Mom: When the Colemans arrived in Harrismith for Ken to start work in ‘the milk factory’ we met them right away as Dad was a great friend of Ken’s older brother Wally. Wally had been his tutor as an appy electrician in the Pietermaritzburg Post Office back in 1938. I recall visiting Uncle Wally as a kid once – I think in Howick?
Ken and Jean started building a new house on the corner of Hector street and Berg street, the road that led out of town to our plot less than a kilometre away. While the builders were at it, some leave time came up and Ken took the family away, prompting Dad to opine to Mom, ‘I would never go away while someone was building my house! I would watch their every move.’ Right.
Mom’s not sure, but thinks Donald was already born when they arrived in Harrismith. When Anne was born soon after me, Mary was chosen as her godmother as ‘Jean was a great friend even though she was Anglican.’ Mary Methodist speaking!
Then Eddie was born and we were like this:
In 2015 Sheila wrote: Mum says when we still lived on the ‘townlands’ on the way to the waterworks, Jean would often ‘phone and say ‘Have you got a little visitor?’– once again her son Donald had gone missing and she knew exactly where he was – he used to walk all the way to our farm to visit his great mate, Koos. The two were inseparable.
Today in 2020 Mom’s version was slightly different: ‘You used to walk to Donald without telling me. I would phone Jean and ask ‘Is there anything there of mine?’ Maybe the strolling went both ways?
What started this reminiscing was Eddie sending me pics of Jean’s 80th birthday celebration in June 2008, when Anne and Eddie took her on a very special outing:
They got together for Mary’s 80th in September 2008
For years after the Colemans left Harrismith we heard about their farm outside Winterton. About how Ken built the rondawels and bathroom very rustically. But I never saw Donald again and only lately found out that I had heard from him once!
My mate Donald Coleman found, excavated and re-assembled a complete fossil back in about 1962. He was about ten years old at the time. I can see it now, at the back doorstep of their house at the foot of Platberg: About 500mm long I’d guess, every little bone in place. A stout, lizard-gecko-looking creature, it now seems to me. He found it thanks to the excavations for the new N3 bypass around the town which went right near the mountain end of Hector Street, which was where the Colemans lived. Wonder what happened to it?
To me, searching in hindsight, it looked like a Lystrosaurus. It could be Thrinaxodon, common in the Karoo 235 million years ago – and has been found in Harrismith. Or maybe Cisticephalus.
It looked something like the top picture, but completely whole, not embedded in rock. Paleontologists surmise one of the smaller species looked like this:
Dinosaur: “fearfully-great lizard” – as used by Homer in THE ILIAD, written around 760–710 BC. I looked it up: While everything said about Homer is subject to debate, the popular opinion is that he was a blind bard who composed and recited The Iliad and The Odyssey a few hundred years after the events described.
Tragically, Donald died around 1972 in a car accident, or he would have told us exactly what his fossil was and where it is. I want to find it and have it assessed. If it’s a new species I’ll ask them to call it Harrysaurus donaldii !
Our Swanepoel house
Pierre du Plessis’ house
Donald Coleman’s house
Area fossil was found
I got some feedback – via Sheila to Eddie to Anne:
Donald’s lil boet Eddie:Hi Koos – I got this e-mail from Anne today and it’s in reply to a request from Sheila about Harrismith days – I think the fossil mystery may have been solved! I did like my theory about the farm burial though! Eddie had said earlier: I have an idea Donald buried it on a farm we lived on near Winterton – just to confuse future geologists!
Donald’s sister Anne:Hi Sheila – my memories are very hazy. We left Harrismith when I was nine years old. The vivid things I remember don’t really involve school. I remember going up Platberg frequently for picnics at the Gibson Dam; the new highway under construction close to Hector Street – so it became our playground and Donald found a fossilized small animal all intact – that is now at a museum somewhere – I thought Bergville. I also remember early morning Sunday swims at the public pool – Ken (my dad) had some arrangement with the caretaker and we used to pick up children in the neighborhood – definitely you guys.
I remember Miss Nicoll – Donald and I used to go to her everyday as a kind of pre-school – she was a formidable old lady with wild grey hair – she seemed to be about 6 feet tall – but that was probably because we were so small. She taught us to knit – even the boys – and to weave cushions and do cross stitch. And every year we had our items exhibited at the Harrismith Show – with great excitement. As far as school goes – I do remember that Donald was left handed but was forced to write with his right hand – his left hand was actually strapped behind his back !!!! And he came home from school and announced that his left hand was his “home hand” and his right was his “school hand”. Poor thing ! The mind boggles at how primitive some teaching methods were in those days. I also remember a teacher that had a leather strap on a stick and she would creep up behind you and give you a resounding smack if you were being idle! Did I make that up? Sounds like something out of Matilda! I wonder if anyone else remembers such a thing. (Me: Yep. Miss Jordan).
I do remember what fun it was to melt snow on the little stove in the classroom. I remember swimming in the gala at the public pool and it was night time. As far as the children I knew – there was Lesley Wessels whom I idolised and thought she was so beautiful. Then little Heather Mackenzie who was so sweet with amazing hair and blue eyes and freckles! I also really enjoyed the Wood family – I remember Anne and Lynette and that their mother was a kind lady and I loved going to spend the night there . Then there was Marian Searle – a bit older than me – I used to play there .
I remember Joan du Plessis teaching us to swim and Ken impressing on us that she was a springbok swimmer and the best teacher we could have. She did a really great job and when we left to go to Bergville we swam in the Christmas gala and cleaned up! Of course I remember your farm too Sheila – and I was riding a huge tricycle at great speed down a very long driveway and the front wheel came off and I fell off and skidded on my face.
I remember the carnation milk factory Christmas tree and that Jean made me a dress every year for the occasion . I remember the blossoms in the middle of the road above your house – and each year Ken took photos of us so that we could see how we had grown.
Gosh it takes me back! Will email should I remember further ! Lots of love Anne
Just left of this pic was the Coleman back door where Donald placed his fossil; and not far past the house in the background was where he found it. Platberg mountain in the far background.
Pics from wikipedia by Ghedoghedo – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,