HF2. PHYLLIS FREEMANTLE nee HOWARD.
H2/5 Phyllis Howard = Eric Freemantle.
(1897 - 1953) (1896 - 1972)
Phyllis Howard was the sixth child and fourth daughter of Henry Benjamin Marshall Howard and Emmeline May Howard nee Warner and she was born in Cala, Cape on 1st September, 1897. At the time of her birth she had three older sisters, Gladys Maud and Winifred May and Flossie Ruth and two older brothers, John Cecil Guy (called Jack) and Harold Benjamin. After her came three more children, Doris Ethel, Muriel Alys and the youngest named Stanley.
Her father was an attorney and a conveyancer and had been educated in England, although he was born on 28th February, 1863 in Kingwilliamstown, Cape. Unfortunately, he was an alcoholic and this caused a number of problems for his wife from whom he was eventually parted and also for his family. He finally died in Bulaway, Rhodesia on 14th. March, 1939 and apparently the only member of the family who remained in contact with him was his nephew, Brian Warner, who was at that time also living in Bulawayo and was employed by and eventually became Managing Director of Stewart & Lloyds.
Her mother, Emmeline May Howard nee Warner was of 1820 Settler stock through both the Warner and the Bradfield families, plus a double connection through the Stanford family as well.
Phyllis did not speak much of her childhood although she often mentioned that she and her sister, Flossie, were particularly close and that she greatly admired Jack who took on the role of head of the house once his father had departed from the family.
While the children were still small the two maiden aunts (her mother's youngest sisters, nicknamed Gypsy and Polly) spent periods of time with the family, assisting in their upbringing and many years later when there were hints of a business scandal involving my grandfather and some other man, Great Aunt Polly, who would admit to no wrong in him, placed all the blame on the other man, whoever he was. Because of this sort of problem and the alcoholism suffered by both grandfathers, my father was not at all keen for me to investigate the family background or draw up the tree. Instead of helping me, he would jokingly push the idea aside saying that there were skeletons in every family that should be left undisturbed
I know that the children attended small local schools at one time and I think the younger girls also received some schooling from their Warner uncles and aunts. One of the Warner men, Selwyn married a lady teacher, Rose Dodd, the daughter of Rev. D. Dodd and she taught at the school in Cala during that time. They were a very close family and though times were hard and they had to count every penny, they always made a special event of each one's birthday, celebrating in such small ways as the gift of a ribbon or some handmade item of little cost. Their poverty was brought home to me by the mention that, as children they could never have both butter and jam on their bread, but had to choose one or the other.
By about 1912 the family had moved from the Transkei to Johannesburg. Her two oldest sisters were married by then and her brothers, Jack and Harry, were working on the Simmer & Jack mine. The family moved into a house in Malvern and they were still living there when Phyllis married.
My Mother would often speak of the dances all the young people attended and how the whole group would walk home together when the party was over, the return journey being part of the fun as they went singing, dancing and chattering on their way back home. In those days people accepted many of the hardships of life with little complaint and made the most of the pleasures that came their way.
It was after the war was over that Phyllis and Eric met and they were married in November, 1920 at St. Patrick's Church, Cleveland and the reception was held at the Masonic Hall in Malvern not far from where she had been living with her mother and younger sisters. After the marriage, their first home was in Gardens and shortly after this her mother and the remaining sisters also moved up to Southern Rhodesia, joining Jack who was on a farm in the Masoe valley.
[Jack Howard had become engaged to Esther Stout and they were married on 23rd or 24th October, 1921 or 1922. Probably the latter date is correct.
The only attendants at the wedding were Ronald Marillier, husband of Jack's sister, Winifred, who gave the bride away; his youngest sister, Muriel who was bridesmaid and Flossie, who attended on her own, but who had married George Cleverly on 21st.April, 1921. The young couple then moved to a farm near Sinoia. As it happened, ultimately, all four couples, that is Ronald and Winifred Marillier, Jack and Esther Howard, George and Flossie Cleverley and Muriel, who married another Marillier, Lennox on 2nd.November, 1927 ended up farming around the Sinoia district.]
At the time of my birth, my parents were living in Orange Grove and they had working for them as a house maid, a Xhosa woman called Sara who helped look after me as a baby and when I was a toddler. She had been born in the Transkei, some where near Butterworth and she work for various members of the Warner family over many years, after having been converted to Christianity by my great grandfather, a missionary in Butterworth when she was quite a young girl. As it happened, during her working life she was employed by many of our relatives in different parts of the country. She really was quite a character, so some of the stories I heard as a child were about her. Being a country-woman, she was unused to town ways and, consequently, she was very frightened of electricity, but she had to get used to the stove, which after only having used a wood-burning one, seemed like magic to her. The first time she was given some ice-cream, she said it was too cold and put it in the oven to warm! While I was still an infant, we took her with us to the seaside when we went on holiday and she was greatly impressed by her first sight of the ocean. She insisted on filling more than a dozen bottles with seawater (as was the custom among the African people, who considered it to be medicinal - or 'muti') and these had to be taken back to Johannesburg when we returned home.
Once, when my Mother took her to task for taking all the meat ration for herself, giving none to Joseph,[ the young 'outside' or garden-boy] her response was that she was old and he had many years ahead when he could be eating meat. When she left us she moved on to work for one of my aunts.
However, her greatest concern always was that, on her death, she would not receive a Christian burial, so the old Warner maiden aunts promised her that if she came to them when she was ready to die, they would ensure she was given a proper Christian funeral. More than 20 years after she left our employ, to their surprise, she turned up on their doorstep in a small village called Berlin, in the Ciskei, to where the old aunts had moved. In reply to their greeting and question of how she had got there, she said, 'I got on the train and told the conductor that I was going C.O.D. to the Misses Warner in Berlin'. Apparently, he responded to this information by kindly giving her a ticket, without charge, and seeing her safely off at her destination. Of course the old aunts, poor as they were, made sure the conductor was compensated for the fare which had come out of his pocket and within a short time Sara died as she had anticipated and was given a very moving Christian Service in the small church and buried in the local cemetery.
Although I have never seen my Christening certificate, my Mother told me that I was christened at the Scout Hall in Orange Grove and perhaps that implied that no certificate was issued. However, my godmothers were my Mother's two sisters; that is, my aunts Doris and Flossie and my godfather was a friend of my parents, Francis Thomas who always had a great admiration for my Mother. (He was the Manager of the Rand Providence Building Society in Johannesburg). He was a wonderful godparent to me who, with no prompting from his wife who was uninterested in such things, remembered me regularly three times a year, with thoughtful gifts on my birthday, for Easter and Christmas. One birthday when he asked what I would like and I replied a book, he gave me a desk, with two shelves filled with leather covered classical books, which have given me pleasure throughout my life. He continued this practice of giving presents until I was married, when he gave us an oil painting of the Cape Mountains by Reg A. Gratton. Consequently the first occasion without a gift or acknowledgement from him was my twenty-first birthday, presumably he felt his obligation had been fulfilled by then. This was far from my happiest day in any case, as my mother-in-law took the opportunity to inform me that Phillip and I should not expect to inherit anything from her, because what money she possessed had come to her from her first husband, Arthur Squires, and would go to his daughters. Up until that moment I had never given a thought to inheritances and neither Phillip nor I were ever concerned with such things, believing one should make one's own way in life and we always considered it unseemly when there were fights in families over the contents of Wills.
One of my earliest memories is of my fourth birthday. It was a bright, sunny day and my Mother dressed me in a pretty frilly frock and invited about half a dozen small friends to tea at our home in Orange Grove. I had watched her make a special birthday cake in the morning and been thrilled to receive my greatly anticipated birthday present of a lovely teddy bear, whose height was roughly 20 inches. He had large brown glass eyes and curly golden hair. However, when all the children trooped inside the house to have our party tea I left him on the swing in the front garden and, to my horror, when we returned outside he was gone. Floods of tears followed. But my parents, who were ever protective, kind and generous, replaced him with an identical bear the next day. He was my favourite toy all through my childhood, but when I was twelve or so there were two small girls living in one of the houses behind us and I used to talk to them across the fence. At that time, because the war was beginning to have an impact on supplies of goods from overseas and South Africa had still to develop manufacturing companies within the country, toys were one of the things in short supply. Feeling that as I was almost a teenager and really was too grown-up still to be playing with dolls, I gave them all to our two small neighbours, including Teddy, who was the only one I really missed. However, as an adult, I also came to regret parting with a most delightful Japanese doll that my parents bought for me during our travels in 1937. She was most beautifully made, with delicate features on her china face and exquisite Japanese hair, silk kimono and other typical Japanese clothing; even perfectly made socks and shoes.
It seems strange that I remember these incidents very clearly whereas memories of other possessions that I parted with during my youth are very hazy. At sometime, as a child, my mother must have persuaded me to hand on my doll's house to my cousin, Pam, the daughter of my father's youngest brother, Ronald, because many years later she wrote to tell me how she had loved it and her grandchildren were still enjoying the games they played with it.
I also vaguely recall that soon after the end of the war, my mother also persuaded me to give away a piano accordion that I had never learned to play as it was very heavy for me and, in any case, I have never had much musical ability. We gave it to the nephew of one of my mother's closest friends. His was a very sad case as he had returned from the war so damaged psychologically that he became a complete recluse, refusing to speak to anyone although he lived with his mother and aunt. He would not leave the house during the day and only very occasionally did he go for a short walk during the hours of darkness. I never heard whether he was able to play the instrument or if it was of any comfort to him, but I do hope that it gave him pleasure.
Phyllis and Eric's first child, John Eric, was born in 1922 [see separate section for details of John] when they were living in Gardens, but shortly after his birth they moved to a newly developed suburb called Orange Grove. This house was in Second Street but in about 1927 they moved again to No: 36, Fourteenth Street in the same suburb and they were living there when her daughter, Ruth, was born in 1928 and remained in that house until after the birth of twins, Lennox and Christopher in 1934 when it became obvious that they were in need of more accommodation, so a new house was built at 30, Eastwood Road and they moved there before the end of that year.
'Graystones', 30, Eastwood Road, Dunkeld Johannesburg in 1934/5
'Graystones', was built by a well-known Johannesburg builder, John Barrow and my father arranged with him that it should be built on a 'cost-plus basis' (that is, whatever the cost to the builder plus a set percentage for his profit) which meant that the builder would be sure to use the best and most modern of materials and equipment. All went well from that point of view, but my mother had several disagreements with the architect as he had a obsession for alcoves and my mother considered these to be nothing but dust collectors! She managed to eliminate all those shown on the plan but was far from pleased to find that he had slipped one unexpectedly into what became the breakfast (or general family) room. This one my mother insisted should be enclosed with glass doors to form a display cupboard where she kept a quantity of her better china. When small, we children always ate in this room and my mother used to do her sewing there, or have morning tea.
I can remember visiting the property during the building of the house and, more especially, I remember that the entire area of the garden was initially deep-trenched and dug over because we children used to run up and down in the trenches where the deep red soil of the Transvaal was loosened and then a good quantity of compost laid over it all. The lay-out of the garden was all done professionally; large rocks being brought in to form the three main rockeries and the rest was terraced to include the bowling green, tennis court, (the tennis shelter came later), swimming bath with changing rooms, the pergola and fish pond.
As both Eric and Phyllis were very hospitable and had close relationships with their families, the house was always open to visitors and many of the family's younger generation spent a year or more at 'Graystones' in order to facilitate their education. Kathleen Marillier, Winifred's daughter, was one of these, and Dallas Milton, eldest son of Gladys, stayed for several years whilst attending the Witwatersrand University. Also, as a small and very shy, seven-year-old boy, Michael Marillier, elder son of Muriel and Lennox, was there for a year attending Pridwin School nearby, rather than being sent elsewhere as a boarder, from their farm near Sinoia, Rhodesia.
[Very much later, when Eric was married to Alice, Warwick May, youngest son of Phillip and Ruth, spent the time prior to writing his Matriculation with them]
Amusingly, Phyllis would claim it was used as a 'dumping depot' because so often people would call and arrange to leave things at the house, to be collected later by other friends or relations. As there was always a constant coming and going of many individuals through the ever open and hospitable front door, this was a convenient way of exchanging or returning items without too much effort on the part of either the giver, borrower, or recipient!
When one recalls all the many happy hours spent by generations of children making the most of the swimming pool, it softens the sadness of having to record that during a visit by Iris Wilson, her daughter, Heather, and son, six-year-old Donny Wilson, he drowned there in 1938.
I have a very vivid memory of this day in my childhood. There was quite a large crowd of children all noisily shouting at each other, swimming about, jumping into and climbing out of the pool. There were a couple of lilos floating about, with children clambering on and off them when Aunt Iris came up to the pool enquiring about Donny's whereabouts. Someone said he had been on one of the lilos. She was frantic, especially when she sighted him, lying under the water; she jumped in and pulled him out, leaving one of her shoes at the bottom of the pool. There was nothing that could be done, of course. We children all hung about helplessly, overcome with the enormity of what had happened. Later, the police came and each child was interviewed after being instructed not to be afraid but just to tell the truth as far as they knew it. Aunt Iris was never the same laughing, happy-go-lucky person she had been before.
Strangely enough, Donny had nearly drowned once before. It was when we were picnicking as a family group at the Jukskei River, not far from Johannesburg, when he got into difficulties. I always remember those picnics when I smell the mimosa blossom on the wattle trees, because they grew all along the banks of this river.
Phyllis, like her sisters was always keen to keep busy with needlework of some kind and she embroidered many pretty cloths to use and to give away and did a good deal of knitting. She also became interested in tapestry and stitched up a number of pictures and other items.
One day when my Mother was working on a tapestry canvas, she was being observed by a gentleman visitor, whom my Father met through business and who was very lonely, as he had lost his wife about a year before. This man was obviously most intrigued by my mother's efforts and told her that, at the time of his wife's death, she had been working on eight tapestries, as back and seat covers for a couch and two lounge chairs, but had not quite completed them. He went on to ask if my Mother would be prepared to finish the set and accept them as a gift from him. My Mother was only too willing to do the work, but considered he should retain them in memory of his wife. A few days later this man phoned in a great state to tell her that he could only find the one uncompleted piece. Apparently, he had had a couple of housekeepers in to assist him in his home and now the other seven canvases and all his wife's work had gone. He brought the remaining, half completed one to my Mother, insisting that she should retain it when she had finished it and she made it into a really beautiful firescreen that stood in front of the fireplace in the entrance hall of their home until after her death. Eventually, my Father sent it down to me. However, when I was engaged I had decided to make up a similar one for myself and my Mother had made one for Aunt Floss. I thought it would be nice, as there were three, for each of our sons to inherit one and Aunt Floss agreed that hers would go to one of the boys. However, life changes, fireplaces are no longer common, we all moved to far away parts of the world, so I gave the one I made to Andrew and wrote to Helen to say that, in spite of Aunt Floss' offer I thought the other one, made by my Mother, should be retained by her, or by her daughter, Lynne and that's where it is at present. Meanwhile, for now at least, the one completed by my Mother remains in my possession and I think its history makes a good story.
Through the years Phyllis often took their children down to Natal for holidays by the seaside, sometimes accompanied by Eric, although he was nearly always called back to the office after the first few days.
I remember happy days in Durban, the rickshaw rides, the pools to paddle in, the smell of Indian curries and, in the coastal towns, such as Amanzimtoti, the beach bushes and scrub, sugar cane fields; again the smell of burning sugar; a holiday at Doonside, with Margaret Goulding and my first kiss, at thirteen, under some of that coastal bush growing on the sandy beach by a red headed scally-wag, nicknamed 'Ginger'. He was the son of the Rev Walker and his real name was Alistair; I also recall walking along the railway line returning from one station too far because I had missed my exit point; also, the fact that all the young visitors to the hotels had to keep quiet (with no swimming, of course) between 2 and 4 each afternoon to allow the adults to have a nap in peace.
In August, 1939 Phyllis took their three younger children to the Natal coast during the school holidays and, although she had persuaded Eric to go with them, she knew from experience that he would be in daily contact with his business and likely to decide to return to Johannesburg before the end of the proposed vacation. At the time there was considerably nervousness over the international situation, but what had not been anticipated happening immediately was that war would be declared at the beginning of September and Eric recalled to the office poste haste, with Phyllis and the family returning home a few days later.
Inevitably, all the young men could hardly wait to join up and although John had to finish his school year before he could enlist both he and Dallas were very keen starters over this. Dallas left university to join the South African Air Force and was sent for training as a pilot. John, in 1940, grew impatient over the delay in his being called-up by the Air Force and put his name down to join the Tank Corps.
During the war years, the house was always full, particularly over weekends, when numbers of Royal Air Force, pilots or pupil pilots, enjoyed their leave, making full use of all the facilities, attending many of the parties and dances held either to raise funds for war charities or as celebrations of some special occasion, or just for the fun of it. In this way 'Graystones' was home, or became a second home, to so many, most of whom having very happy memories of this rather special place.
One amusing incident in this connection was when a young man in uniform turned up at the front door when none of the family were home to answer his knock, so one of the servants greeted him with the statement, "Come in, please. Your bed is made up and ready for you." It turned out to be John's close friend, Ian Leach, who had popped in to let us know he had been posted up north with the fighting forces, but by that time the house staff had accepted that anyone in uniform was to be welcomed and hospitality extended.
Royal Air Force Pilots and Pupil Pilots in South Africa.
The original invitation to these pilots came about when my cousin, Dallas, who had been living with us at 'Graystones' during his years of study at the Witwatersrand University before he joined the air force, asked if he might bring his flying instructor to meet my parents. They came for the weekend and this instructor, a young Scot called Douglas Manning, being far from his home and missing friends and family, was most appreciative. My parents then suggested he might like to bring some of the other members of his mess and from there the visiting group grew until there were eight of them coming regularly each week end. They all so much enjoyed the homely atmosphere and being able to get away for a couple of days break from the routine and discipline of the air force.
Douglas looked quite a bit like the well-known actor, Gene Kelly, renowned for his singing and dancing in Hollywood films. As he was the only Scot among them, all the rest being English, he came in for quite a bit of ribbing, which he always took in good part, and I remember one lunch when they were all tucking into the roast dinner, they started on him again. Said one of them "Nothing good ever comes out of Scotland!". "What about the Queen?" he asked. As we all knew she was formerly Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon, daughter of the Earl of Strathmore and Kinghorne, born in Scotland, and during the war the Queen was, of course, tremendously admired by all. "Well, the Queen is like a beautiful oak tree growing out of a rubbish dump!". "Well, what about me?" laughed Douglas. "What shall we make him?" they asked, and then came the teasing remark, "I know, we'll make him the sap!" How we all laughed at that.
And this brings me to the story of 'first love'. At the Anglican girl's school I attended many of the teenaged girls either had photographs in the dormitories of their boy friends or they had 'crushes' on one of the younger teachers or a prefect and there was quite a bit of talk of innocent romance, nothing more because of the strict supervision that was practiced, though the girls did periodically get up to quite a few larks of one kind and another. In my locker I kept a folder of three studio photos of Douglas, but my feelings seemed to be too personal for me to mention this to anyone at the school.
It so happened that my parents were planning an evening party to be held in the hall above the garage in order to collect donations for war funds, as had been done on several occasions before. As this dance was to take place on the Saturday night of my half-term holiday weekend, I managed to persuade my parents to allow me to attend my very first grown-up party, although I was only about 13 or 14, and it was arranged that Douglas would be my partner for the dance. Came the great day and the airmen arrived but he was not with them. It was explained to me that he had been confined to camp for some reason not given. As can be imagined, this was a great disappoint and quite damped the excitement of my very first long evening frock and the anticipated dance. However, a number of the men were kind enough to partner this rather shy and awkward teenager, so the evening passed reasonably pleasantly.
But the following morning my mother came into my bedroom to break the news to me that, in fact, Douglas had been killed in a plane crash quite near the aerodrome. My parents were always very cosseting and protective of me (some would say too much so) and they had not wished my enjoyment of the previous evening to be spoilt. In fact everyone attending the gathering knew what had happened but managed to keep the information from me. I still have the photographs, but this sad event did hit me hard.
Douglas was the first of the R.A.F pilots that Dallas brought to 'Graystones' and the second one was Wilfred Yiddell who had an interesting history. He intended to become a priest and began his studies immediately after leaving school. However, his mother became ill and he left the Seminary to look after her until her death. He joined up at the beginning of the war, but by the time he came out to South Africa as an instructor and visited our home, he had done none of the things we took for granted. He had never learned to swim, to dance, to play tennis, or even 'ping-pong' (table tennis). We had great fun teaching him all these and he took the joking that went with it in good part. By the time he left South Africa he was quite a different man.
The third young R.A.F. pilot was Phillip Browne who kept us entertained by the fact that he collected so many girl friends and with each one became so passionately involved that he changed all his interests to fit in with the current lady-love; be it vegetarian, astrology, art or whatever. All though the group built up to eight, nowadays I only recall two others, one who was very small and nicknamed 'Titch' in consequence and the other who was very tall, called, John, but nicknamed 'Bunny' for some reason or other.
After they were all posted back to U.K. we had another group to stay over the weekends. There were four of them; John Bates who became very friendly with Margaret Goulding and corresponded with her for a long time, until shortly before the end of the war, but after they lost touch we never learnt whether he had been killed or what had happened. Then there was Sam Hanscombe who was very good looking; another John who could tap dance and my mother would tease me because she claimed he spent his time making 'sheep eyes' at me, but I preferred the others. Lastly, there was Peter Musk and he was the only one that we met up with after the war. When we were in England in 1954, Phillip, the two boys and I visited him and his wife at their home and also spent an afternoon on the river with them. Sadly, we lost touch with them all over time.
Below is a teasing verse composed by Margaret Goulding (later Deane) and me, as teenagers, in about 1942 for some of the last group of pupil pilots to visit the family at 'Graystones'
To John (? Neither of us now remember his surname), Sam Hanscomb and Jack Bates.
Dear little John and Jack and Sam,
We wish you luck in your exam.
We know how much it means to you
To wear those wings that you are due
And here is some advice for you
So listen to what you must do.
Keep calm and cool and do not fret
Or else your knowledge you'll forget.
The time will soon be getting on,
So listen to our words please John!
Don't play too hard or tap all night
Or you will find things are not right.
And pull that collar of yours down
When you return to London town.
And our advice to your friend Jack
Is not to smoke that weed, tobac.
It gives you nerves and makes you shake
Then in exams mistakes you'll make.
And do not rise at break of day
To comb that mop of curls away.
Though you're not very keen (by half)
We would so like your autograph!
Tall, dark and Hanscomb we advise
You not to have such roving eyes.
When Bokkie* passes you in town [*the name of Sam's girl friend]
You need not look her up and down.
You need not watch her through your hair;
You must pretend she is not there,
For she is bad for your exam,
So, listen well now Mister Sam!
You must be fit and concentrate
Or you will find it is too late.
We won't forget three April Fools
Unless they keep to all our rules
Then they will find their bed clothes gone [they had 'apple-pied' our beds]
With nothing for them to put on.
So see you all our wills obey,
And darn your stockings every day.
We're signing off (and that's the truth!)
With our regards, from Marg. and Ruth.
At the time I must have been about 14 or 15 and Margaret two years older.
How unsophisticated we were compared with the teenagers of today!
When we were much younger, Margaret and I often played a game of making rhymes together. One of us would say something and the other had to add a line to this, while we remained, completely covered, under the blankets and were not allowed to 'surface' until we had made up a rhyming couplet. When in September, 2001 Margaret sent me a copy of the verse quoted above, which she had retained in her papers over the years, she added a note, "We had great fun making this up, didn't we - so long ago now!".
One especially happy memory of this period was when a crowd of us went to visit my Mother's friend Mrs. Pierce and spent the afternoon picking sun-warmed fruit straight off the trees in her orchard. Mrs. Pierce was an excellent dressmaker, designing and making clothing for her daughter, Margot and at least two of Margot's evening dresses were handed on to me. One of them, my very favourite, was a clear, royal blue with thin piping in red around the pockets and neckline.
Over the years a large number of business visitors local or from overseas also visited South Africa and many stayed with Eric and Phyllis, always such kind and considerate hosts, although their names are too numerous to mention but, supposedly, one of the more famous was Jannie Hofmeyr (the younger) who was Minister of Finance and came to discuss business with Eric, bringing his elderly mother with him. Then there was one of Eric's business associates who stayed with them, the Duke of Newcastle, during his visit to South Africa.
Which brings us to a story about him, which greatly amused the family. He was a charming and very quietly spoken gentleman and during his visit my parents had arrange to hold one of their dance parties. One of the Duke's partners did not hear his name when introduced, so she enquired who he was. 'Newcastle' was his response. This did not register with his dance partner, so to explain he added, 'The Duke of Newcastle.' She was quite unbelieving that so quiet and reserved a man could be titled and she told him, 'If you're the Duke, than I'm the Duchess!'.
While on the subject of 'important' people I would mention that I had a friend called Jennifer Bailey Southwell and one of the people I met at her home was Prince Peter, the son of the exiled King Paul of Yugoslavia. While the King was entertained indoors by Jennifer's parents, all we youngsters were larking about in the swimming pool together. Jennifer was an unusually attractive, slim girl with long, straight blonde hair and most adults noticed her immediately in any crowd of school girls. She married into the Plunkett family in England.
Phyllis and Eric flew over to London for the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II which was a trip that she very much enjoyed. They visited a number of old friends and to her great pleasure she was able to meet up with Mary Flowers with whom she had corresponded throughout the war years and up until that time. She stayed with Mary and Harold in their home in Hull for a couple of days, which cemented the friendship even further.
My mother became a pen friend with Mary Flowers during the war. Her sewing group were asked to send parcels to the sons of sailors and the name of the boy allocated to my mother was Thane Flowers. (Actually, in his case it was his uncle that was the sailor). His mother wrote her thanks to my mother and a correspondence flourished from there. They were very alike in many ways and both enjoyed the letters received, so much so that when my mother wrote to say she would be coming to England for the Coronation, giving the dates she would be in London, Mary replied that she would meet her at the hotel and there was no need for her to send any description as to looks or what she would wear as they would recognise each other immediately, which was exactly what happened. Many years later when Mary was 80 years of age, she came out to South Africa to stay with us in Gordons Bay. She had never been out of England before but proved to be an ideal guest in every way. She told me that she and her husband had taken my mother to York, where they visited the cathedral (York Minster) and my mother bought the small water-colour painting which I still have in my possession. My Mother was under the impression that some of the family originated in York but, if that was the case, we have found no trace of our roots there.
(Mary Flowers eventually came to visit us in Gordons Bay in 1976)
My parents were always very welcoming to all my friends and tried hard to help me to overcome feelings of shyness and often encouraged me to meet and mix with people, sending me to visit relations or stay with them. The following are a few memories I have from my childhood:
My very first 'best friend' was a small girl called Sonia Kemp and she lived over the road from our house in Orange Grove. She was very Nordic in looks, having the bluest eyes and a mop of curly blond hair. We played together each day and at the age of five went off together to the local Kindergarten or pre-school, which was run by a Mrs. Weeber. One day when we were running around behind her home I tripped over a raised gutter surrounding the down pipe from the kitchen and cut my forehead. The scar remained for many years until lost, at last, in old age among the other wrinkles! Sadly, once we moved from Orange Grove to Dunkeld it became more and more difficult for us to keep contact and as I then attended a new school, Kingsmead, I needed to make friends among the other pupils there. This was not very easy for me as I was inherently reserved and diffident, but through the six years I attended that school I did befriend some half a dozen other children. I do not remember these as particularly happy years, finding that some of the girls and, in particular, their parents were, to my mind, very snobby and I could not come to terms with the fact that they might only want to know me and my family because we had a biggish house and garden, with swimming pool, tennis court and so on.
At the age of thirteen, my parents informed me that my father had arranged to send my cousin, Margaret Goulding to boarding school at St Mary's School for Girls, in Waveley and they suggested that I might like to go too, starting at the same time as she did. This sounded a very good idea to me as I had always felt that I was rather overly protected at home and needed to be a bit more independent. On my first day there I was very surprised to have three different girls ask me to sit next to them in class. They were Betty Bremner (Dickie's sister), Marjorie Jenkins (whose mother was a friend of my mother) and another girl I had spoken to the previous night in the dormitory. However, I was so nervous I simply took the nearest seat to where I was standing until the teacher moved me to the back of the class next to Betty. My years at St Mary's were a good deal happier and I never regretted going to boarding school. My favourite subjects were mathematics and English, although I did not do well in the latter, I am always grateful that the little Jewish teacher we called Mrs. Hack taught me as much as she did.
Phyllis went to visit her brother and sisters in Southern Rhodesia in about October/November 1953 and was far from well on her return.
It was thought at first that she had picked up some tummy infection, but nothing seemed to clear this up, though she battled with it for some three weeks. She did not want to call out our long-time family doctor, Dr. Aitken, as he was old and semi-retired, so she turned to the doctor I had consulted for the children, Dr Brebner. However, he did not seem to be able to prescribe anything to overcome her problems. As it happened Chris was planning a rather large party for the Friday evening and, completely unlike my Mother, who always did her very best for us all, she called off attending the evening's entertainment and went to bed. We called the doctor the next morning and he found that she was, as he called it, "in a state of medical shock". He diagnosed "critical leukemia" and he ordered an oxygen tent for her. He said that there might be something avail in U.S.A. to assist the condition but there was no time to obtain any such help as she died the next day, Sunday, 16th December, 1953. Pat Appleton, a nurse, who was present in the house during that weekend, later always contended that the diagnosis or the treatment was not correct. However, she was never specific, considering that would be unprofessional to criticise the doctor, so there was no way of being sure of this. At the funeral poor Dr. Aitken was most distressed not only at her death but that he had not been in attendance at the time.
My father had many very old fashioned ideas, especially about women, and one of these was that it was not a good thing for them to attend funerals, so I stayed at home with Peter and Andrew instead of joining the others at my mother's funeral. Also, do not remember much about the get-together afterwards, except that it was mostly organised by Alice Letty, who brought a large quantity of scones and accepted the snacks bought by others. Because of my father's feelings and influence, when my mother-in-law died I still had not attended any one's funeral and again stayed away with the children. However, her daughter, Dolly Rudland, never forgave me for this and resented my omission for the rest of her life, saying that she would never forgive me.
Phyllis died on Sunday, 16th. December, 1953 and her ashes were placed in the Garden of Remembrance in Johannesburg. Ruth, Phillip and their two sons remained at 'Graystones' with her father until he remarried in 1958 or 1959 in Johannesburg.
Although I never saw my Mother's Will, sometime after my Father married Alice, he wrote to tell me that she had left me the oil painting of the Brede river by J. Volschenk (painted in 1933), and a round occasional table purchased from Shepherd and Barker in Johannesburg, but manufactured specifically for Harrods of London; another painting by the same artist was left to Lennox and the teak sideboard that had belonged to the Freemantle family for a couple of generations to Christopher; also, as he was the only one who could play it, the piano; (regrettably, I no longer recall what she left for John), but the items for me were sent to us when we were still living on the farm, 'Eendraght' near Firgrove. The interesting history of the sideboard was that my Mother found it in some outhouse, being used as an ironing table and the very heavy wooden top needed to be planed down to remove the scorch marks burnt through the surface. As a small child I loved this piece of furniture because the middle section, between the two outer cupboards, made an ideal 'house' where I played with my dolls.
Phillip had always much admired a china lamp which was made in the form of a snow covered hut, inside sat a Persian carpet maker and a red bulb shone down on him. Had I known how much he liked this I would have mentioned it to my father when, very shortly after my Mother's death, he asked me what he should give Phillip as a memento. Foolishly, finding it difficult to suggest anything suitable for a man, I suggested a set of books by Winston Churchill. Many years later, Alice gave this lamp to Len and Joyce and to my surprise they stood it on the flor near the fireplace. Joyce was not overly taken with it and we suggested making a swap for something she would like better. However, Alice got to hear of this idea and would have none of it, to our great disappointment.
My Mother had always told me that she would leave her jewellery to me and soon after her death my Father took the various items from the safe below the stairs to go through them for valuation for the Estate. He came to me in some concern saying that he had given away my Mother's jewellery box to the daughter of one of their friends, only to find that a diamond pendant had been left in the bottom of the case. As he was known for his generosity, the recipient's parents believed he had left it there intentionally, but he was mortified that I could not have it unless he confessed it was an accident. As there were many other items I told him not to give it another thought and that, in fact, I would like two other pendants to be given, one each to Len and Chris to keep for their future wives. John's wife, Marion received a set of magnificent emeralds; a necklace, ring and earrings.
Some of the guiding principles of my Mother's life were Moderation, Patience, Consideration and a desire to 'grow old gracefully'. She certainly practiced all the first three and by her example taught us to appreciate these virtues and try to follow her advice. Sadly, she did not live long enough to show us how to do the last, but she was always a most gracious lady and, given the opportunity, would certainly I'm sure have demonstrated this virtue as well.