Hannan cousins in Fish Hoek

Nearly 40 years ago we went on holiday to the Western Cape. Val and I had been married for a year, and we had just started our family history research, so we visited whatever relatives we could find and badgered them with questions about the family history.

Alex Hannan, Fish Hoek, 19 October 1975

Alex Hannan, Fish Hoek, 19 October 1975

My maternal grandmother was Janet Hannan who had married George Growdon, and we visited Growdon relatives in the Eastern Cape and Hannan cousins in the Western Cape. We called to see Alex and Una Hannan in Fish Hoek. Alex was my mother’s first cousin, the son of my mother’s uncle David McFarlane Hannan, who lived in Rhodesia. I had only met Alex once before, about 10 years earlier, when I scarpered to England to avoid a meeting with Detective Sergeant van den Heever of the Security Police, and while I was changing planes at Salisbury airport (now Harare), some of the family came to see me.

This time we found their house in Fish Hoek, and managed to chat for longer, and stayed for tea. Alex’s wife Una was known locally as the Bird Lady — she took in sick and injured birds and nursed them back to health, and they had quite large aviary.

In his youth Alex had been a boxer and represented South Africa in the 1936 Olympic Games. His elder son Clyde has promised to tell us more about that.

While we were having tea there was a huge hail storm, and the whole garden was covered with hailstones about a foot deep, so that it looked almost like snow. Hail seemed to feature quite a lot in visits to Hannan cousins — more of that below.

My beautiful pictureTheir younger son Stanley was also visiting, with his wife Norma and two-year-old daughter Debbie, so we were glad to meet them as well. Stan was thinking of becoming a Baptist minister, and later he did, and I saw him a few times after that in Johannesburg. He and his family later moved to the USA.

We then went up the hill, still in Fish Hoek, to see Chris and Ivy Vlok. Ivy Sharp was the daughter of my mother’s auntie Em, and I knew them somewhat better. I’d first met them when I was about four years old, and they were living in Berea in Johannesburg. My mother and I went up from Durban on the train, and it was my first long-distance train journey, or at least the first one that I could recall. Ivy and Chris had two sons, Arthur and Terence. Arthur was about my age, and Terence was younger, and I don’t think he was born on that first visit.  Arthur is now a grandfather, living in Fish Hoek, and we visited him and his wife Jean, and their daughter, son-in-law and grandchildren a couple of years ago — picture here.

On that first visit Ivy’s half sister Nellie was also there, and she took me into the centre of Joburg on the tram one day. I can’t remember why, or what we did in town, but I do recall that on the way back there was the father and mother of all hail storms while the tram was climbing up Twist Street. The hailstones jammed the points where the tram had to turn into Kotze Street and the conductor had to get out in the downpour and clear it with a metal lever before the tram could turn. My mother later told me that Nellie was a kleptomaniac, and rather strange and mysterious. She married twice and divorced twice, and had no children, and nobody seems to know what happened to her. Her first marriage was to Edward “Scotty” Davis, and her second was to Ernest Edward Turner, but she was divorced from him when I met her.

Chris Vlok was in the army, and it was war time on that visit. Later we visited them again in Lyttelton, it must have been soon after the war, where they lived in long bungalows in the barracks. I would then have been about 5 or 6 years old, and my memory was that the Sunday newspapers were different, and had different comics. In the Sunday Tribune in Natal we had Brick Bradford, who travelled around in a “time top” that looked a bit like the rubber bulbs that mens’ hairdressers used to squirt talcum powder down the necks of their customers — a kind of predecessor of Dr Who, perhaps. There was also Rusty Riley, who lived on a ranch with lots of horses. But the Transvaal papers had the Katzenjammer Kids and Moon Mullins and Kitty Higgins and Jiggs and Maggie. One of the neighbours in the bungalow was a girl called Bridget, and she had a bicycle, and that was where I first learned to ride a bicycle.

Ivy and Chris Vlok, Fish Hoek, 19 October 1975

Ivy and Chris Vlok, Fish Hoek, 19 October 1975

Later the Vloks moved to Roberts Heights, later known as Voortrekkerhoogte, and now as Thaba Tshwane. Chris Vlok was an electronics fundi and taught people in the military about radar and such things. We used to visit them quite a lot there when we lived at Sunningdale, just outside Johannesburg. In the 1960s they were transferred to Simonstown, where Chris Vlok did the same with the navy, and when we visited them in 1975 he was semi retired, but still looked after the library of books on electronics.

Ivy & Chris Vlok

Ivy & Chris Vlok

Ria Reddick’s 90th birthday

I nicked this photo from Fiona Carson Reddick Symth’s Facebook page, showing her mother’s 90th birthday. Her mother and my mother, Ella Hayes (born Growdon), were first cousins, and last met in Glasgow in 1967, and my mother died in 1983.

Ria Reddick’s 90th birthday party

Ria was born as Ria McFarlane Hannan on 9 November 1921, and married Hugh Cumming Reddick in 1943. They lived in Rhodesia after the Second World War, and their younger children were born their. Their eldest child, Craig, was killed in a car accident, and Hugh died in Northern Rhodesia (now Zambia). Ria returned to the UK in 1966 after the Rhodesian UDI, as she did not want to bring up her children in that kind of society.

Bill Hannan of Durban

Ria is also first cousin to Bill Hannan, whom we met for the first time last Sunday. There are not many of that generation still alive.

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.

Holiday trip to Free State and KZN

Last week I was in Pietermaritzburg for an academic conference, but there was no time for family history research. But we hope to be back there in mid-July on holiday, and to visit family and friends. We’re hoping to get together with some Hannan cousins in Durban that we’ve never (in my memory at least) met face to face. We’ll be leaving on 8 July and going to see Peter & Toni Badcock Walters in Clarens, and then on to Pietermaritzburg and Durban.
I’ve written an account of the joint conference on religion and theology, held in Pietermaritzburg last week (JCRT 2012), with some photos, on my blog at

 

Oldest living member of the Hannan clan?

My second cousin, Fiona Hannan Smyth (born Reddick) recently posted a photo of her mother Ria Reddick (born Hannan) on Facebook, with some of her great grandchildren.

Ria is the youngest of the children of  Thomas Hannan (1879-1941) and Hannah Carson (1884-1972), and my mother, Ella Hayes, and I visited them in Glasgow in 1967, and we took a few “whozit” pictures of the family gathering.

Back Row: Willie Hannan, Tilda Aitken, Ria Reddick, Stephen Hayes, Joyce Buchanan, Ella Buchanan. Front Row: Ives Duff (daughter of Tilda), Alastair Duff, Ella Hayes (cousin of Willie, Tilda, Ella & Ria), Hannah Hannan (born Carson) & Nellie Hannan (wife of Willie). Glasgow 6 May 1967.

Ria was my mother’s first cousin on the Hannan side and I think she is the only one of that generation still alive. We tried to see her when we went to Scotland in 2005, but she was out when we called.

Ella Hayes and Ria Reddick, Glasgow 6 May 1967

I think the family resemblance can be seen in this photo.

Ria and her husband Hugh went to Southern Rhodesia after the Second World War, and their two younger children, Carson and Heather, were born there. Hugh died in 1963, and in 1965, with the Rhodesian UDI threatening, Ria decided to return to Scotland.

I met her at Heathrow airport with her brother Willie — I had been in the UK just over a fortnight, as a semi-refugee, and had met Willie in London a short time earlier. I wrote in my diary at the time (4 Feb 1966)

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 are 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.

All the Hannans seemed to have dark hair, and wherever I got my hari from, it wasn’t from the Hannan side of the family.

Anyway, fastforward again to the present, when Fiona (Ria’s eldest daughter, who didn’t come with them on the plane, and whom I haven’t met) posted this picture on Facebook, of Ria with her great-grandchildren. Fiona writes:

In the photo of Mum with 4 of her great grandchildren are (the 2 older boys are my grandsons, Karen & David Browns sons, Connor David (12 1/2) & Challum Harry (11) & the small boy & baby are 2 of Heather’s grandchildren, Kathryn & Gary Booths kids, Harris (3) & Ava Hannah (1).

Ria Reddick with her great-grandchildren

And they all have the Hannan hair!

There’s more on the Hannan family here.

Hannan cousins at the beach c1925

During our holiday earlier this month we visited lots of Hannan cousins, and here is a picture of their parents and grandparents at the beach, probably in the summer of 1925/26.

Hannan cousins at the beach Summer 1925/26 Back row: Betty Hannan, Ella Growdon Middle Row: Janet Growdon (nee Hannan), Agnes Hannan (nee Irvine) Front Row: Ivy Sharp, Nan Hannan, Phillys Growdon, Peggy Sharp

Betty Hannan, aged about 14, in the back row, married first John Fowler, and then Robert Stewart. Ella Growdon, aged about 15, in the back row, married Frank Hayes, and is the mother of Steve.

Janet Growdon (born Hannan), aged about 43, was the mother of Ella and Phyllis in the picture, and the aunt of all the other children. Agnes Hannan (born Irvine) was the mother of Betty and Nan (the baby in the picture). Nan was the mother of Peter Badcock-Walters.

Ivy Sharp, aged about 10, married Chris Vlok, and Arthur Vlok is their son. Phyllis, aged about 9, married Dennis Solomon in 1950, but they were divorced about two years later and had no children. Peggy Sharp, aged about 12, married Ted Gascoigne, and had a daughter Brenda.

Peggy and Ivy’s mother Emily Sharp (formerly Mould, born Hannan) is not in the picture.

The picture was probably taken at Durban beach, or at least some beach in Natal, and judging from the ages of the children, was probably taken in the summer of 1925/26.

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

Home from holiday trip

Val and I have just returned home after a holiday trip to the Western Cape, Eastern Cape and Free State, which lasted just over three weeks. It was very much a “seeing people” holiday, and we saw old friends and cousins we hadn’t seen for many years, and some family members we had never met before. We left on Bright Tuesday, 26th April 2011, and travelled through Springs, Nigel, Balfour, Villiers, Frankfort and Bethlehem to Clarens, where we stayed at the Cottage Pie B&B, and visited Dons and Anneke Kritzinger and Toni Badcock-Walters, wife of my second cousin Peter Badcock-Walters, who was away in New York.

On 27 April we drove to Graaff-Reinet, and were struck by the deterioration of the road and rail infrastructure caused by road transport deregulation — — the Free State roads were particularly bad. We stopped at Aliwal North for lunch and Val ate a venison pie under the reproachful gaze of a gemsbok whose head was mounted on the wall above. In Graaff Reinet we stayed at Villa Reinet, run by Hannan cousins Nick and Ailsa Grobler, but Ailsa was away, visiting her son in Dubai. We spent two nights there, and on Thursday visited the Valley of Desolation and Nieu Bethesda, which is famous for its Owl House, but deserves to be more famous for its beer, which is much better than the insipid chemical concoctions produced by SAB-Miller.

On Friday 29 April we drove to Barrydale and stayed overnight at the Watercourt Lodge, and saw an old friend Dick Usher, whom I had known when he was a journalist on the Daily News in Durban in 1969, and a member of the Christian Institute youth groups.

On Saturday 30 April we had a shorter trip to Robertson, where we visited cousin Sandy Struckmeyer (nee Vause) and her daughter Kerry, and then went to the Orthodox Centre established by Fr Zacharias van Wyk, who has converted an old packing shed into the last homely house, with a chapel attached, where we stayed the night and had Vespers, Matins and Divine Liturgy in a mixture of Afrikaans and Dutch.

After Liturgy on Sunday 1 May we drove to Hermanus, where we stayed at the Volmoed Community for four days, and I spend a lot of time with John de Gruchy, another old friend, discussing our proposed book on the history of the charismatic renewal in South Africa.

On Thursday 5 May we went to Villiersdorp, where we spent a couple of nights, and visited Val’s sister Elaine Machin and her friend Averil
Anderson, and on Friday went with them to Genadendal and Greyton where we had lunch, with magical misty mountains all around.

On Saturday 7 May we went to Cape Town and stayed at the Formula 1 hotel on the Foreshore, and visited Richard Girdwood, now Rector of St Michael’s Anglican Church in Observatory, whom we had known in Durban North in the 1970s. We had supper with Val’s first cousin Gail Stierlin (formerly Farqhuarson, formerly Alldred, born Terblanche) and met her husband Gustav Stierlin for the first time, and Gail’s mother, Val’s aunt Pat, was staying with them.

On Sunday we went to the Divine Liturgy at St George’s Cathedral in Woodstock, where I served with Fr Nicholas, and afterwards had lunch with Renfrew Christie at the Foresters Arms in Rondebosch. I wasn’t sure whether I had met him before or not, but I certainly knew of him from the 1970s. Then we went to Simonstown to visit more Hannan cousins, Arthur and Jean Vlok, and met their daughter Anthea for the first time. We had met their son-in-law Julian Buys on an earlier visit in 2003.

The next three days we spent mainly in the archives, doing family history research, and had supper with Erica Murray, another old friend, whom I had first met in 1964, but had not seen since she went to Canada in the 1980s. We also saw His Eminence Metropolitan Sergios, the Archbishop of the Cape of Good Hope.

On Thursday 12 May we left Cape Town early in the morning on our return journey, travelling eastwards on the N2 to Knysna. It was misty much of the way, and at one point we saw three bright lights, which we at first took for lights on a mountain, but when we didn’t pass them and as they went higher in the sky realised were stars or planets. No other stars were visible, just those three in the east, which were quite magical. One was certainly Venus (Lucifer), but I’m not sure what the other two were. We caught the tail end of a news item on TV saying that it was a quite rare conjunction of Venus, Jupiter and Mars (or was it Mercury?).

We spent a couple of nights at Knysna, and saw my first cousin Glenda Lauwrens (nee Growdon), her husband Brian and daughter Joanne, whom we hadn’t seen since they moved to Knysna from Ladysmith 21 years ago. We also saw Val’s father’s first cousin, Patrick Clark, and his wife Carol, whom we had never met before.

On Saturday 14 May we drove to Port Elizabeth, and were forced to use a toll road (boo! hiss!) for the only time on our trip, as the Bloukrans
Pass was closed. In PE we had tea with David and Mary MacGregor. David was formerly the Anglican Dean of Pretoria, and we had not seen them since the 1980s. We had supper with Val’s aunt Nat Greene, On Sunday we went to the Divine Liturgy at the Church of the Dormition, and afterwards went to lunch with Dimitri and Marguerite Paizis, and stayed talking with them the whole afternoon.

On Monday 16th May we drove to Stutterheim via Port Alfred. At Bathurst we tried to visit Lindsay Walker, an old BBS friend, but did not have his address. We got a phone book at the post office and called the only Walker listed in Bathurst, but there was no reply. At Stutterheim we stayed with Growdon cousins, Hamish and Monica Scott. Their son Robbie runs a nursery and an eco-lodge called “The Shire”, and we spent the night in one of the splendid cabins at The Shire.

On Tuesday 17th May we travelled to Burgersdorp via Cathcart, Queenstown and Molteno. We had driven through Burgersdorp on the way down, and wanted to see more of it, and so spent the night there.

On Wednesday 18th May we retraced our route to Clarens over the horrible Free State roads, and Wepener was as dirty and run-down as Burgersdorp was neat and well kept. This time we stayed with Toni Badcock-Walters (my second cousin Peter was away again, this time in Namibia), but we met their son Craig, and Peter’s half-sister Louise Philp, and caught up on a lot of family history information. It was election day for the local government elections, but there was no way we could get home in time to vote, in spite of a flurry of urgent SMS messages from the Democratic Alliance urging us to vote for them so they could take the City of Tshwane. I thought it was a bit presumptuous of them to assume that we would vote for them.

On Thursday 19th May we drove the last leg homewards, via Petrus Steyn Heilbron, Vereeniging, Heidelberg, Nigel, Springs and Bapsfontein. We stopped in Petrus Steyn to visit church friends Danie Steyn and his mother, who gave us mushroom soup for lunch.

Well, that’s the outline, but we will also be posting more detailed accounts, with pictures, on our various blogs, perhaps after the pattern
of Cobbett’s “rural rides”.

Visiting family in the Western Cape

After leaving Volmoed on 5 May we went to Villiersdorp to see Val’s sister Elasine Machin, who has been living there with her friend Averil Anderson for the last 7 months, knitting alpaca wool and paionting pictures of animals. While there we went to have lunch at the nearby town of Greyton, and passed through Genadendal, the first Christian mission station in South Africa, founded by the Moravian Georg Schmid.

Val Hayes, Elaine Machin & Averil Anderson at Greyton
Greyton is all over picturesque cottages and restaurants, and seems to be populated mainly by what people on the Welsh Borders call “incomers” — actually quite a lot of the small towns in the Western Cape, and even in the Eastern Cape, seem to be a bit like that.

View from Elaine and Averil's house at Villiersdorp

On Saturday 7th May we went to Cape Town, where we are staying at the Formula 1 Hotel on the Foreshore. It doesn’t have very attractive surroundings, mainly office blocks and parking lots for them, and nowhere within walking distance where one can get anything to eat, but it’s where all the freeways meet, and one can go off in any direction, and it’s a five-minute drive from the archives, where for the last couple of days we’ve been doing family history research.

On Saturday evening we had supper with Val’s cousin Gail Stierlin, whose husband Gustav we had not met before, and Val’s aunt Pat van der Merwe was also visiting, and we hadn’t seen her for a long time either.

Gustav & Gail Stierlin, Pat van der Merwe, Val Hayes

On Sunday evening we visited more cousins on the Hannan side of the family, and this time we found most of the family home – Arthur and Jean Vlok, their daughter Anthea and son-in-law Julian Buys, and grandchildren Brandon (10) and Joelle (5).

Julian Buys, Arthur Vlok, Joelle Buys, Anthea Buys, Jean Vlok and Brandon Buys in front

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,

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