Chapter 19: Visitations!

I’ll never forget one such visitation, when we were having tea in my ‘parlour’, which had a series of brackets on the walls on which to place flowers, etc., but on this occasion were standing empty. I heard one of the party asking another what these brackets were for, so he said that they were for the missionaries to put their crosses on!

I said to him, “Excuse me, sir, but this was a Presbyterian mission, not a Catholic one!” So he waved his hands about and came out with the obiter dictum: “Oh all these English churches are just the same.” All this, of course, in Afrikaans.

We had four of these mass visitations from Pretoria, sent by the Department of Bantu Affairs; the Treasury; the Public Works Department; and the Department of Bantu Education. In each case I had to fill in a large questionnaire, practically the same for each Department, but when I expostulated at the waste of time I was usually told to shut up and do what was asked of me.

One of the first things done by the Department of Agriculture was the taking over of our fine herd of cattle. We had lots of grazing ground and were also next to the Nqamakwe commonage so that we could keep about 20 oxen to provide the motive power to one of our two wagons when necessary, and some eight cows to provide milk, and good milk it was, to the institution, including the staff households. But very soon we got orders from the Department to hand them ofer to the Magistrate and get his receipt for them. He had to take them over for the Department of Agriculture, if I remember rightly.

We were ordered from Pretoria to make a contract for milk with some smallholders who had cattle which they grazed on veld which was taken away from us by the Department of Agriculture.

As there was no white supervision of the new milking arrangements we were also advised to make a contract for milk for the white staff with some local white farmer. Fortunately my wife Margery had, soon after we came to Blythswood, applied for and obtained permission to keep half-a-dozen good milk cows with which to supply milk for ourselves and whichever staff members wished to buy the milk from her. She was delighted to do this as in her maiden home in George her parents had kept a fine herd of cows. Milk from her cows was almost always much better than that from local dairies. She used to separate much of the milk and send of the bulk thereof to be made into butter, for which, of course, she had to join a dairy combine. From some of the cream she used to make butter for us, and very good it was. Thus we were not dependent on others for our dairy produce.

Moreover all the staff obtained good milk far more cheaply than that sold in the dairies.

A prize Berkshire boar

A prize Berkshire boar

Another type of animal in Blythswood was the pig. We had a small herd of Berkshire pigs of which we were very fond. They cost the institution nothing. We used to send parties of our students with sacks to go along our two oak avenues and fill their sacks with acorns, so that we usually had more than enough basic food for the pigs. Then also they received any left-over food from the two hostels, so they were well fed. There were two boars, and, I think, four sows, thus we usually had a number of piglets every year. We had an arrangement with the local hotel that they would buy as many piglets as we could produce. The hotel manager was very pleased with this arrangement, as it gave him plenty of fresh pork when he needed it. We liked it because it gave us money for nothing.

But when Bantu Education came into being they ordered us to get rid of the pigs. My committee and I put in strong objections to this order, for which we could see absolutely no reason. But the Department in its wisdom (?) simply insisted on our getting rid of them so we had to slaughter them and give the students in both hostels a ‘once only’ feast. To me it was one of the most asinine of the many stupid orders that the Bantu Education Department was guilty of.

From what I’ve already said it is obvious that I was not a favourite of the Regional Director in the Transkei not of the Department in Pretoria. On the other hand there was a person who was making himself very popular with both.

This was a gentleman who, whenever he did anything in his institution, such as a prize giving, a football match against a team from another institution, a celebration of Kruger Day (a South African public holiday before 1994, celebrating the birthday of Paul Kruger, the State President of the Boer Zuid Afrikaansche Republiek, which ,after the South African War of 1899 – 1902, became the Transvaal), or anything like that, invited the Regional Director and his lady and, when they arrived, gave them a vociferous welcome with choirs singing, etc. He was lucky in his institution as, unlike me, he had only one school, a secondary one which did not go up to matriculation, no hostel to look after (that was done by the Methodist Church) and a most wonderful lady in charge of the school.

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