Margaret Kollmer

Rookie - 9 Points (South Africa)

What The Dickens! - Poem by Margaret Kollmer

In 1927, my father, Arthur Dickens, arrived in South Africa with a nice, fat gratuity from the Indian Army in hand. He chose to go to Barberton to try his hand at farming but, without any knowledge of the variable weather patterns of this country, he lost the lot. From there, he went to Springs where he met and married my mother, Roma Crumplin, whose mother Maggie Shanahan had been a Rose of Tralee. He bought a piece of land for the equivalent of R100 and built what was then the sixth house in Springs Extension for R1500 but before they could take up residence, he was transferred to Van Ryn Deep Gold Mine where he obtained his Surveyor’s Ticket. To supplement his income, he joined the Rescue Team where he received a bonus of R5 a month.

In 1932 he was called out to the big fire at Langlaagte where the Underground Manager and four senior officials had been gassed. It was his job to remove the body of the Underground Manager.(Noblese oblige, if you please!) He also became the official guide for taking people on underground tours of the mine and once took some representatives from Castle Brewery. Upon his return to the Change House, he found a crate of beer waiting for him.

Amongst those he took down the Mine was a lady from California who greatly impressed him as she had flown all the way over to South Africa from the States. This lady offered him a sovereign but he had to tell her that they were well paid. At that time, he was earning R45 a month. She said she was sorry he wouldn’t take the sovereign as she thought he was very brave going underground. He replied that he thought she was very brave – going up in the air! Dad never flew in an aeroplane. He said he preferred to keep his feet on the ground.

During this time, Mum and Dad had moved into the cottages at Van Ryn Deep on mine property. One very warm Summer’s night, Dad decided to sleep on the porch. Some time during the night, he was woken up by robbers demanding money. My mother, hearing them, woke up and looked through the window. Without a thought for her safety, she picked up a banana from the fruit bowl and walked outside. Pointing the banana at the robbers Mum told them to be off immediately or she would shoot. Much to Dad’s eternal surprise they scarpered off in a hurry.

Dad was very proud of her and, knowing Mum for her level-headed pragmatism in the face of all later difficulties, it is not hard to believe that she was more than capable of chasing anyone away if any of her family were threatened in any way. There’s no stopping the Irish when they’re on a roll!

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Poem Submitted: Monday, March 31, 2008

Poem Edited: Sunday, April 13, 2008

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