Monday, June 11, 2007

1966-67 Apartheid Durban, Northlands Boys HS, RC McFarquhar Headmaster and Saint Martins Church

< 1966. Esslemont Brothers, St Martins Choir Boys, Chelsea Drive.

RC McFarquhar considered prefects in our elite form 5 (year 11) class, but often stayed in his office instead of teaching us English. With his cane, RC McFarquhar flogged Nigger of the Narcissus and grammar into us. "Do get my cane boy!" inspired a miscreant's shuffling to RC McFarquhar's office. Several classes flinched while cuts struck in the corridor. RC McFarquhar was a good golfer. He taught us every use of the comma. Closet-Romantic RC McFarquhar made us learn Pied Beauty.

Despite Durban's humidity, RC McFarquhar never removed his jacket. He prowled corridors, glaring at boys and staff, while black "boys" polished floors. "Do get along there!" blasted RC McFarquhar, and boys and "boys" scuttled. If RC McFarquhar caught bad boys, he flourished a wand from his sleeve, caning boys' bums. Once teachers bunked assembly, while listening to test cricket, broadcast by Springbok Radio. RC McFarquhar delayed assembly, while teachers herded in to the amusement of 700 boys. Later when I was a teacher, one of my mean and arrogant headmasters compared his mean discipline with RC McFarquhar's firm discipline. From my schoolboy viewpoint, RC McFarquhar was firm but not mean and arrogant.

RC McFarquhar's POW story: "You know boys, in camps we ate cheese made from coal." Silence. "S'true. Some Afrikaners didn't like the taste, so gave us their share."

"Stupid Hairy-Backs!" I blurted.

"Who said that?" I raised my hand while boys sniggered. "You're a Hairy-Back!" RC McFarquhar was at varsity with the ol' lady, so knew my maternal Hendrikz background. RC McFarquhar didn't accept school fees from the ol' lady, nor other solo-parents. RC McFarquhar made me write thank you letters to sponsors.

On Guy Fawkes nights, bad boys sorted out RC Mcfarquhar, by roaring past his home on motor bikes, lobbing fireworks into his garden. RC McFarquhar never took issue with that. RC Mcfarquhar's home was next to Beachwood Boys High principal's home, Mr Lewis. RC McFarquhar resented baby-boomer Beachwood, calling it "that school down the road." We played no sports with Beachwood boys, who if they'd all gone to Northlands, enrolment would've doubled, thus increasing RC McFarquhar's salary and pension.

The ol' lady became a confirmed Anglican. Aunt Dorothy was aggrieved. Fraser and I became confirmed Anglicans and joined St Martin's choir, enjoying sermons, liturgy, cassocks, anthems, plainchant. Choir boys' duties included singing near the booming, wailing, mewling organ; lighting and snuffing altar candles; tidying stalls music; receiving choir collections; reading scriptures from a wooden lectern; leading processions holding a wooden cross.

Sometimes we sneaked up the belfry to spy on a choir chick lumbering her boyfriend below. "Klank-Klank!..." We rang the cracked bell, and skedaddled. Boyfriend later became Beachwood headmaster, then a so-called opposition, Progressive Party MP.

It was illegal for natives to worship in European churches. (Martin Meredith, Nelson Mandela, A Biography, Hamish Hamilton, London, 1997). Zulu Manyanos women wearing red blouses and black skirts worshipped at separate services. I never saw Zulu men, nor any Indians, nor any coloureds worshipping at Durban North white English churches. But I did see Zulu Zionist Church priests wandering Durban in long, flowing robes, and Zionist priests baptising followers in the Indian Ocean at South Beach, while I surfed there. I also saw Zulu Sangoma herbalists and witch-doctors wandering Durbs wearing skins, bladders, beads and other witch-doctor garb. They sold their muti at the central Durbs Indian Market, which later mysteriously burnt down.

Charlie, Beachwood boy, also sang in the choir. Like the ol' man, Charlie's ol' toppies were Poms, apartheid beneficiaries. Immigrants kept their foreign nationality, or became SA citizens, unlike natives carrying passes, restricting movement, and forcing them to live in locations and Bantustans. Immigrants increased the white population against swart gevaar, and stayed silent about apartheid benefits, while Rosie bussed from May Street Indian "black spot" to Durban North Indian "black spot" to work for us privileged whiteys.

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