Thanks for the upgraded knee

Just two months ago, on 30th October 2019, Val Hayes went into hospital for a knee operation. It has made an enormous improvement. Before that she was finding it difficult to walk from one end of the shopping mall to the other without great discomfort. Now it is virtually painless. But this would not have been possible without a great deal of help from our friends, to whom we give thanks.

Val after haircut

Val Hayes, November 2019

Val asked her doctor about the problem, and she was referred to an orthopaedic specialist, who looked at the X-rays and said that surgery was necessary to repair the knee joint. We asked whether the Medical Aid would cover such surgery because, as pensioners, we simply couldn’t afford it if they wouldn’t. so we tried to find out what extra money would be needed, and thought of appealing for it on the Go-Get-Funding web site. It was amazing how friends and acquaintances (some of whom we only knew through contact on the Internet) were willing to help and within a few days people had pledged to donate the full amount.

So Val went into hospital on 30th October, and had the operation, but only afterwards did we discover that this would cost extra and that would cost extra, and eventually the extras we discovered after the fact would cost twice as much as the original amount. So we reopened the appeal, and more people donated, some through Go-Get-Funding, and others directly,. Today we were told that the money from Go-Get-Funding was being paid into Val’s bank account, and it looks as though it will be enough to pay any extra costs. So thanks once again to all our family, friends, fellow church members and acquaintances far and near who contributed. Your kindness and generosity has been amazing.

Some memories of Westville in the 1940s

I recently reestablished contact with an old friend through Facebook (one of the things Facebook is good at), and posted a school photo in which both he and I appeared, but where I couldn’t remember the names of most of the other people in our class. A few days later someone posted a link to this article, on The Roots of Westville’s Historic Tree, which prompted me to write a few memories of Westville, near Durban, where I spent my early childhood.

I was born in Durban in 1941, and lived in Westville until just before my 7th birthday. We lived at 2 Woodlands Avenue.

2 Woodlands Avenue, Westville, 1930s

This is the house we lived in, though the picture was taken before I was born, and there were more trees in my memory. The upstairs window on the right was my bedroom, and the one on the left was my parents’ bedroom, and the one in the middle was my mother’s sewing room — she had a business making baby clothes and toys.

Behind the house, down the hill at the back, lived Mr & Mrs Morning, an elderly couple my mother and I used to go to have tea with. My main memory of those teas is of their art deco teacups, octagonal, and decorated with nasturtiums, and the stained glass in their front door.

To the right of our house (as pictured here) was the road that led down to the Mornings, and on the other side of that road, also in Woodlands Avenue, lived Dr and Mrs Levy, who had no children. Behind their house, again going down the hill, lived Mr Brinzer. His place was surrounded by a high wall, surmounted at intervals with plant pots, behind which he kept goats. We kids were dead scared of the goats, which we never saw, but which we knew lurked behind the wall. According to my mother Mr Brinzer wore a hair net, but I don’t recall ever seeing him, with or without a hair net.

If one continued to the right down Woodlands Avenue. past the Levys’ house, one came to the Main Road between Durban and Pietermaritzburg, later known as Jan Hofmeyr Road, but then it was just the Main Road. There my mother and I would wait for the bus to go into Durban. It was a single-decker Durban Corporation bus, painted grey. At one point Corporation workers cut all the trees along the Main Road, and then we got a double-decker bus. The bus passed various landmarks — an isolated shop on a bend advertising C-to-C cigarettes, passing through 45th cutting to Sherwood, then down the hill to Mayville, where there was a trolley bus terminus. Then down Berea Road, which in those days had trams, and islands in the middle with flamboyant trees. It ended up at the bus station in Pine Street, between the municipal telephone exchange and the station, with flower sellers at the station end.

On one occasion, when I was about 4 years old, my mother told me to wait for her outside the library, which was in the city hall building a couple of blocks away. She seemed to take forever inside, and I got bored and decided to go home, so walked over to the bus terminus and got on the bus. Some kindly person paid my fare, as I had no money, and I took myself off home, while my other frantically searched for me.

Back in Westville, on the other side of our house, Woodlands Avenue continued level for a short distance, with vacant land on either side, and then went down a fairly steep hill, where it joined another road. On the left was where my friend Clive Witherspoon lived (the one I recently made contact with on Facebook). and on the right lived the Hargreaves family, and they had three children, Peter, David and John. We spent a lot of time playing together. At one point there was building activity on one of the vacant plots of land, and a lot of drainage pipes were delivered for the builders. We had great fun laying out a drainage system with the ceramic pipes, but the builders were not impressed, and complained to our parents.

Somewhere beyond that was a stream, which flowed through a dam, and then over a small waterfall, and away through fields. We explored the stream as far as the dam wall, but were forbidden to go to the dam itself, because if children went there they would drown. By 1950 the dam and stream had disappeared under the new main road that replaced the old one, which was then renamed Jan Hofmeyr Road. Beyond the stream the road went into open country, with a cattle dip, where we sometimes watched the cattle going into the milky white water to rid themselves of ticks, and come out bellowing and dripping. A bit past that was the “mile-away-house”., which my father told me was a mile away from our house. And beyond that, at the edge of the world, lived another friend, called Roy. I forget his surname.

Only the main road was tarred, and all the other roads were gravel. Every few months the Corporation sent a grader, pulled by a caterpillar tractor, to smooth the roads. Great was our joy when one night the Corporation workers left the grader at the side of the road, to come back and finish the next day. We clambered all over it, raising and lowering the blade, and adjusting its angle. Other regular visitors to Woodlands Avenue were a Dodge bakkie that delivered milk, and a vegetable seller, called a sammy, who carried two baskets over his shoulders connected with a pole. He would haggle with housewives up and down the road over the price of his fresh vegetables.

In 1946, at the age of 5, I went to school. One of the children in the neighbourhood, Annabelle Dougal, had a governess, and her parents had built a classroom at their house, and so several children from the neighbourhood went to school there. It was known as Westville Kindergarten School,. and the teacher was M. Murray. Subjects taught were Letters, Counting, Singing, Poetry, Drawing, Story Acting, Modelling and Folk Dancing. My only surviving report says I was very good at counting and poetry and pretty mediocre at everything else.

In 1947 I went to Westville Government School, which was held in an old farm house. The headmaster was Mr Lumsden. I went into Class I, where the teacher was Miss Stockill. The classroom was next to the veranda of the old farmhouse, and so was rather dark and gloomy. After a term it was decided that my time at Westville Kindergarten School had made me too advanced for the class, so I was promoted to Class II, where the teacher was Miss Selfe. At some point one of the older kids came and asked me “Car or Cliff”. I thought I liked cars better than cliffs, so picked that, and found my self in the car house for the purpose of school sports. Now that I am older I think the houses were probably named for some worthy people with the names Carr and Cliff, but that didn’t occur to me at the age of 5.

I used to walk home from school, usually with my friend Clive Witherspoon. One day we were passing Mr Brinzer’s place (with the goats behind the wall). It had been raining, and there was a strange animal in a puddle in the road. it was slimy, greyish-black in colour and had a long thin tail. Clive thought it was a scorpion, with a sting in its tail, so we kept well clear of it. For a few years afterwards that creature provided my mental image of a scorpion, until I saw a real one, which was about a tenth of the size. I later realised that the thing we saw in the puddle that day was a chameleon, not a scorpion, but childhood legends die hard.

Westville School

Westville Government School Classes 1 & 2, 1947

In the class photo, the only people I remember for certain are myself (2nd from right in back row) and Clive Witherspoon (4th from right in front row, sitting). The blonde girl second from the left in the second row from the front was called Ruby, but I don’t remember her surname. The girl on her left with the white ribbon may have been Morag Turnbull, whose father was a doctor, and they later moved to Umtata. There was also a girl called Janet who occasionally came to school riding on a pony, but I don’t remember which one she was. If anyone seeing this picture knows who any of the people are, and what subsequently became of them, please write about it in the comments section below.

For more on Durban childhood memories see Evocation of a Durban childhood | Notes from underground and Growing up in Durban | Notes from underground

 

 

Val Hayes needs a knee operation

Over the last couple of years my wife Val has found walking increasingly difficult and painful, and last week after a medical examination, the doctor recommended an operation to replace the knee joint, and it certainly seems to need replacing.

Val Hayes, 29 Sep 2019

A few years ago we used to be amused at people who cruised around the car parks at shopping centres looking parking place marginally closer to the entrance, and we wouldn’t care how far away we parked, thinking that the exercise would do us good, but now we, like those others, try to get as close to the entrance as possible, because for Val the walking is too painful.

One problem, however, was the cost. The Medical Aid would pay a proportion of it, but we still needed to find something like R7500 to pay for the operation, .

So we thought we might try crowd funding from Go Get Funding, and within a few hours the full amount was pledged, or so we thought. But only when Val was already under the anaesthetic was it revealed that the anaesthetist’s fees were not included in that amount, and that another R16000.00 would be needed

Many thanks to those who have contributed. We are very grateful.

If you would like to contribute, please click on this link: Val Hayes’s Knee Operation.

Val had the operation on 30 October 2019 at the Wilgers Hospital, and came out of hospital on 2 November. Though her knee was painful after the operation, she says it was not nearly as painful as it was before, so there has already been an improvement.

 

Battle of Isandlwana: 140th anniversary

Today is the 140th anniversary of the Battle of Isandlwana, which marked the beginning of the Anglo-Zulu War of 1879, when British/Natal troops invaded Zululand.

It was a significant day for our family history too, as one of those on the Briitish/Natal side was my great grandfather Richard Wyatt Vause, and if he had been killed on that day, I would not have been here to write this. At the end of this post I’ve included an extract from his diary, describing his part in the battle.

Forty years ago it was the centenary of the battle, and as we were living in Melmoth, Zululand, at the time, we drove to Isandlwana, to the scene of the battle, I’ve included some extracts from my diary for the day as well. At that time I was Director of Training for Ministries in the Anglican Diocese of Zululand, and worked closely with Canon Peter Biyela, whose grandfather had also fought in the battle, on the other side. We sometimes wondered what our ancestors would have thought of our working together a century later.

For more about the background to the Anglo-Zulu War in general, see Imperialism and the Archbishop, and for more on the battle itself see Zulu Rising (book review).

Extract from Diary of Stephen Hayes

22-Jan-1979, Monday

Abstract

Centenary of the Battle of Isandlwana. Visit the battlefield. Jack and Peggy Stokes come to stay.

It was the centenary of the battle of Isandlwana, so we went up to visit the battlefield. It was a beautiful day, not too hot, with quite a lot of cloud, but the sun still shining brightly, and a clear view.

At Babanango we drove up to the top of the hill. There is a microwave relay station up there, and so the Post Office had provided a track by means of which we could drive right to the top, and there was a magnificent view in all directions. We took some photographs from up there, and one could just see Isandlwana in the distance to the north-west, sticking up in the middle of a valley.

View from Babanango microwave tower

We drove on and came to Isandlwana about 10:45, almost the time the battle had started. There was quite a number of cars there, and the relief model of the battlefield was open, and we took some photographs of it, and I had the diary of my great grandfather Richard Wyatt Vause, which we referred to to try to picture the battle as it had happened.

Isandlwana mountain, with cairns marking places where bodies were buried after the battle.

Down below at the cars someone was tootling on a bugle, and then some men got dressed in red uniforms — obviously costumes used for the extras in the filming of Zulu Dawn. They formed up in a ragged and somewhat sloppy column and marched over to the battlefield, to where the biggest group of graves was, and we strolled over to see what was going on, and they laid a wreath by one of the monuments. It was rather fun to see them marching about, giving some idea of what the troops must have looked like, though the British soldiers of the 24th Regiment must have been turning in their graves beneath the cairns of whitewashed stones at the sloppy drill and incomplete outfits they were wearing.

Bridget Hayes looking at the battle site

Last night we had read Donald Morris’s account of the battle in his book The washing of the spears, and it was strange to think that this was the scene of such violence a hundred years ago, and that one incident at the place, lasting a few hours, could cause it to be remembered for that incident so long afterwards. Bridget and Simon played around the monuments, too young to have any idea of what happened here, and that if their great great grandfather had not escaped, they would not even exist now.

Back at the model we once again tried to trace what had happened, and Mr Hyde, of the National Monuments Commission, pointed out Shepstone’s grave, and that gave a better idea of where Wyatt Vause and his men had fought. There was a visitors book there, and we signed it, and looked at the comments some other people had made — the triumphant ones in Zulu — “Izwe lethu” (the land is ours), “Amandla ngawethu” (power to us) and so on. The English ones: “tragic” to the banal “fantastic”. One of the most interesting was something to the effect that the world would be better without the politicians and soldiers. And looking at it 100 years later it all seems futile. None of the local people really wanted this war — neither the Zulus nor the Natalians. It was conceived by Lord Carnarvon, thousands of miles away, to suit the purposes of the British government, and not the local people at all. Yet even that judgment is conditioned by time and place, reflecting present-day views, with the advantage of hindsight.

Carnarvon’s scheme of federation misfired, it was “premature” as the history books say. Unity had to wait until 1910, when the time was ripe. But the time was not ripe then either, because the Nats are busy dismantling the Union of South Africa. Perhaps if Natal had gone its own way at the time of the republic in 1961, it would have been a better place. After the lessons of Nat rule had been learned and before the very idea of freedom had been obliterated, as it is now, certainly among the whites.

Some people dressed in felftover costumes from the film “Zulu Dawn”, playing the Last Post.

It is also interesting that the whites are more interested in Isandlwana, and the Zulus in Ulundi. Defeats seem to be more commemorated than victories, through the Afrikaners like to commemorate both, as with Blood River. It is interesting to read what happened, but what was not said would be more interesting — how many people really thought that the invasion of Zululand was justified?

Simon Hayes at Isandlwana

A little way away in the church, St Vincent’s, also named because the battle had taken place on St Vincent’s Day, the events have a lasting effect on the place. But now St Vincent had been dropped from the calendar anyway — who was he and what did he do? Deacon and martyr, it is said.[1]

We went to see the sisters at the convent,[2] and talked to Sister Claudia and Sister Nesta. A little later Sister Christian (the Provincial, from Lesotho) and Sister Veronica Mary came in. They were going to be discussing whether they should open a new house at Etalaneni or at KwaMagwaza, and I put in a plea for KwaMagwaza, as the hospital really needs the presence of prayer. We also discussed some of the things to do with the TEE College.

We returned home on the other road, turning off at Babanango and going through Fort Louis and Owen’s Cutting. Went we got home Jack and Peggy Stokes were there, and had parked their caravan in our yard.

Peggy Stokes

Peggy is a third cousin once removed of Val, being the great granddaughter of Henry Green, whose brother Frederick Thomas was Val’s great great grandfather. We had discovered them when a Mrs Collier of Colesberg had given me their address at Kariba, Rhodesia. They had lived at Kariba for 20 years, running tourist cruises on the lake, and had then sold their boat and were now retired. Due to exchange control regulations they had not got too much money available, but in summer they tour Southern Africa, looking for family history. They had recently visited Hal Green, a grandson of Henry, in Swaziland, and had taken notes of various things he had, and had then gone to their daughter, Jean Ingle, in Umhlanga Rocks and had now come to us to compare notes on the Green family.

Extract from Diary of Richard Wyatt Vause during the Anglo-Zulu War.

22 Jan 1879

At break of day we all turned out and stood under arms for an hour as we thought that if the Zulus did attack they would choose that hour for it. As soon as it was quite light we took our men out for footdrill as we expected stiff work for our horses and wished to save them as much as possible. On returning to camp we found that a dispatch has been received from the General ordering us to join the column at Isandlwana as he was about to attack the stronghold of a chief called Matyana and he required all the mounted men available.

Col. Durnford had just started with 50 of the Edendale men to see if he could procure wagons from the farmers living along the frontier. We at once sent a messenger after him and set to work with a will to strike tents and get everything ready to move on his return. All were in high spirits at the thought of a fight at last and we little thought what a terrible and miserable ending that day would have.

About 7.30 all was ready and the order to march was given. We had a smart ride of about 12 miles, arriving at Isandlwana between 10 and 11 am. After riding through the camp we halted a few minutes to give the men their biscuits. Col. Durnford sent for me and ordered me to ride back and meet our wagons as the Zulus were seen in our rear, and he expected they would try and cut them off.

Isandlwana mountain from the west. This is the view Lieut Vause would have had bringing up the wagons, and hearing firing from over the hill.

My orders were to see the wagons safely into camp and then join him about 12. I got back with the wagons and hearing firing about 2 miles to the front of the camp at once gave the order to trot, and started off to find Col. Durnford. I came across Capt. Shepstone, and as he asked me to stay with him I dismounted the men and extended them in skirmishing order. We were soon under hot fire, but continued to advance very slowly as the Zulus were under good cover, and we had to expose ourselves every time we advanced. On arriving at the top of the hill we perceived the enemy in overwhelming force coming up from behind and fearing our ammunition would be expended before we could reach the camp Capt. Shepstone gave the order to retire back to our horses.

Model of Isandlwana battle site. Lieut Vause would have come up the road in the foreground with the wagons, but would only have seen the battle on cresting the hill.

Fortunately the Zulus were shooting very badly, and as yet very few casualties had occurred on our side. As soon as the Zulus perceived that we were in retreat they came on with a shout and were rapidly gaining on us when we regained our horses.

As soon as the men were mounted we retired slowly to the camp, dismounting every few yards and firing a volley, but without holding the enemy in check as they did not seem to mind our fire at all.
After regaining the camp it was found to our dismay that the ammunition boxes had not been opened and as the Zulus were close on our heels we had no time to look for screwdrivers. Fortunately one of my kaffirs came across a box with a few in which I distributed amongst the men.

By this time the soldiers had expended their ammunition and the Zulus had cut though them and were in amongst the tents and we were obliged to retire again. On reaching the road we found it occupied by Zulus and our only way of escape lay over a very rough strip of country. One or two of my older kaffirs advised me to try it, as it was impossible to get out by the road. So we started off, but soon got scattered, a lot of the horses falling over and throwing their riders, who were immediately killed by the Zulus in pursuit.

I managed to reach the Buffalo River with about six kaffirs but my horse not being able to swim was washed down and I lost him. After a great deal of difficulty I managed to reach the opposite bank but being thoroughly exhausted I had to sit down and rest and had it not been for a little kaffir boy giving me a seat behind him on his horse I am quite sure the Zulus would have been upon me before I had gone many yards further.

However we soon got out of range of the Zulus’ fire and as I found the boy could not manage his horse, jumped off and walked a short distance, and came across Edwards of the Carbineers and he kindly took me up behind him.

We reached Helpmekaar thoroughly exhausted and formed a laager of the wagons and sacks of mealies but as there were only 38 of us to defend it we quite expected that it would be our last night.

Fortunately the Zulus were repulsed at Rorke’s Drift and did not get as far as Helpmekaar. I lost 30 men and 10 wounded, so have not many left of my original 50.

Biographical information on Richard Wyatt Vause

born : 1854 02 10 Pietermaritzburg, Natal
died : 1926 05 28 Durban, Natal
mar : 1881 02 03 St Paul’s Church, Durban
to Margaret Ellen COTTAM
eldest daughter of John Bagot COTTAM and Adelaide HERBERT, his wife.
Father : Richard VAUSE
Mother : Matilda Park

Richard Wyatt Vause, generally known as Wyatt to his friends, was the eldest son of Richard VAUSE, born two years after his father’s arrival in Natal from England.

He was educated at Durban High School, and spent some time on the Kimberley Diamond Fields. In 1874 he started a printing, bookselling and stationers business in Pietermaritzburg, known as Vause, Slatter & Co.

In the Anglo-Zulu War he fought as a Lieutenant in the Natal Native Horse under Colonel Durnford, and was one of the few survivors on the British side of the Battle of Isandlwana (22 Jan 1879).

After the war he married Margaret Ellen COTTAM, and they had a son and three daughters. By 1889 he was operating as a sharebroker as well, with offices in Pietermaritzburg and Johannesburg, the name of the firm being Vause and Nourse.

In 1891 his wife died, and he moved to Johannesburg. His bookselling and printing business in Pietermaritzburg was taken over by Daniel Saunders and W.J. Slatter. It later expanded into music and musical instrument sales, and was a theatrical agency as well.

During the Second Anglo-Boer War (1899-1902) he was in the Army Service Corps. After the war he was in business in Johannesburg as an accountant, probably in the firm of his brother-in-law, Charles Henry Matterson. He later appears to have returned to the diamond fields, and then to have farmed in Natal for a while before retiring to Durban.

His hobby was horse racing and breeding.

His only son, Dick Vause, died two years before him. Of his three daughters, Ruby married Jack Stayt, and had two sons and a daughter; Lily married Percy Hayes, and had two daughters and a son; Gladys married Gilbert Wilkinson of Ottawa. They had two daughters, and were later divorced, and Gladys then married Arthur “Dave” Nourse, the well-known cricketer.

Notes

[1] St Vincent of Spain (Feast Day 22 January, 11 November in some Calendars)

St Vincent of Spain, Deacon & Martyr

The Holy Martyr Vincent of Spain from his childhood was the disciple of a wise pastor Valerian, the bishop of the city of Augustopolis (now Saragossa, Spain). When he reached mature age, the virtuous, educated and eloquent Vincent was ordained deacon by Bishop Valerian. Since the bishop himself was not adept in speech, he gave a blessing to his deacon, an eloquent orator, to preach in church and among the people.

Diocletian (284-305) sent the governor Dacian to the city of Valencia, Spain with full authority to find and execute Christians. People denounced the wise bishop and his deacon to the governor, who arrested them. The soldiers, mounted on horses, dragged the Elder and his disciple behind them in chains from Augustopolis to Valencia, and there they cast them into prison beaten and tortured, giving them neither food nor water.

Read it all here.

[2] Convent at Isandlwana

In the Anglican Diocese of Zululand several young women felt called to the monastic life, but there was no monastery  for them in Zululand, so they were sent to Lesotho, where they joined the Community of the Holy Name (CHN). When Alpheus Zulu became Bishop of Zululand in 1966 he invited them to return, and they established a convent at Isandlwana, near the site of the battle. The CHN grew rapidly, and by 1982 had four houses in Zululand.

2018: That was the year that was

In the past people used to keep in touch with family and friends far away (and even, sometimes, close at hand) by sending and receiving Christmas cards. That seems to have died out; this year we have sent none and received none. For a while that custom was replaced by more informative duplicated newsletters, and more recently by the PDF attachment equivalent. Well here’s ours, from Steve & Val Hayes, as a blog post. The advantage of a blog post is that one can keep it fairly short, yet add hyperlinks for those who would like to know more.

Steve: Has been engaging in quite a bit of nostalgia this year, recalling events of 50 years ago, as 1968 was quite a significant year in my life. For more on that, see my blog post on 1968 in Retrospect, and if you want more detail, for two months that year I was at St Paul’s College in Grahamstown, and I’ve written a series of posts on that, starting here. They cover things like theological education of 50 years ago, and contemporary theological currents.

That handles the distant past, but what about the immediate past, of 2018?

Val and I are both retired, and we continue to live in Kilner Park, Pretoria, in the Great City of Tshwane, where we have lived for the last 35 years, with our sons Simon and Jethro, and one dog, and several birds, like the hadedas that crap on our cars, and the toppies that come into the kitchen.

Our daughter Julia Bridget Hayes, is an ikonographer in Athens, and you can read about her work here.

Val Hayes, 70th birthday, November 2018

Our life as pensioners has settled into a routine over the last couple of years, with little variation. We can’t afford to travel, and so mostly stay at home.

Val: In November we celebrated Val’s 70th birthday, a milestone worth marking perhaps. We celebrated with our usual Sunday service in Atteridgeville, and a family dinner at one of our favourite restaurants.

Once a fortnight, more or less,  we go to the Alkantrant library to change our library books, which has a rather limited selection of books, many of them apparently donated by library patrons.

The core of the Atteridgeville congregation — Christos Nkosi, Demetrius Mahwayi and Artemius Mangena. Charles was baptised at Christmas 2017.

We go on alternate Sundays to services in small mission congregations in Mamelodi (18 km to the east) and Atteridgeville (35 km to the west). In Mamelodi we meet in the house of parishioners. We used to meet in a school classroom, but they raised the rental , and in any case Theophania Malahlela has a bad leg, and finds it difficult to walk to church so it’s easier for the church to some to her.

In Atteridgeville we borrow the African Orthodox Church, and you can see what that looks like here. Neither congregation is big, and in Atteridgeville it is mostly the two of us and three regular faithful guys. Perhaps we’re all too old to attract any young people.

Once a month the Russian parish of St Sergius in  Midrand has the Divine Liturgy in  English on a Saturday, and we go to that, and sometimes take our baptised members from Mamelodi and Atteridgeville so they can receive communion.

Fr Wolde Selassie (Diliza Valisa) of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church, OT. Данила Луговой (Fr Danil Lugovoy), Rector of St Sergius, Midrand; Leonard Skweyiya; Deacon Stephen Hayes

Midrand is midway between the centres of Johannesburg and Tshwane, and so the English services there are also useful for inviting non-Orthodox who want to experience Orthodox worship, and chat about it at breakfast afterwards, and there are sometimes visitors from other parishes as well.

St Sergius Church, Midrand, 20th anniversary celebrations

St Sergius Parish also celebrated its 20th anniversary which we attended with members of the Atteridgeville congregation. There was a visiting bishop from Russia and of course our own Archbishop Damaskinos. There was also a visiting monastery choir from Russia, so the singing was magnificent.

In Lent and Holy Week especially we try to take part in some of the services in our old home parish of St Nicholas of Japan in Brixton, Johannesburg though the travel is expensive and tiring as every year the traffic gets heavier.

Another fairly regular event in our lives is a weekly ecumenical gathering called TGIF. It’s held at 6:30 am on Fridays in a local coffee shop, and someone gives a talk, usually on some aspect of the Christian faith, followed by questions, and it’s over by 7:30, in time for busy people to get to work, and retired old fogeys like us to have another cup of coffee, and chat to anyone who is still around. The general purpose is Christian apologetics, but there is no proselytising and no pressure on anyone to convert. Anyone is welcome.

At one TGIF meeting David Levey, of the English Department of the University of South Africa, spoke on Reading Irreligiously, and we suggested to him that we should have a more focused gathering on the general topic of Christianity and literature, a bit like the Inklings group of C.S. Lewis, Charles Williams, J.R.R. Tolkien et al. As a result we have been meeting to “inkle” once a month for nearly three years now, I’ve tried to keep a record of some of the books we have discussed in my blogs — see here, and here and here for accounts of some of our 2018 gatherings. The last of these deals also with the current situation in South Africa, and compares it with the “Matter of Britain” — the legends of King Arthur, with the idea that behind Britain there was the realm of Logres — the land of true good and piety, nobleness and right living — which is often overwhelmed by the evil that breaks through. And between 1994 and 2004 we had a glimpse of a South African equivalent of Logres, before the evil empire renewed its attacks.

Apart from those regular things we don’t go out much, and spent most of our days at home, pursuing our hobby of family history and general historical research, and occasionally trying to share ideas through blogs. In February Steve found himself part of an oral history project when Jess Richards and Renate Meyer came to interview him for the Banned People’s Project. Jess and Renate were both young, late 20s, perhaps, and so banning would have been before their time. They said that the Truth and Reconciliation Commission had dealt only with gross human rights abuses and thought that lesser human rights abuses like banning also ought to be documented. If you, reading this, are also too young to remember banning, you can find out more here: The Banned Wagon.

In September we had the first and probably the last reunion of Steve’s matric class at St Stithians College. It was the class of 1958, and we were perhaps never close enough to have a reunion, and were unable to contact any class members but two of us. The Class of 1968, which also gathered, had a better turn-out. More on that here.

We were also saddened by the death of an old friend, Stephen Gawe, whose 80th birthday we had celebrated at the end of 2017. A consolation was that we had got to meet his daughters Nomtha and Vuyo, who were both born while he was in exile in the UK.

In November Steve finally got round to publishing a novel he had been working on for a long time. It’s called The Year of the Dragon. It arose out of a challenge to write a book in the same genre as those of Charles Williams, which have been described as “supernatural thrillers”. You can find out more about it and how it came to be written here. The cover was designed by our son Simon, who spends most of his days (and sometimes nights too) working on computer animation.

Debbie & Jethro

In December Jethro and his girlfriend Debbie went on a trip to Botswana to visit Debbie’s parents who live in Gaborone.

Towards the end of the year we had disturbing news that Bishop Athanasius Akunda of Kisimu and Western Kenya was seriously ill in a hospital in the USA. He had come to South Africa as a young deacon to help with the mission work of the Orthodox Archdiocese of Johannesburg and Pretoria, and we worked together for 13 years. He was ordained priest, and was made deputy dean of the rather under-resourced diocesan Catechetical School, where he made a deep impression on the students who passed through it. Steve was promoter for his doctorate in theology at the University of South Africa with a thesis on Orthodox diologue with Bunyore culture. He became the parish priest of our “home” parish of St Nicholas of Japan in Brixton, Johannesburg where Steve served with him as deacon, and was a mentor, student, colleague and friend.

In 2015 he returned to Kenya and was consecrated bishop of the new diocese of Kisimu, where he has done excellent work, and so his illness affects not only him but many others.

In other news…

Samwise, a dog obsessed with balls

On 11 November our dog Samwise died. He was 12 years old. We got him as a small puppy in September 2006, which was a three-dog year, and Samwise was the third puppy we got that year. In January 2006 our strange excitable bonsai Alsatian, Alexa, suddenly took ill and died. In February Jethro came home with a puppy, Ralf, and within a few weeks he had died. We later discovered that both had probably suffered from a particularly vicious form of biliary.

We got another puppy called Mardigan, and covered him with anti-tick stuff. We got these puppies to keep our other dog, Ariel, company. Then when thieves broke in to steal our Toyota Venture, they poisoned the dogs. After an enormous vet’s bill, Mardigan died, but Ariel survived. We got Samwise to keep her company, but kept wondering if something bad would happen to him too.

Pimen running to welcome people home.

Samwise was a very big dog, and of all the dogs we have had he was the one most obsessed with balls. If someone came to the fence, he would bark madly at them, often quite frighteningly, but actually he was just asking them to throw his ball,. So we buried his balls with him.

Now our younger dog Pimen lacks canine company. When we came home in the car Pimen would bark to let Samwise know we were home, and Samwise would bark to summon Simon to open the gate. But now we have silent homecomings, because there is no Samwise for Pimen to summon.

 

 

 

 

Flamme cousins

A couple of weeks ago Micha Hannemann, Val’s fifth cousin once removed on the Flamme side of the family, got in touch through a link found on the web, and now we have met Micha, her parents, Michael and Irene Birch, and Micha’s daughter Andrea. We compared notes on the family history, reaching back to Francina van de Kaap, slave of Pieter Hacker.

Irene’s mother, Johanna Maria Weilbach (born Steytler) had died last July at the age of 100, and they had found all kinds of family treasures, including portraits of the common ancestors, Johan Friedrich Wilhelm Flamme (1780-1831) and Johanna Sophia Breedschoe (1782-1836), and the commonplace book of their eldest daughter, Francina Dorothea Flamme, who married first Jonathan Joseph Burnard, and second Gerhardus Nicolaas Mechau, a Cape Town butcher.

Flamme cousins: Val Hayes, Irene Birch, Andrea Hannemann, Micha Hannemann, Michael Birch, 7 December 2018, Pretoria

The commonplace book was a historical treasure in itself, containing pictures of early Cape Town, and helping to clarify some family relationships that have long been a puzzle. One member of the the family, Anna Mechau, had been an artist, and here is one of the pictures she had drawn in the commonplace book:

by Anna Mechau, Cape Town, 13th February 1843

And here is an unsigned picture of a Cape Town scene, probably around the same time, or a little earlier:

Cape Town street scene, 1830s or 1840s

There were many snippets of poetry and drawings, some signed with names, some more obscurely by initials, and some just signed “A Friend”.

But best of all were two portraits of Val and Micha’s common ancestors, J.F.W. Flamme and Johanna Sophia Breedschoe (or Breitschuh).

J.F.W. Flamme (1780-1831)

Johan Freidrich Wilhelm Flamme was born on 3 October 1780 in Twiste, Hesse-Nassau, Germany, the son of Stephan Flamme and Maria Elisabeth Scharschmidt. He came to the Cape Colony as a soldier in the Waldeck Regiment, and 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, and wrote to the Governor and Commander in Chief of His Britannick Majesty’s troops in the Settlement of the Cape of Good Hope, Sir David Baird, saying that his “very extensive Butcher’s trade necessitates him always to have in his service a number of assistants either to dispatch the daily business of the Butchery or to go up into the country to buy for him the Cattle necessary for the Inhabitants of the Town as well as for the Ships in the Road”

Durr went on to say that he “had happily found out a certain Frederick William Flamme, formerly Soldier in the Batallion of Waldeck, who is still confined at Fort Amsterdam, and is ready to become your Petitioner’s Assistant, provided Your Excellency grant him leave for it.”

On 1 January 1809 Johan Friedrich Wilhelm Flamme married Johanna Sophia Breedschoe and in 1817 he applied for citizenship. They had 11 children, though several of them died young.

Johanna Sophia Breedschoe (c1782-1836)

Johanna Sophia Breedschoe was the daughter of another soldier, Johan Christoph Franciscus Breitschuh, who arrived in the Cape Colony in 1773 from Halle in Germany, and also worked as a carpenter. He had two children by Francina van de Kaap who was a slave of Pieter Hacker. He had the children manumitted in 1787, and possibly their mother had died by then.

Their eldest daughter Francina Dorothea Flamme (the one who kept the commonplace book) married Jonathan Joseph Burnard, but he was killed in a carriage accident, and her second marriage was to Gerhardus Nicolaas Mechau, whose mother Anna Mechau (born Jacobs) was the artist who filled the commonplace book with pictures, and presumably also painted the portraits of Francina’s parents.

There are many Mechau descendants that we have managed to trace.

Val’s great great great grand mother was a younger daughter of J.F.W. Flamma and Johanna Sophia Breedschoe. She was Petronella Francina Dorothea Flamme (1822-1893) who married Henry Crighton (1815-1870), and they too had numerous descendants.

The Flamme boys mostly died young, and so there are no cousins with the Flamme surname in southern Africa, but apart from the Burnard, Mechau and Crighton descendants, the other Flamme girls married into the Wright, Beningfield, Laing, and Tait families.

 

Gammage cousins visit

Yesterday we had a visit from Val’s cousin Arthur Gammage, his wife Jenny and daughters Sonja and Hilda. We hope to see more of Sonja, as she is moving here to start working at the University of Pretoria, and the rest of the family came to help her with the move. We hadn’t seen them for about 10 years. Arthur has retired from the town planning department at Durban, and Jenny from teaching.

We took Sonja and Hilda on a kind of orientation tour of the town, along the ridge to the south, which has a small nature reserve.

Zebras in the nature reserve on Johan Rissik Drive

Somewhere in the middle distance in the picture is Centurion, also part of the Great City of Tshwane, and beyond that, on the horizon, is Johannesburg.

 

Hilda, Sonja and Val, looking over Pretoria from Johan Rissik Drive, above Waterkloof.

Then we crossed to the Union Buildings, on the other side of the valley, and looked at everything from the other side.

Sonja, Hilda and Val at the Union Buildings, all over spring flowers

We reminusced about the Union Buildings. We visited here in 1976 to visit the state artchives to do family history. The archives were then in the basement, with the reading room under the west wing, and one could go to the civil service canteen on one of the upper floors for lunch.

When we moved here in 1983 P.W. Botha was in charge, and he wanted the entire building for gis office, so gradually all other departments were moved out, and the archives eventually moved to their own building a couple of miles away,

Then came democracy, and Nelson Mandela moved in, and the public still had access to the exterior of the building, and on a couple of occasions he invited a whole busload of school children to see his office.

Vire from the terrace at the Union Buildings, with statue of Nelson Mandela Below, and view over Sunnyside

But then the main building itself was fenced off, and so ironically in the democratic South Africa the public has less access to the seat of government than it did at the height of the authoritarian Vorster regime.

Arthur Gammage with Sonja, Val Hayes, Jenny and Hilda