Chapter 10: Blythswood and the start of Naval service

(Note: unfortunately a page of my Father’s manuscript seems to have been lost so the beginning of this chapter is missing. I think it is not much, though.)

…Political activities far more than for their Christianity, elected as elders and deacons of the church, thus displacing fine Christians who had in many cases served the congregation and the church in general for many years. Fortunately, as soon as it became known that he was resigning, the Presbyterian congregation in Oudtshoorn, where he had been Dutch Reformed minister for four years (1910 – 1913), asked him to return there to serve them. This he was delighted to do and thus in August 1939 he and my mother moved to Oudtshoorn. So when Margery and I left Healdtown in June 1940 we went to Oudtshoorn to stay with my parents for a few weeks. Then we had the task of packing up in Healdtown and getting ourselves into the Blythswood Missionary Institution in the Transkei before the new school term opened.

Our house

Our house

When we arrived there we found that we were to have a very nice house, with many big rooms and a very big garden, which went down the side of a small hill to a lovely tree-lined stream at the bottom. This house was also let to us at £5 per month rent! So in July 1940 we were safely installed in our new home, complete with our four-year-old son and our two wire-haired terriers.

Blythswood Institution

The Blythswood Institution was in Fingoland, about three miles from the little village of Ngqamakwe, most of whose inhabitants were traders or civil servants. It had two little churches, Anglican and Methodist, only the former having a minister, a police station, and a community hall which was the venue of any public meetings that had to be held in the village, also bazaars (fairly frequent during the war, to raise money for was funds, and also for hospitals, etc.), wedding receptions and so on; it was also the venue for our badminton club. We had a magistrate who lived in a very big house and who, with his wife, was the social leader of the village. There was also a resident doctor who later had to get an assistant. There were two tennis courts which were always very popular on Saturdays. Not far from Ngqamakwe on the Blythswood road was a prison which had a very good playing field which was used for our hockey, football and cricket matches.

Murray in the Volunteers uniform

Murray in the Volunteers uniform

Western Desert battle area 1941

Western Desert battle area 1941

Meanwhile the war was going against the Allies. With the fall of Tobruk in 1942, when just about all our South African soldiers who had “gone up North” were captured, General Smuts made a radio broadcast appeal to every able-bodied man and woman who was not yet in the Forces, to “join up”. As soon as I heard this I decided that now I could ask the Mission Council of the Church of Scotland for emergency leave to enable me to join the South African Navy. This was given to me very speedily, on condition that I did not leave my work at Blythswood Institution until after the end of the year.

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