The Blands in Africa (one branch . . )

On 2017/03/16, Sheila wrote:

Hi Everyone

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

Today he found the grave of Josiah Benjamin Adam Bland – he was born 1799 in the UK and 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 on a farm, in very thick bush, in the Wydersrivier district near Riversdal.  The farmer very kindly took Hugh to the gravesite.

Hugh says you can read the inscription on the grave stone – 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 and then laid his shadow next to his (and our) great great great grandfather:

JBA Bland's grave

After Josiah Benjamin Adam Bland came John Francis Adam Bland (born 1836) who trekked inland to Harrismith in the Orange River Colony with a small baby – John Francis Adam the second. This started “our branch” of the Blands. JFA II later married Mary Caskie (who became the beloved Granny Bland of Harrismith). They had five sons of whom our grandfather Frank (JFA III) and Bunty were the oldest.

Hugh found out that JFA the first died on 10 September 1891 aged 55, and is buried in Senekal.

JFA II and Granny Bland and all five of their sons are buried in the same grave in Harrismith. Granny Bland buried her husband and four of her five boys – what a tragic life, but she did live long enough to know us, her great grandkids. The one son who outlived her, Bunty, died in 1974.

JFA III’s wife Annie Bland (nee Bain) – our granny Annie – died aged 90 ca 1981. Her daughter Pat (Cowie), our mother Mary’s sister died in 1974. Mom Mary is still alive and turned 88 in 2016.

I’m hoping sister Sheila will fact-check me here!

 

Mother Mary Memories

Mr Pretorius was a new teacher in Harrismith. This is back in the ‘forties. One Geography lesson he asked a question and the answer he wanted was the town “Heilbron”.

Johnny Priest (chosen because the teacher knew he wouldn’t know?) answered “The Free State” at which Mr P lifted his eyes to the heavens, rolled them and sighed sarcastically “Why don’t you just say The Union of South Africa?” at which Johnny hastened to say “I meant the Union of South Africa”.


Outside toilets

Toilets were outside, well away from the house, usually at the back border of the yard where the alley ran past so the night car (or ‘Honey Cart’) could get to them. If you had a big yard it could be a long walk. Mrs de Beer used to say theirs was “Halfway to Warden”!

Oh, the embarrasment, says Mom, of meeting the Honey Cart at night when walking home from the bioscope! “So embarrassing!”


Mom’s doctor in Harrismith was Dr Leo Hoenigsberger, who was married to Janet Caskie, an Australian cousin of Mom’s Granny Bland. One day he hit a bridge in has car on the road to the gaol and was taken home, a bit shaken.

Someone phoned the home and one of his sons (Leo or Max) answered. “Hello, is the doctor in? We want him to come around and play bridge with us” said the voice.

“No, I think he’s had enough bridge for one day” answered the son.


 

 

Mosleyisms

Stan Mosley worked for the Woollen Mills in Harrismith back in the ‘fifties. Born in England, he had a colourful turn of phrase. Mom used to tell us of things he said over the years, but I forget them, so I’ve been trying to get her to remember them. Here are some:

  • A journey in a pickup along a rough road “We rattled along like a tin of sardines”.
  • Harsh justice: “The judge sentenced him to be hanged by the neck until death us do part”.
  • On the golf course: “The ball was rolling towards the pin, gathering memorandum”.

HS Golf course

  • The lights went out at the factory, so Stan phoned up Ben Priest in the municipality: “Mr Priest! Is there any lights?” To which Mr Priest answered “No, there isn’t none at present now”.
  • On Platberg: “On the mountain the only living thing we saw was a dead baboon”.

Long Lost Letter

Donald Coleman was my good mate and older side-kick in Harrismith up to around 1964. He died in a car crash (alone in the car) around 1975 (I have no detail of what exactly happened).

In around 2011 or 2012 I found a letter on the floor of my garage at 10 Elston Place.

It was from “your mate Donald” and consisted of one page (probably page 2 of a 2-page letter) and a scrap of envelope addressed to:
poel
rrismith
e Free State

A franked 2½c stamp in good condition is still on the scrap of envelope (but the date part of the franking was/is missing).

I suspect it fell out of the old Cape Colony post office stinkwood desk Dad gave me, as I had moved it to give it back to him before it fell to pieces.

The letter, in neat, flowing cursive writing in blue ink, said:

This is slightly exaggerated but between points
0 and 1 it is 50 miles and between 1 and 2 it is 13 miles and between
3 and 4 it is 14 miles. Even if you go at 10 m.p.h all the
way you will make it in a day. Well don’t take
too much equipment etc because you’ll shit yourselves
coming. Don’t forget to take hats and plenty of patching
equipment. If something goes wrong and you reach
Bergville or Winterton after dark just ‘phone us our
number is Winterton 2412.

              Well I hope I’ve got everything down here, any-
way I still hope to run the Mountain Race
with you. I’m going to try harder this year.

              It’s a pity I won’t be seeing you fellows
because I’ve got some jokes to tell you.

                        From your mate
                             Donald

Not a single correction or spelling mistake (oh, one tiny one changing your to you).

So it seems he had sent a map as well as the (presumed) 1st page of the letter. Obviously we were planning to ride our bikes to Winterton!

——————————————

I must ask Dad about the old stinkwood desk. Was it a Harrismith find? From when?
That could explain how the letter got in there, I spose. Suspicion: Did my folks open it and not pass it on!!?

I searched the desk again and found the rest of the envelope: It was franked on 30 March 1971. I was in Std 9, Donald would have completed his time at Estcourt High School.

20141130_081257.jpg

World Firsts

Or – Firsts in the Frystaat (well, sort of . . . Firsts For Us!)

We didn’t invent tobogganing in the Vrystaat, but we thought we maybe invented summer tobogganing. We did it on old car bonnets that we found in the dongas east of town between King Street and the new bypass (which wasn’t there yet – just veld). Cardboard boxes worked too, but had a short lifespan.

These guys were doing it in 1872 in the snow. We were 1960’s on cardboard on grass.

toboggan_party

Toboggan Grass.jpg

But we did invent mountain biking, we were sure. MTB’ing on our dikwiel (balloon tyre) fietse in and around those same dongas ca 1966 to 1970. Ramping, jumping and gooi’ing squares. Along the dongas and across the dongas. Maybe those fietses weren’t really built for that kind of action (no shocks, flimsy mudguards), as the mudguards caught on the wheels and got scraped up into weird shapes. We find the excessive use of helmets these days puzzling.

History according to wikipedia: The original mountain bikes were modified heavy cruiser bicycles used for freewheeling down mountain trails. The sport became popular in the 1970s in Northern California with riders using older single speed balloon tyre bicycles to ride down rugged hillsides. See! We were first!

In our little world:

  • We invented Hijacking – of the Orange Express (check post)
  • We invented Streaking – in Kimberley (check post)
  • We invented Drifting – on the athletics track in the park (check post)
  • We invented Selfies – in Oklahoma (check post)
  • We invented Kidnapping – on birthdays*

——————————————————————–

*Birthdays: I think Tuffy started the tradition of birthday kidnapping, grabbing a birthday boy and bundling him into a sleeping bag, tying the top closed. Then driving him somewhere and dumping him to make his own way home. When it was Tuffy’s turn we simply dumped him out of the sleeping bag into the pool at the duPlessis place as his b’day happens to be on the 21st June – the shortest day of the year. Oh, yes – and the coldest. Winter solstice! So he didn’t have a long walk home, lucky fella.


donga – arroyo. Dry gully, formed by the eroding action of running water.

dikwiel fietse – fat- or balloon-tyred bicycles

Hijackiing – The earliest documented instances of maritime hijacking were in the 14th century BC, when the Sea Peoples, a group of ocean raiders, attacked the ships of the Aegean and Mediterranean civilizations. OK, that was before us. Train hijacking? OK, there was this military raid that occurred on April 12, 1862, in Georgia during the American Civil War. Volunteers from the Union Army commandeered a train and took it northward toward  Chattanooga Tennessee. (If you look closely, one of the raiders does look a bit like a Venning)

train-hijacking

Streaking – When and where campus streaking started is unknown. A 1967 article in the student paper at Carleton College in Minnesota laments that streaking was a tradition during winter when temperatures were well below freezing. OK, so we were 1969. Anyway it seems this lady beat us to it: Lady Godiva was an English noblewoman who, according to a legend dating at least to the 13th century, rode naked – covered only in her long hair – through the streets of Coventry to gain a remission of the oppressive taxation that her husband imposed on his tenants. The name ‘Peeping Tom’ for a voyeur originates from later versions of this legend in which a man named Tom watched her ride and was struck blind or dead.

Drifting – Although the origin of drifting is not known, Japan was one of the earliest birthplaces of drifting as a sport. It was most popular in the Japan Touring Car Championship races. Kunimitsu Takahashi was the foremost creator of drifting techniques in the 1970s. Then there was us in the late 60’s in a black front-wheel-drive Saab!

Selfies – I took my selfie in 1973, which was WAY before it became popular.

ApacheOK73 (8).JPG

selfie-1839-robertcornelius  serious-selfie

OK this Robert oke did it in 1839, and OK, this lady had better equipment (in both ways).

Kidnapping – Tuffy started kidnapping in 1970 but these fellas kidnapped this bride in 1870:

bride_kidnapping-1870

Down the Grand Canyon

1984 was one of the very few years since 1960 that Colorado river water from the Grand Canyon actually reached the sea. High snow melt pushed it past the point where golf courses and old-age homes drain it of all its water and so – at last! – the waters of the Colorado reached the beautiful estuary at Baja California and flowed into the Sea of Cortez again!

Unknown to many, 1984 was also the ONLY year Mexico would have been able to taste Mainstay cane spirits (distilled from South African sugar cane) mixed with Colorado river water. Well, recycled Mainstay and river water, as the Mainstay had first passed through the kidneys of a mad bunch of South Africans that Chris Greeff had assembled to paddle through the famous American Canyon.

That’s because we were on the river sponsored by Mainstay Cane Spirits and South African Airways. The “Mainstay” we drank was actually an SAA Boeing 747’s supply of tot bottles of whisky, brandy, gin, vodka, rum – and Mainstay cane spirits. We decanted all the little bottles we could find into two-litre plastic bottles to help the stewardesses on board with their end-of-Atlantic-crossing stock-take. We had resolved to drink the plane dry but man, they carry a lot of hooch on those big babies (I spose in case they end up with all 350 passengers happening to be as thirsty as paddlers are?).

Fifteen paddlers from South Africa joined our guides Cully Erdman and his delightful partner JoJo on a trip down the Grand Canyon from Lee’s Ferry to the take-out on Lake Mead 300 or so miles downstream. We were accompanied by one other paddler, an Argentine José who was ticking off his bucket list, having climbed Everest. Five rubber inflatable rafts carried the food (and the Mainstay and a few hundred beers) and a motley assortment of rapid riders from America and SA. Talking of motley: Us paddlers ranged from capable rough water paddlers to flatwater sprinters to happy trippers to complete novices. Some had Springbok colours, others had a lot of cheek.

GrandCanyon'84 Greeff (48)

GrandCanyon'84 Greeff (8)
Cully shows us. He has done it before.
GrandCanyon'84 Greeff (30)
Herve, George & Jojo

Some twists in the tale: My boyhood kayaking heroes had been the van Riet brothers, Willem and Roelof, who won the Dusi three times just as I was first learning about the race ca 1970. As I started to participate in the race ca 1972 Graeme Pope-Ellis was winning the first of his eventual 15 Dusi wins. Both Willem and Graeme were with us on this trip.

Another twist: In the year I first saw the Colorado river (1973) by walking/running down the Bright Angel trail from the South Rim to the Colorado’s swiftly-flowing green water (see post), Willem had launched a boat at Lee’s Ferry, done an eskimo roll and come up with ice in his hair, causing him to postpone his trip. Now he was back, eleven years later – in the summer!

The trip was put together by yet another iconic paddler Chris Greeff, winner of more kayak races than I’d had breakfasts. One of the craziest races he won was the Arctic Canoe Race on the border between Finland and Sweden. About 500km of good pool and drop rapids in cold water. When he arrived at the start with his sleek flatwater racing kayak (the others had wider, slower, more stable canoes) the local organisers thought Ha! he intends portaging around all the rapids! (they’d heard of the Dusi and how mad South Africans run with kayaks on their heads) so they amended the rules: Every rapid avoided would incur a time penalty. Chris just smiled and agreed enthusiastically with their ruling: He was no Dusi runner and he had no intention of getting out of his boat!

Later:

On the trip our American kayak and raft guides kept asking us about our sponsors stickers we had attached to kayaks and rafts. SAA they understood, South African Airways, but what was this “Mainstay” stuff? Ooh. you’ll see! Was all we’d say.
At ___ rapid on Day __ around the camp fire we hauled out three or four two-litre bottles filled with a suspicious amber liquid. THIS we said, was that famous stuff! Hilarity and a bit of insanity ensued. I remember seeing Willem sprint past me, run nimbly across the pontoons of a raft and launch himself in the darkness into the swift current of the Colorado running at 50 000cfs!

GrandCanyon'84 Greeff (65)
George, Allie, Swys & Toekoe

1984Grand Canyon (1)At the confluence, the Little Colorado was flooding and massively silt-laden. We stopped on a skinny sandbank and had mud fights and mud rolls. The muddy water from the flooding Little Colorado merged with the clear water coming out of Lake Powell and from here on we had traditionally red-coloured water – “colorado”. I fell out just downstream and got some of that muddy water up my snout. A month later I had to have an emergency sinus washout! As Saffeffricans say ‘Ah neely dahd!’

Foreground and background: Muddy Little Colorado. In the middle: Clear water from Lake Powell:

GrandCanyon'84 Greeff Confluence (1)

Lunch on a small sandbank – Five rafts, seventeen kayaks

Lunch on a small sandbank, Colorado River, Grand Canyon - Five rafts, seventeen kayaksGrand Canyon Chris 2Grand Canyon Chris Crystal-001
Crystal Rapid Colorado.jpg
Here comes Crystal!
Jannie Claassen stands. Clockwise from front Left: Swys du Plessis (red shorts), Me just visible, Dave Walker back left, Willem van Riet, Herve de Rauville kneeling, Alli Peter lying down in back, Chris Greeff ponders, Bernie Garcin stands behind Chris, Wendy Walwyn, Cully Erdman (our guide) is front right. All poring over the map, plotting the next day!
Jannie Claassen stands left. Clockwise from front Left: Swys du Plessis (red shorts), Me just visible, Dave Walker back left, Willem van Riet, Herve de Rauville kneeling, Alli Peter lying down in back, Chris Greeff ponders, Bernie Garcin stands behind Chris, Wendy Walwyn, Cully Erdman (our guide) is front right with the peak cap. All poring over the map, plotting the next day! Willem telling us about the MOERSE rapids he went through.
The whole gang (or was this “The Swim Team”?):
The Mainstay SAA Team from SA; At the usual take-out before Lake Mead; Paddling is over (for most of us!)

At the usual take-out (Diamond Creek) before Lake Mead the high water had washed away the road. We had to keep going. Then we hit the calm waters of Lake Mead. Paddling was almost over (for most of us!). We lay on the rafts as they were tugged out by a motorboat to another take-out point on Lake Mead many miles downstream (‘cept there was no longer any ‘stream’ – we were on flat water now). Greeff and a few other crazies (including Wendy Walwyn) paddled the whole flat water way!

?Me and trip girlfriend Wendy in foreground

Bernie Garcin – great mate; – – and WHAT a campsite!

Bernie Garcin - great mate; - - and WHAT a campsite!!

Happy daze drifting in the current, lying back gazing up at the cliffs and watching the waterline as century after millenium of geological lines rose up out of the water and each day rose higher and higher above us. Willem the geologist would explain some of it to us.

Then you’d sit up and listen intently. Then peer ahead with a stretched neck and drift in a quickening current as the roar of the next rapid grew in the canyon air. The river was running at an estimated high 50 000cfs (about 1650 cumecs). Once you could see where it was, you pulled over and got out to scout it. Plot your way through it.

Here’s Lava Falls – *click on pic* Spot Ryan’s blue helmet. He got trashed.

Lava Falls
Singing:

The canyon burro is a mournful bloke
He very seldom gets a poke
But when he DOES . .
He LETS it soak
As he revels in the joys of forni- CATION!

and (to the tune of He Ain’t Heavy)

Hy’s nie Swaar nie

Hy’s my Swaer . a . a . aer

We went down the Canyon twice

I always say we did the Canyon twice. Once we would bomb down in our kayaks, crashing through the exhilirating big water; The second time was much hairier, with bigger rapids, higher water and far more danger: That was when Willem would regale us with tales of his day on the water around the campfire at night. “Raconteur” is too mild a word! The word MOERSE featured prominently in his stories.

It Was Like a Military Operation

Bouncing around on the back of a Bedford we would roar to a halt in the veld. Well, really the mixed thornveld woodland somewhere near Pretoria, which should properly be called Tshwane, ancestral home of the Tshwanepoels to which we have land claim rights. Seeking the shelter of trees so as not to be too visible to the enemy, we would leap eagerly to the ground, pitch our big tents and carry in the stretchers, placing them in neat rows one left and one right. Then up would go the drip stands, each with a drip hanging down. Sundry balsaks and trommels would be lined up and unpacked and in no time we’d be ready to receive the wounded who had been drilled by the kommuniste nearby, us being an advance field hospital. Like this:

field hospital

Well. In theory.

In reality the only thing that happened with any sense of urgency was the roaring to a halt by the Bedfords in a cloud of dust. After that there would be consultation and various opinions about whether to line the tents up like this (maybe east-west) or like this (maybe west-east). And how could we put it here? Look at this big stump in the ground here. The neat rows would be more haphazard and boiling water for tea would be accomplished before any drip stands were placed. It was like a military operation.

Which is not like this:

Army marching.jpg

It’s way more like this:

army-ballasbak

The most organised of the troops was Rhynie. From Durban, natch. As the lorry stopped he would step off with his blanket over his shoulder and his paperback in his hand and immediately stroll off till just out of sight but still well within earshot for a ballasbak. As the Bedfords started up again after we had struck camp and packed up he would reappear in time to clamber on, miffed that us workers hadn’t kept him any tea. Everyone loved ole Rhynie so you couldn’t resent and only admired his gippo‘ing.

 

Cannot be

When I was around six years old Sheila came marching up to me and demanded-

“Do you know what Dad’s name is?”

Well, of course I did! I was the older brother.

Kleinspan Skool Koos Sheila.jpg

It’s “Dad”

“No man, his real name!”

What did she mean? Oh, of course- I’d heard Mom call him that lots of times.

“Peter”

“No. It’s PIETER GERHARDUS!!”

What rubbish! I’d never heard such foul language! And this from my MUCH younger sister! (she was a whole year younger’n me. Which was like: All of living memory!).

Amazingly, investigations proved her right!

Thank You Ernie!

Ernie van Biljon wouldn’t take no for an answer, so I got to go to America as a Rotary exchange student back in 1973.

Thanks Ernie van Biljon, for seeing to it that I made it to America! What a lovely man.

Rotary held their interview and selection sessions at Greystones outside Estcourt (where I had attended a Veld & Vlei leadership course earlier that year):

Greystones Veld&Vlei

Which three countries would you like to go to?
America, America, America – and I want to go to a small town, not a big city.

“OK, Smartass” they thought, and dispatched me to Apache, Oklahoma.

“There are two strict rules” they told us: “No falling in love, and strictly no driving while you’re there”. “Of course not . . . ” Well, I got none out of two right but it was just infatuation and the owner of the Chev Camaro covered for me in Apache and the owner of the VW Beetle covered for me in Canada.

For Apache Adventures, see here

Pieter G. Swanepoel, Maritzburg College

Pieter Gerhardus Swanepoel, Maritzburg College, 1937.

*dad-maritzburg-college-1937

Sheila writes: Dad was at College from 1935 – 1938. He was “pushed up” twice and ended up starting matric in January 1938 a month after he turned 15. Three months later, on 1 April 1938, he left. He says he didn’t run away – he left. He’d had enough!

And now, 78 years later – he’s still doing his own thing! His way! In May this year, I (his daughter Sheila) took him to his 78th matric re-union at College. And yes, he was the only one of his year there, but he wasn’t the oldest old boy! That was Cyril Crompton, matric 1933, who was 97. He turned 100 last week. He and Dad have become great pals.

Cyril Crompton (97) and Pieter Swanepoel (91)
Cyril Crompton (97) and Pieter Swanepoel (93)

Sheila