1_Harrismith, 2_Free State / Vrystaat, 8_Nostalgia, Family

Annie’s Abodes

Annie was one of the seven Royal Bains in Harrismith. She was born in the cottage behind the hotel where her parents Stewart and Janet raised all the kids.

Cottage behind Royal Hotel Harrismith

Her daughter Mary says they were Ginger, Stewart, Carrie, Jessie, Annie, Hector and Bennett. Only Hector got off his bum and got a job – he went off to become a bank manager in Ndola, Northern Rhodesia, now Zambia. The rest hung around the hotel and had fun, got married, whatever. Ginger played polo; Carrie got married and left for Australia. Stuart did a bit of work on their farm, Sarclet, not far out of town on the Jo’burg road. None of the other six felt compelled to move on, up or out. After all, Dad was the Lord Mayor of the metropolis and was known as The Grand Old Man of Harrismith, so enjoy!

– His Worship the Lord Mayor of Harrismith”, known to his many grandkids as ‘Oupa“’ Bain –

When Annie married Frank Bland, she moved out to their farm Nuwejaarsvlei on the Witsieshoek road;

– I have no pictures of Frank! –

When the farm could no longer support the horseracing they moved in with Frank’s mother Granny Mary Bland, nee Caskie, now with two daughters, Pat and Mary. When Frank died aged 0nly 49, Annie and the girls stayed on. They were joined there by her sister Jessie when her husband __ Bell died; Then later they were joined by now married daughter Mary, husband Pieter Swanepoel, and daughter Barbara when they arrived back from his work in the Post Office in Pietermaritzburg.

Some time after that – maybe when Granny Bland died? – Annie moved into Randolph Stiller’s Central Hotel; She then left Harrismith for the first time in her life and went to stay with sister Jessie down in George for a few years; When Jessie died Annie returned to Harrismith and lived in John Annandale’s Grand National Hotel. John said to Mary he was battling to cope with hosting her, so Mary moved her home. Much to Pieter’s delight. NOT.

So Mary soon moved Annie into the old age home. Two years or so later, Mom remembers a night hosting bowling club friends to dinner when the phone rang. It was Sister Hermien Beyers from the home. “Jou Ma is nie lekker nie,” she said. Mom said I’ll be right over and drove straight there, she remembers in her red car wearing a navy blue dress. She sat with her dear Mom Annie holding her hand that night and knew when she died in the wee hours.

Her visitors the next morning included Mrs Woodcock and Miss Hawkins. Mom regrets not letting Miss Hawkins in to see Annie. She should have, she says. She remembers being fifteen years old and not allowed to see her Dad lying in Granny Bland’s home and has always been glad that she snuck in when no-one was watching and saw his body on his bed and so knew it really was true.

1_Harrismith, 2_Free State / Vrystaat, 8_Nostalgia, Family

Granny Bland

Part of the stone wall which surrounded Granny Bland’s home in Stuart Street, Harrismith; and the oak tree her grand-daughter Pat Bland planted.

– Granny Bland’s garden wall –
– The oak that Pat planted –

Our great-grandmother ‘Granny Bland’ was a Caskie who married a Bland who begat Frank (JFA) Bland who married Annie Watson Bain. Bain Sisters Annie Bland and Jessie Bell lived there with Granny Bland after their husbands died. Her granddaughter – Annie’s daughter – Mary and great-granddaughter Barbara also lived there for a while, some sixty five years ago.

The old home now has an artist family living in it and has been beautifully restored.

Granny Bland’s house Stuart Street – renovated again
1_Harrismith, 2_Free State / Vrystaat, 8_Nostalgia, Family, travel

Honeymoon Hudson

Mom & Dad went to Lourenco Marques in Mocambique for their honeymoon in 1951.

With cars being very scarce after the war, Dad looked around for anything he could afford. He found a Mr Smith selling a fifteen year old Hudson Terraplane 4-door for £100. It came with a spare engine in the boot – and the feeling that it would probably be needed.

Honeymoon Hudson.jpg

But it made it to LM – and back. Mom had to put her feet on the seat – the floor got too hot, even with shoes on. While in Lourenco Marques the Hudson started missing so Dad took it to a garage but the Portuguese owners couldn’t understand him. He tried Italian, which he’d learnt in the war. “Candela?” – Ah! Candela! Yes, they had sparkplugs and they could sort him out.

They stayed in a boarding house a couple blocks back from the seafront. ‘It was cheaper than a hotel’. While there they met with Frank Cabral a big game hunter married to some relative of Mom’s. They swam – Mom remembers the huge beach and the shallow sea with only tiny waves. They had fish for breakfast one morning – a whole fish whose eye gazed balefully at Mom, spoiling her appetite.

Outside the zoo Dad bought six parakeets or lovebirds with red faces. He made a cage for them and as they approached the border he hid it behind the large Hudson cubbyhole – there was plenty of space under the dashboard. So he’s a smuggler.
On the way back they went through Kruger Park and Mom distinctly recalls feeling very uncomfortable at how flimsy the reed walls of the park huts at Skukuza seemed when she thought of the wild animals outside! They went to visit an old friend of Dad’s, Rosemary Dyke-Wells, an old Boschetto agricultural college girl who was married to a game ranger there. He was the son of the famous Harry Wolhuter.

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The Kruger Park was opened to tourism in 1927 and after a slow start  – only three cars entered the Reserve in that first year – soon turned into a popular destination. Within a decade, 3600 kilometres of roads had been built and several camps established. In 1935, some 26,000 people passed through the gates. By 1950 a research station and rest camp had been developed at Skukuza, transforming Stevenson-Hamilton’s base into the “capital” of Kruger.

Some Kruger Park pics from the later fifties – 1956 to 1958:



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Later back in Harrismith when the clutch packed up Dad found out the Hudson had a cork clutch. He bought dozens of cork medicine bottle tops from the chemist and hammered them into the angled holes set in concentric circles in the clutchplate, then cut the protruding parts off as level as he could and it worked again.

When it came time to sell it he can’t remember who he sold it to and for how much, but he does remember Pye von During would pay £25 for them and convert them into horse carts.

Years later they came across one at a vintage car show. Dunno when this was, but this year they’ll be married 67 years (2018).

1936 Hudson Terraplane

Hudson Terraplane 1936 interior RH Drive

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Soon after this the Post Office moved Dad back to Pietermaritzburg following a back injury. They stayed in the Creamery Hotel – ‘a dive, but cheap’. They moved to the slightly better (but ‘very hot in the afternoon’ – Mom) Windsor Hotel. Mom took a sewing course at ‘the tech’ while pregnant and then, just before first child Barbara was born they moved in with Ouma Swanepoel in Bourke Street in downtown PMB. Mom gave birth at Greys Hospital in mid-summer, 7th January, then came home to Ouma. Mom remembers the Bourke street home being beautifully cool.

Somewhere before or after, they stayed in Howick, in The Falls Hotel.

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First ‘date’

Annie came to Mom and said ‘Peter Swanepoel has tickets to the Al Debbo concert in the Town Hall, would you like to go?’ He sat between Mom and Annie in the upstairs stalls, and ‘that was the beginning of their romance’ says Mom.

Al Debbo around then – 1949

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An old LM citizen spotted this post and used the pic of Mom & Dad sitting on the seawall in his blog here – but first he deftly tidied it and colorised it. It looks terrific! Thanks Antonio!

1_Harrismith, 2_Free State / Vrystaat, 8_Nostalgia, Family

Being Bland in Africa (one branch . . )

Our distant cousin Hugh Bland has been doing some wonderful detective work sniffing out the Bland family history.

Today he found the grave of Josiah Benjamin Adam Bland – he was born in 1799 in ‘the UK’ – England, I guess! He arrived at the Cape in 1825. He settled in Mossel Bay, where he became mayor and the main street is still called Bland Street. He died in 1861. The grave is hidden in thick bush on a farm in the Wydersrivier district near Riversdal. 

The farmer very kindly took Hugh to the gravesite. Hugh says you can still read the inscription on the gravestone – it’s indistinct, but there’s no doubt that it’s JBA’s grave. He says it was “quite a moment” for him – JBA was buried there 156 yrs ago and Hugh wondered when a Bland last stood at that grave.

Hugh put two proteas on the grave; then laid his shadow next to his great-great-great grandfather and took this pic:

JBA Bland's grave

Harrismith Branch of the Blands –

After Josiah Benjamin Adam Bland came John Francis Adam Bland, born in 1836. He trekked inland to Harrismith in the Orange River Colony with a small baby – John Francis Adam the Second – JFA II.

This started “our branch” of the Blands, The Vrystaat Blands.

John Francis Adam Bland II married Mary Caskie, who became the beloved Granny Bland of Harrismith. They had five sons of whom our grandfather Frank was the oldest, called JFA the Third; JFA III.

Hugh found out that JFA the First died on 10 September 1891 aged 55, and is buried in the lost metropolis of Senekal, Vrystaat. In Harrismith Granny Bland buried her husband JFA II and four of her five boys, including JFA III – as Sheila says, ‘What a tragic life.’ She did live long enough to know us, her great grandkids before she died in 1959. Lucky Granny Bland! We knew Bunty, the only child who outlived her, very well. He died in 1974 and joined his father JFA II, his mother, and his four brothers in the family grave in Harrismith.

JFA III married Annie Watson Bain – our granny Annie Bland. Known as just Annie. They farmed racehorses and clean fingernails on the farm Nuwejaarspruit outside Harrismith on the road to Witsieshoek, towards the Drakensberg. He died ca 1943 while my Mom Mary and her sister Pat were still at school. Pat died in 1974. Mom Mary then looked after Annie until she died aged ninety in 1983. Mom Mary is still alive and well. She turned ninety in September 2018.

(I’m hoping sister Sheila will fact-check me here! Also that cousin Hugh will tell us what happened to the misguided Bland branch that didn’t go to the Vrystaat, but got lost and ended up in Zimbabwe. They lived near Oliviershoek for a while before trekking on). Hugh tells tales of transport riding, ox wagons, meeting Percy Fitzpatrick, farming in Rhodesia and other exaggerations . .

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Must add:

Annie’s other daughter Pat Bland – married Bill Cowie, and had two daughters Frankie & Gemma; Bill worked in Blyvooruitsig on the gold mine; We would see them on their way to their wonderful Wild Coast fishing trips.

Mary Bland – married Pieter Swanepoel in 1951

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Bland might sound bland, but hey, the surname is thought to derive from Old English (ge)bland meaning ‘storm’, or ‘commotion’. Don’t use dictionaries that say, ‘dull, flavorless, or just plain ‘blah.’ Use ones that say it means ‘smooth and soothing in manner or quality,’ (the Merriam-Webster); or ‘flattering’ (from Bland Family History on ancestry.com); or ‘alluring’ (from vocabulary.com).

1_Harrismith, 2_Free State / Vrystaat, 8_Nostalgia, Family

Harrismith Xmas 1979

Mary and Manie Wessels Rietvlei joined the folks Mary and Pieter Swanepoel for Xmas 1979 at 37 Piet Uys street. Barbara and Jeff, Koos and Sheila and Annie were there, too. As was poor Selina! Hopefully she got time off for being on duty on Xmas day!

Looks like colour film hadn’t been invented yet . .