Chapter 26: Leaving Bantu Education

(Apart from the fact that my father did leave Bantu Education at the end of 1963, and did start writing articles for the Standard Encyclopaedia of Southern Africa, this whole chapter actually refers to the trip to Europe that my parents made with Aunt Hettie in 1973. In early April 1964 my parents boarded the SS Empress of England in Cape Town and arrived aboard that ship in Liverpool on 18 April. My father obviously did not consult his own diary for 1964 in which the details of the voyage and the trip to the UK are recorded in great detail. For example, his entry for 18 April reads: “Arrived Liverpool. Got through Immigration & Customs, caught boat train to London. Arrived Marylebone 4 p.m., taxi to Waterloo, caught the 4.35 to Southampton. Fetched by Geff and Owen.”)

When Margery and I left Buntingville at the end of 1963 we had planned to buy a home somewhere into which we could retire. We visited many places, starting with George, her birth-place, but we found that her old home had been pulled down and a huge skyscraper of offices had been erected in its place. Also the army seemed to have taken over much of the town, so we decided to go elsewhere. We stayed with our friends Queenie and Cherry for some time. While there I had started writing articles for a new work, the Standard Encyclopaedia of Southern Africa. These were all on maritime topics. The editors of this new encyclopaedia had first applied to Marischal Murray, my very great friend and the writer of that fine book, Ships and South Africa (OUP, 1933), to write these articles, but he was just then leaving on one of his many overseas journeys, and had suggested to the editors that they should apply to me. Needless to say I accepted with alacrity, so I wrote articles on “Sea Transport and South Africa”, “The Union Castle Line”, “South African Shipping”, and so on. This came just at the right time to give Margery and me a chance to go overseas again, in 1964.

SS Principe Perfeito

SS Principe Perfeito

This time we travelled in a Portuguese liner, the ‘Principe Perfeito’, a ship of some 21 000 tons. As her First Class tickets were very little dearer than the Cabin Class in the Union Castle we decided to go ‘First’. Later we were very glad that we had done so, as she visited places that we would not otherwise have seen. There were not many passengers so we had plenty of room. Before we left several people had warned us that Portuguese food was very rich and oily, but we found that it was very similar to that on a British liner. We had my sister Hettie with us. She had a friend who had obtained a post in the South African consulate in Luanda and she had told him we were coming, so we had hardly tied up in the harbour there when he was on board. He got the three of us ashore very easily and quickly, so we spent practically the whole day with him and his family. We had had breakfast aboard the ship, but we had hardly got to his house when we had ‘tea’, and this was almost a second breakfast. Then we got into his car again and were taken to see the sights. We noticed on a big rock just above the town a huge sign saying “Viva Unita’. That was the first time we came across the name which has since been so prominent in news on the TV or radio.

(Note: This is clearly a mistake, as UNITA was only founded in 1966, three years after this visit to Luanda by my parents. I think that my father is confusing this trip with the later one they made in 1973 – Tony McGregor)

Luanda from the sea. Photo by Erik Cleves Kristensen, 2006

Luanda from the sea. Photo by Erik Cleves Kristensen, 2006

We drove to a place where we could stop and look over the town, the harbour and the sea, and a beautiful sight it was. Then we went ‘over the top’ to see the hinterland, many farms and plantations with every here and there a Black village. But very soon we came to a place where the road was blocked, with a thick, high and ugly barbed wire fence, with a group of soldiers in a sort of dug-out shelter and big notices in Portuguese saying ’No Thoroughfare’. Our guide said that beyond that fence the country was under the control of the rebels. We were then taken southward again, through much agricultural country and then down to the city again. Our friend showed us all sorts of interesting places: an old abandoned fort, with a number of old cannon in it; many plantations with exotic trees and plants all over the place; the shopping centre, with some modern-looking shops with articles on sale on view, but of course their price tabs meant nothing to us! There were many churches in the town and a beautiful cathedral in which we were shown the heart of the first bishop kept in some liquid in a canned fruit bottle!

Our friend took us home for lunch, after which we all had the usual Central African siesta, very welcome on such a hot day. Then we were taken to a bathing beach and one or two other very interesting places, until we were returned to our ship, which had been very busy unloading and loading cargo, in time for dinner.

The ship sailed during the night for Tenerife, which we reached a few days later. Here of course we had to climb the high mountain, with its lovely old church near the top. On our way down to the ship we were able to buy pockets of cherries, apples and oranges, which we were very glad to get: fresh fruit is always so much tastier than that taken out of the refrigerator.

25 Abril Bridge (Formerly known as the Salazar Bridge). Phot by Vitor Oliveira 2005

25 Abril Bridge (Formerly known as the Salazar Bridge). Photo by Vitor Oliveira 2005

We had booked rooms in a hotel in Lisbon for three days before we left Cape Town, so we had no misgivings when we reached the mouth of the Tagus River and sailed up to the capital. It was a lovely trip with so much to see on shore, in the river and in the sky. The river is a very busy highway, with craft of all sorts sailing up, down or across it. On the seaward side there are no bridges over the river until you get near Lisbon; then you see the huge, highly-strung Salazar Bridge, called after the late dictator who had done so much for the country.

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