Balmoral Dam

Hector and Stella, Ian and Bev and Tabs – all or some of them! – built a large dam on the Swartspruit, a tributary of the Wilge river on Ian and Bev’s farm Sarclet.

The Fyvie’s Balmoral dam – If you build a dam you need a boat and Tabs found one in Howick, going cheap. As always, Tabs needed a side-kick to join him on his ventures and I was more than willing. We fetched the wee boat in Howick. I wrote about that misadventure here.

Later Tabs got a bigger boat, ‘The Pheasant Plucker’ with a V6 inboard motor and a Hamilton jet. The name likely affirmed for certain Anglicans that an earlier decision they’d made was right.

– Sarclet – Balmoral Dam beautiful peeps and a different boat – Braithwaite’s boat, I think –

I once embarrassingly beached it when the motor cut at speed; I aimed to roar close to the starting point then fling then gear lever into reverse, causing a huge wave and hugely impressing the impressionable gorgeous ladies present! Well, none of that.

I landed up high and dry next to the cars parked on the bank; I learnt that when the engine cuts in a Hamilton Jet there’s no steering, no brakes, no nothing. Without that plume of water thrusting out the back, there’s no direction! Suddenly you’re a passenger; you’re no longer the skipper.

– Sarclet – Balmoral Dsm beautiful peeps – youth and beer –

Ah, we had many a pleasant day next to the dam, gently mixing petrol, beer and water into a cocktail of fun and laughter. Thirsty work, though. After – apres ski – we’d have to repair to Gailian for drinks:

– amazing Fyvie hospitality at Gailian – again –


1_Harrismith 2_Free State / Vrystaat 8_Nostalgia 9_KwaZuluNatal Family

The Bend – Earlier Daze

Before we learnt to drink beer on the banks of the mighty Tugela, we drank oros and water while observing our elders drinking beer on those same rocks on the same bend in the river that gives the farm its name. Here’s an 8mm ‘cine’ movie taken back in the early 1960’s – before we followed suit in the seventies.

These were the days when Thankful and Grateful – as that incorrigible axis of evil or mirth Sheila-Bess-Georgie-Lettuce called Frank and Gretel Reitz – would have large soirees on the farm with the Swanies, the Kemps and others gathering ‘in their numbers.’

In the movie Gretel, Joyce, Mary and Isabel walk along that stunning driveway lined with (amIright here?) Grecian (Roman?) columns to the old double-rondawel thatched homestead. Then the drinking party moves down to the river where Gee and Kai pilot the motorboat and Barbara and Bess paddle in the shallows. Check out Doc Reitz’s old Chev OHS 71.



Commodore Tabbo

I’m sure I told you about Tabbo’s first boat? Before the Pheasant Plucker with its inboard motor and Hamilton jet?

After Sarclet dam was built he NEEDED a boat and he found one for sale in Howick. Good price, so we set off to fetch it. It was rather small – for which read: very; and its 30-horse Johnson looked like Noah would have only used it as backup. But it was cheap.

We set off towing back to the big HY, city of sin and laughter, at a rate of knots, Tabbo behind the wheel of his red Datsun-Lamborghini with the round lights at the back.

We had a good chuckle when we saw a wheel overtaking us on the main tar road between Howick and Estcourt: ‘Wonder which poor fool that belongs to?’ till we heard a scraping in the rear (we hadn’t felt a thing). Well, it was our wheel that had parted and rushed forward to try and give us a message. So that was a problem, as we had sort of ruined whatever a new wheel might have attached to by driving on blissfully ignorant, feeling smug, dragging the axle stump on the tar.

We had to leave the trailer somewhere and Tabbo went back to fetch it and finally got the boat to Balmoral dam and into the water. Some okes came around (I think Rob Spilsbury was one) – fortunately no ladies to roll their eyes – and we launched the tiny boat and plucked the starting cord. There was only room for two, so Captain Tabs was sitting in the boat with one other oke who stood in the boat and rukked and plukked. Two of us were standing in the shallow water, holding the transom.

And we plucked and yanked and plukked and then we took turns to pluck and pull and huff. Then we pulled and puffed. Then we took the motor apart and cleaned the spark plugs and put stuff in the carb and did all the things okes do who know a bit and then we re-assembled it and rukked. And still fokol. Two okes were in the boat and two in the water standing on each side of the motor holding the boat and taking turns plucking.

After 4520 plucks it spluttered and began to roar, so the two okes in the water hopped on and the whole fucking thing sank, motor and all.

– here’s the very Johnson motor in question, thanks to Sheila – Glutz approaches ominously with more juice –


Dave Simpson wrote: Peter, I think my staff must think I am a bit fucked in the head, as I have just burst out into some raucous laughter. What a classic tale. I can just imagine what happened next: Everyone pissed themselves laughing; Tabbo called some of his trusty staff to pull the boat out; and you all got stuck into a few cases of Lion Lager. Did the boat ever get a second life? – (answer: I don’t think so) –

Simpson, me, duP - Sarclet Dam?
– Dave Simpson, me, duPlessis – Balmoral Dam on Sarclet –

Here’s the newer, bigger Pheasant Plucker – some years later:

One day I’ll have to tell how I parked the Pheasant Plucker on the bank amongst the parked cars. At high speed. Eish . . petrol and beer . . .


Comments ensued on this picture, which was taken apres ski on nearby Gailian:

This picture got emails going again – Dave Simpson wrote:
It looks to me like an early morning thaw in winter. This probably explains why you are the only oke drinking cuppachino.

Me: Because of Sheils’ notes I can tell you: It was 18 August 1974. And that was cold tea. I’m amazed I was the only one drinking – probly you okes overdid it the night before.

Steve Reed: Hill – larious !! I wonder whose feet and prize winning bell bottoms are on the left. Nothing could beat a Sunday morning debrief on the lawn on a chillsome Free State morning.

Simpson: Do you know Peter, I actually remember that day on the new dam at Sarclet, down there in valley in front of Ian and Bev’s new house. It was the first time I had ever been water skiing. I was totally wind-gat to say the least, as the water was minus plenty, but I though this will be no problem – get up on the skis and have little or no contact with the water.

Well, needless to say, my nuts nearly froze off and my body was just about in the state ready for one of those cryogenic capsules – you know, those things that some Yanks get into before they die with a plan to wake up in about 300 years. Not much chance of that here, with all the load shedding going on.

On the positive side, I did learn to water ski in double quick time, as after that, I never did have a problem on the skis. Was this really in August, the coldest month of the year?? What madness!!

Me: Hosed myself at the cryogenics and load shedding! Imagine strolling into the cryo chamber to re-awaken granpa and the whole place stinks of vrot!! I’m going to stick to my original idea of pickling meself . . . internally.

Reed: Cannot believe your bravery / madness entering those waters in August. Also laughed out loud at both tales!