Cousins in Clarens

We recently visited our cousins on the Hannan side of the family in Clarens in the Free State, Peter and Toni Badcock Walters. A few years ago they decided to retire there, and bought an old sheep-shearing shed in the grounds of the Clarens Golf and Trout Estate. Most of the houses on the estate are brand new rather posh dachas for rich city folks, but theirs was one of the orginal buildings, which they converted into a dwelling house, and three self-catering holiday apartments which they let out, and a fourth in an outbuilding, called “The Shepherd’s Loft”. The whole is called Clarens Country House, and you can learn more about it here.

Clarens Country House – the Shepherd’s Loft on the left

While visiting them we stayed in the Shepherd’s Loft, which is above the garage, and very comfortable. The other three apartments were also occupied.

The Shepherd’s Loft at Clarens Country House

Peter and Toni live in about a third of the building, and are also converting part of it into an art gallery.Their kitchen has walls build of sandstone from the surrounding hills, and on some of them are scratched the tally marks by which the sheep shearers kept track of the number of sheep they had sheared.

The village of Clarens, seen across the valley from the Clarens Gold and Trout Estate

Many of the Free State villages and small towns one passes through are suffering from the new highways that bypass them. Villiers, for example, used to boast several cafes that were patronised by motorists passing through between Johannesburg and Durban. But now they stop at the cafes beside the freeways, and Villiers is dead. Now you’re hard put to find a stale pie there.

Clarens, however, has reinvented itself as a tourist mecca. It boasts a number of very good restaurants (and none of the big chains, like Wimpy, MacDonalds, Spur etc), and an independent brewery. There are several art galleries, craft shops, and an independent bookshop. On most weekends the town is crowded with visitors. It’s about 330 km from Johannesburg, 400 from Pretoria. Peter and Toni’s son Craig (alias Knot the Juggler) has recently opened a novelty and magic shop called The Henn’s Tooth. It’s too new to have much atmosphere yet, but give it time, and it may look like something out of Diagon Alley.

Toni & Peter Badcock Walters and Val Hayes

It was good to see Toni and Peter again, and good to see the progress they have made in turning the old sheep shed into a habitable space.

More Hannan cousins – Badcock Walters & Reddick

Our holiday trip ended as it began, with Hannan cousins in Clarens, though my second cousin Peter Badcock Walters was away in Namibia this time, but his wife Toni, son Craig and half-sister Louise Philp were there, and it was the first time we had met Craig and Louise.

Badcock Walters

Craig Badcock Walters, Louise Philp, Toni Badcock Walters, at Clarens, 19 May 2011

We went to Clarens brewery to sample the local brew, which was a considerable improvement on the fizzwater produced by SAB Miller, but not quite up to the standard of that we had tried at Nieu Bethesda. I don’t normally drink much beer; for one thing, I couldn’t afford it, and most beer produced by the SAB Miller near-monopoly tastes insipid. But when there’s a local brew I’m always willing to try it.

Knot the Juggler

Craig Badcock Walters, alias Knot the Juggler

We talked late into the night. Louise is interested in family history too, so we swapped notes and stories, and Craig is a fan of Tolkien’s books, and so we talked about the similarities and differences between  the creation stories in The Silmarillion and the Bible. I invited Craig to join our Internet discussion forum on the Inklings so that we can continue the interesting discussions we were having. It is the Neoinklings forum, and the aim is not merely to discuss the works of the Inklings (J.R.R. Tolkien, Charles Williams, C.S. Lewis & Co) but to write new work in the same kind of genres they wrote in, and to discuss our work as they did. Anyone else who is interested is welcome to join us.

Craig is also into juggling and street entertainment. and has his own blog under his stage name of Knot the Juggler. You can also “like” his Facebook page. He has also done some work in TV production. He has a daughter Leah, aged 16.

I’ve seen Peter Badcock Walters (Craig’s father, and Louise’s half-brother) at fairly long intervals, because we’ve always lived far apart. The first time I met him was on 7 June 1953.

Michael Curtis, Elizabeth Dods, Peter Badcock, Stephen Hayes, Sunningdale, 7 June 1953

I was at boarding school, and as it was a Sunday a friend, Michael Curtis, came home with me. I must have had a masochistic streak, because Michael was much bigger than me, and used to hit me for no reason at all, but his parents were away, and he would have had to spend the day at school alone, and probably being made to work in the school gardens by the headmaster. At that time we lived on a smallholding in Sunningdale, just outside Johannesburg. My mother’s cousin Betty Stewart (formerly Fowler, born Hannan) from Ndola in Northern Rhodesia had come to stay with us, bringing her nephew Peter Badcock, who was about 4 years old.

Peter Badcock, Stephen Hayes, Michael Curtis, Elizabeth Dods

Another friend, Elizabeth Dods, who lived nearby in Sandringham, came with us, and the four of us went down to the Huddle Park golf course, alternately riding and walking with our two horses. There we saw some big concrete tanks with water covered with green slime. There was a sign that said “Contaminated water”, and none of us knew what it meant. When we got home I asked my mother, and she said I should write to ask my godfather, Tromp van Diggelen, who lived in Cape Town. It was a sneaky way of getting me to write him a letter. Michael Curtis kept threatening to hit Peter, and saying “Stephen’s little cousin is going to get hurt.”

Peter Badcock, Michael Curtis, Stephen Hayes. Sunningdale, 7 June 1953

I next met Peter when doing a moonlight flit to get away from the Security Police in South Africa. A Detective Sergeant van den Heever wanted to give me a banning order (I didn’t know it at the time, but discovered it many years later in my SB file). I drove through the night from Johannesburg to Beit Bridge, which we reached at dawn. John Davies, the Anglican chaplain at Wits University, accompanied me to take my mother’s car back. We crossed the Limpopo and went into the Rhodesian immigration hall — this on Wednesday 19 January 1966, two months after UDI. The Rhodesian immigration officer, looking very British in white shirt and shorts, asked us to fill in a form at the desk. We went to the desk, where there were about 15 cubicles for writing, each with a neatly framed notice: “Please do not allow your children to scribble on the blotting pads.” First impression of Rhodesia. John wanted to take one as a souvenir. We took the forms back to the immigration officer with white shirt, very different from his South African counterparts who were wearing dowdy grey suits or sports jackets. He questioned the amount of money John was bringing with him — he had only put down five pounds on the form, but the man let him pass when John showed him his building society book with 500 in it. Then we went to the customs, got third-party insurance for the car, a temporary importation permit, and a petrol ration slip. We expected to get only about five gallons, but they gave us fifteen, and obviously have not begun to take the oil sanctions seriously. Then we went out. It was now 7:30, and we drove through the gate with the Union Jack still fluttering above, an incongruous testimony to Harold Wilson’s exousia. Then to a hotel where we bought cold drinks, and saw a sign advertising petrol at Messina prices, indicating that here, at least, the petrol is brought by rail from South Africa. And when we paid for the cold drinks we were back in the land of pounds, shillings and pence.

My mother arranged a plane ticket to the UK, which I collected at a travel agent in Bulawayo, and late in the afternoon boarded an Air Rhodesia twin-turboprop Vickers Viscount. In just under an hour the plane landed in Salisbury, and at the airport I phoned Mum’s cousins after studying the instructions on how to work the telephone for ten minutes. It required the tickey to be dropped before dialling, and various buttons to be pushed. They came out to the airport to see me: Betty Stewart and Alex her brother and their mother Aunt Agnes and Peter Badcock. I asked how they were, and Betty looked grim and said “We’re determined to see this thing through,” which wasn’t what I meant. We talked a little, keeping off politics by mutual consent, except that Aunt Agnes said that soon we would be facing the same difficulties in South Africa, and Betty shushed her saying, “Stephen probably doesn’t agree.” And then I had to go through customs and into the transit lounge, where I bought a James Bond book to read on the plane — an Alitalia DC8, which took me to Rome, where I changed to a Caravelle, which took me to London.

Now a slight digression, to a different branch of the Hannan family. My mother had another cousin, Willie Hannan, who was a Scottish MP. Betty Stewart had written to my mother around the time of the Rhodesian UDI, when Harold Wilson’s Labour government in the UK was straight from the deepest pit of hell in the eyes of white Rhodesians. Betty described cousin Willie Hannan in her letter as a “one man one vote bastard and a sick leftist”, so I pictured him as some kind of heroic and romantic revolutionary Che Guevara figure, and was slightly disappointed to find that he was very mild, very conservative and the furthest thing imaginable from the wild radical of Betty’s description. Because of my precipitate departure I’d arrived about 9 months early for the UK academic year, and Willie had contacts who helped me to jump through the bureaucratic hoops necessary to get work when I had entered the country as a student. I worked for London Transport as a bus driver.

And there was yet another Rhodesian cousin, Willie’s sister Ria Reddick, whose husband and eldest child had died in Rhodesia. She didn’t like the idea of living under the Smith regime, and returned to the UK, and I went with Willie to meet her at the airport on 4 February 1966. Her plane was due to arrive at 12:20, and then she was going up to Glasgow with Willie at 3:00. On the way to the airport on the bus Willie told me about his family, and how he had met Tommy (Mum’s brother, who died 2 and a half years ago) when he was in the merchant navy during the war, and he said I looked like him. He also told me of his father, who during the First World War was a pacifist and a a socialist, and had spent two years in jail. I told him that Mum had said that my pacifism runs in the family, but did not enquire about the nature of the socialist Sunday School she had said her uncle (Willie’s father) had sent his children to. At the airport we found the plane with Ria, a South African Airways Boeing, would be late, and we sat having tea and sandwiches, and I told Willie something about the Liberal Party and its policies, and a little of the way in which our activities were hampered by Special Branch intimidation and so on. He said he was not a religious man himself, and I said I wouldn’t have expected it. “Oh, why do you say that?” he asked. “Because so few people are,” I replied. He said he admired John “Honest to God” Robinson, and thought he might be able to accept those views. I then told him how issues in South Africa were sufficiently clearcut to enable one to make a political speech using biblical texts, but that here it was not so. When the plane with Ria arrived at about 1:20 we had to go over to another building for them to get the plane to Glasgow (there were 3 terminal buildings at Heathrow — one internal, one European, and one intercontinental) and there we had tea and talked about Rhodesia. Ria said that she had had a Rhodesian passport and citizenship, and felt that she could not stay after UDI, so had got a British passport on the 9th of November, two days before Smith went mad. Two of Willie’s parliamentary colleagues joined us while we were waiting, and Ria showed us a letter she had had to get from the government giving her permission to resign from her job with Shell Oil. Then Willie and Ria and the children left. The kids were quite sweet — a boy of about 15, called Carson, and Heather, about 12. Both had dark hair, like their mother. There was another daughter, Fiona Reddick, but I didn’t meet her then.

Peter Badcock, December 1968. Cheltondale, Johannesburg

End of digression. I returned to South Africa in 1968, and at the end of the year Peter Badcock, then 18, came to spend a few days with us. He came with two friends, Gary and Brian, who were wanting to buy musical instruments for their band, and were in search of a wah-wah pedal and a fuzz box, which were not available in Rhodesia, because of sanctions.

I didn’t see Peter again for another 22 years, when Val had to go to Durban in October 1990 to install a new computer for Rasco Fire Protection, where she was working. Peter was then married to Antoinette Willemse, and living in Kloof, and doing educational consulting after having been a book illustrator for a time (we have a copy of the works of Herman Charles Bosman that he illustrated). We were staying at the Fields Hotel in Kloof (now closed) and went to see them, and also met their younger son Ross.

We saw them again about three months later when they came to the Christmas service at our church, St Nicholas of Japan in Brixton, Johannesburg. Peter Badcock came with his wife Toni and sister Philippa, and said they had enjoyed the service. I hadn’t known he had a sister, and was even more surprised when he said he had four of them, and then added that he himself hadn’t known they were his sisters until he was 21, and he had also found out that the man he had thought was his father was not actually his father. It appears that when Betty discovered that her younger sister Nan was pregnant, she persuaded James Badcock to marry her. But Peter’s real father was William David Fanshawe Walters, who later married Elizabeth McKenzie and had four daughters, including Louise and Philippa. James Badcock had left Nan, and, without divorcing her, had married someone else and had several children, and Peter said he could say to them “I’m the only legitimate bastard among you.” So the Badcocks are no relations of any of us, but I suppose I could describe Louise as my step-cousin.

Peter and Toni moved to Clarens some years ago, and bought an old sheep shed, which they are converting into a house with a studio that Peter can use for his art, and several self-contained self-catering apartments that they can let out, or use as accommodation for family who come to visit.

sheep shed

Peter and Toni Walters's house in Clarens in the Free State -- a converted sheep shed

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