I’ve been thinking about my grandfather, my mother’s father, since Flutter posted her excellent blog about a moment with her dad. 

Terence* was a child prodigy.  An only child he was brought up on a farm 48 kilometres from Kimberley, doted on by his mother. He rode horses when three years old, was a crack shot by the time was five, could drive trucks by seven, played open tennis for Christian Brothers’ College when nine, won the Griqua Under 18 tennis when twelve, played for Griqua cricket when sixteen, and played soccer for the junior Griqua side. He would have been selected for the senior Griqua rugby side while at school but was not given permission by the headmaster. On his debut for Griquas, while still at school, he scored 114 not out against Free State in 1933-1934.  

He spent school holidays sifting for alluvial diamonds from the farm river, selling them for motobikes and rifles.  He has an easy smile and told jokes laced with the gift of his Irish blood. Terrence was also a good squash player and golfer.  He could play any musical instrument he picked up, but he couldn’t sing for shit.  

Eventually, he played for the SA Rugby side in New Zealand in 1937 and for the SA Cricket side in 1947, Captained by Alan Melville and Danie Craven respectively.  (He turned down an opportunity to play at
Wimbledon to pursue his chance at the SA Cricket side.)

During the War he was a Spitfire pilot, shot down and parachuted into the Adriatic.  He was picked up by the Nazis and, dripping wet, was transported over snow capped mountains to a POW camp.  Shivering and nearly dead, strangers kept him alive with the warmth of their bodies.  When morning came, Terence was still alive, but his cell mates were marched from the room and all shot.  When the guard returned, Terence was sure he was next, but instead he was taken to the mess hall.  He recalls not being able to eat a thing.  

MIA and not on any of the POW lists, my grandmother and the rest of Terence’s family thought he was dead and decided to sell the Kimberly farm.  It’s now one of De Beers most profitable fields.   

But of course, he was alive (and filled with tales of eating horse meat and outwitting the Bosch). Following his love of sport, he negotiated with Adi Dassler to bring adidas out to SA.   

He lived a long and full life, but sadly contracted Parkinson’s in his 40s.  I remember him with a twinkle in his eye and a vodka tonic in his shaking hand.  I spent every June holiday with him and my grandmother in Plett, watching Wimbledon and playing Chinese checkers (he let me win.)  

The end of his life was awful though; pureed food and pills for every moment of the day.  But he still had a sense of humour and never, ever complained.  I remember once he had a small angina attack in the high street.  Coming to and realizing an attractive woman was giving him mouth-to-mouth, he said, “Don’t stop, I haven’t had this much action in years”.  

I know there was a dark side to him, something my mother alludes to, in her own dark moments.  But I loved him.  And I miss him.  And I know, wherever or whatever he is now, there’s still a part of him that’s drinking vodka tonics and watching test matches with his old mates.  


19 thoughts on “Memory

  1. Nossie says:

    Dolce, it seems like you are on the verge of a quest…something that has occupied a lot of my time over the past 3 years. On my site there is a link to a genealogy website based in SA. My personal opinion is that all these memories you have (and those of others in you family) MUST be preserved and documented. If you like I can send you a link to my family web-site. My “aimless wanderings” gained some direction after a while, all the while drawing me into this monster that has consumed much of my time. But the journey has been and still is rewarding, fascinating, sad, joyfull and up-lifting every step of the way. Treasure and preserve those memories, girl.

  2. Dolce says:

    Hey Nos…my gran’s been writing her memoires – hilarious! And we actually commissioned someone to research our family (on my mother’s side) a while back….very interesting. I couldn’t agree more. I wish I’d recorded both my grandfathers, AND my step-grandfather (who was like Higgins out of Magnum PI). Such incredible stories which are now lost.

  3. Dusty Muffin says:

    Dolce, my recent dabbling into family history has inspired mu mum to transcribe about 8 cassettes that she made with her dad, on his 90th birthday. She’s had them for 10 years already, and is only know feeling up to the task! However, that side of my family is very ‘proper’ British, so not much humour. But what is interesting is that he was a chief engineer on the Indian Railways, at the time of Gandhi, so some nice life stories could come out of it all.

  4. Nossie says:

    Dusty – wow..I’d love to read them. Any chance of a copy? Dolce – try digging thro’ old letters etc. You’de be surprised what you may find…maybe all is not lost. Ask old family members – they very often, have never been asked to tell their stories. They may not remember what they had for brekkie but do recall things from 50 years ago.

  5. Flutter says:

    Hey Dolce, great blog lady and thanks! You granddad sounds like quite an interesting character and what a life! Love memoirs!Would love to read those memoirs of your gran.

    Wish I got to know my grandparents. Only got to know my mom’s mom and I gather her life was very traumatic as she never wanted to speak about it.

    Do you guys remember that dark movie ‘Final Cut’ with Robin Williams. Just give them a few years guys we could all have implants. Who would need memoirs when we could see the real thing. Scary!

  6. Nossie says:

    Flutter…don’t know about that…I don’t think I want my family to know EVERYTHING about me and how I spend my time…great blog. *bows*

  7. […] Link to Article wimbledon Memory » Posted at La Dolce Vita on Thursday, July 26, 2007 Memory […]

  8. dolce says:

    Fluts I never actually saw that movie – on the DVD list. But I remember reading the reviews and wondering about the concept. I agree with Nos; not sure I’d like my whole life on show for some people….although, to be honest, what does it matter. And, as FW so eloquently says so often, what is memory? It’s so subjective. Even if you could watch peoples memories, they’d still be incomplete in some way…lacking the context, somehow.

    Nos Ditto!

  9. dolce says:

    Dusty I loved all the stuff you and David were digging up. So interesting.

  10. Nossie says:

    Dolce, that’s what’s so great about getting together with friends/family on a trip down memory lane – the “remember-when-we…” stories that always compliment each other, filling in little gaps that had slipped your minds…”Lest we forget”….

  11. Dusty Muffin says:

    Thanks Dolce, it’s been fun so far – and it’s far from over! We are waiting for the next step…hell, it’s taking soooo long. I’ve even tried to persuade another cousin, who lives in the area (8 months pregnant), to climb over the wall with her spade and wellies. But she’s a bit reluctant. I wonder why?

    Thanks for this great blog. Made me feel all…um…curly?…inside. You be a good blogger, girl!

  12. Katt says:

    Why do I read an entry like this and think “Those were the days when men were men?” I can’t help but feel they just don’t make them like that anymore.

    Awesome entry, Dolce. And I agree with above commentors, I think your family history should be documented.

  13. Jean Pant says:

    Beautifully nostalgic. There is something about granddads that will always remain enchanting.

  14. Nossie says:

    Katt, if you want to read a truly poignant peom written about those who died in WW1, go to my page…”In Flander’s Fields”….
    Dusty..was at SA Mil Archives this am. Got all the service records of the great uncle who was KIA…facinating read. Also made coopies of a chapter form a book called “Pyramids and Poppies” By P. K. A. Digby detailing the Battle at Arras – horrendous. Also found out that his sister was a student at Rhodes in 1915….must go there for several things…

  15. morticia says:

    god! you guys have histories!
    all i have is my nana – and like fluts’ – she wont talk much.

    i am the proverbial back pew bastard. when my biological father popped off (from cirrhosis – sic?) at the ripe age of 38 – the domestic sat in the front pew, and i sat in the back! good old afrikaners, the lot of them…

    when the step one popped off – a year before… i experienced relief – not curiosity…. it took me about 8 years before i could put flowers down for the bugger.

    my son is also illegitimate – and that’s my regret – that he, like me, will have no history – because my side wont speak – and his arent part of our world.

    so yes girls… treasure them – each and every one…
    ah fek em all… i’m rewriting our history, every day.

  16. davidvanwyk says:

    So we surf blog sites, is surf the appropriate word. Perhaps we pop in now and again, possibly we take a stroll around the blog… perhaps in the South African context in general and that of a dusty farm in the Kimberly area a hike down a dry river bed and we come across all sorts of little gems. Your story of your grandfather is one such little rough diamond… I pick it up, study it intensely and wonder at my luck… the lunch of being able to laze around a blog site in the 21st Century… and to pick up such a nostalgic gem.

    Men always experience life shattering crisis situations when they reach their forties. Both my older brother and I did. I picked myself up again but he could not. He is/was the more intelligent of us two. The youngest published Afrikaans poet in his day, brave fighter for freedom, conscientious objector, playwright, novelist, essayist, editor of literary journals and magazines. Professor of Literature, visiting professor to universities in Canada, Poland, Germany etc. etc.

    Then he crashed. Now at 51 years old he is no longer working. He is no longer writing, he is no longer reading and he is no longer there to show me the way. He is suffering from Binswanger’s Syndrome – much like Parkinson’s – he is gradually losing it all! And I have lost the most important reference point in my life. What more is there to say… We men and our little issues.

  17. dolce says:

    Nossie My cousins and I on my dad’s side play that “remember when” game – my slightly squiffy (read pissed) gran on that side was hilarious and we remember many times she made us weep with laughter. Man, now I’m getting all nostalgic.

    Dusty well keep the story going, as you find stuff… and thanks *blush*

    Katt excuse me, Ms I’ve got a hunky aviator to play with, Katt? I think you be havin’ a real man right there! But I agree with you, actually. I’m sorta torn between these metrosexual boys who don’t light their own farts and the rugged heroic types of yesteryear. *sigh*. Maybe one of each?

    Jean pant I miss my oupas. They were all brilliant, in their own flawed ways.

    Mort Hell, girl, that sounds like a FABULOUS story. Filled with drama and intrigue. Your son will have a history…a short one, but he’ll make up for it with colour!

    David I’m sorry about your brother. Its so sad to see someone you love go through that. I know what you mean about losing your reference point. I feel like that about my above mentioned squiffy grandmother who was also the one I was most life and who is now going a bit gagga. Us chicks have issues too 😉

  18. Vapour says:

    This is a great piece Dolce.

  19. dolce says:

    Thanks Vaps – and welcome back!

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