Characters of Plumtree School.

Characters came in all stripes here whether teachers, boys, camp followers or many others. In actual fact it was a terrible place situated in desert like terrain on the South, South Western border of what was then known as Rhodesia and now Zimbabwe. The schools motto in Latin (coughs) was, ‘Ad Definitum Finem’, and which in English means, ‘to a definite end’. Very apt, to a definite end simply meant surviving in the place especially with the food they served which was barely edible, and that was on good days. Aye, to even contemplate going to this hell hole meant being a character of note, or else your parents were? Now where can we send the little rascal (shite), to make a man of him? What a gas hey? I have mentioned time spent here before so will try not to repeat myself albeit very difficult. The nine plums on the tree represent the first nine pupils of the school, a railway school of all things. Perish the thought. However there used to be a time many, many, many, years ago where railways were the new state of the art technology. My, how fast times change? As to the school from these small beginnings it grew into a place where even Royalty visited. I silly you not. Perchance they could not believe that so many fine figures of the Empire came from such beginnings? Did I mention characters? So let me at least, give a small try of explaining this.

Grey House, Plumtree School, where I boarded.

Grey House, Plumtree School, where I boarded.

Far right, the house-masters study where you got beaten and also got your pocket money. Then after the two windows the door to his living quarters. Upstairs, the head and deputy head of house study. Far left, the house library, and above that the linen room controlled by the matron. In my time Blanche Rorich and more on her later. Further left but more or less in the same place her living quarters. Right from the library, the new boys dormitory. The white pillars, your entrance to this sanctified place, Grey House. Right of this the prep room, for sprogs and those in form four who did not have their own study. Above this, the

Portals to Plumtree school. The school gates.

Portals to Plumtree school. The school gates.

senior dormitory, and left of this, the middle dormitory. Form two to four. Notice the blinds upstairs? Boys would kill to have a bed here. I had one when in the middle dormitory and also when in the senior dormitory. I never killed anyone, honest. I could barely punch my way out of a wet paper bag. It is however where character comes in. You have to box very clever like? So here we have Ged (Diggiden) Buffee lying on his bed during afternoon rest. A Character and hoodlum of note, and as usual he is trying to entertain us on his bed by the blind in the middle dormitory. He is pretending to be a woman about to have her baby, and he is actually making his stomach look akin to being pregnant, God alone knows how he did this? Any rate he is now sounding when suddenly he arches his back, as if in mortal agony. As the baby pops out he lets off a treeeeeeemendous fart at the same time gobbing (expectorating). The lethal missile hurtles towards the ceiling, and just before hitting it, it dies, arches left out the open blind, and plummets down to it’s death. Oh, lo, alas, it misses the grass verge, and lands on the concrete (polished red), between the arches with a resounding, SPLAT. Our laughter is cut short by a terrible voice screaming from downstairs. “WHO WAS THAT?” It is none other than Lubbe Robinson the house master on the prowl, and sometimes known as ‘nipple’ as he was too small to be a tit. Although small he was a frightful disciplinarian. Ged pops his head over the wall with an; “oops sorry Sir.” Reply is, “BUFFEE come down here IMMEDIATELY.” He puts on his shirt, shoes and socks and heads downstairs. We eventually hear, “BUFFEE, I don’t know what makes you TICK BOY?” And we start to laugh, we just couldn’t help it, as neither did we.

The next morning after breakfast Rusty Drysdale and Spook are sitting on the stone wall outside the dining room. A new nurse had come to the school. How they ever let her in remains a mystery as she was a walking, talking, living doll. Even the Art master had done some sketching’ s of her, in the buff of course. Whatever makes these arty farty people tick? Joe Smooth Cutter comes

How all the lads imagined the new nurse.

How all the lads imagined the new nurse.

out of the dining room running his hands through his hair. Rusty chimes in with, “hey Joe where are you going?” Smiling broadly Joe replies, “to see Lyn.” The new hot nurse. Rusty being Rusty then says, “ja, she’s just done a shit.” Mortified and cut to the quick, Joe says, “ah f**k off man Rusty.” Spook chimes in, in effected high pitched woman’s la la voice with, “what was that?” Rusty and Spook break into laughter whilst Joe heads to the sick bay all his dreams shattered. The song in assembly that morning is, ‘To be a Pilgrim‘. The next morning before even the wake up bell, Don Fudge, celebrated woodwork master can be seen outside the doors to the upstairs middle dormitory. Of Cornish descent, champing at the bit and checking his watch. He can no longer resist it and kicks in the doors as he believes the bell is late? ‘When I was in the army I drove tanks and we used to kick the gears’. Breaking up everyone’s beauty sleep with. ” Hit the deck, ‘it the deck, it’s a beautiful morring. Rise and shine, ‘it the deck, ‘it the deck it’s a beautiful morring.” And on and on it goes. He now has passed the dorm and is entering the balcony where the blinds are. First bed up is Gumph Fleming completely oblivious to all, which for some reason upsets Don Fudge. He whips his blankets off. Oh dear Lor’ Gumph kaalgat (nude) is sporting a huge ‘morning glory’ which he quickly tries to tuck under his thigh and is mortified. “Rise and shine it’s a beautiful morring, ‘it the deck, ‘it the deck.” Fudge is now nearing the last bed where Dave Masson is resplendent, and without a shadow of doubt the Biggest Character I ever knew, and prefect in charge of the dormitory. Fudge is going full blast and when he passes Masson’s bed is greeted with, “f**k off Fudge.” Now only Masson as a schoolboy, would be allowed to get away with it. He was the most natural born leader I ever came across. Fudge is mortified and is now crossing the empty part between Masson’s study and the senior dormitory. Check the upstairs white pillars in the photograph, Masson’s bed is last blue blind before this. Muttering away with his favourite expression which was, “you need a damn good spell in the Army you do.” Somewhere about this time the official school bell begins tolling the wake up call. I also forgot to tell you that Fudge is squint as well so his eyes are looking everywhere but who knows where, every which way but one.

Dave Masson, Character and Leader second to none.

A natural, he had everything, good looks, a head on his shoulders, a sportsman and athlete of note and an innate authority. In form four, meaning he still had two full more years of school to do, he was Captain of Matabeleland (province), schools’ in both cricket and rugby. Now isn’t that something really special? Unfortunately he had a wee bit of trouble with authority, and thus never represented Rhodesian schools at either of these disciplines, how sad. “Masson get a haircut.” “No, I am on holiday.” “If you do not get a haircut we will not choose you for Rhodesian schools cricket/rugby.” “OK, don’t choose me then.” See what I mean? Which reminds me, at Plumtree school he was running in the 200 metres wearing his blue shorts (Grey house colours). It was

The 100 metre dash at sports week-end.

The 100 metre dash at sports week-end.

being timed to see who made the final heat for sports week – end. Masson is coming around the corner leading the field and into the final straight. His skin tight blue shorts split in the front. Oh, dear Lord, he is not wearing underpants, and his member is slapping between both thighs. Without batting an eyelid or missing a stride or beat Masson shouts out, “don’t look Ma’am.” There was a big turn out it being the final heats, and the masters wives are out in force. They all burst out laughing fit to bust a gut. What I mean is, if it had been any one else, they would of been marched off to the headmasters office for six cuts. Aye the shame o’ it. Do ye see what I mean by a natural and innate authority now? Now his parents are cattle ranchers and a bit short of a few Bob. As another woman was so heard to say at the sports week-end farewell dinner. “Christ Barry (Dave’s Dad), is that your de-mob suit?” Second world war veterans will understand if any are still left alive and we owe them all so much? So Dave was a bit short of pocket money, not that he needed it as he had a foolproof system. Being. On returning from any sporting endeavour being rugby, cricket, or athletics, on the way to his study he would pop his head into the middle dormitory. Whoever he spotted was subjected to, “Babb, two or a coke (Coca Cola)?” Invariably they chose coke as opposed to being beaten two strokes with his cane. “Kinleyside, two or a coke?” Kinleyside replies with two, being another well known schmack. Masson then says, “four or a coke?” And so on and so forth, and when he came back from his bath had a line of cokes on his desk. Do ye see what I mean? Now one evening I was in a foul mood and even though Masson is a few years older he took a shine to me, him and my older brother being best friends. He gets me up to, “48 or a coke?” I say, “48” so he says, “OK come inside” and laughs. He beats me all 48 strokes and when finished, I say, “can I have some more please Sir?” In my best Oliver voice. I learnt something that evening which was, sometimes, one is so angry that one is beyond pain or caring and I finally understood why the Gestapo for example just couldn’t break some people. Of course when Masson returned from his shower he got me up to, “six or a coke” and my reply, “six.” He burst out laughing and just went into his study. A couple of nights later I bought him a coke without any prompting from him and slipped a note under it which read. “Here’s a coke for you with pleasure from Spook’s lily white ass and sometimes you don’t have to threaten people you know?” Damn skunk always winning and in the pound seats.

I bumped into Dave many times after leaving school and his basic character never changed. The things he could make people do

Myself at Dave's 21st. birthday party.

Myself at Dave’s 21st. birthday party.

and get away with himself were legendary. Many of these things I personally never saw but were related back to me. When he was in the Police force doing his National Service, he used to borrow a Land Rover and head off to the Victoria Falls hotel and casino, only getting back in the early hours of the morning. Then he used to go on patrol looking for terrorists dressed in his underpants and more often or not, forgetting to take his FN rifle with him as well. You can bet your bottom dollar that even like this the ‘gooks’ (terrorists), were too frightened to take a pot shot at him. Of course he was never reprimanded for unofficially ‘borrowing’ the Land Rovers either. Just how did he manage to get away with all this? Which again reminds me. When that lunatic and despot Mugabe finally attained power he made it imperative that he rounded up everyone’s weapons. Are you listening America? Dave’s youngest brother, about to attend University in South Africa, buried his in a cache on their ranch. Sadly, one of his labourers reported him, and he was in huge trouble facing a jail sentence. Dave heard about it, and cut short whatever he was doing and went to the authorities and told them his little brother had nothing to do with it and it was him. How typically Dave. So Dave went to jail and his brother went to University. Here is where it gets funny again. They sent him to the Marlborough police station which had a couple of prison cells. Little did they know that during the war years Dave was Superintendent in Charge there. So the new order had retained the old black Police staff being short themselves, which was OK, anything, provided you were not white of course. They were of course delighted to see their old Master and he was getting saluted and received 5 star treatment in his sojourn there. I’ll have the roast beef and three veg glancing at the menu. He pitched up years later at the farm Marsden in Norton to see his old Police mate Neil Wrench whose parents had a splendid home and set up. Neil had organised a tennis, swimming day there followed by a braai (barbecue). Dave Masson pitched while we were playing touch rugby with the girls. As always from the moment he arrived, things livened up. He joined the line with a hearty cry of, “grab a boob, grab a boob.” Laughter, shrieks and gasps, some of the women even fainted in anticipatory bliss.

Dave Masson died in his early forties after succumbing to cancer. Years later I bumped into Lubbe Robinson the old house master at a cricket International and we got to talking about Dave. I was saying that it was such a tragedy he died so young. Lubbe wouldn’t have it and said to me, that Dave ‘lived’ more in his forty odd years on earth than most people would if they lived to be a hundred. That’s what I mean about Characters of Plumtree School, magic people, magic masters (some of them), and magic times. So Dave wherever you are, just, “grab a boob man.”

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About spookmoor

I'm a 61 year old happily married man with three grown up children. I lost all my hearing as an eighteen year old whilst doing National Service and then had a Cochlear Ear Implant twenty years later. I love trying to explain these things to people and bits about my life. I never thought so at the time, but it was the best thing that ever happened to me. Thus one gets Random ramblings from a man who has seen a lot with a touch of humour underlying all.
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62 Responses to Characters of Plumtree School.

  1. Philip Minnaar says:

    Nice, keep up the good work Spook.
    I was a new boy in 1976 and remember quite a few of my tormentors and heros from your writing. Thanks.
    Phil
    Canmore, Alberta, Canada

  2. Haha excellent piece Monsieur spook. I too am a veetren of the Kalahari sands resort. that don Mudge lunatic was still there in the eighties, even more squint, angry and penga than ever. Getting a “Don mudger” was a thing, one lash to the back of the neck to get you to bend over, and then whatever your sentence was. I heard he broke some bones falling off his roof back in Cornwall, and I admit I was quite pleased.

    As for the sprinting incident, a champion sprinter circa 1984 , also from gay house was a chap called Dhliwayo, who was also hung like a mahachi. He had those new fangled poly shorts with built-in underpant that failed him around the 50m mark of the 100m final on sports day no less. He kept on running, up the embankment, over the fence and gone – only to return sheepishly for prizegiving. Something about the biggest mboro ever to cross the finishing line. Man you could hear it slapping his leg like a horse at full gallop. If that were me, I would have been moonwalking and bowing back to the finish line…

    Too many stories too little time – Dave Nashs’ Hornbill landing on his head in the 200m final, ag many many funny times from that glorified prison camp.

  3. Tim says:

    Brilliant Spook. I remember him well!!

  4. Chris says:

    Thanks for sharing Spook. Enjoyed the narrative, great stories keep them coming.

  5. sue stolk says:

    Pleasure is mine Spook, just wish i had more time … but i will hopefully get around to it all ….Yes it is a small world… imagine my surprise whilst reading your script….. the memories just came tumbling back and what a pleasure it was to pick them up, dust them off, relive them again, grinning and laughing as the moments deserved (so glad no one was watching they would have thought me completely mental * grin) … but that’s what made it all that much more special …. , being able to share memories_ sadly the two people in my family who knew him, are no longer here to mull over memories with….
    He was a marvelous bloke, one in a million … i have know my fair share of characters and for sure, he is in the top ten …

  6. spookmoor says:

    Couldn’t agree with your second statement more Sue. Thank you for your time, the visit and the lovely comments. Those were the days my friend.

  7. spookmoor says:

    Very well said Sue and in the end it is a small world is it not. Who would have thought you knew Dave so well? Marvelous bloke.

  8. sue stolk says:

    PS. I forgot to mention his (Masson’s) command of the english language, and his ability to employ this gift in the most unusual of circumstance to extract maximum urine from a situation _ producing live entertainment, the value of which you would never have enough money to pay for _ the hapless dude on the receiving end was ever blissfully unaware of his/her entertainment value…..he was one of the most natural and I think, often unintentional comedians I have ever met….He had a sharp tongue laced with his brand of humor and taught me to look for and find humor in every situation and then enjoy the entertainment which so naturally develops, because you can..and because in Africa brevity can turn the tables and makes a frustrating situation soooo much more fun…. Be Blessed 🙂

  9. sue stolk says:

    Aaaaaah Spook, how many memories have you evoked with this little master piece _ you had me rolling from the first chapter and well, when you introduced Masson, that was it, i was undone and the tears were dribbling down me leg …. got to know Masson shortly after he started his hunting camp in Kwe Kwe and many were the Friday nights that I drove Masson together with sundry other fellows that might be around (usually bundled in the back of the cruiser) back to the camp either from the hotel or the club (usually the club, as that was where the party migrated to, from the hotel) ……. , Many, many memories _ and yes i do agree the man had an innate ability to live life to the fullest _was nothing wishy washy about him. I think it was one of his most endearing qualities for me, was that he knew what he wanted and went after it … not always successfully, but therein lies another story…. His lust for life and his sharp mind … his death was such a waste. Have always said that i would like to interview the various people who knew him or came in contact with him and just write the story that unfolds from there. He had more facets than a diamond…. we should put our heads together in a collaboration perhaps.
    As for Kinleyside …. no we are not going to be lured into going there .. suffice to say another Character of note!
    Yes, Plumtree certainly produced some Characters that survived the fires of boarding school and all that went with it…The Good, the Bad and the Ugly and i think most were strong men, filled with their own brand of courage and integrity, fearless and branded with that special Rhodesian Spirit!

    Thanks for the share, the piece, as usual is well written and your humour oozes out of every nook and cranny_although times were hard then, looking back makes one realise that we really were truly blessed to grow up in the times we did..How much war shapes us into the Characters we are today! Be Blessed

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