Hyde family tributes at Henry’s funeral by his children


  • On Wednesday we had a family service at the crematorium. This was taken by our aunt
    Christine, who just happened to be visiting Jo and Henry last weekend. She has been an
    incredible support to us during this week.
  • Today, we are determined, with your help, to celebrate the life of our Dad, Henry.
  • Henry asked that we do not have a eulogy of any sort at his memorial service. However, there
    are people here from all parts of Henry’s life, many of whom have travelled long journeys to
    be with us. And few people have knowledge of the 85 years of this unique man we call Dad,
    Grandpa and Henry.
  • So for this reason we have decided, in true Henry Hyde fashion, to ignore this advice.
  • What we have put together is from our own reflections and from the many many messages of
    condolence we have had from people right across the world. His standout characteristics
    were many but there are a few that everyone seems to agree on – his huge sense of
    adventure, his generosity, his loyalty are just a start.
  • Henry was born on 14th Feb 1934 the eldest son of Rose and Ted. Ted had left Ireland aged 20
    for the new world of South Africa with its abundant open space and, of course, the diamond
    fields. Henry’s positivity and sense of adventure were clearly in his genes.
  • Henry’s early years were spent on a farm in Schweizer Reineke, the remotest of remote places
    in the north western part of South Africa. His father Ted was a pig and arable farmer with a
    little diamond prospecting done on the side. Henry’s first friends were the African boys on the
    farm. His mother insisted that they moved to Natal when she realised his first language was
    not English.
  • Henry’s main school years were at Michaelhouse a place where he was happy and where he
    lived school life to the full, playing all sports including rugby, cricket, hockey and swimming.
    He tried tennis but was a little too impatient for that.
  • He went to Natal University to study Engineering. He told me, after I had passed my first
    year Engineering, that he learnt how to party in his first year, perfected that in his second
    year and then his father said enough of that.
  • Where upon he left and set off on his first life adventure to Canada in 1957 where he drove
    earth movers. He then went to England where in 1958 he famously met Jo whilst lying
    across the stairs of a boarding house they were both in, waiting for their communal
    bathroom to become free. She asked him to move and in his characteristic lack of style
    insisted that if she wanted to pass she would need to step over him. Clearly she did, and
    they married in 1960 in Melbourne, Australia.

  • Catherine
  • After marrying they spent a wet and cold winter in Melbourne and then set off for their first
    life adventure to live in Estcourt, a small town in the Drakensberg mountains of South
    Africa. This was not an easy decision for Mum. However, her bravery and resilience is
    legendary and that continues to this day.
  • Edward was born in 1961, I in 1962, Peter in 1965 and the twins in 1967. Sadly Peter
    lived for just a few days.
  • To Henry, I was known as Bear, Edward as Teddy-kins, Charles as Charlie-boy and
    Elizabeth, only ever as Diddy, which endures to this day.
  • As well as being a father, Henry spent these years building the business he bought from his
    father. It included a book shop, a local newspaper and later on various business ventures
    with his younger brothers Pat and Michael – to whom he was very close throughout his life
  • Henry liked to do things his own creative way. For example, he was told by the local council to
    get on and use a prime vacant plot of land that he owned in the middle of town so he created
    an enormous vegetable garden which fed us and the families of his many staff for years.
    Clearly, that was not quite what the council had in mind!
  • He even found time for a different sort of adventure in the form of motor rally racing with
    his friend Geoff Mortimer. It always amused us that he was the navigator, which was never
    his strongest skill.
  • However, his real passion was introducing adventure to others. In 1968 he became very
    involved in Veld and Vlei, a voluntary organisation that offered outward bound adventure
    camps to 16-18 year olds. Over 20 years these courses touched thousands of lives. And
    introduced many people to racial integration, at a time when apartheid was in full force
    and a good 20 years before the end of that regime. Alan and Cedric, both here today, were
    very involved throughout the Veld and Vlei years and have remained life-long friends to Jo
    and Henry.
  • Veld and Vlei was an organisation that relied on the generosity of the volunteers. There was
    no limit to Henry’s generosity for Veld and Vlei – both in terms of time and money. Henry did
    everything. If a new toilet block was needed, he became a plumber, if a power generator
    broke he was an electrician and he was living proof of the fact that swallowing petrol whilst
    syphoning is not harmful.
  • Henry’s own self-belief extended to his belief in those around him and to us. I was thrown the
    job of chief caterer for a camp of 120 hungry boys, Edward was given the task of camp Warden
    and Elizabeth and Charles were told to run the sailing and rock climbing activities – all of these
    before we were 21.
  • The hikes in the Drakensberg mountains were a key feature of this time, each one more
    adventurous than the last. Although they happened at various moments in the year the Easter
    hike was always the main one. Mum you might want to shut your ears – we all have fond
    memories of being fed snakebite mutti, a mix of coffee and Brandy, high in a cave overlooking
    a beautiful scene after a long day’s walk
  • When away from Veld and Vlei Henry was happiest stirring his potjie on the open fire beneath
    the tree at home at 13 Brokensha Road.
  • Henry and Jo created a home that brought a huge variety of people into our lives. This ranged
    from people he might have picked up on the motorway, chosen on the basis of the quality of
    the rucksack they carried, or drop-ins at the shop who only came in for a good read and were
    offered a bed for the night. Sometimes they stayed months, usually gainfully employed on a
    DIY project. Painting the house yellow was particularly memorable. They usually also worked
    at Veld and Vlei. At their heart they were all adventurers with broad life experience, this gave
    us a unique view of the world from an isolated South Africa.
  • Along with these were others who lived with us as part of the family including many Rotary
    Exchange students. In addition, Louise, Charmaine and Fred stayed for years and all to this
    day, along with many others, regard Henry and Jo as second parents.
  • They bought a beach house in 1980 on the Natal south coast, not far from their lifelong friends
    the Saxby’s. We are pleased to have Alan Saxby here today. Henry famously named the house
    “Hyde Tyde” a unilateral decision after we had all agreed on a different name.
  • Happy holidays and many building projects were completed at that house with brothers Pat
    and Michael and their wives Glenys and Anne and the cousins, including Robert, who is here.

  • Charles
  • In 1989 Henry and Jo moved to Australia when Henry was 55 and a whole new adventure
    began. These were difficult times – Henry had to reinvented himself several times yet stayed
    true to himself. For 5 years he drove a courier van from dawn to dusk where every customer
    was his friend. His resilience and good humour were extraordinary and an example to us all.
  • Life began to settle down. He got to know Jo’s side of the family including Chris and Ian and
    their family. We are grateful to Robert Andrew and James for driving through the night to be
    with us today.
  • We had 9 grandchildren between the four of us and he was happiest when lying on the floor
    with his grandchildren clambering over him or chatting over a meal and enjoying his family
    around him.
  • An enduring memory of all of the younger grandchildren is sitting on their Grandpa’s lap
    amidst the chaos of young family life, snuggled around his big tummy
  • Henry always found magic in everyone. At times this was sometimes challenging to us. On
    reflection, this ability was one of his defining characteristics.
  • Like all good fathers he advised freely, starting with “Charlie what you want to do is…” He was
    a great sounding board and if you had a big new idea you would be guaranteed a viewpoint
    and often an even bigger one to build on it
  • Following his time as a courier he and Jo set off on their biggest adventure to date. Our hillbilly
    parents criss-crossed Australia towing a caravan for 6 years stopping where and when they
    wanted to, sometimes for just a day or two, sometimes for weeks. Jo possibly did more
    knitting and embroidery than most hillbillies but hillbillies they were. Henry was particularly
    proud of the moment crossing the Nullabor when a trucky said “nah, he’ll be right mate, he’s a
    real bushy”.
  • Their volunteering didn’t stop. They got very excited at the opportunity to volunteer at the
    2000 Olympics. It didn’t fuss Henry that the role he was assigned was gate attendant at the
    kayaking where he was stuck in a hot and dusty field far from the action. He couldn’t have
    been prouder of the uniform they were given including a rather fine hat that he wore for many years

  • .
  • They settled in Toronto in 2006, carefully chosen as the spot they loved the most of all of their
    travels and the communities they had visited. It was a great joy for us that you welcomed
    them and have cared for them as you have.
  • He found his tribe here – this was a place where he could share his passions such as his
    insatiable curiosity for the world and what makes it work. He was a prolific reader of The
    Economist, newspapers, novels and history. Sadly his eye sight curtailed his reading in the last
    few years but The Economist still got a thorough going over on his iPad each week
  • As far as Henry was concerned watching sport was a participatory activity. We were never sure
    who he was supporting especially when Australia and South Africa played against one another.
    One thing was certain, the referee was always terrible, or he was cheating or, more often than
    not, both at the same time.
  • He loved and hated new technology in equal measure but was always keen to embrace some
    new gadget. We dreaded the phone calls asking for remote support and are grateful that in
    the last few years his grandson Ben has patiently provided on-call IT support whenever
    Grandpa needed it
  • He was involved in many groups and activities including this Church and was well known for
    his onion slicing for sausage sizzles
  • He has been the main carer for Jo during her period of ill-health in the last 2 years, ably
    supported by a large and loving group of local friends, something for which we are also very
  • His love for Jo was obvious to all who knew them. He never stopped telling her and us how
    much he loved her and how proud he was of her.
  • The legacy Henry has left us is extraordinary in so many respects, some more surprising than
    others. One has been a rubbish bin full of fermenting chicken droppings – which we have had
    to deal with this week. If you have enjoyed his prize tomatoes you have been the beneficiary
    of it’s magic. And if we smell a bit odd today, that will explain it.
  • So how to summarise the man we call our father, husband, grandfather, uncle and friend? We
    could think of no better way than to read something sent to us by a dear friend, Iain Kelman,
    which he wrote upon hearing of Henry’s passing.

We salute Jo and Henry Hyde

It would be very fair to say that the Jo and Henry Hyde were legends. They threw their very all into Veld and Vlei, Greystone. I managed to track down their four children who are scattered around the globe: Edward Curry-Hyde, Catherine Curry-Hyde, Charles Curry-Hyde and Elizabeth Curry-Hyde and was thrilled when the emails eventually started flowing. Read some of their interesting memories.


The core people poured enormous amounts of time energy (and cash) into V&V, but it didn’t thrive or survive.I remember the meetings at home in Estcourt, where budgets were a constant problem. All of the vehicles for example were ‘contributed’ either people like the Tanner-Tremaines, Eddie Peen (I think) and Henry. They really believed in what they were doing. They were also all very determined people who didn’t like being told anything and Alan Webster held all this together.

I am sure you know how hard it is to explain to people (… and my children, despite me banging on about it), how unusual mixed-race courses and indeed the whole of apartheid was. I keep saying that we need to remember that it is possible to condition a whole nation into thinking that most inhuman things (Modern day Russia…?). It was doubly strange thing living through it, as we were in such a distorted society. I remember somebody saying that V&V was the first time he’d ever been told what to do by a person with a coloured skin! How V&V managed to curtail lifetimes of conditioning into apartheid thinking for each of those three weeks, I do not know. I guess that they all believed in change and would be call liberal humanists now. In his newspaper, The Estcourt Gazette, Henry wrote some pretty risky stuff. The the local council prevented use of the town pool by Indian children and Henry wrote in his editorial that perhaps they were scared the water would turn brown. He got a visit from the local enforcer Meneer Barnard, who said that that was not funny or acceptable!  

Henry took over a small news agency business in Estcourt on his mother’s insistence, midway through his degree in accounting (and drinking). My understanding is that prior to V&V Henry had spent quite a bit of time at the golf club and V&V gave him a focus. As a child I remember that he would go out there after work several times a week throughout the year for a 2-3 hours to manage it. Orbed the gardener was there permanently and Henry modified the ride-on mover to suit his injured foot. Isaac the cook was in fact Zulu royalty, as I remember taking him home north of Ladysmith several times with Henry, and I saw his large kraal and witnessed the huge welcome from his wives and children. I took Thandi Buthelezi (princess) to my matric dance at Michaelhouse and she knew him. Jo, Henry, Catherine, Lizzie and (to less extent) I got to know him and he was a man of enormous dignity and quiet power. As he got older he would sit beside the Aga and run the ship. I remember that he bought the washing ladies with him from home – I guess that some might have been wives.

This reminds me of another rather mad aspect of Henry – he didn’t see things like age and experience as an impediment. At 16 or 17 ish he put Catherine and then Liz in charge of catering for a course with 80-90 people! Ed led a course at about 20 and I taught sailing and rock climbing at 17 singlehanded, to happy campers my age! This applied to pretty much everyone there. Can you imagine the Health and Safety exec’s response to that today! But they didn’t kill anyone during that time. Sadly there was an accident a few years after we left, which led to questions about what they were doing. There were plenty of near misses though, some of which I saw. Did it leave scars? A few, but it also made us all very resilient.

One of the big motivations for Henry and Jo was that V&V brought a constant stream of really amazing people to our home. Estcourt was insular, yet we had eccentric, passionate people from all over the world dropping in, staying, sometimes for weeks and that made our lives really rich. The middle room of our house was a kind of expedition staging post with CB radios, and kit, and piles of things coming and going.  

After Henry left South Africa for Australia things changed for him. He drove a courier van for many years and worked until he could draw a pension. He and Jo then caravanned around Aus and lived very simply. He always had mad schemes on the go. Chicken manure maturing in a vat, bits of woodwork projects and so on. We spoke at his funeral, and read our tributes to a rather stunned group of church goers! Someone said to me that it was a little unusual to laugh at a funeral. We started writing it with the usual sad stuff and then said, hang on a minute Henry was a very funny man (in many senses) and we needed to talk about that.

Henry was always very wistful about V&V. He wrote a history of our family and I don’t think said very much about it. His departure from SA in 1989/90 was difficult. His accountant at the time explained to me that the family business had run out of cash, in part due to the funds and time that had been diverted to V&V, but also poor property development decisions, in the midst of very high inflation, caused by apartheid. Henry funded a vegetable patch to make the courses more self-sufficient in front of the Greystone house, for example, and fenced it (with an 8 foot Eland-proof fence). Henry didn’t do things by half! I remember some people on the committee being rather unhappy that this was just done without the committee’s.approval. The reality of this change in our family finances was stark for me and my siblings. We lived a comfortable life with what Henry described as a money tree in the back yard! That all changed and looking back, if it hadn’t we might have not all have struck out on our own, as we did.

I think about Henry a great deal. He never appeared to be sad or knocked down by anything, even the big change to his now Australian life. I wish he had been given more credit for what he did. In the UK, he and others would have received medals or even knighthoods for their efforts, visits from HM and all that would have helped the organisation to keep going. I remember that they approached Outward Bound UK, who chose not associate with V&V due to sanctions, even though it was an agency for change. V&V could almost certainly have raised cash in the UK now, 2023. But there we are. My father was a truly amazing man – a prince. We have had to rethink “why we do things” after his death.


You have certainly prodded and poked the memory bank!

I remember going to Veld and Vlei with Henry and Jo all my childhood, and spent most holidays involved in some way.   

I was V&V caterer with Bev Field in for 1978/1979 once and then I remember being thrown into it alone (1979/1980) when either Bev or the caterer lined up was not able to come or got sick.  I would have been 15/16.  I think Jo had returned to Australia during one of those times to see her family.   Jo took on the catering role for many V&V courses when we were younger.  We would all be packed up at the beginning of the holidays and moved out to Greystone for the course duration.  The old house was cold but had the roaring fire in the living room keeping everyone warm during the winter courses.    I remember packing hike rations in the main house back kitchen with piles of “dog biscuits”. 

Henry was instrumental in the infrastructure of V&V, much of which is still standing today.  The trainees went from sleeping in tents on the terraces to rondavels which were built in approximately 1976.  I also remember the construction of the dining hall and kitchen. That was an extension of the old bluestone building that housed the quarter master’s store.  I can still smell the manky smell of that room!  The power generator gave him endless hours of grief!  (to use his words).   I remember the silence at night when the generator was turned off.

I learnt to drive when I was about 15, on the road from the Estcourt municipality boundary to Greystone.  In those days one did not need to hold a license on rural roads, only if you were driving in town.   Henry used to come up the drive way at home at 5.15 every night and I used to head to V&V with him.  He drove a little Renault bakkie with the umbrella gear stick.  

I reflect back now on my mother’s resilience living in South Africa.  She came from a very sheltered upbringing in Australia and pretty much everything she did with my father was out of her comfort zone.  I am very grateful for the upbringing we had and the exposure we had to so many things, and like Charles said, the endless flow of people in our home staying for extended periods of time was extraordinary and enriched all of our lives.  Henry and Jo were incredibly generous people, from always having enough dinner for a crowd, to there always being beer in the fridge for anyone dropping in.


I have just read through the blog and had a fabulous journey down memory lane.  Cedric Amoils had told me about your blog so it was wonderful to see it and read through the memories and photographs. 

I did return to V&V when my uncle Mike died, am guessing in 2008 or 2009.  It was then a Christian camp, I think it is now a children’s camp for school parties as well as wedding venue.  I noticed with joy that the old rondavels and the rather ugly dining hall are still very much still in use.  I remember well the building of those, particularly the rondavels.  And the uneven floor in the dining room – Henry was not much of a level floor kind of person.  Things were very much made “good enough” – and I can see my mother’s eyes rolling!  There were always large puddles on that floor when the rains came, as I suspect the roof wasn’t up to much either. 

I noticed on my visit that a swimming pool had been added, along with a chapel and other buildings.  The assault course looked very much the same as it used to look albeit with an electric fence around it.  The views of Moor Park and Wagendrift were of course just as beautiful as ever!  The house remains as lovely as it ever was.  A large part of my childhood was spent in that house, I expect more time there than in our home in Estcourt!  I recall every inch of it, as one does.    

I will see what I can find in photos etc.  And scribble some memories for you too. 

Well done on getting this together.  I can say with absolute certainty that Henry would be utterly delighted with this, as would Jo.  Sadly Henry died in 2019 aged 85 and Jo less than a year later in 2020 aged 83. 

The Hyde’s lounge on typical Sunday morning


Edward, Charles, Catherine, Elizabeth, Henry; and Dick Lavers

Henry and Jo 2014, Toronto

Henry 2018

Henry and Jo 2018

Some memories of G8

Accommodation was in a row of army-surplus bell tents located on a strip of lawn. Each patrol of eight trainees shared one such tent. Sleeping bags were arranged around the central support-pole of the tent. Built- in groundsheets had not yet come into fashion, so each trainee had a groundsheet allocated to him. It was very crowded in the tent as we also had to find space for our suitcase in there, and a place from which to hang our clothes. The ground was lumpy and hard and made for a difficult night’s sleep. Being winter, it was bitterly cold at night with a white frost on the grass outside.

The showers were in an old cowshed close by. Water was heated by a fire, often stoked by the boys themselves. Hot water was scarce, and didn’t last long. The tail-enders in the shivering queue often had to brace themselves for a hasty wash.

The pre sunrise wake-up call was the sound of a railway sleeper being struck with an iron bar by one of the instructors. It was our signal to leap out of our sleeping bags and dress hurriedly into gym shorts, tracksuits, and running shoes with a towel slung over our shoulders. Patrols lined up in their groups in the dark, and a short warm-up PT session followed, with the warden or instructor on duty call out the commands: the normal star-jumps and running on the spot for example. We were measured on our alacrity to be there quickly, and laggards were quick to realise that a patrol had to work as a team. Once all the patrols were there and ready, we set of in patrols, being timed by our respective instructors for the run down the winding path to the Wagendrift dam. Our breath frosted in the bracingly cold morning air. The sun was barely rising when we reached the edge of the dam some ten or fifteen minutes later. Ice on the moored dinghies hinted at the freezing temperature of the dark, lapping waters. We shed our clothes and dashed naked into the water. It was unnervingly cold! The idea was to get wet, submerge and then scramble out madly for one’s towel and clothes. Ten seconds or less is all one could muster. Thereafter each patrol had to assemble, and was then timed again on the jog back up to Greystone.

There were no flushing toilets at Greystone. These only followed a few years later. My memory of a row of stout gumtree poles over a long open trench has fortunately dimmed over the years. There was absolutely no privacy and using the raw, basic facilities was not for the faint of heart. I was, in 1970, well acquainted with a long drop toilet but this was pushing the boundary a bit too far.

Trainees were given a “recommended clothes list” prior to attending a course, and each item had to be marked with the trainee’s name. Clothes that needing washing were handed in at an appointed time and place and laundered by a team of domestics and then left to dry on the lawns in the sun.

Meals were taken in a veranda off an old farm building. Canvas walls were rolled down in wet or cold weather. The kitchen was at one end, and through a serving hatch the bowls of the daily meals were collected by the individual patrols who served themselves at their respective tables. In the evening trainees would dress in “collar and tie” for dinner. This translated to anything from a school blazer, to a sports coat and tie. It at least meant that trainees showered and changed into fresh clothes. I found, after the first week, that a polo-neck woollen jersey and an army greatcoat sufficed and it was a lot warmer.

Am I correct in recalling paraffin lanterns which we carried to our tents at the end of an evening?

Hugh Solomon G8   

Patrol names



Dick King



Early pioneers

Veld and Vlei office bearers 1975

Officers of the Trust

National President J.R. Case

Vice President J.L. Omond

Treasurer J.L. Maltby

Executive Director J.R. Crossan

Administration Council

C.S. Amoils,              B. Davidson       J.W. Hall        F.E. Meynell               J.C Wash

A.L. McL. Baillie       W.S. Douglas    H.E.T. Hyde   F. Murray-Johnson   A.S. Webster

R. T. Butlin               D. Everett          I.M. Kelman   J. Poppleton              P. Weinberg

B.L. Bernstein          D.W.J. Fanning H.W Kohler    A.R. Sherman             R.P. Willcox

G.F. Cross                 M.B. Gush         J. Kruger        J.H. Stodel                    D.A. Wood 

D. J. Campbell         G.M. Hall           G.G. Meek     H.Tanner-Tremaine    C.J.C. Wynne-Edwards


H. Tanner-Tremaine chairman, C.S. Amoils, W.S. Douglas, D.W.J. Fanning, G.M. Hall, H.E.G. Hyde, I.M. Kelman, H.W. Kohler, G.G. Meek, A.R Sherman, A.S. Webster

Changes lives

I enjoyed my experience on course G8 1970, but I must admit I got more pleasure and satisfaction from the three times that I returned in the 1970s to assist in the running of the camp. I felt more like an Old Boy and I loved the camaraderie. I had matured into the role. Looking back I suspect that some lads attending Veld and Vlei were reasonably happy to be there but soon left the memory behind them, whilst others to this day carry a fondness of thought, and enjoy reminiscing and swapping yarns.  

Let me share the story of my younger brother Neil Solomon. He attended the winter 1972 course, the one which was cut short after ten days because a trainee was diagnosed with contagious meningitis. Neil was slightly built as a schoolboy and wasn’t as robust, sporty or strong as his classmates. At Greystone he found that he had a talent for rock-climbing and for teamwork on the assault course. His light frame but agile upper body strength gave him an edge. It was with rock- climbing that he realised that he was really good at something. It gave him a new found confidence. At Natal University, Pietermaritzburg, he joined the mountain club, and went on to become chairman. He went to Treverton College as a student teacher whilst studying for his HDE, and taught there from 1978 to 1988 and pursued his love of outdoor activity in an educational setting. He put his inimitable stamp on the school by initiating an Outdoor Pursuits Award programme and the Post-Matriculation course, to give Treverton an aspect of education that was missing in his own schooling.  

After leaving Treverton and before moving to Zambia to become the founder headmaster of Chengelo Secondary school Neil wrote a textbook for the school called Reach Beyond which was specifically for the Outdoor Pursuits Award programme.           

I picked up my copy of Reach Beyond recently and he writes “Let me make it quite clear that I would not even be writing this book were it not for Veld and Vlei. It is almost with religious fervour that I extol its magnificent efforts towards helping young people (such as Neil Solomon aged 17 years). Veld and Vlei changed my life – it’s as simple as that.”  Such a testimonial does not get much better.

Neil died in 1997 of a brain tumour and cancer.

Hugh Solomon G8 

Early pioneers

Jack Case

– Jack Case –

Jack Case was born in England on 1 November 1900 and was educated at St Andrews College, Endfield. After qualifying as a chartered accountant he went into commerce and journeyed to Burma to join Burma Oil Refineries and Oil Fields. While out in the far East he organised the demolition of the refineries so that they would not fall into the hands of the Japanese and he took part in the evacuation of the Burmese people to India and walked the 3000 miles of that epic journey. Jack was awarded the OBE for his war efforts and he came to South Africa in 1942 in order to organise a project to produce oil from oil shale.

In 1954 Jack retired from active business life and devoted most of his spare time to Rotary International in the specific field of world understanding, and he travelled extensively throughout  the world talking about Rotary, its aims and its objects. He had been an enthusiastic worker for Veld and Vlei since its inception and was chairman for many years of the Knysna Committee and served on the council and devoted his time to organising fund raising for the Trust. Following his election as President of the Veld and Vlei  Adventure School Trust in 1975 he devoted a tremendous amount of time to the job.




Course G6 – Winter 1969

Stef Coetzee writes:

I attended Greystones winter 1969, sponsored by Alan Webster. I am still in touch with Alan, who lives in Australia.

I was terrified of heights. I recall being stuck halfway up the rock face with ‘muscle bounce’ in my legs, clinging on for dear life. An instructor from Natal University, Mr Garstang, talked me through making it to the top.

I have memories of waking up in Injisuthi cave and being overwhelmed by the rolling mists and beauty of the green hills and valleys of Natal. I still have my ‘most improved trainee’ prize book from back then. 

The camp. Donald Mellar (in his EHS rugby jersey) outside our tent, Ross Patrol.

Greystone from afar – trudging back after first-aid exercise

Ross Patrol returning from an exercise. Washroom on the right, Wagendrift dam in the background

Ross Patrol preparing to set off

Ross Patrol on top of Ntabamhlope

Cathkin, Sterkhorn, Tower, Amphlett

Ross Patrol with the escarpment in the background

Course G30 – Winter 1981

Philip Powell writes:

The winter of 1981 was a transformative experience for me. I have often wished that in later years I’d been able to put something back, to share that unique and character-forming experience with other young people.

I learned invaluable lessons that prepared me for so many future elements of my life experience and I have so much to thank Veld and Vlei for. I was the recipient of an Abe Bailey scholarship award that sponsored my attendance, while all of my fellow Maritzburg College course mates were sent as future school prefects and sponsored by the school. Let’s just say I didn’t fit into that category! My Merit Pass on the course came as a surprise to many teachers at the school. 

In summary, Veld and Vlei had a profound impact on my life and I will remain eternally grateful to the men and women, led by the fearsome and often very grumpy Henry Hyde, who sacrificed their time and effort to make us better people.

Maritz Patrol G30 winter 1981

Sergie, Philip Powell, Jackie, Eddie, Chin

Sagran, Reverend John Uys, Tokkie

Recollections of being an instructor

Rob Birt instructed over several years in the late 1960s and early 1970s. He writes this interesting account of his observations and experiences which certainly encapsulate the essence of Veld and Vlei back then.

I was a final year student at Johannesburg College of Education (JCE) in 1968. The following year I started my geography teaching career at Krugersdorp High School.

I was first introduced to Veld and Vlei through John Hall. We were both at Wits and stayed in the JCE Knockando residence. We also taught together at KHS. John, I think, was inspired by Outward Bound and coming from Cape Town where he went to school at Westerford, he had probably heard about the Veld and Vlei organisation through Outward Bound (Veld and Vlei) at Elgin and Wilderness. I am speculating and cannot verify this.

In the early part of 1968 John introduced me to Cedric Amoils who was already involved in Veld and Vlei, specifically at Greystone, and with Ian Webster, a teacher at Estcourt High School. They were looking for instructors for the July camp and specifically for a map-reading instructor. Being a geography teacher I enthusiastically agreed and joined the local Johannesburg organising committee.

The first camp I went to as a map-reading instructor was in July 1968 at Greystone. I cannot recall the camp number, but the following year in 1969 I again volunteered and joined the G7 camp in December. This was followed up with G9 in December 1970 and again in December 1972 on G13. I have the beer mugs which confirm these dates.

My involvement with Veld and Vlei was a long 54 years ago so recalling details is difficult. However the whole experience on those camps was very rewarding as an instructor, seeing the impact they had on the trainees. As instructors we were able to see the changes in confidence and the emergence of leadership over three weeks. The highlight was ending the course traversing the Berg from Giants Castle to Cathedral Peak. It was a rite of passage and in winter a huge challenge for all of us, instructors and trainees alike.

I recall the typical first day of the three week camp when the trainees split up into groups, given a map and a compass bundled into a bakkie, blindfolded and driven some way away from Greytsone and dropped. They had to make their own way back. It was a baptism by fire but gave them a taste of what to expect.

Each course provided the trainees with a variety of experiences included map-reading, rock face climbing, sailing on the Wagendrift dam, fitness training and developing team work on the obstacle course. In combination it exposed them to the dynamics of working with and respecting the environment, and each other. Cold showers in winter, mastering the challenges of sailing and overcoming fear on a rock face all contributed to their development. The “foofie” slide, climbing net, climbing wall and going through the closed tunnel added excitement to the experience. These all tested individual resolve and an ability to plan and work together; a small taste of what their lives were going to be exposed to after the exhilaration of Veld and Vlei.      

As I said earlier, the changes in so many of the boys who joined the camps was very apparent. They all seemed to leave hugely enthusiastic after the experience, and a whole lot more knowledgeable and confident about themselves and their leadership potential. It was a great grounding for life.

Some of the personalities whom I worked with and who were involved in the Veld and Vlei organisation included Jumbo Swan who lived at Greyston, Iain Kellman, Cedric Amoils, John Hall, Ian Webster and Ray Basson. There were many others who gave up their time to become involved in providing the boys with a wonderful experience. No doubt there are many beer mugs gracing the shelves of pubs of those who had the privilege of being involved with a great organisation. 

I have fond memories of the four camps I attended and have little doubt that they also contributed to my own development as a newly qualified teacher.

Rob Birt found an old box of his 35mm slides and sent these very good photos.

Early Pioneers

John Hall

Submitted by Hugh Solomon G8    John Hall taught at Krugersdorp High School for 39 Years. During many of those years, particularly the 1970 and 1980s John was very involved with Veld and Vlei, Estcourt. I attended G8 in July 1970 and he was the warden of our course.

John matriculated in Cape Town in 1963 where he was headboy at Westerford High School and played for the first team hockey and cricket. After university at Wits and a BA degree he joined Krugersdorp High School in 1969 as a newly qualified teacher, and stayed there, holding positions such as senior housemaster of the girls’ hostel, head of department educational guidance, and senior deputy headmaster.

John was on the administrative council of the Veld and Vlei Adventure School Trust.

Many pupils from KHS attended Veld and Vlei courses at Greystone. The school also formed their own personalised courses at Greystone to promote leadership training and outdoor education. Such courses went under the banner of inter alia Adventure Camp, Boys’ Trip to the Berg, and Prefects’ Camp. John was the driving force behind these initiatives which were very successful.  

Lex Morton from KHS attended course G9 in December 1970. He wrote an article for the school magazine that year saying “We can see the immense value of a movement like this. It is designed to develop those particular qualities of leadership, initiative and so on, which are evident in every human along the right lines. I would recommend this Veld and Vlei course to every boy over sixteen years of age who has the opportunity of attending one”.

I asked Lex Morton 50 years after he had attended G9, to reflect on John Hall the man. He replied: “John was a brilliant history teacher and the history of Outward Bound was well known to him. He had a love for teaching which extended way beyond the classroom and he believed strongly in the growth of the whole soul. Character and leadership development was a passion for him.

He was a hostel master who knew his boys well and he was able to identify those who would contribute and benefit by attending Veld and Vlei. During those years Krugersdorp High had a number of very active and successful service clubs. If John didn’t serve, he certainly had connections because the clubs gave us amazing support.

John was, together with Rob Birt, forever in the Berg. History trips, geography trips, staff team-building etc. He eventually became deputy principal at the school and always preferred his classroom to the office. He became an absolute legend and had a profound influence on the lives of so many students. My three children passed through John’s hands and his influence on them was as great as it had been on me. What I found fascinating was that guys like him and Rob Birt had all these strengths and yet they were youngsters themselves. At a guess I think they were first year teachers when I went to Krugersdorp High School”.