Harrismith’s Gold Cup

Harrismith had a Gold Cup winner!

First run in 1921 – or in 1926 ? – over 3200m for a stake of 2000 pounds sterling, the Gold Cup is Africa’s premier marathon for long-distance runners. It boasts a proud history and captures the public imagination. The race starts at the 400m mark in the short Greyville straight; there’s much jockeying for position as the runners pass the winning post for the first time before turning sharply right and heading towards the Drill Hall; normally many runners are under pressure before they turn into the home straight; the race is known to suffer no fools when it comes to fitness and stamina, and it takes a special type of horse and jockey to win the event.

And away they go!

Usually the final big race meeting of the South African racing season, the Gold Cup is often decisive in determining the Equus Award winners for the season. Initially a Grade 1 race, the Gold Cup was downgraded to Grade 2 in 2016 and to Grade 3 in 2017. Nevertheless, it is still the most important horse-racing marathon in the country.

1985 - Occult
– 1985 – Occult wins –

The distance and unforgiving conditions that prevail as the field go past the Greyville winning post twice, are great levelers and a look at the list of champions beaten in the Gold Cup is a long one, with less-fancied runners carrying less weight often winning.

Sun Lad won the first running in 1926. He raced in the silks of leading owner-breeder Sir Abe Bailey. The Gold Cup was one of just two wins for Sun Lad that season. He is frankly unlikely to be regarded as one of the race’s better winners.

The first horse to win the Gold Cup on two occasions was Humidor, who was victorious in 1933 and 1935.

And so to us:

Harrismith’s winner was the horse Rinmaher (pronounced ‘Rinmahar’) owned by the George Shannons of Kindrochart. What year? Probably 1932 or 1934?

Mom and Dad both tell the story of raucous parties on the Shannon farm where at a suitably ‘sensible’ stage the Gold Cup would be taken off the mantelpiece, filled with champagne or whatever hooch was going, and passed around to the ritual comments from the more sober of “Here we go! We’re drinking moths and mosquitoes again!” At least it had lovely handles to give an imbiber a good grip!

– that golden ‘Grog n Mozzie’ drinking cup –

Here’s a nephew of the winning owner on a slower horse:

– Jack Shannon on his Shetland pony ‘Suzanne’ on Kindrochart – with Peter Bell –

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Later: Sheila rousted Colleen Walker, granddaughter of George Shannon, who straightened me out on some Gold Cup details. She even had an earlier pic of Jack and Suzanne the Shetland. More questions: Is that Kindrochart? Is that George?

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May 2020 – Mom sent a message that I must phone her! She wants to tell me the full story of the brothers Shannon. Phone Me Soon does not mean that her cellphone will be on, or charged, or answered; so it was a full two days later I got hold of her;

And away they go! She took a deep breath and set off:

Jim and George Shannon left Ireland on a ship bound for South Africa. Somewhere on the journey they had a fight and fell out; They never spoke to each other again!

They reached Harrismith where they both became ‘rough riders’ – breaking in horses for the British army – I guess also for anyone else who wanted horses broken in and/or trained? Somehow and sometime, they both ended up as farmers, George on Kindrochart and Jim on Glen Gariff.

George married Mrs Belle Stephens who came complete with two daughters Betty and Bobby. Then they had a son Jack – some called him Jock – who also featured in our lives as a friendly, lean, handsome, side-burned, smiling, pipe-smoking, pickup-driving, genial figure in khaki. We loved Uncle Jack! He married Joan from Joburg – Mom Mary and her older sister Pat went to the wedding. Later Bobby married a mine manager and some people thought that was very important. Betty never married, stayed on Kindrochart, worked in town and became a beloved young-in-spirit ‘auntie’ of ours, always a smile and always a tease and some fun. We called her Betty Brooks.

Meantime Jim on Glengariff married Amy, and they had three kids, one of whom they named George, despite the feud ongoing! Maybe there was a prior ancestor George? Other kids were Marshal (died young, not sure what of) and Sylvia. George married Betty McGore and they had sons Jim and Patrick who we knew in Harrismith in the sixties. Handsome lads, Patrick maybe too handsome for his own good!

– Jack and Joan years later –

When the second of the original Jim and George died (I think it was Jim), Jack contacted young George, son of Jim, and said ‘We’re having a party. You and Betty should be there.’ And so a reconciliation took place and they normalised family relations. Up until then, their mothers Belle and Amy had been forbidden to talk to each other! She remembers that after a good few drinks and a meal and another good few drinks, the Gold Cup was taken down off the Kindrochart mantelpiece, filled with wine and passed around! George offered his wife Betty first sip and after a gulp she exclaimed ‘George! It’s full of moths and mosquitoes!’

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No doubt there’ll be other versions of this tale – and much more detail. But this is how 91yr-old Mother Mary fondly remembers the story of these good friends from days of yore.

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Elizabeth de Kock spotted this post and wrote:

This was so interesting for me to read. My grandfather, William Stocks, was a neighbouring farmer. We spent many holidays on their farm called Lust. We visited Aunty Betty often and enjoyed sitting on the big swing overlooking the dam. She gave us the use of a little grey pony (very naughty) to ride during our holidays.
As children we got our blankets from her shop in Harrismith. The shop was an experience in itself.
I’m 69 years old now and still have very fond memories of Aunty Betty.

I replied: Hi Liz – Thanks so much for commenting! Lovely memories! Betty was a lovely lady.

I’ll ask my mother Mary Bland Swanepoel (93) what she remembers about the Stocks family. I know I have heard her talk about the Stocks but can’t remember any detail.

Kind regards – BTW, I’m 66, my sister Barbara will 69 in January – maybe you remember her?

I phoned my Mom Mary Bland. She was tickled pink to reminisce about her friend! Here’s her tale:

She nursed with Margaret Stocks at the Harrismith hospital and they were great friends. She says Margaret was much bolder and naughtier than she was!

She once visited her on their farm at Lust. Margaret’s brother was there.
Later, that brother was killed in a plane accident in the airforce. His plane wing clipped a sand dune.
When she heard about it, Mary phoned Margaret to say, If you like, you can join me to mourn your brother.
Margaret said, No thanks, we may as well stay here on the farm and be miserable together.

Margaret married John Reed, a farmer.
A few years later, Mary took her two year old daughter Barbara and visited Margaret on the Reed’s farm near Belfast in the Transvaal. (I wasn’t born yet, so this was probably early 1955).
One day he was lying in the bath and Barbara wanted to go and see him. Margaret said ‘No my girl, you’ll have to wait another twenty years for that!’
Once in Harrismith, Margaret called out the houseman on duty for her patient. When he didn’t arrive, she sent her junior nurse (who she called ‘Ginger Biscuit’) to call him.
The nurse found the houseman in bed with the matron. He had to leave town.


Those were Mary’s memories of Margaret Stocks!

Liz Kibblewhite wrote again:

I was brought up on a gold mine just outside Krugersdorp and went to Lust during school holidays. If I remember correctly, Jury Swart was a neighbouring farmer to my grandfather William Stocks.

The last time I saw Aunty Betty was in 1975 with my future husband, spending the night with her reminiscing. We were on our way to Durban and I wanted to show him the beautiful Orange Free State Drakensberg and particularly Kerkenberg and the old farm before we returned to the UK.

Margaret had a twin sister Edna. My mother Joan was their younger sister.

I have been living in England for 46 years now and am proud to have passed a bit of my South African even to my grand children who live in France – they love bobotie and say muti for medicine.

There was David, Margaret and Edna, Joan (my mother), and Neil. Margaret and John (Umpie) lived in Pretoria after he left farming. Margaret died about 8/9 years ago and John before that.

Mary isn’t getting mixed up: Neil flew in Italy during WW2 and was decorated. DFC. The squadron was called 13th Hellenic Squadron. He also flew in Korea and after that a test pilot in SA.

I always wondered how his crash happened.

He was buried on the farm.

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A Day At The Races

We were talking of our younger days when we occasionally, perhaps, got up to some light mischief which pedants might have regarded as slightly illegal. Such as hopping fences without having purchased tickets to see international sporting events at Ellis Park Joburg – rugby tests and tennis internationals. One of my fellow culprits named Stephen Charles Reed mentioned that we even ended up getting good seats. And that reminded me:

Talking of good seats: Do you remember when you took me – new in Debbin (Durban) and you an old hand, having emigrated down there a year or two before – to my first Durban July! The Rothmans Durban July Handicap?

Here’s the way I remember it:

We dressed up in the best we had and stood in a long queue to place a bet on the first race. Took forever. Then we rushed to the fence to watch the race and our horse was running in reverse and eventually had to be picked up and carried off half an hour after the race finished or it would still have been running.

Durban July horse race

Everyone then went back to the betting windows to queue again to place bets for the next race, determined to throw away their money.

This left the fence, crowded as hell a minute before, quite empty and we spotted a bench at the finish post. We scurried over and occupied it and made a very intelligent decision on the spur of the moment: We would not place any more bets, we would not move from that bench and we would spend all our money on champagne.

Best decision in the world! We saw everything, we didn’t waste our money, we got a liquid return on every cent we spent; we got delightfully pickled and awfully clever and we started making confident predictions on which nags would win. We had a system, based, I think on the deep bubbly-inspired insight “Usually It’s A Brown Horse.”

Soon people were coming up to us to inquire who they should bet on! They thought what with all the champagne and merriment that we were obviously winning and therefore knowledgeable. We freely advised them on how to invest their hard-earned cash by consulting the racing form guide – Give Beau Geste a bash! we’d say; or Sea Cottage looks good! What? Not running? Oh, try (check book): Lady Godiva! We took turns fetching more champagne.

A wonderful day at the races. ca1980. Edu-me-cational it was.

I seem to remember Steve had also convinced some lovely lass to tart herself up and accompany us in high heels? Wishful thinking? Our bench looked like this:

No, wait – It was like this:

Of course, I come from racing stock and proudly carry the pedigree of having parents who had a friend who won The Gold Cup um, about half a century earlier. So I knew what I was doing . . .

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21st on Kenroy

Sheila saw to it I had a party! As so often, Sheila saved the day. Back in 1976 before there were rules and the rinderpest was still contagious.

Des Glutz threw open his palatial bachelor home, Kenroy, on the banks of the mighty Vulgar River to an invasion of students from Johannesburg and Pietermaritzburg. That’s because as a lonely horny bachelor Free State farmer he had his eye on some of those student teachers from Teachers Training College in PMB!

“Kindness of his heart” you thought? Ha! You know nothing about horny bachelor Free State farmers! Anyway, he owed me for managing his farm brilliantly when he went to Zimbabwe.

Sheila invited everybody – and everybody arrived!

Eskom had not yet bedeviled Kenroy so paraffin lamps, gaslamps and candles gave light. Music pomped out from car batteries. There was singing and much laughter. Except when Noreen, Jo and Ski danced their Broadway routine The Gaslamp Revue with Redge Jelliman holding the silver tray footlight staring in open-mouthed wonder at their skill. And of course, their legsnboobs – another lonely horny bachelor Free State farmer, y’know. Awe-struck silence reigned. For minutes.

21st Kenroy_party_22
– Noreen and Jo in the Gaslamp Revue, using available props –
– Reg dreaming bachelor harem dreams – Noreen Mandy Jill Liz –

There was also Liz and Mops and Jenny, Georgie, Mandy, Gill and Jill; Hell, we bachelors were in awe at almost being outnumbered – a rare event. We were so excited we got pissed and fell down. Timothy Paget Venning got so excited he walked all the way round the house smashing Des’ window panes to let in the night.

Poor ole Gilbert, Des’ personal butler, valet and chef – seen here in purple – and his men bore the brunt of the extra work!

He cooked and cooked, including a big leg of lamb which didn’t make the main table, getting scoffed on the quiet by ravenous would-be teachers under the kitchen table. Pity the poor kids who would have to grow up being taught all the wrong things by this lot in Natal in the eighties.

21st Kenroy_party_10
– Sir Reginald dreaming he has died and gone to heaven – with Noreen, Mops, Mandy, Jill and Liz –

These would-be teachers and pillars of society were wild n topless:

Koos' 21st.jpg_cr
– if the bachelors had been there, we’d have politely averted our eyes. Right!! –

Tabbo wore his tie so he could make a speech into his beer can microphone:

Koos' 21st Tabs Koos

Funny how Glutz doesn’t feature in any pics! Where was he? We know he wasn’t in his bedroom cos the TC girls raided it and were in awe at the impressive collection of bedroom toys and exotic rubber and latex items in his bedside drawer. No stopping those TC girls!

Ah! Here’s Glutz – Sheila and Liz presenting Des a thank-you gift for hooligan-hosting:

The morning after dawned bright. Too bright for some . . .

21st Kenroy_sunrise

A mudfight! said some bright spark – Sheila, no doubt – so Des arranged transport to the mighty Vulgar river.

21st Kenroy_Wilger river_2
– fasten seatbelts while I check the airbags, says Farmer Glutz, Kenroy’s Safety Orifice – Occifer – Officer –

After the weekend I roared back to Jo’burg in my brand-new 1965 two-shades-of-grey-and-grey Opel Rekord Concorde deluxe sedan, four-door, grey bench-seated, 1700cc straight-four, three-on-the column, chick-magnet automobile. My first car! Watch out Doornfontein!

koos-opel-1976
– 21st birthday present! A 1965 Opel Concorde DeLuxe 1700 in sophisticated tones of grey and grey. Note my reflection in the gleaming bonnet! –

Thanks Mom & Dad! And thanks for the party, Sheils and Des! Before we left, Mom tickled the ivories while the TC gang belted out some songs:

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The old man organised the numberplate OHS 5678 for me. The man at the Harrismith licencing office said “Oom, are you sure you want an easy-to-remember number for your son? Don’t you want one that’s hard to remember?”

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