Characters at this famous school keep on reviving my memories, whether they were famous or not? Of course it was a long, long, time ago, but, for some strange reason I’m going through a phase of remembrance. Perchance I’m getting senile? Needless to say, the more I pen the more I remember, with a little help from my friends. I can hear the local wag say, “you mean you have some?” Tsuh, what is it about all these ‘Characters’ that they can never leave one alone but always have to chirp in with their one cent? Still and all, I must say I enjoy this and always have. Does that make me a trite odd? Well if it does then I’m joined by legions of others who had the great misfortune to be sent to this hell hole. So what I am trying to do is tell some stories about ‘ordinary’ people who actually were ‘extraordinary’ people, each in their own way. The other surprising thing is, is that, in those far oft days Plumtree School provided a large proportion of the Officers class in the Army of this country. In fact the man in charge of the Army was an ex Plumtree pupil as was his successor, but, more on them later. In part this was no doubt due to being tucked away in a God forsaken part of the country and stuck there for an entire term. Consequently this meant that if you were not part of a sporting team, then the only thing left was the bush? Semi desert conditions and real rough terrain and very little water. What was even more odd is that lads who were great sportsmen also enjoyed the bush, God knows why? More importantly, just look at the buildings that were provided at this great place of learning. Very impressive are they not? It is no wonder then that as far as the Armed Services were concerned if one came from Pumtree school one was more or less the ‘compleat’ man, excuse the frog language. They knew that anyone who had survived four to six years at this place had ‘Character’ written all over them and a certain ingrained toughness with it. So now some more stories on certain lads, some rogues and some goody goody two shoes, the cosmopolitan mix of this place in the bush.
Here is where assembly was held every morning. The boys filed into the Beit Hall from the red steps on the left of the photo where there was entrance door just right of this, or, from the other entrance behind and not seen here where all the classrooms were in the form of a quadrangle behind this. The door through the main entrance by the four columns in front was kept locked. Assembly began with a hymn belted out by Felix Westwood on the piano. Then a prayer from the Headmaster, then whatever he wanted to talk about, then off to class. Sometimes though, Felix held us back as she was not happy with the singing, so made us practice it again. Great way to save 10 or 15 minutes from your first period (class), and is it any wonder then, the singing was more often than not, bad? Not that Jim Beef esteemed headmaster ever noticed the difference. He had other things on his mind. Now being a ‘new boy’ at this place entailed being the lowest of the low, and one would be hard pushed to go any lower. Bullying
etc. were rife and until about form 4 one couldn’t really be friends with any boy in the forms ahead of you. That’s just the way it was. Despite all this of course friendships were made as part and parcel of just being human. I had a friend like this in the year above me in form two in Grey House where I resided. He had quite the most delightful nickname? Being ‘Maggots’. Quite why, I never found out. His real name was Adrian Haggert, or in other words, ‘Maggots Haggert’. Smallish in stature, but, he made up for this in being a real, cheeky, little bugger. Anyway we were friends and part of this great school revolved around sport. So, the inter-house cricket competition was on. It began with under 15’s and I as a new boy, under 13’s, and Maggots as a second year, under 14’s, had been selected to play for Grey House under 15’s cricket. Our first match was against Milner House who won the toss and elected to bat. Now who is this coming in to open for them? Why, it is little ‘Borer Wilson’ head prefect of Milner. How could this be? Pushing 18 years old if not 20 and representing the under 15’s. We were browned off us Grey little lads were, so a great plan was quickly hatched to get rid of old ‘Borer’ quickly, sorry, little ‘Borer’. So our opening
bowler was instructed to deliver one wide of leg stump which he did. ‘Borer’ with a thick pair of glasses on him never saw it as he was half blind to begin with? Our wicket keeper also a new boy and non other than Diggiden Buffee, big for his age and already established as a hoodlum of note, and, hatcher of the great plan. Dived towards the errant ball and artfully palmed it. Little Maggots Haggert and Jumbo King fielding in the slips, pretended Dig had missed it, and turned and ran towards the boundary to retrieve the ball. Shame little Johnny Eaton, also a new boy, and opening with ‘Borer’ called the run with. YES, NO,C’MON,WAIT, not being sure where the ball went. This confused ‘Borer’, I know not why? So while Diggiden was quietly sauntering back to the wickets, poor old ‘Borer’ was going in and out of his crease. Suddenly, Dig, had the hidden ball in his hands and whipped the bails off with a raucous cry of “HOWSZAT.” The square leg umpire had no choice but to give ‘Borer’ out, and my, oh my, was ‘Borer’ furious. He was actually refusing to believe he was out, but, the decision stood, and the long walk back began for ‘Borer’ smoke billowing out from every orifice. The scorecard read, G.Wilson…….run out…0 Aye we were lads in those days. I mention this particularly because ‘Borer’ was actually a fearsome bloke who on leaving school joined the Rhodesian army and worked his way up the ranks, becoming known far and wide as the ‘Phantom Major’. Mainly due to his being the officer in charge of the Rhodesian S.A.S. And to think we as young kids had the audacity to run him out like this? Sadly our beloved country was sold down the drain. The new regime then got rid of the people they were most scared of with alacrity, amongst these being the S.A.S., and Major Wilson made a speech whilst disbanding the regiment which was touching and profound. Herewith;
13 Dec 1980 – Address by Major GA Wilson. “We will leave here not only in sorrow but filled with pride, dignity and honour in ourselves and in 1 SAS. We have much to be grateful for. ‘I am eternally grateful to those men who served with the unit before we did: to those amongst us who have lost loved ones; to those who were wounded; to those friends and there are many of them, who have stood by us; to those wives and families who stood behind us, to those who have fought with such courage beside us, and especially to those who gave their lives for Rhodesia and the unit. ‘We have not let them down and we will not forget them. ‘ I know that in the years to come we can, with the greatest pride say: I served with the Rhodesian SAS. ‘May God bless you and thank God we did our duty.”
The long and short of all this is that a perfectly beautiful little country in Africa was sold down the drain. Can you hear me America? Can you hear me Perfidious Albion the worst of the lot?Coughs in la,di,da,voice. Not that it matters much any more, and you gleefully propped up R. G. Mugabe, and look at what you got, and look at this country today. Well at the time we were stunned, but, overall we were laughing at you and we will always be laughing you. You see, the thing is that you can never take away our memories no matter how hard you try. And, more importantly, now things have come home to roost on your own soils. Pray tell me, do you like it? Brother you asked for it.
Now little Maggots was all growed (grown) up and although a very able cricketer was still only playing in Harold Westwood’s beloved third team cricket. He knocked up 215, yes, 215, playing against Milton, Bulawayo’s biggest school. Then Joe Smooth Cutter went and took all ten wickets in the second innings as well. Something, really something. It really was, and just showed the enormous talent of this school in the sticks? More importantly, Maggots came to visit me when I was so dangerously ill in Bulawayo Central Hospital, and he was attending Teachers Training College there. You see, you cannot beat friendship. I have no doubt he became an excellent teacher and since then has co-authored a couple of books whilst also doing extensive research for other famed authors. Did I say something about ordinary people who were actually extraordinary people?
Lt. General Peter Walls, commander of the Rhodesian Army was another ex Plumtree pupil. His son George, was also a new boy along with me, known as, little ‘Bovo’, again quite why I have no idea. ‘Bovo’ was another water polo and rugby player, so
although we got on well our core friendships consisted of different people, mine being, more interested in cricket, tennis and hockey. Furthermore we resided in different boarding houses, him being Gaul, house of well known goody, goody, two shoes. Sadly, Bulawayo girls, for some strange reason were only interested in water polo and rugby boys, quite why, also eluded me? Thank heavens for ‘bambe zonke’ (grab all) chicks back in the capital city Salisbury eh? So as seniors it was a trite hard to get Bulawhyoes (their pronunciation) chicks, interested in one if you were not a water polos or ruggers player. So the likes of Peter Simmonds (Head of House of Gaul), his younger twin brothers Tupper and Ant, Tim Rowett, lightning fast, and rugger player on the wing were always in the pound seats so to speak whilst the rest of us true gentlemen had to indulge in things, which of partaken of too often, sometimes can make you go blind? I mention Tim as he was a bit of an anomaly, being a senior who was actually a very nice chap as well, almost unheard of for seniors to be nice to new boys. Bravo Tim. It once again is surprising just how many young lads from this school rose to prominence, whether by serving in one of the armed forces or representing the country at sport. Bovo Walls for example played Rhodesian water polo. A couple of years ago I had the privilege to meet up with George (Bovo) in New Zealand and his lovely wife Janine. That’s the sad thing about all this, we are scattered all over the world now. Simply because certain politicians who had never stepped foot in Africa assumed they knew more about it than we did. It matters not, we are laughing at you, as we always will be. After all, ‘assumption is the Mother of all f**k ups’.
I haven’t mentioned Llyod house yet. In essence it was Grey’s ‘sister’ house being more or less right next door to each other.
Some well known hoodlums resided here, Lung Cowper springs to mind, funnily enough not a water polos or rugger players, how passing strange, but, a cricketer of note. Kaunda Drummond, one of those lads who were small for their age and then suddenly in their teenage years shot up and became Giants. He then played rugger for the thirds and ran through all the opposition. Savage Varley, another great rugby player, “ah, very narce” (nice). Keith Alford, a year below me who shot to prominence in form five by winning the 100 metre dash out gunning such fearsome lads as Boet Harvey, Tup Simmonds, little Johnny Eaton, and Pecker West who normally cruised home into first place. Aye, the shock o’ it. I, was always of the opinion that Harold Westwood, the starter, had fired a dodgy start? Furthermore I was mates with these lads, b’lieve it or not, and I had many great times with Keith years after leaving school. Now who is this? Why, it is little Dave McFarlane, oh dear lord save us, but guess what? Ja, you got it, another water polos and ruggers players, one year ahead of me, and Head of House of Llyod in his last year there. Guess they were hard pushed to find first team players in Llyod? Now Dave was another lovely bloke and we did our National Service together, not that I lasted very long, along with some other Plumtree lads, Johnny Eaton, Peter Surgey, Nigel Wryely Birch, coughs in la di da voice. Rob Mitchell was another one. Now Dave got injured later on, and we ended up spending a lot of time together and great times were had by all. What I mean to say is when one has lived through times like this and paid the price a certain type of understanding per-fuses your mind set. Now I’m not a big conspiracy theorist follower, far from it, but, the older I get the more things fit? Be that as it may, we had joy, we had fun, we had seasons in the sun, but the rhythm and the rhyme were but seasons out of time. (Rod McKuen).