Murray’s diary of the transfer from Blythswood to Ndamase Junior Secondary School, Buntingville

29 11 2008

Murray’s transfer from Blythswood Institution (see Chapter 20: Transfer), where he was the Superintendant, to being the Principal of a Junior Secondary School (i.e. a school that had classes up to what was then called Standard 8, now called Grade 10) was a great shock to him. He had devoted his life to Blythswood and worked incredibly hard for the all the schools in the Institution.

The fly-leaf of the diary

The fly-leaf of the diary

He kept a diary of the period in a diary of the South African Legion of the British Commonwealth Ex-Servicemens’ League (BCESL), of which he was a member at the time.

The diary entries were typically rather terse, starting from the entry for 15 March 1960, which happened to be a Monday: “Received notice of transfer to Ndamase, Buntingville.”

The next entry was on Friday 18 March: “a.m. Farewell ceremony at P/S (Primary School) – staff, pupils and parents.”

The next day there was a farewell from the people of Nqamakwe at the tennis courts in the village.

Sunday 20 March had two entries: “a.m. Last service at Blythswood, followed by communion (Rev John Anderson). P.m. Farewell at Blythswood from Girl Guides.” The sadness of that “last service” comes through to me so strongly in those few words. He must have been heartbroken that after all his efforts to keep the missionary spirit alive at Blythswood it had come down to this “last service.”

The next day there was a “presentation by students at Assembly in the morning” and then “Farewell by white staff at afternoon tea in De Wet’s house.” The double irony of that was that was that firstly “De Wet’s house” was the first house Murray and Margery had lived in when they moved to Blythswood and secondly that De Wet was the very one whose complaint about the non-segregation of the High School staff room had led to Murray’s demotion. I wonder how they managed not to choke on the tea?

On Tuesday 22 March Murray notes: “p.m. took staff prayer meeting in T/S (Training School) library.” That library was again the venue the following day: “Farewell by African staff in T/S Library.”

Perhaps the saddest entry in the diary is for me the one for Thursday 24 March: “Last Assembly in Blythswood. 1st Quarter ends.” That’s all. And so much effort, so many hopes end right there!

On the next day, Friday, Murray and Margery started their packing and then attended another Farewell Party in the Nqamakwe Hotel for all their friends from the village, as well as for the BESL.

Packing continued the next day and the Grundlings arrived from Buntingville with the pantechnicon with all their stuff. Murray and Margery spent the night at the Nqamakwe Hotel. It must have been hard for them not to be able to sleep in the house they had called home for so long.

The following day, Sunday 27 March, was spent finishing the packing and then “Visited Blythswood friends to say ‘Goodbye’. Do., in village. Lunch at Botha’s (Mr Botha was the magistrate in Nqamakwe). Handed over to Grundling. 2.10 p.m. left for Cape Town. 8 p.m. arrived Humansdorp.

The next day they left early (4.40 a.m.) and arrived in Cape Town at 2.45 p.m. where they went to stay with their friends Queenie and Cherry. The entry continues: “After supper Geff (Margery’s brother-in-law, Capt Geff Keen) arrived to take us to see Christopher.”

They left for Mthatha on Friday 1 April and had car trouble along the way. They arrived at Buntingville at 2.30 p.m. on 2 April and immediately started unpacking.

On the following afternoon their friends Seton and Margaret Jacques arrived (Seton was at the time Principal of Shawbury High School near Mqanduli, not far from Mthatha) for afternoon tea and then took them to dinner in Mthatha.

The entry for Monday 4 April reads: “Ndamase Secondary School 2nd term started. Met staff.”

The last entry in the diary is for Tuesday 5 April: Introduced to students by Mrs Homan. Took Assembly. Classes started. P.m. choir won Music Competition in Umtata (Mthatha).”

I guess the fact that these are the only entries in the whole diary, except for a record of the matches and scores of the end of year Springbok Rugby teams’ tour of the United Kingdom (they played 16 matches and lost one, winning the rest) might be indicative of my father’s low state of mind during this difficult time for him

I was at school in Bloemfontein and only arrived on my vacation after they were already settled into Buntingville. My father buried himself in his study with his ship pictures and books when he was not at school.

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