years later. Then it was wet and gravel, not dry and tarred.

witsieshoek

~~~oo0oo~~~

Categories
8_Nostalgia

A Brief Encounter

I had skipped rugby in matric, then played seven games of high school American football in Oklahoma. When I got to Johannesburg I was ready to play rugby again, but as there was little sport at the Wits Tech, friend Glen Barker joined Wanderers club. He had a car, so I joined him and off we would go in the green 1969-ish Toyota Corona 1600 he inherited from his gran to the field in Corlett Drive for practice.

wanderers rugby2

I doubt there were 30 players among the under-21’s so we made the B side – probably by default; Opposition teams I remember were Oostelikes; Strathvaal; Diggers; Pirates; Rugged bliksems all.

At Strathvaal in the Wes Transvaal we played and lost and I was removing my boots at the side of the field when a senior coach asked me to please fill in for the senior 3rds – they were short. Their game had already started so I laced up and waited on the sideline for a gap. I ran on as a scrum formed and they got the ball. Moving up from inside centre I went to tackle my man and  – BOOM! was carried off on a stretcher.

Who knows what happened, but at about ten seconds it was the shortest game of any kind I’ve ever played! Those miners were built like brick shit houses and seemed to enjoy them some explosive contact!

The yellow & blue hoops of Strathvaal!

Strathvaal rugby

=========ooo000ooo=========

I played a short international soccer game too, once.

Categories
2_Free State / Vrystaat 7_Confessions

Farming Kenroy

I’m a farmer. I know I’m a farmer because I have the keys to the bakkie and instructions on how to run a dairy.

The instructions were flung at me outside the door to the Platberg Bottle Store in Warden Street along with the bakkie keys as the car taking Des and Tabs to Jan Smuts airport roared off. They were late and could miss the departure of their flight to Harare and on to Mana Pools on the Zambesi.

Were they written instructions? No, shouted instructions. The three-second short course on the finer aspects of dairy herd management: “You’ll be fine! The bakkie’s parked in Retief Street.”

O-kay! Let’s see: What did I get wrong? I ran out of feed for the cows, then bought the wrong feed at the mill and it was made clear to me I’d have to go back and change it; I had the farmhands look at me in amusement once they realised just how little I knew; I had Des’ horse King realise he had a novice on his back when I took him for a daily morning ride; And I had a cow get stuck in labour with a breech calf. I had to phone Kai to come up from Bergville to sort that out.

What did I get right? Well, I ate breakfast every morning. Quite well. Gilbert presented me with a plate with one egg, one rasher of bacon and one slice of toast, arranged identically on the plate each morning at 6am sharp. That I was good at.

Decades later my nephew Robbie told me dairy farming was all about managing your pastures. Hell, don’t tell Des, but I didn’t given his grass one glance all week.

.

=================

The picture is Kenroy but there were no ladies on the gate when I was farming.

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

Veld and Vlei

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.

– Veld & Vlei leadership course July 1972 at Greystone near Estcourt – middle left – Wagendrift dam on the upper middle right –

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!

– cosy comfy luxury tents –

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!

..

– that wall –

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 – http://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 were on the plateau on the right of this near valley –

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.

– chain ladder –

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.

~~~oo0oo~~~

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!’ (Mom did send it and thanks to Harriet vdMerwe she put sweets and dried fruit inside!). 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!

– my favourite, long-term frame rucksack – here seen on Sheila’s back –

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.’

– everybody 1972 winter course at Greystones – I’m sitting on the ground third from left – on either side were good mates – I think that’s Nev Slade second from left –

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 . .

~~~oo0oo~~~

More odds and sods I found, scanned and tossed. Warning: Boring!! – only for those who were there:

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:

– letter from henchman Nev Slade, quartermaster, Uys Patrol! Veld & Vlei, winter 1972 –

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

~~~oo0oo~~~

Ah, a mystery solved: We did NOT get completion certificates.

Veld & Vlei after-letter

So Hofland could not have been on the July 1972 course, I guess. Still, thanks for the photos!

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 lovely adventure.

~~~oo0oo~~~

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?”

~~~oo0oo~~~

– meningitis tablets –
– Uys Patrol preparations for hike –

~~~oo0oo~~~

Categories
2_Free State / Vrystaat 8_Nostalgia school sport

Rugby Free State u/13 Champs

It was quite a year. I had shot up and was the tallest blonde in the team. Coenie Meyer was the only other one, but he was a stocky centre and I was a lanky lock in the serious half of the team, the half that did the hard work and won the ball – only for the frivolous half to donate it to the opposition, starting the whole process over!

But our real strength lay in an outstanding flyhalf called De Wet Ras; and in great teamwork and determined tackling.

We were coached by a bespectacled tennis champ called Bruce who inspired us to give our all. His sidekick Ben backed him up and supported us – a kind soul was Ben Marais. We beat all-comers and moved on to play against bigger teams. We drew one game against Bethlehem Voortrekker 0-0, our ‘winning’ De Wet Ras drop kick sailing high directly above the right upright, so the ref did not award it. We beat them in a re-match 8-3.

We were the Harrismith under thirteen team of 1967, playing in bright orange, looking for all the world like mangoes complete with little green leaves on top and some black spots below!

HarrismithU13Rugby cropped_2.jpg

At the end of the season we were unbeaten and happy.

But then we read in the newspaper, the Engelse koerant, The Friend of Bloemfontein:

Free State u/13 Champs: 140 points for and 0 against!

And they weren’t talking about us – it was an u/13 team from Virginia. We thought: Free State Champs? Like Hell! We also thought: Where the hell is Virginia? That doesn’t sound like an egte Free State dorp.

Bruce Humphries phoned them and challenged them to come and play us. ‘No, we’re Free State Champs,’ they said, ‘Can’t you read? You’ll have to come to us!’

Off we went to Virginia in Bruce’s new 1966 white Ford Cortina and Giel du Toit’s tweede-hands black Mercedes 190 – about 1959.

Cars Harrismith_2

There we watched their second team play Saaiplaas, a little mining village team with an egte Free State dorp name. We cheered Saaiplaas on and exhorted them to victory! I can still hear our hooker Skottie Meyer shouting mockingly – he was full of nonsense like that, onse Skottie – “Thlaaiplaath!! Thlaiplaath!!” They beat the Virginia seconds 3-0, their first defeat of the season.

Our turn next and the Saaiplaas boys did their best to be heard above the din of the enthusiastic local Virginia supporters. It was a tight match but we had the edge, our left wing Krugertjie being stopped inches from the left corner flag and our right wing Krugertjie pulled down inches from the right corner flag. Yep, identical twins, find them in the pic. The difference at the final whistle was a De Wet Ras drop goal from near the halfway line. 3-0 to us to complete a bad day for ex-Free State Champs Virginia. Which they pronounced Fuh-Jean-Yah.

What’s Next?
Now Bruce Humphries had the Free State’s biggest fish in his sights: Grey College Bloemfontein. No, they didn’t really think they’d want to play us; and anyway they were off on a tour to Natal that week, thank  you. ‘Well’, said Bruce ‘You can’t get back from Natal without passing through Harrismith, and you wouldn’t really sneak past us with your tails between your legs, would you?’

So the game was on! That day the pawiljoen at the park was packed with our enthusiastic supporters and cars ringed the field. Our followers’ numbers had grown as the season progressed and excitement at our unbeaten tag increased. No Grey College team had ever played in this little outpost of the British Empire (yes, we were that, once!) before.

Another tough game ensued, but a try just left of the posts by the tallest blonde in our team was the difference: We beat them 8-3, all the other points being scored by our points machine and tactical general De Wet! Die Dapper Generaal De Wet!

What a year!

see: Not that Generaal De Wet.

Beating the Rest
When it came to selecting an Eastern Free State team, the other schools introduced a twist: Not only did you have to be under thirteen, you also had to be in primary school! This excluded a few of our boys, who were in Std 6 (Grade 8). Only four of our team were chosen. So we challenged them to a game. Bruce told them it would do them good to have a warm-up game against the rest of us before they went to the capital of the province, Bloemfontein to play in a tournament. Having been chosen as reserve, I was lucky: I could still play for ‘us’! Plus we ‘innocently’ added Gabba Coetzee to boost our depleted team – with their knowledge and permission. He was in Std 6 and just too old to actually be under thirteen. He was a legendary machine of an eighth man!

Ho Hum! 17-0

—————————–

On the LEFT: Bruce Humphries (coach); On the RIGHT: Ben Marais (assistant coach)

All Heads Left to Right: Dana Moore, Attie Labuschagne, Leon Fluffy Crawley, De Wet Ras, Redge Jelliman, Skottie Meyer, Conradie, Hansie Jooste, Irené Tuffy Joubert, Coenie Meyer, Peter Koos Swanepoel, Kruger, Kobus Odendaal, Kruger, Max Wessels

– I wonder what that trophy is that De Wet is holding? I cannot remember what that trophy might have been for.  ‘Handsome Vrystaters Floating-on-Air’ Trophy maybe?

.

We got word that Bruce Humphries passed away in about 2011. 
Go Well Sir!  We'll never forget that 1967 rugby season. We soared high and grew our self-esteem that year. Thank you!

~~~oo0oo~~~

Categories
1_Harrismith 8_Nostalgia 9_KwaZuluNatal sport

Just Call Me Wally

It was 1981 and we were new in Durban. We decided to watch the Comrades Marathon, an 89km exercise in insanity being run “up” from the coast at Durban to the heights of Sleepy Hollow that year. Those days it was easy to follow the race: You just got in the way, parked wherever and got out whenever you felt like shouting encouragement to the possessed. Early in the morning we stood near 45th cutting and soon the runners arrived. Near to us was a short old bald whispy-haired fella shouting enthusiastic encouragement and giving two-thumbs-up to virtually every runner, some of whom – quite a number – seemed to recognise him.

Once the last stragglers had passed we started to head off to Dave’s green VW Beetle, but noticed the old bullet seemed lost. Can we help you? we asked. Do you know the way to the finish? he asked. Sure, and we’re going there, we said, wanna come along? I’d love that, he said gratefully, and that’s how two complete Comrades ignoramuses ended up driving Wally Hayward in the back of a Beetle to the finish of the 1981 Comrades – a race he had run five times AND WON FIVE TIMES!

Well, you couldn’t spend a morning with Wally without hearing a whole bunch of tales and we milked him for more and fell under the spell of this warm and unassuming bundle of energy. At the finish we sat on the grass and heard an announcement that some old bullet who won the race decades ago was there and was going to do a lap of honour. The wonderful brave soul – I think Phil Masterson-Smith, the 1931 winner – shuffled slowly around the track to tremendous applause, none louder than that coming from Wally who watched intently, quivering like a bird-dog with a huge grin and a wistful look in his eyes. I winked at Dave and snuck off to the announcer’s tower and told them we had the 1930 winner Wally Hayward with us, and could they make a fuss of him, too?

They could indeed! And so, 51yrs after first winning the race Wally hit the track, totally surprised – but also totally chuffed – and ran that 400m with a smile like a truck radiator and his knees flying past his ears looking for all the world like an escaped ostrich! I bet his 400m time would have been way up there among the quickest ever for a 73yr-old!

Yes, Wally had won in 1930, then again in 1950, ’51, ’53 and 1954! He had run this crazy ultra-marathon only five times in all and won it every time he entered, the last time at the age of 45, a record which still stood in 1981. It was only broken much later – in 2004.

It took us a while to find him after his lap of honour, celebrity that he now was, but yes, he still wanted a lift back to Durban please.

I s’pose he didn’t know the way!

~~~oo0oo~~~

Six years after we enjoyed this magic day, Wally ran Comrades again, thirty three years after his last run and shortly before his 80th birthday. He ran a magnificent race, beating half the field and beating the winner Bruce Fordyce on an age-handicapped calculation. Bruce himself mentioned and emphasised this after the race.

Wally’s memoirs were published in time for the 1999 Comrades by a wonderful friend of mine, fellow Comrades runner and Dusi paddler Bill Jamieson. He titled the book: “JUST CALL ME WALLY”.

Wally Hayward 88

89km in 9hrs 44mins just before his 80th birthday.

~~~oo0oo~~~

Dave Simpson wrote to me on seeing this post:
Hi Pete,
Well this does bring back memories – 33 years ago at that! Actually, we originally only planned to go as far as Fields Hill.
When Bruce Fordyce past us outside the Westridge Park Tennis Stadium, with his bunch of early race ‘klingons’ and yelled out ‘Walleeeee’ as he strode past the great man – we knew we were dealing with someone special. The rest you’ve said.
Great story.
Hood

Me: I’d forgotten that! It was Fordyce’s first win that year. The first of nine.
In the back of my mind I thought we did know there was something special about him, but we weren’t sure who he was.
When he asked for a lift, did we already know who he was?

Dave again: No, we did not know who he was. When he asked for a lift, he told us that he was there with his mate, who wanted to follow his son who was a plodder at the back of the field. Dear Wally just assumed that we, like him wanted to watch the front runners.
As it turned out, Wally was wrong – we just wanted to be with Wally!

~~~oo0oo~~~

Among many other running achievements, Wally had also won the Harrismith Mountain Race. After the race, in typical generous Wally style, he called ‘The toughest race in the world!’ – just what we Harrismithians wanted to hear!

The Wally Hayward medal

Wally Hayward died in May 2006 at the age of 97. In November, the Comrades Marathon Association announced that a new medal, the Wally Hayward medal, would be presented to runners for the first time in 2007. These special medals are awarded to those runners who fail to earn Comrades gold medals – awarded to the first 10 men and women finishers – but still come in under the six-hour barrier first broken by Hayward in 1953.

Wally Hayward was one of the greatest ever Comrades runners, with five wins in five starts over twenty four years, then two more finishes, up to fifty eight years after his first run. Comrades Association chairman Dave Dixon said in announcing the new medal, ‘He had a remarkable Comrades career, and is still the oldest person ever to finish the race.’

~~~oo0oo~~~

thanks to brandsouthafrica for some of the info here – read how Wally was branded a professional and barred from winning more Comrades; thanks also to Bill Jamieson’s book ‘Just Call Me Wally.’ Bill was a great character, Comrades runner and fellow Kingfisher Canoe Club member. In his later years we would meet and he’d regale me with his stories and his worries. A lovely man.

~~~oo0oo~~~

Years later, Dave Simpson met another SA sporting icon:

~~~oo0oo~~~