Growdon family in the Eastern Cape

On our recent holiday trip we visited Steve’s second cousin once removed, Hamish Scott, and his wife Monica and their son Robbie at Stutterheim in the Eastern Cape.

Scott family

Hamish, Monica & Robbie Scott, Stutterheim, 17 May 2011

Hamish is the son of Steve’s second cousin, Florence Scott, born Moors, and Florence’s grandmother was Christiana Jane (Jenny) Growdon, who married Daniel Moors at Bethulie in the Free State.

Robbie runs a nursery, and self-catering cabins called The Shire which are built on the edge of the forest, and are a marvellous place for a holiday for people who want to relax and watch birds.

shire

The Shire, self-catering cabins at Stutterheim, run by Robbie Scott

The Growdon family came to the Eastern Cape from Cornwall in the 1870s and William Matthew Growdon (my great grandfather and Hamish’s great great grandfather) was a platelayer on the Cape Government Railways, building the railway line from East London to the interior. He retired to Queenstown with his wife Elizabeth (born Greenaway), and they are buried in the cemetery there.

After leaving Stutterheim we went to Queenstown to look at their grave, which we had last seen in 1975. At first we could not find it, and thought it might have been vandalised, as many graves in Queenstown cemetery seemed to be, but eventually found it with the help of one of the caretakers. The stones were intact, but the railing around the graves had been removed, presumably by metal thieves, which was one reason we could not find the graves.

Graves of Elizabeth and William Matthew Growdon in Queenstown cemetery

More family holiday visits

On our holiday travels we have turned homewards again. On Thursday 12 May we left Cape Town and travelled to Knysna, where we visited my cousin Glenda Lauwrens (nee Growdon) and her husband Brian. We also saw Glenda’s daughter Joanne and her children John, 8, and Kate, who is nearly 6. We hadn’t seen Glenda, Brian and Joanne since they moved to Knysna 21 years ago, and had not met Joanne’s children at all. Glenda’s father, Stanley Growdon (1918-1995), was my mother’s youngest brother.

Glenda Lauwrens, John Tanner, Steve Hayes, Kate & Joanne Tanner; Knysna, 12 May 2011

The next day we went to Sedgefield see Val’s dad’s cousin, Patrick  Clark, and his wife Carol. They are related on the Greene side; Patrick’s mother, Gladys Clark (1907-1997), born Greene, was the younger sister of Val’s grandfather Allan Dudley Greene (1893-1942).

Carol & Patrick Clark and Val Hayes; Sedgefield, 13 May 2011

On Saturday 14 May we travelled to Port Elizabeth, where we visited Val’s aunt Nat Greene, the widow of her uncle Roy Greene (1923-1975). Nat gave us the news that her granddaughter Samantha Greene had married Wayne Greenhaigh on 22 Apr 2011 at Cambridge Methodist Church in East London, but Nat had been unable to attend, as she had flu at the time.

Nat Greene and Val Hayes, nee Greene; Port Elizabeth 14 May 2011

Today we’re planning to leave Port Elizabeth for Stutterheim, where we hope to see another cousin on the Growdon side of the family, Hamish Scott.

Vause family connections

Sandy Struckmeyer

On Saturday 30th April 2011 we visited Sandy Struckmeyer and her daughter Kerry at their home in Robertson in the Western Cape. Sandy is a cousin on the Vause side of the family, whom I had not met before, though we have corresponded about the family history for several years, and we had lived at some of the same places, though at different times, so our paths had not crossed.

Sandy is my third cousin, our common ancestors being our great great grandparents Richard and Matilda Vause (nee Park). Sandy married Tim Struckmeyer in Melmoth, Zululand in 1988 (we had lived in Melmoth from 1977-1982) and their daughter Kerry was born in Windhoek, Namibia, in 1993 (I lived in Windhoek 1969-1972).

Our ancestors Richard and Matilda Vause came to Natal in 1852, and Richard Vause was the proprietor of the Natal Mercury, and was five times mayor of Durban. His eldest son was my great grandfather, Richard Wyatt Vause (1854-1926), whose younger brother Robert (1859-1922) was Sandy’s great grandfather. Robert Vause bought the farm Argyle, at Ixopo, at auction in 1922, and it was inherited by Sandy’s grandfather Vic Vause.

Sandy & Kerry Struckmeyer

Visiting Hannan cousins, almost

Last Tuesday we went on holiday, and travelled to Clarens in the Eastern Free State. Some of the things we saw (and drank) can be seen on our other blog here.

My second cousin Peter Badcock-Walters retired to Clarens some years ago, but  on Tuesday he had to be in New York, but we called in anyway and chatted to his wife Toni.

Val Hayes and Toni Badcock-Walters, Clarens, 27 April 2011

Nick Grobler

On Wednesday we drove to Graaff Reinet and stayed at the Villa Reinet Guest House, run by more cousins on the Hannan side of the family, Nick and Ailsa Grobler. But unfortunately (for us anyway) Ailsa had gone to visit their son Gavin, who is a chef in Durbai. But Nick told us quite a bit about the family history as well.

And if you’re looking for a place to stay in Graaff Reinet, we can recommend Villa Reinet. In addition to chatting about family history with Nick, we visited the Valley of Desolation and Nieu Bethesda, a village about 40 kilometres north of Graaff Reinet, which must be the only place in slouth Africa where real ale is brewed, and very good it is too.

More updates to follow, as and when we get internet access in our travels,

Death of Ron Hickman, car designer and inventor

We have just learnt of the death of Ron Hickman, Val’s fourth cousin once removed, at the age of 78. Ron was a fairly distant relation, but what brought us together was an interest in family history, and when Ron came to South Africa to do some family history research he came to see us at the beginning, and then, after visiting various archives and family members, he came to see us again for a kind of debriefing session, and shared his notes and findings with us.

When he visited he was a big hit with our youngest child, Jethro, then aged 7 going on 8, and crazy about cars, and Ron Hickman was a car designer, having designed the Lotus Elan sports car.

Val Hayes & Ron Hickman; Simon, Jethro & Bridget Hayes, Feb 1989

We learnt of Ron Hickman’s death through the alt.obituaries newsgroup, where someone posted an obituary from The Independent, and there are several others, including this one: Ron Hickman obituary | The Guardian:

The prolific designer and inventor Ron Hickman, who has died aged 78 after a long illness, made his fortune from an idea for a simple but multifunctional bench with a gap down the middle to grip wood. The Workmate enabled DIY enthusiasts to saw through pieces of timber without using the edges of chairs and tables for support. The idea had come to him in 1961 when he accidentally sawed through the leg of an expensive Swedish chair while making a wardrobe. Nearly 70m Workmates have been sold since Black & Decker put Hickman’s design into mass production in 1973.

and this one: Ron Hickman – Telegraph:

After spending three years as a styling modeller with Ford, Hickman moved to the Lotus company, run by Colin Chapman, and quickly became its design director. He headed the team that designed the trendsetting Elan sports car, with its fibreglass body and retractable headlights. This was followed by the Lotus Cortina, Lotus Europa and Elan Plus 2, a design of which he was especially proud.

Others were published on web sites that were linked to Ron’s interests, such as the Club Lotus one, which said:

It’s our sad duty to report that Ron Hickman died in a Jersey hospital on Thursday morning, 17th February. He was 78 and had been unwell since suffering a fall last autumn and his health sadly deteriorated in recent weeks.

Lotus sports car designed by Ron Hickman

Ron will probably be best known to Lotus enthusiasts as the man who created the legendary Elan but he also played a key role in designing the revolutionary Type 14 Elite. The Elite’s glassfibre monocoque was a groundbreaking piece of design and established Lotus Cars as manufacturers of world beating sports racing cars.

Colin Chapman originally wanted the Elan to have a glassfibre monocoque as well, but Ron knew this could not work in an open top car.  Ron therefore rapidly designed the backbone chassis for the Elan and this became the standard Lotus chassis design until Elise with its aluminium monocoque was launched in 1996.

The common ancestors were Johan Friedrich Wilhelm Flamme (1780-1832) and Johanna Sophia Breedschuh (1782-1836).

J.F.W. Flamme was born at Twiste in Hesse-Nassau, Germany, and came to the Cape Colony as a soldier in the Waldeck Regiment. He was captured during the British occupation and confined in Fort Amsterdam. He may have worked as an assistant to John Martin Durr, butcher, who gave surety for him in 1806. In 1817 he applied for citizenship.

Johanna Sophia Breedschoe was the daughter of another German soldier, Johan Christoph Franciscus Breitschuh, and Francina van de Kaap, a slave of Pieter Hacker. Johanna Sophia and her sister Dorothea Francina were thus born into slavery, and manumitted by their father in 1787.

JFW Flamme and Johanna Sophia Breedschoe were married on 1 January 1809 in Cape Town, and had 11 children (that we know of). One of them was Petronella Dorothea Francina Flamme (1822-1893), Val’s great great great grandmother, who married Henry Crighton. Another was Johanna Louisa Christina Flamme (1814-1880), Ron’s great great grandmother, who married Samuel Beningfield.

The Beningfields moved to Durban and had eight children, one of whom, Johanna Dorothea Beningfield (1838-1900), Ron’s great grandmother, married Edward Hoste Hickman (1834-1901). One of the Beningfield sons, Reuben Widdows Beningfield, married his cousin Martha Crighton of Cape Town, and so that branch of the Beningfields is more closely related to us than the others.

This was the bare bones of the genealogy we were able to give Ron Hickman, and when he visited the Cape Archives he photocopied enormous quantities of documents to fill out the family story, with lots of biographical information on Sam Beningfield and some of the others.

Of the Flamme family, only the daughters married and had children, and most of the sons died young (one while a student at Heidelberg University in Germany) so there are no descendants with the surname Flamme. But some of the daughters were prolific, and, in addition to the Beningfields, Crightons and Hickmans, their descendants include members of the Mechau and Burnard families, who in turn married into the Enslin, Haupt, le Roux and de Villiers and von Backstrom families, and many more, far too many to list here.

We’ve met some of them, and corresponded with some, but Ron Hickman was the one who was most interested in the family history, and he also met many others on his visits home to South Africa, and we first came to know of many of the later generations of the Beningfield and Hickman families through him.

Looking for Franca Greene, nee Bladezki

Have you ever watched Heir Hunters on the History Channel? We have had heir hunters looking for the heirs of Ignat Bladezki. Two different lots of heir hunters in the UK have contacted us in the last couple of weeks, looking for the heirs of Ignat Bladezki, who died in Coventry, England, in May last year.

Our connection is that a daughter of Ignat Bladezki, Franca, married Val’s dad’s cousin, Errol Royden Norman Greene. We met Franca Greene once, about 18 years ago, when she was living in Bryanston with her daughter Courtney, who was then about 14. Errol Greene died in 1980, when Courtney was less than a year old. We chatted about family history, and Franca gave us some details for the family tree. She said her father, Ignat Bladezki, was born in Russia, but had deserted from the Red Army and gone to live in England, so it may not even have been his real name, and he spoke very little about family connections. He married Yola Conti, who died some years before he did, and, according to the heir hunters, he himself died in a nursing home and no one on the staff knew who his relatives were.

We’ve lost touch with Franca, and Courtney, who must be about 30 now, may have married and changed her name. But we’d like to get in touch with Franca again, to let her know that her father has died, and also that she probably stands to inherit a sum large enough to make the heir hunters think it worth their while to try to trace the next-of-kin (they make their money by taking a commission).

Franca was Errol Greene’s second wife. He had two daughters by his first wife, Dionne and Tracey. They don’t stand to inherit anything, but if they can be traced they may help us to find Franca. Franca told us that Tracey had married a Grant Stack. So if anyone reading this knows where Franca or Courtney are, please ask them to get in touch with us.


Errol Greene ran an air-conditioning business in the Eastern Cape, South Africa, before his death in 1980.

Namibian cousins visit

Last month we had a visit from Val’s cousin Enid Ellis and her husband Justin, who were on holiday from Windhoek, Namibia. Val and Enid are cousins on the Pearson side of the family. We manage to see them once every 5 years or so, usually when they are passing through, and catch up with news of family and friends. This time we did it over lunch in Centurion Mall.

Enid Ellis, Val Hayes, Justin Ellis

Val (nee Greene) and Enid (nee Gammage) grew up in Escombe, in Queensburgh, Natal, near Durban and the families were very close, and they spent a lot of time together.

Steve met Justin when he came to Windhoek with a group of  students from Stellenbosch University to spend part of their summer vac there in 1970. Actually it was a funny summer, as for one week it was bitterly cold, and there was snow in the Cape, in December!

Steve and Justin met again in July 1972 (the real winter) at an Anglican Students Federation conference at KwaMagwaza in Zululand. Steve had been deported from Namibia, along with some other church workers, including the bishop, Colin Winter, and so Steve tried to persuade Justin to go there to take the place of some of those who were kicked out. Whether the persuasion did the trick, or whether it was something else, Justin eventually went.

A few months after that meeting, Steve met Val and Enid in Queensburgh, and in 1973 Val and Enid went to Namibia on holiday. In 1974 Enid decided to go back there, and later that year Val and Steve were married, and Enid and Justin as well. And a few years later Justin and Enid were deported from Namibia (an insidious habit), and spent a few years in England, returning when Namibia became independent in 1990.

Back in the 1970s we were all Anglicans. Now Enid and Justin are Quakers, and Val and Steve are Orthodox.

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