Early pioneers

Jack Swan

The following article is written Hugh Solomon who attended G8 in July 1970 and returned several times in the 1970s to assist.

Jack Swan was the first and only full-time and salaried warden of Veld and Vlei, Estcourt. He and his family were given the use of the well-known homestead on the grounds of Greystone (the home shown in the main photograph at the introduction of this blog). I was at Hilton College with Patrick Swan and Peter Swan. In fact it was Peter who told me all about Veld and Vlei, and from his exuberant and entertaining descriptions of the course I just knew that I had to attend. I pulled out my fountain pen, found a Croxley pad, and wrote to the organisers asking if I could book on the July course 1970.

Fast forward to November 2021, I arranged to meet Patrick Swan at his home in Kenilworth, Cape Town in order to ask him about his dad’s involvement with Veld and Vlei back in the 1970s.

He told me that as a family back in the 1960s they lived in Seven Oaks, near Greytown, Natal. Jack Swan was the manager of Harden Heights Wattle Company. One day in 1968 he simply announced, over the evening meal, that the family was going to move to Estcourt. It was delivered as a matter of fact, with no further discussion, and took Patrick completely by surprise. And within days the Swan family had packed and moved to Greystone, with Patrick driving a truck loaded to the hilt. Jack Swan had been recruited by the Johannesburg head office to run the Veld and Vlei, Estcourt, operation. He was a wise and suitable choice as he had good experience in this field of outdoor education for schoolboys. He had founded the Enterprise Club at Hilton College and led several expeditions over school holidays. I am not sure how long Jack Swan worked for Veld and Vlei but Patrick alluded to a financial collapse and his dad was left without a job. Grinaker Construction was busy with the N2 highway near Estcourt and offered Jack a job. He handled this with aplomb and furthered his career. Later he worked for Jeffares and Green, Consulting Engineers.

While at Greystone, Jack discovered an Iron Age walled village site dating back to 1100 AD, one of the oldest Iron Age sites in Natal, which was subsequently excavated by Professor Oliver Davies of the Natal Museum. The site, om Makhabeni hill, overlooks Moor Park.     


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