From loose handwritten pages written in my Grandfather’s hand almost 100 years ago
transcribed into a Blog by me his Granddaughter Trish Armstrong née Leffler
and then the pages bound in leather the colour of African soil
Cape Town slept peacefully beneath the sheltering mass of grey old Table Mountain. Now and again a belated cab or a wagon of farm produce clattered, or rumbled noisily through deserted streets – the tramp of policeman sounded eerily in the stillness. The yellow flashes of his lantern cutting long beams through the air laden with sea and valley mists.
Below Adderley Street, the city’s main thoroughfare, some two hundred heavily built fishing boats lay massed on the tiny beach of Rogge Bay and though midnight had not long passed dark figures singly and in pairs, in little groups were already appearing from the town and gathering in knots around their craft.
Soon a move was made – sixteen wiry powerful fishermen collected round one boat – stout poles were slipped through rope nooses in bow and stern – the men lined out four on either side of the bow and four on either side of the stern, bending they got their shoulders under the poles and on a sharp order from the boat’s skipper lifted the heavy boat and staggered down to the water’s edge.
Once the work started it progressed rapidly three or four crews combining to carry each other’s craft down. The co-workers tally of boats complete mast and sail wrapped in stout tarpaulin, heavy stone anchors, anchor rope, oars, line boxes, cudgels for stunning fish and other gear were swiftly brought down and stowed – oars were slipped and soon boat after boat rowed into the dark covered night.
Two of the fishing craft, ‘Violet’ and ‘Alice’ seemed strangers amongst the rest of the fleet, and no helping hands appeared to be extended to their crew. ‘Alice’ a lighter type than the standard fishing boat presented no difficulty to the two crews easily carrying her down. ‘Violet’ on the other hand was an exceptionally heavy, five-oared craft, and the air around her was sulphurous as seven men and a white youth vainly endeavoured to half carry, half drag her.
“Damn these Malays” ejaculated Mick “they wouldn’t help an outsider if he was starving – I’m not going to strain my back or heart – say, Jack, what about cadging a bit of help from one or other of the boats?”
“You can try Mr. Osmond” answered the other powerful, bearded white man – “mebbe hearing your winning tongue a miracle might happen, but I ain’t bettin’ on it.”
Explaining his intentions to the others, a wild looking lot of Cape Coloured men, Mick dived into the mass of busy fisherfolk and in the dim light sought for one of the old pureblood Malay skippers. A white-bearded turbaned man, short, stout and evidently of importance was soon found.
Gravely the skipper listened to Mick’s tale of woe and answered in a merry full voice “Young Gentleman my people do not like these Clifton people – they are drunken scoundrels and it is not good for young white gentlemen to be with them. However, for your sake, I will give help” and in a few words sent half a dozen Malays to Mick’s help.
“Proper gentlemen the old Malay people are” remarked Mick to Jack as they helped stow away the boat’s gear after thanking the helpers.
“Aye Mr. Osmond” answered the fisherman, “Malays, Blacks, Chinese, and South Sea Islanders, they are all gentlefolk with manners and morals, until white man’s religion and white man’s civilisation spoils ’em.”
The two boats soon pushed off – their own fishing station was some six miles by land from Cape Town but the previous week a howling North West gale had caught them at sea, and the skipper after a stern battle had turned and run for Three Anchor Bay only to find the surf running too heavily to venture in. Cape Town then remained the only resource so squaring away the two boats went tearing down before the strong wind and heavy following sea.
Mick had been in ‘Alice’ the lighter of the two and had found all the thrills he wanted. This time he was pulling the bow in the ‘Violet’ and it wasn’t long before he was cursing freely for the boat was as heavy to pull as to carry. The ‘Alice’ had taken three men beside the skipper, leaving the ‘Violet’ the same number which made her two short for a full crew.
Slowly the fishing boat was pulled across Table Bay passing by many sparred Sailing Ships, rolling slowly at their anchorage, under the towering sides of huge cargo steamers, in amongst dainty racing yachts until a mile from the beach they rounded the gates of Cape Town’s docks and entered into a world of ghostly creakings, manifold smells and weird shapes and shadows.
Here the fishing fleet gathered under the skeleton arms of monstrous cranes, besides great ocean liners, next to sea battered sailing craft, beside slimy green coated wharvers, and began to reap a harvest of small fish to be used as bait for bigger relations.
Holding candles and lanterns close to the surface of the water and liberally sowing breadcrumbs, the fishermen soon had shoal after shoal of a small type of herring swimming up to the lights – a large scoop net on the end of a pole was then brought into play and before long the boat’s flooring boards were covered with beautifully tinted fish. As each boat satisfied its’ wants it began to move off to the far distant fishing grounds.
There was no wind so as the boats gathered way, crews settled into the long Cape Stroke each man rising to his feet and with all his weight pulling slowly and steadily until his body sat once more on the thwart and the oar loom was against his breast – the skipper reversing the process and pushing against his oar.
The sea, black and noiseless, heaved slowly in mountain-like rollers and deep hollows, but as the oars dipped into the dark water and rose back into the air, molten streams of violet fire ran from the blades.
“Terrible lot of phosphorous to-night Jack” called Mick from the bows.
“Aye, it will have been that Nor’ Wester done that” answered Jack spitting overboard – “tis a good sign for fish and a spell o’ quiet at sea – it’s pretty stuff. Wish to blazes we could get a breeze though – it’s about ten miles to the Stockfish banks and from there ’bout fourteen to Clifton – Blast fishing I say ’tis a crool hard life – but there’s wuss.” he ended emphatically.
“What’s worse, Jack?” asked Mick laughingly.
“Afore the mast on a windbag” answered the other. “Foolish folk make pictures and write books and poems about the romance of sail, and weep ‘cos it’s days are passing. Damn good job says I – them that likes sailing ships let them vige with ’em” says I “it’ll learn them not to be foolish minded I reckon. Three pun ten a month and that stolen at the end – a body full o’ sores – a constitution ruined by wet – all crippled and broken with work and livin’ on stuff what writers and poets and suchlike wouldn’t give their dorgs they wouldn’t, and if they did the dorgs wouldn’t eat it not they. Blast sailing ships I say.”
Three hours of hard work brought the ‘Violet’ to her fishing ground an hour before dawn – all around the night was alive with the splash of oars and creak of hole pins whilst muffled voices sounded faintly from the dark. It was too deep to anchor so two men gently held the boat against the drift of current as the other three dropped their thick cotton lines overboard – each line was weighted by a heavy cone-shaped sinker of lead above which there were three immense barbed hooks baited with whole Cape Herring.
There seemed no bottom to the sea – fathom after fathom of line ran out – however the rush of line at last slackened and gently hauling in the fishermen got the true depth and slowly raising and lowering their lines kept the baited hooks a foot or two from the ground.
I have been intrigued with Bernard’s choice of naming himself Mick Osmond for the From Boatsheds to Battlefields autobiography.
Going through the papers given to me by my Mother a few years ago I found this in my Dad, William Frederick Patrick’s handwriting.
Margaret Johanna Osmond is Bernard’s Grandmother and Johannes Michael Adriaan and William Osmond Uncles.
I love how different family members record their findings in family ancestry.
I would like to thank the photographers and the passionate people who have given me access to photographs from the late 1800s and early 1900s for bringing my grandfather’s story to life.
End of 17th Entry: “Come aft and tell me how I must steer to get on the bank.” Quickly working his way back the eager youngster looked shorewards.
“Look at Bartholomew’s Cross,” said the Skipper “Got it?”
“Yes” answered the boy, his eyes on a long straight cleft in a granite cliff below the Lion’s Head. Across this perpendicular crack was a horizontal cut which tradition asserted had been worked out by the Portuguese sailors of Bartholomew Dias.
“Now Mick take the top chimney of the Queen’s Hotel and get the line just tell me how to steer Port or Starboard.”
Wildly excited Mick began to issue his orders “Port a little – Oh! they’re going further from each other, Starboard a little! Starboard! Oh! More yet.”
Can’t be done Sonny, the boat won’t sail against the wind – we’ll have to beat out a bit further until we’re to windward of the imaginary straight line between those bearings and then come about and run down so I’ll keep on as I’m doing until we’re crossed that line – Now look back towards Cape Town and get the Three Anchor Bay Dutch Church spine in line with the signal station.”
Three Anchor Bay Dutch Church
CAPE TOWN, SOUTH AFRICA ~ SIGNAL STATION ON SIGNAL HILL ~ c. 1904
“They are slowly coming into line as we’re going Skipper.”
That’s alright then – that bearing will give us the distance the bank is from the shore, the other the whereabouts of the bank and the cross bearing the exact spot.”
“We’re almost right with the Three Anchor Bay bearing.”
“Yes, but we’ll carry on until past the other, lower sail and drift or row down on to the bank.”
A little later Mick shouted – “We’re cutting the imaginary line now!”
“All right! Standby to lower” as the crew scrambled to their stations the Skipper put the boat into the wind and at the shout “Lower away!” down came the sail, out went the sprit, the shaking threshing canvas of fore and mainsail was smothered and furled the mast unstepped and the oars out.
“Oh! we’ve drifted past the one bearing”, cried Mick.
“Pull up Jack! Pull quickly! Koos”.
“Steady Youngster! Keep your head and don’t get flurried, come take the tiller and take command.”
Shivering with nervousness the boy obeyed, a roar from Jack as swinging broadside on the boat skipped a nasty bit of sea most of which got Jack terrified the lad, but putting his weight against the tiller, he brought her head on again – aided by a couple of hard strokes from one of the Port oars.
“Pull yourself together Youngster, don’t try and capsize us”, laughed the Skipper and gradually gaining confidence Mick after a mistake or two got the idea of steering and cross-bearing, “Pull her up a bit to allow for the anchor slack Kid – right – drop anchor now. We won’t worry about the bank testing.”
“Standby to drop anchor!” piped the childish treble “Pull her up a bit more. Come on Koos, you’re loafing! Pull! Let go Jack!” and over splashed the stone.
“Smartly done me, lad! Smartly done!” said the Skipper laughing as he dropped his line overboard.
From 10th Entry: For long I had been a pet amongst them and often I had begged to put to sea and at last as they ran the boat into the water Jack, the skipper, shouted “Jump in Youngster!” and in a second I had tumbled into the stern sheets and was embarked on a great adventure.
Often I had ridden the rollers in imagination and pictured and felt in my mind the sensations of climbing the mighty rollers and rushing into their trough but now I found the reality far more wonderful and glorious than the wildest flights of dreamland had given me. Clambering into the bow I faced the breaking white horses, reveled in the salty twang and bite of the wind, caught my breath as a wanton wave smashed against the boat and buried me in foaming water and spray.
A couple of miles out we threw anchor and soon the crew were busy with fishlines and great was my delight at hooking and hauling in a few mackerel. But soon the smell of old half rotten bait, the violent pitching, and rolling of the boat brought on violent seasickness. However, the bout did not last long and when eventually we hoisted anchor and set sail for shore I had given myself altogether to the sea. A year or two went by and I went out more and more often. Barely a Saturday, or holiday but I managed to evade authority and get out to sea or wandered along the coast.
At twelve I entered the cadet corps and for a while took soldiering seriously for the Boer War was just ending. During the three previous years, I had seen and heard much of the rear lines of the fighting army. We were armed with old Martini-Henry carbines and often I smuggled mine out to sea with looted cartridges and practiced at seabirds, or hunted the mountainside for rare and strictly protected game.
Then came the present of a beautiful decked canoe, a craft seaworthy, unsinkable and able to stand fairly heavy sea. Every moment I could now steal was devoted to fishing and most of the catches I found little difficulty in disposing of to buyers on the beach. Other youngsters now took up the life and in a year there were a dozen boys rivaling the fishermen at their own game and with the daring of boyhood faring forth in weather the men feared facing.
Our light canvas canoes, speedy easily handled and seaworthy dodged in and out of the channel when a heavy boat risked swamping ere she got full way on her and though often our canoes were capsized, now and again broken we all swum like fish and a most merciful providence invariably landed us no further hurt than bruises.
End of 8th Entry: The boat, however, was beginning to ship a lot of water and the weather was becoming wild and stormy. Again and again, curling waves broke against or over the boat until Jansen regretfully gave the order to haul up the anchor.
Pulling shoreward was no child’s play – the angry sea sucking the boat backward, gathered their strength and then with all their power hurled it flying down before them. Shipping the stroke Jansen bent both hands on the steering oar whilst the other three pulled steadily, half stopping, shooting half buried down a wall of water surrounded with flying stinging salt spray the gallant little boat drove homewards until a colossal mountain rose suddenly behind them.
“Hold Water” shrieked Jansen – “Pack all you know – Pack Boys! Pack like Hell.”
Straining might and muscle the crew checked the way of the boat and slowly began to move her sternwards.
Shipping the stroke oar Jansen his great and enormous strength to their aid – the boat rose higher higher higher – a huge threatening mass began to curl high over them – then just as every muscle seemed to be breaking the boat rose to an incredible height – a roaring avalanche seemed to break all about them, half filled with water yet still moving seawards the boat began to sink down the back of the Colossus – bellowing a stream of Danish oaths Jansen with a tremendous twist of the steering oar sent the boat spinning round and her bow came seawards.
This post links to the opening of the book where Mick is waiting and hoping that the Danish Captain will go fishing.
Excerpt from the opening post: A couple of hours past, then the day began to break but with the coming of light the prospects of putting to sea appeared negligible. The wind was blowing strongly, and beyond the line of breakers, the Atlantic was a flecked mass of curling, breaking waves racing shoreward. Surf combers were immense and the narrow rocky channel was a churning mill-race.
The coloured crew of a fishing boat after a look at the sea began to swing their boxes of fishing tackle on their shoulders preparatory to moving off home. Mick to his disgust heard his skipper tell the crew that it was hopeless attempting to put out.
“If I vos get a crew I vos going mit mine pram.” said the Dane “I haf mine son Teedore and I want another two men.”
“Can I come Mr. Jansen?” asked Mickey eagerly.
“Yes you can come, Mickey, and Otto, he vas not frightened. No!” and the burly Scandinavian gave a huge roar of laughter.
A strongly built youth answered that he would go and amidst a number of warnings from others a queer-shaped Scandinavian boat was carried to the water.
Though light enough to see, the night yet clung to the world helped by banks of dark cloud and grey mist piling and rolling over the sky and mountains, now and again came a drizzle of rain and the squalls of sea wind drove spray high from the waves.
As the boat was run into the water Mick jumped into the bow, Theodore Jansen and Otto went amidships. Old Jansen shipped a steering oar whaleboat fashion over the stern, shoving the stroke oar with one hand, whilst steering with the other. For a while the crew pulling gently held the boat head on to the breaking surf, keeping just floating distance off the shore. Whilst Jansen carefully watched the rollers breaking on an outlying point along the coast. The small crowd who had decided to stop ashore gathering at the water’s edge watching and shouting advice and warnings.
Suddenly the Old Dane gave a wild yell, “Pull togedder Boys! All you can! Pull Boys Pull!’ Four backs bent double, stout ash handles bent and the light craft, her queer blunt nose high in the air went racing seawards rising to, and smashing over and through a dozen waves – rolling to cross-currents, and standing almost on her stern to crash over a wave crest, taking a curling breaker fair and square a cascade of spray and water over her crew.
Old Jansen his light blue eyes pinpoints of flame, his long mustache blowing past his face bellowed encouragement whilst his great hairy arms and chest bulged with iron lumps of muscle as he stood half steering and pushing. Mick and the others a red mist waving before their eyes, muscles cracking with strain bent forward and backward with every sinew, every nerve, every muscle concentrated to breaking point.
“Easy all!” yelled Jansen and four figures relaxed and looked shoreward. They were beyond the breaking point of the rollers, but the tiny boat seemed to have broken through one great peril to enter a score of others.
All around were thousands of angry waves rising sullenly but quickly to hang an instant, draw suddenly back; then rearing a foaming white crest drive forward and down in a roaring angry mass of foam and broken water. The rollers themselves were range upon range of mountains, up whose ridges the boat was drawn to hang dizzily an instant before dropping down to the depths, whilst rolling down on it would come another vast wall of grey water.
Mick felt his stomach rise and fall with the combers – one minute the tiny boat was high in the air, and from her whole foreshore to the very water’s edge could be seen – another minute and the craft lay deep in a ravine with a mountain leaving them and one bearing ominously down – over the departing hill all that could be seen being the swirling mist and clouds about the summit of Lion’s Head and Table Mountain.
A sharp order from Jansen brought the oars again into play and with an empty feeling, Mick bent to his work. For a while, the Old Viking held seawards then gave the commands to “Hold Water” and “Anchor”.
Being a good deal further out the swell was not so marked nor the sea as broken as in the surf line and Mick whose marrow had felt turned to water began to feel his spirits revive. Lines were soon down – each cast a light mackerel line a few yards away without a sinker and two heavy lines each with a large hook baited with a half Mackerel and loaded with heavy leaden sinkers were dropped overboard. Light lines were also put over and lowered to the ground in case any small fish such as Hottentot were about and these soon began to be busy.
The oval bronzed Hottentot fish weighing from one to six pounds biting freely. Now and again a small shoal of Mackerel or their cousins the Maasbanker gave a few exciting minutes, during which every hand was hauling in fish as hard as he could. After a while, Jansen ordered the mackerel lines in as the fish were practically unsaleable and more than could be used as bait had been caught.
Suddenly one of Mick’s big lines began to tighten, quivering with anxiety he got hold and felt it sucking heavily from him – Jansen leaning forward shouted to him to give line slowly until the fish ran – all at once the line pulled strongly.
“Strike as hard as you can!” shouted Jansen and Mick obeying felt as though he was going out of the boat. With all his might and with all his strength the lad hauled at a heavy fighting monster. The sweat poured off him, the line cut into his hands but lost to everything but the mad joy of battle Mick brought his victim slowly but surely towards the surface, until with a swirl of backwash a great salmon like fish broke water.
With all the power left in him, helped by the impetus of the fish’s dash Mick brought his quarry over the side and like a flash wrapped his legs around it. Holding on like grim death with one hand to the soft wire between hook and line Mick grasped a short heavy bludgeon handed him by Otto and smashed blow after blow on the shapely head. The powerful writhing struggling stilled and absolutely exhausted Mick hand over the thwart, whilst Theodore and Jansen both began to haul like men possessed away Mick’s other line began to move. Mick grabbed at it and once more every aching muscle was working.
Jansen and his son with their mighty arms hauled their fish rapidly to the service, stunned them outside the boat and lifted them in – Mick using the last atom of his strength just managing to swing his into the boat and fall on it. For a few minutes fish and Mick were mingled in a wild wrestling bout amidst roars of laughter from the Danes and Otto – then seeing an opportunity Otto whirled a cudgel aloft and brought it crashing on the fish – as he did so one of his lines tautened and with an oath he clutched at it and struck hard – but no solid fighting weight rewarded his effort.
“Too quick and too hard,” said Jansen reprovingly, “like dis you must do,” and the skipper once again striking began to haul hand over hand.
The boat, however, was beginning to ship a lot of water and the weather was becoming wild and stormy. Again and again, curling waves broke against or over the boat until Jansen regretfully gave the order to haul up the anchor.
As I have been typing the story I have come to realise that Grandad borrowed names and I believe he may have blended first and last names, he calls himself Mick Osborne. I would like to take this opportunity to acknowledge and thank family, friends, and friends of family and their ancestors who have played a part in Bernard Leffler’s autobiography and his life.
End of 6th Entry from the original:
From here there are pages missing in the original and rewrites of the opening chapter in the typed manuscript with scattered page numbering.
A FEW STEPS BACK IN THE TALE
I was born beneath the immense grey walls of that flat-topped Table of the Gods which is set beside the blue waters that cap the old town first begun by Van Riebeeck and his sturdy Hollanders.
From boyhood I grew up amongst tales and traditions of gallant East Indian men, Portuguese, Dutch, and English, of flight and cattle, of Hottentot and wild coast – of the ships and frigates of France, England, and Holland which had cast anchor or run out the gun in our Great Bay. I grew up a dreamer dwelling in a world of shadows, of ships o’ the line, caravels and mighty cluff (clough) bowed merchantmen.
Myself of an ancient family of Holland on the one side, of an adventurous Scandinavian on the other related by blood and marriage to a score of old Dutch, Irish and Huguenot families I had a great wall of legend and history to climb before I entered the world of those whose people have but newly come to our portion of the Cape.
Old manners, old furniture, old names, grey old world houses and a crumbling vault – a tiny world of bygone days and customs was where I spent my childhood days.
Always in my ears thundered the Atlantic surf breaking on a cruel rocky shore – ever in the eyes was the looming bulk of the Table overshadowing the crouching mass of the Lion Hill with its steep heather and sage-covered sides crowned by the stern crags and cliffs of Lion’s Head.
All boyhood memories are tangled up with mountain wall, brushed hillside, granite shores, the heave of the sea and its breaking fury or wooing loveliness, woodland of sombre pine, glen of silver poplar and green oak – the howl of the mountain wind and the sullen murmur of the Ocean.
I went to school – to a great school half hidden by surrounding oaks and gardens, standing well away from the noise and bustle of the city. A school whose children have writ their names not only on Africa’s scroll of honour but through the world. Politicians, soldiers, priests, scholars, and sportsmen are richly represented and college and school combined it nestled under the rampart of the great grey mountain and looked down on the ship crowded Bay giving its sons ever a vision of far-off lands, of tempests fought and won, of heights to be surmounted, of ways up, across or over seemingly impossible.
And from my classroom to the great neglect of Caesar, Ovid, Euclid and other ancients my mind everlastingly pondered on the view set before the wide-open windows. Mighty cliff, the silver thread of mountain torrent, huge awful buttresses, jutting pinnacle, dark gloomy gorge and pleasantly wooded glen.
As I look ever and aye the untamed wildness called and longingly and full of craving my soul flung its answer to the rocks and corries, to the woods and glens.
Always the mountain called, but mingled with the sagas wafted from the stern walls so often all but buried in eddying, whirling mist, stung and gashed by cruel maddened howling wind came another song – the salt-tinged spray and limitless horizon in its call – the hymn of the sea and I listened.
Freely have they given their joys, fully have they taken me for their own. In all their moods, their anger and their pleasures have I shared. Much have I given them but more have they lavished on me. greatly have I suffered through them the joys they have given me repay. Nor yet have they finished with me nor yet do I grudge them my service.
My vow of dedication has brought me hunger and thirst, rough fare, coarse living, led me to sickness and hurt, plunged me to depths of fear and horror, raised me to the topmost heights of joy and glory in feeling and winning of a man’s victory through manhood’s powers.
I have lain crushed and torn crying for Death to release me from hurt and I have sung a song of glory in the wonder of the mad gallop over ridge and slope, of the gale-driven craft tearing her way through wave and squall, flinging from her bows the green smashed water and wandering through the wild of mountain and forest and ocean.
It has given me to meet many a gallant man and fair maid and noble mother, some of gentle birth, some of the people all of the stock of the mother from whom sprung Hengist and Horsa, Rollo Hereward, the Crusaders, the Elizabethans, the Cavaliers and Jacobites, the men of Nelson and Wellington and all the countless host of hero and heroine who fill the pages of Britain’s weal and woe.
End of 5th Entry: As the two lunched Bertie looking at their spoil remarked “What are you going to do with your flowers, Mick? You haven’t got a girl.”
“If I had I wouldn’t be giving them to her. I want them myself. I like flowers and so do Dad and the Mater. Think I’d bally well give Disas to a girl? Not much!
Old Jack reckons women are a necessary evil. Get keen on them and it’s all up with a chap. They’re like snakes. I know a chap that makes pets of snakes. Well he plays with them and likes them and some are jolly pretty but he has to be jolly careful or they’ll turn on him. Girls are like that or like a kitten – she plays nicely as long as you do, but if you get tired or don’t keep giving her things, she scratches.
Old Muhammad Abdul, he’s old and he has been to Mecca – he’s a Hadji and can handle a boat better than anyone in the world – well if he doesn’t know about girls who does? He’s had ten wives and has scores of children – he told me the Holy Prophet said God only made girls to be playthings when young and to be workers when old.
Old Jack says the same and he has sailed round the Horn and been in the South Sea Islands.
Abdul he says girls are made to give men enjoyment and women to work for men and ease their lives – the Prophet said so and he reckoned women and girls didn’t go to Heaven, they just died, bar the prettiest and they were taken to Heaven to minister to the wants of men. I reckon Muhammad was a darn good man and made a fine religion.
The Christian religion is all ‘You mustn’t do this and you mustn’t do that’. I reckon the parsons have made it all quite different to what Christ wanted. He was always chums with the fishermen and publicans and sinners and if this religion was like the Christian religion today none of the fishing crowd would have followed him.
I like the old Norse religion too – Thor and Odin and their crowd had a good religion. I feel darn sorry for the old jarls and Vikings in the Sagas being driven into the North and killed by the followers of the White Christ (term used by the Vikings because the converts wore white robes). I reckon the Vikings, Moors, and Aztecs were a better crowd than the Portuguese and Spaniards.
All the crowds had civilizations without Christianity and they stuck to their religions. I reckon the Catholics were right to have the Inquisition. If a nation has a religion all the crowd that isn’t true to it ought to be tortured – only its got to be a proper religion where everybody knows what are the rules of it like the Catholics.
Bertie looked at Mick in a worried fashion – “Why on earth do you keep thinking about deep things like religion, Mick? No other fellow of our age does.”
Well, sailors and fishermen and mountain folk do. The Malays are always talking about the Prophet and the Koran, and sailors talk about God; not like Sunday School people, but wondering what God’s like and whether he takes into consideration Jack’s hard life, or whether he’s like a Yankee Skipper with Gabriel and Michael and St Peter (Peter, a Jewish fisherman, was called to be a disciple of Jesus at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry) as mates and boatswain. Most reckon they’ll get a square deal up loft but skippers and mates and bo’suns and shipowners they’ll get chucked into Hell. Well, let’s get moving.”
“Let’s get out on the side of the Window first,” replied Bertie and swinging on their rucksacks they made off down the stream by which they had camped. A hundred yards and they paused – the tiny burn dropped over into a huge cleft of incredible savagery – wild rocks, great precipices dripping water with nowhere a possible route to be seen.
Thousands of feet below lay a wonderful view of the Indian Ocean, its long rollers breaking against the white beach of Muizenberg – All False Bay backed by its mighty mountain ranges lay before them – just under was the famous Constantia Valley with its ancient Dutch Homesteads, its vineyards and orchards and the beautiful suburbs of Cape Town below.
A while they gazed awestruck at the immensity of it all, then turned to once again continue their tramp.
End of 1st entry: Another impatient call from his companion tore the younger lad from the scene, and the two tramped off into a forest of scented gum and beautiful broad-leaved Silver trees mingled with patches of bracken and fields of protea.
Their road soon brought the boys off the hill to the narrow neck between the corner of Table Mountain and the timbered slopes of the Lion’s Head. Below to the East lay Cape Town wrapped in the mantle of night, to the West the Ocean breaking on the white beach of Camps Bay and the rocky coastline beneath the range of Apostle Mountains.
Pausing for a drink of cold mountain water the two climbed to the pipe track which cut across the slopes of the Apostle and at a long swinging stride proceeded on their way. A dark glen gave an occasional steep run down one side and up the other, loosening leg muscles and breaking the monotony until the path crossing the Castle Gate gorge began to climb upwards towards the walls and buttresses of the Apostle Heads.
Soon came the flight after flight of stone steps and the narrow path ran above a gorge many hundreds of feet deep. Cut into the living rock, whose rugged walls hung menacingly over it, the narrow roadway at length reached an iron gate the entrance to a long tunnel through the mountain.
Turning to the right the boys clambered into the ravine itself and toilsomely worked their way up the watercourse strewn with loose boulders until at last the broad ridge which crowned the Apostles was won.
For a few moments, the youthful mountaineers lay panting in the bracken then sped down a long steep slope into a narrow glen through which rippled a burn of brown mountain water cold as ice.
Slipping heavy rucksacks and Alpine ropes from their shoulders the two began to search in the darkness for sticks, with the ease of long practice soon gathering enough to start a fire.
The rucksacks yielded a kettle, frying pan, gridiron and amongst other foodstuffs a packet of chops. Fragrant coffee, grilled chops and thick bread and butter followed, then donning coats the boys curled up next to their fire and carefree slumbered heavily.
The chill of dawn wakened them and stretching stiffened limbs the boys rose, made up the fire and fell to on a packet of sardine sandwiches – the kettle coming to the boil coffee was again made, then slinging their rucksacks the pair climbed back to the Apostle ridge.
Separating the boys began to seek the beautiful blue mountain bell orchids and their red cousins the cluster of gnomes caps – it was early in the season but now and again success crowned their efforts in spite of the still clinging mistiness of night.
As dawn began the ushering in of day the boys abandoning their hunt crept out on a jutting rock two thousand feet above the Ocean’s level where filled with nervous thrills they watched the ancient Sun emerge in all his glory from beneath the Eastern sky. On a host of mountain peaks fell the kindly eye of the proud old God and flushing with devotion a thousand grim pinnacles stood rank upon rank to welcome his gifts of warmth and light.
Spellbound the two lads gazed on the majesty and wonder of the old old world – far beneath them lay thousands of human habitations – great churches, proud colleges, mighty houses of business, the huge dockyard and the homes of the wealthy.