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.
*** – see IWM movie here – ***
The wooden huts of the hospital show various bomb blasts but little fire damage. Four coffins, covered in Union Jacks, are wheeled on trollies by soldiers.
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.
Stills 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.
Her citation read:
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?: