A fa­therly trip down mem­ory lane

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - LIFE -

ON MON­DAY fa­thers John Han­son, Flores An­thony, Austen Jack­son and I ven­tured out on a Boland day-trip. Like the Sankofa bird, we re­turned to what we’d left be­hind or lost sight of in heart and mind over time. In our case, it was our ru­ral priest­hood pasts.

We cruised through Worces­ter, Robert­son, Ash­ton and Bon­nievale in an ice-blue SUV chauf­feured by its new owner, re­cently re­tired Fa­ther Han­son.

Ini­tially, it was go­ing to be just John and I; then Austen heard about the trip. We picked up Flores in Paarl.

Within five min­utes of us be­ing to­gether, as we as­cended Du Toit­skloof Pass, a sim­mer­ing is­sue be­tween two of our party sur­faced.

The ver­bal joust­ing car­ried on over the pass. I was drawn into the fra­cas when chas­tened for re­fer­ring to ba­boons as apies af­ter I warned our driver about their rest­less pres­ence on the side of the road. Our com­bat­ant com­pan­ions took the gap pre­sented to aban­don a no-win ar­gu­ment by re­call­ing how traf­fic cops were re­ferred to in the area, evok­ing the im­age of bobbe­jane, as Bob James.

The ur­gent need to de­cide on our break­fast venue – Worces­ter or Raw­sonville – with the turn-off to the lat­ter dorp rapidly ap­proach­ing – closed ar­gu­ments.

Af­ter a sta­bil­is­ing break­fast out­side Worces­ter, we stopped at the orig­i­nal All Saints Angli­can Church in what had been Robert­son’s on­der­dorp. This was Flores’s home town. His fa­ther, Un­cle Joey An­thony, re­called be­ing wo­ken up by a farmer early one day in the 1960s. The chapel had been sold and the par­ish priest hadn’t both­ered to tell his parish­ioners about the sale. It was Un­cle Joey’s lot as chapel­war­den to clear the church of the es­sen­tials.

To­day this de­con­se­crated build­ing with its Group Ar­eas mem­ory scar is home to Robert­son Win­ery’s Chapel Red with “berry and herba­ceous bram­bly flavours”.

In Ash­ton we stopped at St Joseph’s the Worker. Af­ter many years I re­main cap­ti­vated by the lovely mu­ral on the east end-sec­tion of the church. It de­picts Joseph the car­pen­ter and was made by Ann MacGregor, the wife of Fr Alis­tair, one of my Ash­ton pre­de­ces­sors.

The town of Bon­nievale, our fi­nal stop, evolved from the 19th cen­tury sub-di­vi­sion of Bos­jes­mans­drift (Bush­men’s drift), a 6 073ha loan farm first granted to Gideon van Zijl in the pre­ced­ing cen­tury. The name Bos­jes­mans­drift is per­haps an un­in­tended re­minder of the orig­i­nal oc­cu­pants of the val­ley.

On en­ter­ing Bon­nievale, Flores di­rected us to the Myr­tle Rigg Memo­rial Church. This Nor­manstyle build­ing was built by C For­rest Rigg, a Scots-born en­tre­pre­neur who pi­o­neered the white set­tle­ment and an ir­ri­ga­tion scheme at the lower end of the Breede River Val­ley.

Rigg hon­oured his 7-year-old Mary’s death-bed re­quest that he “build a Proper church for the peo­ple of Bon­nie Vale, so that they can all be­come Good Peo­ple”.

In 1924, the Bishop of Ge­orge, Henry Sid­well, con­se­crated the build­ing and placed it un­der the care of the Angli­can par­ish of Swellen­dam. To­day a 30-some­thing Fa­ther Dar­ian Petersen, a na­tive of Tarka in Mos­sel Bay, has over­sight of this church as rec­tor of Bon­nievale.

My pri­estly con­fr­eres and I ben­e­fited from the hospi­tal­ity of the Petersens at St Stephen’s Rec­tory:

Fa­ther John blessed our gath­er­ing and asked in rich and nu­anced Afrikaans for a bless­ing of wis­dom and strength upon Fa­ther Dar­ian, the young shep­herd of the flock of Bon­nievale.

You can­not drive into Bon­nievale and not be mind­ful of Brey­ton Breyten­bach. In one of his poems this poet promised to send his beloved “rooi­bors­duif ”.

This red-crested bird would leave glit­ter­ing oceans, green­ing trees in its wake, that which the Sankofa spirit in all of us longs for.

As we ex­ited along the Breede River in the di­rec­tion of its source in the Skur­we­berg Moun­tains of Ceres and away from its en­trance into the In­dian Ocean at Cape In­fanta, our driver queried in the most in­no­cent and dri­est of tones: “Soe, wa’ gaan ons nou wors koep?”

We will have to re­turn to an­swer his ques­tion.

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