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1_Harrismith 2_Free State / Vrystaat 8_Nostalgia Family sport

Random Ancestors – #1 Ginger Bain

I know little about my ancestors, so when a friendly Essex wideboy who is into genealogy liked one of my posts and spoke about an ancestor’s challenge, I thought I’d attempt a more modest challenge: Learn about family whose names are very familiar to me, yet I know very little about them.

Another prompt came from Texas, when old mate Free State Texan JP du Plessis asked, ‘Is GS Bain your great uncle?’ when he spotted him in a polo team with Dr Frank W Reitz.

Yes indeed, I said and so I’ll start with Ginger Bain, who I have written a little bit about before – about how his rugby genes were passed on to his great-great-grand-nephew. I notice he rode ‘Da Gama,’ captained the side and, the tournament being in Harrismith, Free State, they naturally won the ‘Duke of Westminster Cup.’ Right. Who’s the Duke of Westminster?

And did they use only one horse in those days? By the time I watched polo in Harrismith thirty years later, I thought each player had four horses at his disposal? Ah, I see the rules say at least two, up to four – ‘or even more.’ A lot of polo rules seem to be ‘by agreement.’

Ginger Bain was the first-born son of Stewart Bain and Janet Burley, who owned the Royal Hotel in Harrismith. Stewart had come to South Africa from Wick, a tiny fishing village in NE Scotland. Accompanied by his brother James, they ended up building bridges for the new rail line extension from Ladysmith to Harrismith. I speculate how that may have come about here.

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Categories
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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