Phoned Mom yesterday and she started talking of her old friends.
Joey de Beer (Onderstall), Dossie Farquhar (de Villiers) and Ursula Schultz were big and close friends at school in Harrismith.
The picture was taken at their 45th matric reunion.
Ursula used to get comics, or comic books and I would visit her and her Mom and we’d read them. I felt sorry for Ursula and her mother as their husband and Dad was locked up for World War 2 as a possible German sympathiser.
Sometimes us kids would play cards while the ladies played bridge. Mrs Woodcock, Mrs Schultz and maybe Mrs Rosing would play. Maybe Fanny Glick too. Not my Mom Annie, she was at work, running her Caltex garage.
Joey’s sister was Marie de Beer, who became Marie Lotter of Havengas bookstore.
The conversation wandered on to the lovely stewed fruit Sheila makes for Mom.
Yes, I share it with my tablemate in the diningroom. I call her my ‘stablemate.’
What a lovely surprise! A story about ‘Scotty’ of 71 Stuart Street Harrismith on Harrismith’s best blog, deoudehuizeyard.wordpress.com.
We grew up at 95 Stuart Street. 1961 to 1973. About a kilometre west of us was Scotty’s sandstone cottage, set forward, almost on the pavement. Miss Helen M Scott she was. I seem to remember she gave extra lessons in her cottage. English.
She and Mom were very fond of each other and we all loved Scotty as she was always friendly and kind – and she baked her famous butterfly cupcakes and was generous with them! Like these, just better, of course! We called her ‘Scotty’ – like we called our gran ‘Annie’. Just Scotty. Just Annie. Lovely people.
She retired from teaching but went back for one year in 1966 when she taught sister Barbara English at the Hoer Skool.
Do go and have a look at what Sandra and Hennie of deoudehuizeyard are doing for Harrismith tourism and heritage.
My granny Annie had an older brother Ginger. He was the oldest of the seven ‘Royal Bains’ and a great sportsman. They owned the Royal Hotel and they were ‘Royal’ so as not to be confused with the ‘Central Bains’, who owned the Central Hotel! As fishermen from the tiny hamlet of Wick on the more freezing end of Scotland, they couldn’t really claim the traditional ‘Balmoral Castle’ kind of royalty.
Playing rugby for Hilton, ‘Bain of Harrismith’ became the bane of Michaelhouse in the first rugby game between these two toffee-nosed schools, where vaguely bored and lazy shouts of ‘a bit more pressure in the rear, chaps!’ are heard through the gin fumes surrounding the rugby fields.
Here’s the report on the 1904 derby – the first game between the two schools:
Drop goals were four points and tries were three in those distant days. I like that the one side was “smarter with their feet” . . and that being smarter with your feet was better than “pretty passing.”
A century later these rugby genes would shine again as Bain’s great-great-grandson – grandnephew actually – also whipped Michaelhouse.
I’ve included a lovely picture of the Michaelhouse scrum on top.
Rugby in Harrismith was full of Bains and Blands, seven in this team:
Handwritten on the edge of one of these is “He wasn’t ill at all. (illegible) just found him (illegible) “
By the time we knew her she was Annie Bland. Never ‘granny’. Only Annie. She was our dear Mom’s dear Mom.
In fact ‘Annie Watson Bain’ to me was the lady who died in World War 1 and whose name was on one of the monuments outside the Town Hall. She was our Annie’s first cousin, their Dads, brothers Stewart and James Bain, had come out from Scotland together.
We never knew our Grandad, Annie’s husband JFA ‘Frank’ Bland. They’d already lost the farms and the racehorses, and they’d moved to town. He had died aged fifty and Annie now owned the ‘Caltex Garage’, as we called it – one of the many petrol filling stations in town. At one time there were seventeen of them! Hers was on ‘Caskie Corner’, opposite our posh Town Hall which her father Stewart Bain had been instrumental in building.
At the time some called the town hall ‘Bain’s Folly’ as it was such an imposing structure for our modest dorp. I remember exploring inside it with fascination as a kid. High up in the rafters and steel gangways above the stage, with all sorts of ropes and chains hanging down and black curtains behind the red velvet main curtains; the backstage rooms, along the marble-floored passages past the toilets, the museum with the taxidermied animals – a lion, a vulture, what else? The galley above the main hall. I never did get up into the clock tower, come to think of it! Nor onto the outside balcony overlooking Warden Street. I wonder why? Locked doors?
Annie always spoke with great admiration of her late husband Frank – the granpa we never knew – and told me proudly how she’d never seen his fingernails dirty. This as she looked mildly disapprovingly – probably more disappointedly, she never had a harsh word for me – at mine. She called me Koosie and the way she pronounced it, it rhymed with ‘wussie’ and ‘pussy’, but don’t say that out loud. And don’t tell anyone. I had been out playing in the mud one Xmas morning with me sisters Barbara and Sheila and cousins Frankie and Jemma and we had arrived back muddy – on WAY more than our fingernails; we were made to wash in the horse trough – and happy, and run into dear ole Annie. I spose the ancient ones were a bit panicked as we still had to get dressed and go to church.
The car she drove was like this one, except faded beige, and OHS 794:
A Chevrolet Fleetline, I’d guess a 1948 model. It had a cushion on the seat for her to see over the dash, but under the top rim of the steering wheel.
It looks better like this. Omigoodness, are our memories actually in sepia tones?
She was born in 1893, the fifth of seven Bain kids of the ‘Royal Bains’ – meaning the Bains of the Royal Hotel. There were also ‘Central Bains’.
She went to St Andrews Collegiate School in Harrismith (pic somewhere below) . . . and then to St Anne’s in Pietermaritzburg where she played good hockey ‘if she would learn to keep her place on the field.’ She’s the little one on a chair second from left:
Medals Annie won for singing in 1915 from The Natal Society for the Advancement of Music. Both say mezzo soprano and one says 1st Grade 1915. (Must tell the kids. THAT’s probly where I got my fine singing voice).
She ran the Caltex forecourt and the workshop at the back, where At Truscott fixed cars. I can still see him tip-toeing, bending over the edge, raised bonnet above him and a lightbulb in a wire cage in his hand, peering through glasses below his bald head. She rented out the adjoining Flamingo Cafe and Platberg Bottle Store premises. At that time she lived in the Central Hotel a short block away across the Deborah Retief Gardens and I do believe she drove to work every day. Maybe drove back for lunch even?
Sundays were special with Annie as your gran. She’d roll up at our house in the big beige Chev, we’d pile in freshly sanctified, having been to church and Sunday school, and off we’d go on a drive. The back seat was like a large lounge sofa. Sometimes she’d drive to nowhere, sometimes to the park, sometimes cruising the suburbs. OK, the one and only suburb. Usually there’d be a long boring spell parked somewhere like the top of 42nd Hill overlooking the town and watching the traffic. Annie and Glick chatting away on the front seat and us sitting on the back thinking, OK, that’s long enough now. I’m sure they told us the whole history of Harrismith and who lived where and who was who and maybe even who was doing what and with whom. But maybe not, as ‘Anna’ and ‘Glick’ (as they called each other) were discreet gentlefolk. All of which we ignored anyway, so I can’t tell you nothing!
Later she got a green Opel and for some reason – maybe after she could no longer drive? – it was parked on our lawn for long spells. I sat in it and changed gears on its column shift about seventy thousand times. Probably why I (like most males in their own opinion) am such a good driver today. It was a Kapitan or Rekord like this, but green and white:
Annie died in Harrismith in 1983 aged 90. Looked after to the end by her loving daughter Mary. She was ready. ‘All my friends are gone,’ she told me. Her husband Frank had died forty years earlier, and her eldest daughter Pat had died around ten years earlier.
The pic of the Town Hall with the green Chev is thanks to De Oude Huize Yard – do go and see their blog. (Ah! Sandra’s blog is no more! They have left town! Sad). They’re doing great things in the old dorp, keeping us from destroying everything old and replacing it with corrugated iron and plastic.
Also from DeOudeHuizeYard, this information about the building that housed Annie’s school:
The Dutch Reformed dominee Rev A.A. van der Lingen began his years of service in Harrismith on the 6th May 1875 and remained there until the 12th July 1893. He and the church ouderlings built a new church on the site of the original building. The cornerstone of the new building was laid on the 25th August 1892.
Around then the Rev van der Lingen ran for President of the Orange Free State. In the hope of impressing the townsfolk and swaying their vote in his favour, he built an impressive house, the first double-story building in Harrismith. The townsfolk seemingly were not impressed though, and he was not elected. Later, with the British occupation of Harrismith in the Anglo-Boer War, the military authorities made the double-story building their headquarters.
After the cessation of hostilities, Vrede House (Peace House) as it was then known, became St Andrews Collegiate School (1903-1918), then Oakland’s School and finally a boarding house in the 1930’s.
Five weeks prior to the unveiling of that church cornerstone, on the 14th July 1892, the town had enjoyed a four-day celebration of the momentous arrival of the railroad from Natal. The festival was paid for by a £5 500 donation by the Free State government! Harrismith was now online!
The Other Annie Watson Bain
Here’s some info and pics from the Imperial War Museum (IWM) of the bombing that killed Annie’s namesake, Annie Watson Bain in World War II in France, found by Bain descendant Janis Paterson, raised in Wick, now living in England:
Filmed at a stationary hospital near Etaples, probably 9 Canadian Hospital three days after a bombing raid hit the hospital on the night of 31 May 1918.
wooden huts of the hospital show various bomb blasts but little fire
damage. Four coffins, covered in Union Jacks, are wheeled on trollies
A single coffin, also covered with a Union Jack on a wheeled trolley, is followed by a funeral procession of nurses, soldiers with wreaths, and a few civilians. – ** this could have been our Annie’s ** – The procession arrives at a temporary but extensive cemetery where a burial service is held.
taken off the IWM movie:
Seeing the acres of graves – another Harrismithian was buried here or nearby – and knowing about the “War To End All Wars” who would think mankind would go on to fight another World war just twenty years later – and then be at war continually after that up to today 2018 with no end in sight!? – – – Thanks, America! (* sarcasm *) – Update: 2021 and America says its getting out of Afghanistan after 20 years. Predictably, those making money out of death are screaming “Too Soon!”
Janis Paterson, Bain descendant, distant ‘cousin,’ who keeps a photo record here, visited the cemetery in France and found Harrismith’s other Annie’s grave:
Our two Annie Watson Bains, first cousins from Harrismith, born of two Scottish brothers, both hoteliers in this small African town in the Oranje Vrij Staat, at that time a free and independent Republic:
Maybe this Canadian sister attended our Annie in her last hours?
Edith Campbell, RRC, MM (1871 – 1951) was a Canadian nurse, one of the first to arrive in England in World War 1 to assist in the establishment of a field hospital. She served in both England and France, earning a number of medals, and was twice mentioned in dispatches. First she received the Royal Red Cross, first class, for her actions in England and France, and again for her bravery during enemy air raids at No. 1 Canadian General Hospital in Etaples, France, during which she attended to wounded nurses. For this, she and five other nurses received the Military Medal.
For gallantry and devotion to duty during an enemy air raid. Regardless of personal danger she attended to the wounded sisters and by her personal example inspired the sisters under her charge.
Janis Paterson loves flower arranging and has won cups at local shows. In 2014, one of the floral themes was related to the beginning of WW1.
Janis’ entry was a tribute to nurses like Annie Watson Bain and won the best in show award. We’re a talented lot, all put together, us Bains! The book in her arrangement “The Roses of No Man’s Land” is about those brave nurses. She thinks that people often forget what nurses like Annie had to endure. The person escorting the judge told Janis the judge was almost moved to tears. Isn’t it stunning?:
This was taken on my grandparents’ Frank and Annie Bland’s farm, Nuwejaarsvlei in the Harrismith district, eighteen miles out on the road to Witsieshoek. The farm is now under Sterkfontein Dam. The solid sandstone stables (‘five loose boxes’) were more stable (!) than the house, which was a long thin prefabricated structure bought from the British army on Kings Hill when they left town in 1913, eleven years after the end of the Boer War. Frank bred race horses. For a while . . .
Frank had the prefab carted out to the farm, then cut off a portion of the long house so they only lived in four rooms: A lounge, a kitchen and two bedrooms. They bathed in a zinc bath in the kitchen while Frank showered with cold water in a reed enclosure outside. Bath water was heated in paraffin tins on the coal stove. Lighting was by lamplight. The toilet was a long-drop outside under trees along a path of white-washed stones leading from the kitchen door.
Here’s older sis Pat pushing Mother Mary in their dolls pram in the farmyard. See the stables in the background.
Frank started to build a big stone house from sandstone quarried on the farm. Built on a slope it was level with the ground at the back, but ended in a high drop in front, which never did get the steps that were to lead up to the big veranda. The walls went up and the kids would roam around the big house, four bedrooms, big rooms, big kitchen but Mom says “no bathroom.” Frank believed in an outside bathroom.
The roof never went on. The builder wanted many sheep (Mom thinks 200!) to do the roof and Frank balked at that / couldn’t afford it.
Other buildings on the farm were a workshop, Frank’s office and a garage for his yellow ‘Erskine’ tourer. Mom remembers: “It had open sides; when it rained you put up side flaps.”
Later Frank bought a 1936 Chev Standard – perhaps like this one, but ‘light brown’:
Mom Mary remembers cousin Janet leaving the door open after she and older sister Pat had jumped out just before Frank drove into the garage. The door, she says, was “damaged forever.”
The Nuwejaarspruit runs from Nuwejaarsvlei down to the Wilge river downstream of Harrismith and then into the Vaal Dam. Sterkfontein dam was built on the spruit and drowned the farm under Tugela river water pumped up from KwaZulu Natal. You would now have to scuba dive in the clear water to see the farmhouse. The pictures are taken from roughly above the farm looking back towards Harrismith’s long Platberg mountain with Baker’s Kop on the left:
They called the hills on the farm ‘Sugar Loaf’ and ‘Horseshoe’. Mom loved the walks they would undertake with Dad Frank.
I wish we had pictures of the farm. Here are the only ones I have found so far of areas near the farm before it was flooded:
Annie also always drove. Frank said she always drove too fast. Years later the younger crowd John Taylor and Mike Malcolm-Smith said she should speed up – “to the speed limit”!!
Then the Blands moved into town – the metropolis of Harrismith – ca.1939 to start a petrol station and garage, having lost the farms. In September 1943 Frank had a colosistectomy for gallstones’ performed by GP Dr Frank Reitz. Mom went to visit him in hospital on her fifteenth birthday, 18 September. He died two months later, aged fifty. The next year when Annie needed an op she sent Mary off with Granny Bland to stay with Mrs Jim Caskie – ‘a huge fat lady’ – in the Echoes Hotel in Durban.
While in Durban they saw a movie “This Is The Army.”
Luckily Annie came through the ordeal intact. She would live for many a year yet.
Nearby farm neighbours on Kindrochart were the Shannons, George and Belle, with son Jack, a few years older than Pat and Mary. The Shannons also bred racehorses and achieved forever fame when they won the Gold Cup with their horse Rinmaher.
When Jack had outgrown his Shetland Pony his parents suggested to him that he give it to the Bland girls on Nuwejaarsvlei. He looked dubious but his parents encouraged him.
“Will you do that?” they prodded him.
“Yes, but not with pleasure” said Jack.
Recently Sheila found a pic of Jack – probably on that very pony!
Peter Bell (or Hastings-Bell) became a pilot in the Rhodesian airforce and tragically went missing in action in WW2.
Decades later, here’s Mary in 1990 cruising above Nuwejaarsvlei in a boat the ole man built, with her old family home somewhere underwater below her:
More decades later and I phoned Mary (now aged 92). She said she’d had a lovely night’s sleep and . . . see here.
The Erskine was an American Automobile built by The Studebaker Corp. in South Bend, Indiana from 1926 to 1930.