Categories
8_Nostalgia 9_KwaZuluNatal Wildlife, Game Reserves

My Neighbour Dr Clancey

I didn’t ever meet the famous old sub-species bird man*, but for a while he lived next door to me in Marriott Road. I was in Whittington Court, he was in Eden Gardens; I found this out when I spotted a nightjar at my window one night and got very excited; I listened every night and finally heard it – it was the freckled; Now more excited – a Freckled Nightjar in the city! – I was about to announce my discovery when I read Dr Clancey knew all about it – it roosted on his roof next door! The Eden Gardens had a flat roof and it was covered in stones or gravel. Good spot for a Freckled to conceal itself by day.

– Freckled Nightjar – Caprimulgus tristigma

So after I found info on the bird; and after Aitch and I had prowled around the gardens of his hotel at night and found our first Bush Squeaker frog one rainy night (Arthroleptis wahlbergi), I went looking for info on the man (usual warning here: This is me, approximate amateur historian, using my valid poetic licence**, and giving my version of things – look at the references if you need accuracy).

Clancey was director of the Durban Museum and Art Gallery for thirty years until his retirement in 1982. He then continued as a research associate until his death in 2001, aged 83. He was a confirmed bachelor and the most ruthlessly dedicated and hardworking of ornithologists. He wrote a number of books of which The Birds of Natal and Zululand (1964), The Game Birds of South Africa (1967) and The Rare Birds of Southern Africa (1985) are now valuable Africana. Yeah, I hope so! I have two of them. So far my “investment” in bird books has been a damp squib.

– dodgy Pommy fraud Meinertzhagen with bustard –

As a young man ca.1949 he was a field assistant to the famous British military and ornithological fraud, Colonel Richard Meinertzhagen, a dodgy, lying, philandering Englishman who faked much of his life and got away with murdering his wife. They once nearly shot each other in a heated disagreement over bustards in Namibia. Guns were drawn before the hired skinner stepped between the protagonists. Sanity prevailed and tempers cooled. On another occasion Clancey fell ill in a remote spot and was abandoned to his fate by Meinertzhagen. Clancey was not given his due by Meinertzhagen in his writings – those who knew Meinertzhagen were not surprised.

In 1950 Clancey moved to South Africa, to Durban as curator of the museum.

– Durban Natural Sciences Museum is in the City Hall –

Years later, Clancey had a famous professional rivalry with Colonel John Vincent, one time head of the Natal Parks Board and himself an ornithologist of note. One one occasion Vincent had him arrested for collecting without a permit. His shotgun was confiscated. Undeterred, Clancey bought it back at a subsequent auction.

He must have rubbed people up the wrong way! Vincent Parker prominent atlasser and bird survey guru, in his 1999 The Atlas of the Birds of Sul do Save, southern Mozambique, also didn’t give Clancey his due, ignoring many of his records and relegating others to an appendix (‘subject to confirmation’), which ‘in most cases was quite unjustified’ (see the obituary in Ibis by Dowsett, Allan, and McGowan).

Clancey never had much regard for unnecessary luxury, and retired to a small room in a residential hotel – right next door to my Marriott road flat – in Durban. He continued to write papers, named 328 African bird taxa (more than any other contemporary scientist). The majority of his holotypes are in Durban Museum or the National Museum of Zimbabwe. R J Dowsett wrote: ‘I know of over 550 publications on African birds by Phillip Clancey, for most of which he was sole author (and not counting the sub-divisions of his miscellaneous taxonomic notes series).’ Later he increasingly devoted himself to his painting. His style was unmistakable, rich colours, attention to detail, and always the correct ecological background.

Any birder who has spent time in Natal will have seen these birds in just that habitat! Eminently recognisable.

Clancey donated his collection of some 5,500 mainly Western Palaearctic bird-skins to the National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh. He donated his collection over 32,000 bird-skins – a collection considered the finest in Africa – to the Durban Museum and Art Gallery.

And also – unbeknown to him – he was my neighbour.

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References

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* sub-species bird man? I think Clancey was that dreaded sub-species of ornithologists called a splitter! He keenly added sub-species to existing species if he felt they were different enough. He found many many birds in new localities, expanded the known range of many, and did find good sub-species. Plus, he did find one new full species, the Lemon-Breasted Canary Crithagra citrinipectus in the Maputaland coastal grasslands.

**

Categories
1_Harrismith 2_Free State / Vrystaat 8_Nostalgia

Buckland Downs to the ‘Fitzstitute’

In October 1902, just four months after the end of the Anglo-Boer War, Sir Percy Fitzpatrick bought the farm Dreyersgeluk near Verkykerskop in the Harrismith district from the insolvent estate of Petrus Dreyer, poor bugger. Fitzpatrick then got Herbert Baker to design a fine sandstone homestead, and to assist him in building it in 1903 – ‘but without full professional services’ (Keath 1992:104-105).

Baker, who became Sir Herbert in 1926, was an English architect who worked in South Africa from 1892 to 1913. His first job was for Cecil Rhodes on Groote Schuur; over the next twenty years he dominated the architectural scene in South Africa, designing the Union Buildings in Pretoria in 1910.

– Fitzpatrick changed the farm’s name to Buckland Downs –

James Percy Fitzpatrick was born in 1862 in King William’s Town, the son of Irish immigrants from Tipperary.

Active in politics and very pro-England, Fitz agitated for war against the boers. Calling for an invasion of the sovereign state he was living in! He was convicted of treason against the Transvaal state in 1896. Nasty! Being on the winning side, though, meant he was knighted in 1902. All is forgotten if you win, and what happened gets re-written.

As an author, his most famous work was ‘Jock of the Bushveld’. Written in 1907 while staying at Buckland Downs, it told about his life as a transport rider in the lowveld goldfields of the old Zuid Afrikaanse Republiek. The Jock stories began as bedtime stories told to his children. Apparently urged to publish them by his friend, famous author Rudyard Kipling, the stories became one of South Africa’s most famous books of all time.

Around 1910 Fitzpatrick ordered a large number of different varieties of oak trees from England and planted them in the shape of the Union Jack on about 35ha of land on Buckland Downs. Despite these two obvious anti-local actions, Sir Percy said “I would rather be a meerkat in Africa, than a millionaire in England.” Of course, he meant that only as long as Africa was under British rule.

Fitzpatrick’s daughter Cecily (1899-1992) later stayed on the farm with her husband Jack Niven. In the 1940’s the famous ornithologist Austin Roberts (1883-1948) used to visit them on Buckland Downs. Patrick Niven tells how Roberts involved the family during a 1942 visit in a collecting expedition to the nearby Spitzkop for specimens of swifts – probably at a nesting site?

Cecily became very involved in birds – her name is reflected in the List of Members of the Southern African Ornithological Society (SAOS) for April 1935, the receipt for her subscription is signed by Austin Roberts himself – honorary secretary at the time. In 1948 she established a Committee for Bird Protection as a subsection of the Wild Life Protection Society. In 1957 Cecily was the driving force behind the first Pan African Ornithological Congress which took place in Livingstone, Zambia. In 1960 she established an Institute for African Ornithology – now fondly known as the ‘Fitzstitute’ – dedicated to the memory of her father, Sir Percy FitzPatrick, through a £15,000 endowment (around ten million Rand in 2007 money) from the FitzPatrick Memorial Trust.

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A first edition copy of Jock is going for $7500 in 2019. And then THE first edition is for sale by Clarke’s Bookstore. I wonder how much that will fetch? Here’s the inscription Percy himself inscribed in it:

Illustrated by E.Caldwell

DESCRIPTION:

First edition, First impression. 475 pages, colour frontispiece, plates and marginal illustrations, dark green cloth with gilt titling and gilt vignette of Jock on the upper cover, light foxing throughout mainly in the text and on the page edges, with the drawings of a dung beetle pushing his load with his front legs rather than his back legs on pages 65, 337 and 457 and Snowball the horse being dragged out of the river on page 316 – these drawings were changed in later impressions. The spine is starting to fray at the top and the bottom, the bottom edge of the upper cover and the corners are slightly scuffed, housed in a specially made oatmeal textured cloth solander box with a dark green title label gilt on the spine, a very good copy of the first edition. Overall Condition: A Very Good Copy

5000 copies of the first impression were printed at a total cost to Longmans of £416. 7s. 11d.

Signed on the title page by J Percy Fitzpatrick. His full name was Sir James Percy Fitzpatrick.

Inscription on the front paste-down end paper reads: This – the first copy of “Jock”- “belongs to the Likkle People” and the mere narrator desires to acknowledge that fact in proper form. J Percy Fitzpatrick, Hohenheim October 1907

The dedications page reads: It was the youngest of the High Authorities who gravely informed the Inquiring Stranger that “Jock belongs to the Likkle People!” That being so, it is clearly the duty, no less than the privilege, of the mere Narrator to dedicate the Story of Jock to those Keenest and Kindest of critics, Best of Friends, and Most Delightful of Comrades, The Likkle People.

Fitzpatrick’s adventures – centred on his dog Jock, a Staffordshire Bull Terrier cross – when he was pioneering in the Bushveld, are vividly described in this South African classic. He used to recount them in the early 1900’s to his four children, Nugent, Alan, Oliver, and Cecily, to whom the book was dedicated – the likkle people.

Rudyard Kipling, an intimate friend, at some time took part in these story-telling evenings, and he it was who persuaded Fitzpatrick to put the stories together in book form. Having done this, Fitzpatrick searched for a suitable artist to illustrate the book and eventually came across Edmund Caldwell in London and brought him to South Africa to visit the Bushveld and make the drawings on the spot.

The book, which appeared in 1907 for the first time, was an immediate and overwhelming success, being reprinted four times in that year.

Extracted from his South African Memories pages 24 -25: Of course to those who have read Jock of the Bushveld he needs no introduction. Jock and Jess and Jim will always live in the memories of the Likkle People whom he was addressing and whom in every generation of young South Africans he will continue to address. The Likkle People have always loved Jock and his companions because they know what was being told to them was true and that it was all about their own wonderful country.

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http://www.krugerpark.co.za/sir-percy-fitzpatrick-kruger-national-park.html

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I had a dog called Jock ca,1970. Got him from the Jellimans who farmed very near Buckland Downs.

Categories
1_Harrismith 2_Free State / Vrystaat 8_Nostalgia 9_KwaZuluNatal Family Wildlife, Game Reserves

Little Switzerland on Oliviershoek Pass

I asked Leanne Hilkovitz Williamson about Poccolan / Robinson’s Bush and this brought a flood of memories:

She takes up the story:

I was born on the farm De Nook which belonged to my grandfather Elias Hilkovitz and was inherited by my father Leo Hilkovitz after the 2nd World War probably round about 1945, two years before I was born.

Dad built Little Switzerland Hotel on the farm and we made pathways through the forest called Robinson’s Bush for guests to hike to various spots: The Wishing Well, Protea Plateau, etc. I named most of the spots, and one that meandered in and out of the forest edge I named Hilky’s Way after my grandfather who was affectionately known as Hilky.

We sold the hotel when I was in my early twenties but the various owners over the years have kept the use of the forest and the guests continue to enjoy its wonderful beauty – it is wonderfully exhilarating to either clamber down Breakneck Pass from the Wishing Well or climb up to it from the road below. The path twists and turns in amongst indigenous trees, true and mock yellowwoods, and lianas and ferns along the side of a stream full of huge beautiful boulders in all shades of grey & lichen & dappled shade. So one experiences the mountain air, the refreshing sound of the steam  and always the melodious bird song. I particularly loved calling up the Mocking Chats and Natal Robins that mimic other birds and have a whole repartee of calls, copying them and they’d call back. A wonderful game that Dad taught me.

According to my father, Robinson’s Bush is the biggest natural forest in the Drakensberg. I wouldn’t take that as gospel. I’ve come to be a bit circumspect about those sorts of claims that locals all over the world tend to lay claim to!

Robinson’s Bush abuts on De Nook and we treated it as part of our farm. Dad looked after it although it is part of government nature conservation; at one stage in my late teenage years there were  two nature conservation officers who lived in a hut on the edge of the forest and tended it but that did not last.

I was there for my 70th birthday in 2017 with my two sons and their families and we climbed up Breakneck Pass through the forest and I showed it to my granddaughters and taught them the things my Dad had taught me.

Some of my earliest memories are of picnics in the forest on the side of the stream with our neighbours Udo and Margo Zunkle of Cathkin Hotel fame when they lived on Windmill farm. Udo would put small pieces of raw steak on the river rocks and we’d be fascinated by the crabs that came from all sides to feast on it.

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Leanne again later:

Hi Again

I put together a Power Point family history together for the family and we had an evening when I showed it to them. It started with the great grandparents on both sides and their cars and the farm in the very early days and the beginnings of the hotel and its growth as I grew up & went to HS Volkschool & then boarding school, varsity, etc. and then our children growing up and then finally the grandchildren from babies to present. I can never leave the farm & the berg for long & return there often – even if it is just up and down in a day – and I climb a mountain, drink in the soul food and return home refreshed, invigorated and together. The families also love it and visit but we have never all been there together at the same time & so  took advantage of my 70th to ask this favour. So we stayed in the timeshare from 24-28 Dec & had a wonderful Christmas & my birthday on 27th. We had a wonderful time and I was able to share some of my favourite places & stories with them just this once as you know how short attention spans are when kids are having fun. Didn’t want to bore them!

Pic of me on my birthday in my most favourite place in all the world.

Hilkovitz Leanne Little Switzerland

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Famous shenanigans: South Africa’s most notorious bank robber, Trust Bank robber Derek Whitehead, was arrested at Little Switzerland in 1971 at 3am on Friday morning the 14th of May. They had arrived at 4.30pm the previous day. A team of CID detectives from Johannesburg, the Orange Free State and Natal were involved in the swoop. After the arrest, the Whiteheads were taken to Bloemfontein for questioning

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Drunken shenanigans: Omigoodness; You don’t want to know . .

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Genealogy: Our Bruno the doberman was a Hilkowitz! Dad Pieter Swanepoel told me Leo came to town one day, called in at the Caltex garage and said ‘Come and look!’  On the back of his bakkie he had a bunch of little black pups in a box. Dobermans.

Dad chose one – he says he gave Leo a pocket of potatoes! – and we grew up with ‘Bruno’ – I only now found out he was a citizen of Little Switzerland! He grew up to be a handsome lad!

1955 Barbs Birdhaven tyre Dad

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Categories
7_Confessions 8_Nostalgia travel Wildlife, Game Reserves

Botswana Safari with Larry

Hey, let’s go on a safari!

Great friend Larry Wingert is out from the USA and we hop on a flight to Maun in Botswana. It’s 1985 and we’re bachelors on the loose with time and money!

From Maun we fly into the Delta (Tjou Island camp) in a Cessna 206. After many beers and wines a resident auntie starts looking enticing at around midnight but the moment passes.

The next morning a pair of tropical boubou fly into the open-air pub under a tree right above where we’re sitting and belt out a startling loud duet. Stunning! That’s a lifer!

– pic from afrol.com – see story on tropical boubou calls –

After a short mokoro ride it’s back to the plane and a short flip back to Maun where we all squeeze into an old Land Rover, fill up at Riley’s Garage . .

– 1985 Rileys Garage by Lee Ouzman –

. . and head off for Moremi, stopping just outside Maun to buy some meat hanging from a thorn tree. Goat? Supper. Our outfit is called – I think – Afro Ventures.

We’re a Motley Crew from all over. We get to know two Aussie ladies, a Kiwi lady, a Pom fella – 6 foot 7 inches of Ralph; AND the gorgeous Zimbabwean Angel Breasts (Engelbrecht her actual surname)! Unfortunately, she’s the Long Pom’s girlfriend (sigh). Weird how the only first name I can think of now is Ralph, the undeserving Pom.

Our long-haired laid-back hippy Saffer – no, he was probably a Zim, see his letter – safari guide Steve at the wheel is super-cool, a great guide. So off we go, heading north-east, eight people in a Series 2 Landie – “The Tightest-Squeeze-Four-By-Four-By-Far”.

Long Legs in a Landie to the rescue!

Anyone who has driven in a Landie will know there’s lots of room inside – except for your shoulders and your knees. Besides that – roomy. Land Rover’s theory is that three people can fit on the front seat, three on the middle seat and two on those postage stamp seats in back. Right! See that metal bar that your knees keep bumping against? That’s what Land Rover used as their prototype airbag. It didn’t work so they only kept it for the next fifty years, then changed it. By using milder steel?

– promotional pic extolling landrover luxury –

Previously a critic of Landrover design, in a flash I’m a keen supporter! Unable to endure the cramped space on the middle seat, the lengthy Pom gets out at the very first stop and sits on the spare wheel on the roofrack. I sit with my thigh firmly against Angel Breasts’ thigh (sigh).

More clever Landrover design features:

He stays up there for the rest of the week – whenever we’re driving, he sits on the roofrack! When we stop he has to pick the insects out of his teeth, like a radiator. I’m in seventh heaven. Mine and Angel Breasts’ thighs were made for each other.

– she was like this . . . the landrover wasn’t –

Birding: Problem Solved!

I’m mad keen on birding but I don’t know how these guys feel about it. What if they get pissed off? What if they only want to stop for large furry creatures? After all, five of the seven of us are fureigners. But the problem gets solved like this: The first time we get stuck in the deep sand, a little white-browed scrub robin comes to the rescue! He hops out onto the road in full view, cocks his tail and charms them. From then on I have six spotters who don’t let anything feathered flit past without demanding,“What’s that, Pete? What’s that? And that one?” I become the birding guide! Steve is happy – it’s not his forte, but he’s keen to learn.

– thanks fella!! – see http://www.wilkinsonsworld.com/about/

Moremi – and True Love

At Khwai River camp a splendid, enchanted evening vision befalls me – my best wild life sighting of the whole trip: I’m walking in the early evening to supper and bump into Angel Breasts outside her bungalow – she’s in her bra n panties in the moonlight. Bachelor dreams. Oops, she says and runs inside. Don’t worry, I’ve averted my eyes, I lie (*sigh*). That’s another lifer!

Chobe

At Savuti camp the eles have wrecked the water tank.

At Nogatsaa camp a truck stops outside the ranger’s hut, a dead buffalo on the back. The ranger’s wife comes to the truck and is given a hindquarter. Meat rations. They also drop the skin there and advise us to carry a torch if we shower at night as lions are sure to come when they smell the skin.

– internet pic of nogatsaa waterhole –

Another Lifer! Later I head for the tiny little shower building – a single shower – to shower while it’s still light. Discretion being the better part of valour! A sudden cacophony makes me look out of the broken shower window: The lady-in-residence is chasing an ele away from her hut by banging her pots & pans together! We travel thousands of k’s to see elephant and she says Footsack Wena! Tsamaya! The ele duly footsacks away from that awful noise. While looking out, I spot what I think could be a honeyguide in a tree, so I have to rush back to our puptent wrapped in a towel with one eye on the ele to fetch my binocs. It is a Greater Honeyguide, the one with the lovely Latin name Indicator indicator, and that’s another lifer for me! Moral of the story: Always carry your binocs no matter where you go!

– Greater Honeyguide, Indicator indicator- also from xeno-canto.org –

That night the elephants graze and browse quietly right next to the tent, tummies rumbling. Peeping out of the puptent door I look at their tree stump legs, can’t even see up high enough to see their heads. Gentle giants.

As we approached the Chobe river the landscape looked like Hiroshima! Elephant damage of the trees was quite unbelievable. That did NOT look like good reserve management! Botswana doesn’t believe in culling, but it sure looks like they should!

The Chobe river, however,  was unbelievable despite the devastation on its banks – especially after the dry country we’d been in. What a river! What wildlife sightings!

Zimbabwe

On to Zimbabwe, the mighty Zambesi river and Victoria Falls. We stayed at AZambezi Lodge. Here we bid a sad goodbye to our perfect safari companions. Me still deeply in love. Angel Breasts holding the Long Pom’s hand, totally unaware of my devotion (*sigh*).

At the end, our new friend and safari guide Steve gave me and Larry a letter. We read it on the flight out of Vic Falls.

– lovely note –

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Hopeful note: Larry had a camera on the trip, I didn’t, so I have asked him (hello Larry) to scratch around for his colour slides in his attic or his secret wall storage space in Akron Ohio. He will one day. As a dedicated procrastinator he is bent on never putting off till tomorrow what he can put off till the next day. Meantime, thanks to Rob & Jane Wilkinson of wilkinsonsworld.com, xeno-canto.org and others on the interwebs for these borrowed pics and sounds!

Edit: There’s hope! Larry wrote 16 December 2017: P.S. I will renew my efforts to locate some photos of our Botswana trip. If you saw the interior of my house, you’d understand the challenge. . . . OK, but if you saw the exterior of his old house you’d fall in love with it:

– 40 North Portage Path, Akron Ohio –

Terrible note: Update November 2019: Larry has since had a bad fire in the basement of his lovely home. Much of his stuff is ruined by the fire, the smoke and then the firemen’s water! He may not repair his home! This is so sad! Dammit! Pictures suddenly aren’t important any more.

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Saffer – Suffefrickin; South African

Zim – a Zimbabwean

lifer – first time you’ve seen that bird ever – or anyway in lingerie

Footsack Wena! Tsamaya! – Go away! Be off with you! Eff Oh!

pamberi ‘n chimurenga – forward the liberation struggle! in Shona

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