Pony with Pleasure

Sister Sheila sent this lovely old photo – she thinks ca 1920 – of Jack Shannon and our Mom Mary’s cousin Peter Bell on their ponies on Kindrochart, the Shannon farm on the Oliviershoek road and near Mom’s parents Frank and Annie Bland’s farm Nuwejaarspruit, on the Witzieshoek road. Sterkfontein Dam now lies between the two farms – in fact, the Nuwejaarspruit homestead is now submerged under the clear waters of the dam.

Peter Bell was Mary’s first cousin – his Mom Jessie Hastings-Bell (neé Bain of the Royal Bains) was Annie’s sister. Peter joined the Rhodesian Air Force in WW2 and went MIA – missing in action – his body was never found.

1920 Jack Shannon & Peter Bell.jpg

Mom tells the story of how Jack was urged to give his Shetland pony to “the Bland girls”, Mary and her sister Pat, once he’d outgrown it. He was reluctant but his folks urged him to be generous and asked again if he would be so kind.

“Yes” he said, “but not with pleasure.”

Mary Bland Grew Up On A Farm

This was taken on my grandparents’ Frank and Annie Bland’s farm, Nuwejaarsvlei in the Harrismith district. The farm is now under Sterkfontein Dam. Here’s older sis Pat pushing Mother Mary in the pram in the farmyard.

pat-mary-nuwejaarsvlei

The Nuwejaarspruit runs from there down to the Wilge river and then into the Vaal Dam. Sterkfontein dam was built on the spruit and drowned the farm under Tugela river water pupmed up from KwaZulu Natal. You would now have to scuba dive in the clear water to see the farmhouse. The feature pic looks across the dam towards where the farm was. This pic is roughly above the farm looking back towards Harrismith’s long Platberg mountain:

sterkfontein-dam

Then they moved into town – the metropolis of Harrismith – to start a petrol station and garage, having lost the farms.

Nearby neighbours on Kindrochart were the Shannons, ___ and ___ with son Jack, a few years older than Pat and Mary.

When he had outgrown his Shetland Pony it was suggested to him that he give it to the Bland girls on Nuwejaarsvlei. He looked dubious but his parents encouraged him.

“Will you do that?” they prodded him.

“Yes, but not with pleasure” said Jack.

Recently Sheila found a pic of Jack on his pony!

1920 Jack Shannon & Peter Bell

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1930 Bland group at NJV
Jessie, Janet & Mary, Annie sitting – two guests – Frank lying with Pat
Annie in old car
Annie with canine driver

I’m fifteen?

The mighty Vulgar river had risen! It was flowing way higher than usual, and had overflown its banks. We needed to get onto it!
So Pierre and I dusted off the open blue and red fibreglass canoe the old man had bought us and headed off downstream early one summer morning from below the weir in the park.

By the time we started the river had dropped a lot. Still flowing well, but below the heights of the previous days. This left a muddy verge metres high where the banks were vertical, and up to 100m wide where the banks were sloped and the river was wide.

When we got to Swiss Valley past the confluence of the Nuwejaar spruit, we had a wide wet floodplain to slip and slide across before we reached dry land, leaving us muddy from head to toe. Dragging the boat along we headed for the farmhouse where Lel Venning looked at us in astonishment. I don’t think she even recognised us.

No, You haven’t! You can’t fool me! APRIL FOOL! she exclaimed when we said we’d paddled out from town.

Pierre and I looked at each other and he said “Happy birthday!”