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1_Harrismith 2_Free State / Vrystaat 7_Confessions 8_Nostalgia Family sport

Scottish Pith & Our Annie, Linguist

Steve Reed wrote:

Gotta love the Scots . .

… and their humour. Met up with Sam, an excellent Scotsman who came in for some glasses today. We were chatting about some of the female news anchors you see on TV. One of them, Virginia Trioli, we agreed is opinionated, superior, demanding and – from all accounts – a piece of work.

He sums her up:

“Ya woodn’t want ta be coming hoome to her wi’ only a half week’s pay packet.”

Later, I am handing him over to Ioannis who has the job of telling him how much his new multifocal glasses are going to cost (cringe) with some light banter … Sam replies:

“Well I am a Scotsman ye know. Every penny a prisoner.”

I packed up – had not heard that one before.

Probably comes up a lot in the local pub.

~~~~oo0oo~~~~

Me: So right! Gotta love the Scots!! 😉 – I must remember those pearls!

My gran Annie’s father came to Harrismith straight from the freezing far north of Scotland – a fishing village called Sarclet, south of Wick – but she sadly became heeltemal Engels – the queen, the empire, and all that.

The only Scottish she ever spoke to me was her oft-repeated tale of once on the golf course, waiting to tee off. The oke in front of them sliced off into the bush and said,

‘Och, its gone off in the boooshes,’ to which Annie quipped,

‘That’s betterrr than doon in the wutterrr,’ – upon which she says he spun around and said,

‘Begorrah’ (or whatever a Scotsman would say on an occasion like this), ‘Yer one of oos!’

‘Aye,’ said Annie semi-truthfully.

~~~~oo0oo~~~~

Which takes me to her THIRD language: Afrikaans.

Of her ninety years on Earth, Annie spent about eighty seven in Harrismith. She was born there, she went to school there (half her schooling) and she sold Caltex petrol to her Vrystaat customers there.

The only few years she was away from Harrismith she spent ‘down in George.’ She went to stay with her sister Jessie Bell when Jessie’s daughter died.

When she got there there was great excitement as they just knew she’d be very useful in dealing with the kleurlinjeez, who spoke their own Afrikaans and hardly any Engels.

‘Annie speaks Afrikaans, she’ll be able to speak to them and understand them,’ was the buzz.

So the first day the gardener needs instructions and Annie confidently demonstrates her skill to the assembled rooineks:

‘Tata lo potgieter and water lo flowers’ she told the poor man who must have scratched his head at the Zulu-Engels mix in which the only word approximating Off-The-Krans was ‘potgieter’ instead of ‘gieter’ for watering can.

~~~~o00o~~~~

One more Harrismith Scots joke I’ve told you before, but I’ll add it to this collection:
Jock Grant arrives from Scotland full of bravado, bulldust, enterprise and vigour.

He’s a plumber – a plooomerr – but soon he’s bought the stone quarry, bought the Montrose Motel in Swinburne, bought the Shell garage, bought a big white Mk 10 Jag and smokes fat cigars.

In the pub at the golf club he removes the cigar from his lips, waves it around and tells the guys he’s started Afrikaans lessons – he’s going to learn to speak Afrikaans.

Jannie du Plessis looked concerned. ‘Jock,’ he says, ‘We think you should rather learn to speak English first.’

~~~~oo0oo~~~~

heeltemal – completely

kleurlinjeez – a vague racial classification in apartheid times – and still in use today! Not black, not white, therefore ‘coloured’; actual word: kleurlinge

rooineks – people congenitally unable to speak Afrikaans, try as they might; actually, try as they don’t

~~~~oo0oo~~~~

Categories
1_Harrismith 2_Free State / Vrystaat 8_Nostalgia

Abe Sparks

I thought of Abe Sparks as the “Lord Mayor of Swinburne”.

Ever since he went to Texas he wore a stetson, cowboy boots and a string tie with a polished stone clasp. He was a larger than life character, colourful. He and Lulu were always very friendly to me. He drove an old Rolls Royce which he’d converted into a pickup truck, a bakkie. It looked something like the silver one in the pic. I think a darker colour, though, like the one below.

I have a clear childhood memory of it parked in Stuart Street near the corner of Retief Street, opposite the Post Office. Near Havenga’s. Near Basil’s Cafe. Near the corner Kovisco Butchery. Opposite Herano Hof. Opposite that Co-Op building. You know. Uncle Abe staring down at me with a big smile: ‘How are you Koosie?’

– 1915 Silver Ghost bakkie in Western Australia – a Roller ute –
– 1926 Silver Ghost bakkie in California – a Rolls pickup truck –

Abe owned the Swinburne Hotel which became the Montrose Motel, later bought by Jock Grant; scene of an interesting brandy-filled night many years later.

He and Lulu would throw big parties and the story goes . . yes, the old story goes – Rural Legend Alert! – that one night they decided to cook the mushrooms they had gathered in the veld / garden / woods that day. To be safe they fed some to the dog and asked the kitchen staff to keep an eye on it for the next hour or so. They continued partying up a storm with the grog flowing and then ate supper and carried on until one of the staff came in to say “Baas die hond is dood”.

Panic ensued as they all bundled into cars and rushed off to the Harrismith Hospital twelve miles away, had their stomachs pumped out and returned much later to the farm looking chastened, wan and sober.

Next morning Abe asked to see the dog and was shown where it lay dead and mangled. It had been run over by a passing car.

I imagine a pinch of salt was added to the wild mushrooms.

~~~~oo000oo~~~~

Baas, die hond is dood – Boss, the dog is dead

——-ooo000ooo——-

Leon Strachan, Harrismith’s finest author (nine books), publisher, historian, military buff, farmer, jam bottler, businessman, tour guide and all-round mensch has a much better grip on Abe’s life in Swinburne. His farm Nesshurst is in the same area as many of Abe’s sixteen farms over the years. He tells of pub tales, a Swinburne cricket team made up of eleven Sparkses (one was even selected to play for South Africa!), brandy taken internally and externally, and how the sheer size of Louis Bischoff’s schlong displayed for all to see on the pub counter was one of the few things that ever rendered Abe speechless.

Blafboom 1991, Leon Strachan – ISBN – 1-919740-21-1

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This guy Nudie reminded me of Uncle Abe: Abe would have wanted his car!

Abe Sparks Tailor

Dad tells me Abe bought the Rolls Royce from fellow Harrismith farmer and character Nell van Heerden.

An old-car-nut Aussie confirms another version of the old sheep farmers / Rollers rural legend thus:‘I can see why the conversion was done. When the Silver Shadow was introduced, it was unpopular with graziers: it could fit only two sheep on the back seat; the Silver Cloud could hold three.’

~~~oo0oo~~~

Categories
1_Harrismith 2_Free State / Vrystaat 8_Nostalgia

Jock Grant

Jock Grant was a Harrismith legend. “A legend in his own lunchtime” as they say.

Fresh out of Scotland he joined the golf club and announced to the usual crowd leaning up against the bar in his broad accent that he was taking Afrikaans lessons.

“Jock”, said Jannie du Plessis, “We think you should first take English lessons!”

He started a plumbing business, married lovely local lass Brenda Longbottom and ended up owning the quarry, becoming famous for his loud booms which would rattle the windows of the town at noon, as he dynamited rock on 80th hill on the western edge of town.

Then he owned Swinburne. Well, the Montrose Motel, anyway. Not much left now:

Montrose Motel2

The entrance was around the corner on the left and as you walked in there was a pianola in the hallway.

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Ian Fyvie has a story about when Jock went over to visit his family in Scotland. On his return they were playing golf and Ian asked him if he had enjoyed the visit. Jock’s reply was very non-committal and unenthusiastic. Ian said “But you must have enjoyed some part of the trip! What was the highlight of the whole holiday?”

“When I came over 42nd hill and saw the lights of Harrismith!”

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Nick Leslie tells of going for a walk in the veld with Jock and Brenda. Climbing through a barbed wire fence Brenda got her slacks caught. Jock said “Well your name’s not Longbottom for nothing!”

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Dad tells of Jock’s big talk which was most unlike most of their Harrismith friends’ more modest approach. Jock could swagger. He arrived at a party (always there were parties!) smoking his big cigars and between puffs boasted “He wanted *puff* six million *puff* but I said I’ll offer you five million and not a penny more *puff*”. When he left that night Hector Fyvie said in his quiet way “There goes Jock Maximilian”.

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Jock brought his nephew Morris Crombie out from Scotland to join him in his plumbing business. Morris was invited to join Round Table and at his first meeting stood up to announce himself. In his broad Scots accent the lanky Scotsman intoned: “I’m Mawriss Crawmbie – Ploomer” and probably didn’t understand why the whole room collapsed with laughter.

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Mom was dancing with Jock at yet another party on Swiss Valley, the Venning’s farm. “Och, its smoky in here, I’m going oot fir a breath a fresh air” said Jock. Mom thought that was rich as he’d been smoking his cigars like a chimney, causing the haze indoors. He was soon back, muttering “I toook one deep breath ootside and I came running back in!” (He was referring, of course, to the famously strong smell of pigshit from the piggery).

Whenever any new guests on the farm referred to the smell the Venning they mentioned it to would look mystified, sniff around cautiously and then pronounce seriously “I smell money”.

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Categories
1_Harrismith 2_Free State / Vrystaat 6_Canoe & Kayak Rivers 7_Confessions 8_Nostalgia sport

River Trip Swinburne – Harrismith

Fluffy Crawley and I were dropped off in Swinburne on the banks of the Mighty Vulgar in the grounds of the Montrose Motel with our open red and blue fibreglass canoe by my Old Man. We were aiming to head off downstream, camp overnight and finish in Harrismith the next day. This was circa 1970.

But we bumped into the inimitable Ian Grant who persuaded us to spend the night at Montrose. His folks Jock & Brenda owned Montrose. They agreed to let us sleep in one of the rondawels.

Swinburne, Montrose Motel
– what was left of the motel in 2012 –

As evening fell Ian was up to mischief as always, and soon after dark one of the petrol attendants snuck up and slipped us a litre bottle of brandy. Ian organised a litre bottle of cream soda and we were set for nonsense. After a couple of quick shots I suggested we hang around and let the alcohol take effect and let the laughing begin, but as I was in the bathroom taking a leak I overheard Ian mutter “Fuck him, I’m drinking the lot!” so I  came out and said “Pour!”

Well Ian was first and I stuck a bucket under his chin as his technicolor yawn started. Just then I heard HURGH! from Fluffy so I grabbed the little wastepaper bin from the bathroom and stuck it under his chin. It was a lumpy laughter duet.

Early the next morning I woke Fluffy and said “Come!” and we carried the red-decked boat to the river and launched it onto the muddy waters. Well, actually “launched” it because it touched bottom.

Swinburne-bridge-1
– we launched – and ran aground – under the old sandstone road bridge –

The river was so low we didn’t even get our shoelaces wet! A long spell of carrying the boat on our shoulders, stopping for a hurl, carrying a while till another stop for a chunder ensued till we found deeper water and a settled stomach and could paddle home.

Fluffy remembers: “The river was terribly low and we did a lot of foot work crossing or by-passing the rapids. We made it in one day, no overnight stop. Your Dad picked us up in town under the old ‘ysterbrug’.

Harrismith-Hamilton-bridge
– we finished under the old Hamilton bridge in Harrismith –

~~~oo0oo~~~

Dave Walker tells of a Tugela trip or race with Clive Curson when they broke and had to carry their boat for miles. They christened their trip Walkin’ an Cursin’.

Mine with Fluffy Crawley would then be Walkin’ an Crawlin’.

~~~oo0oo~~~

Just been given a picture of the very craft we paddled. Sister Sheila, keeper of the archives, had it.

– the Fluffy-Koos Swinburne Expedition craft –

~~~oo0oo~~~