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1_Harrismith 2_Free State / Vrystaat 8_Nostalgia Family sport

Polo in Harrismith

The first recorded polo game in South Africa took place in October 1874 at the King Williams Town Parade Ground between the Gordon Highlanders and the Cape Mounted Rifles.

The Military Ninth Division played during the 1880s at Harrismith, Orange Free State.

Polo was played in Cape Town in 1885 at a club formed by army officers, and in Natal by the officers stationed at Fort Napier, in Pietermaritzburg; a year later, they formed the Garrison Polo Club.

Play in Transvaal began in Johannesburg in 1894, when the owner of the Goldfields Hotel founded a polo club. The game was dominated by the military, but civilian clubs sprouted in several places.

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Someone must have the history of Harrismith polo. I hope. The first polo field I remember was in the sixties on the far side of the railway tracks; you drove under the subway to get there. Across the road was the sportsfields: a hockey field and then the cricket oval. Legend has it that Jimmy Horsley once hit a famous six across the hockey field, across the road and onto the polo clubhouse roof!

During a recent visit to Harrismith I spotted this on good friend Bess Reitz’s passage wall: Her Dad and Ginger Bain in the winning team!

SA Polo has a website with some history.

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Categories
1_Harrismith 2_Free State / Vrystaat 8_Nostalgia Family

Frank’s Death at 9 Stuart Street

Mom! Dad’s in pain,’ said Mary, out of breath. She’d run up to the Caltex garage in Warden Street. Annie drove her back and took her husband Frank Bland to Frank Reitz, his friend, rugby team-mate and physician/surgeon. Gallstones, a gallbladder op needed, was the verdict.

Mom was fifteen, ‘about to write my JC‘ – Std eight, Grade ten – it was 1943. Frank did the op and sent Frank home to convalesce at 9 Stuart Street, his mother Granny Bland’s home, his pain considerably eased; but he was weak, recovering slowly.

One Saturday morning he walked out to the wisteria-covered outside toilet, about twenty metres off the back veranda. Granny Bland watched him walking back, hand on hip as she always stood and wearing an apron, as she always did.

– Annie, Granny Bland, Jessie –

She spoke to him and he didn’t answer her. That was unusual. When he got to her he collapsed and she caught him in her arms before he could bang his head. They had no phone; it was a Saturday, Annie was at work, eldest daughter Pat was away nursing in Boksburg-Benoni. This time Mary didn’t run to the garage, they must have sent someone else.

Poor Dr Reitz’ says Mom, ever empathetic. She knows he would have hated it that Frank didn’t recover fully. She speculates that a bloodclot to the brain did him in. The funeral was soon after. Annie told Pat not to come down and she and Mom stayed at home. After the funeral people came around to tea and to pay their respects. Annie didn’t do funerals.

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The only picture of Frank Bland that I have doesn’t quite include all of him. It does have his daughters Pat and Mary, and older niece Janet Bell.

– I’ve just noticed Pat is on an aeroplane! –

Soon after, Mom’s dear friend Dottie Farquhar’s father died. Then Jessie’s husband __ Bell died. Jessie was Annie’s older sister and they lived in Dundee down in KwaZulu Natal where he was a dentist. Maybe the only dentist? Jessie then also came to stay with Granny Bland.

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When Mary aged eighteen came home on her first leave from the Boksburg-Benoni hospital where she’d also started her nursing, a phone had been installed in the house! Where? I asked. She showed me:

9 Stuart Street – later 13 Stuart Street

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