Knocking On Heaven's Door
1965 to 1975 Old Rhodian Reunion
The 1965 to 1975 reunion held at Port Alfred in 2010 was a resounding success and has resulted in Knocking on Heaven’s Door. The initiator was Rob Pollock whose idea was to produce a ‘photo book’, take photographs of the ‘team’ at the reunion, and manage the finances and distribution. Steuart Pennington volunteered his services as editor/designer with Johno Green close by. Steuart’ s assistant Leanne Nimmo and Designer Carol Cole worked tirelessly sorting out the hundreds of photo’s that everybody sent in for the book to be ready for the Xmas rush. A beautiful book, full of nostalgia, reminisces and photographs designed to bring back fond memories .
Knocking on Heaven’s Door. – by Mike Ferrar.
I have just spent a delightful weekend between the Kowie , Grahamstown, and Rhodes, instigated by Johno Green, Roger ‘Bomb’ Wanless, and Alistair Wood. 40 years ago Alistair and I together with Nev Weakley and Andre Hendricks rowed a Coxed IV whilst at Rhodes, at an Intervarsity Regatta at Midmar. We won no prizes, but had great fun. Shortly thereafter we stepped into the real world, well equipped by Rhodes, and went our various ways.
In July this year someone forwarded to me an email from Johno suggesting a get together of those who were at Rhodes in his era, late 60’s, early 70’s. The venue was to be at the Kowie, “for a drink together.....before we all die!” Judging from the extensive address list, it had spread far and wide. Johno signed it off “Knocking on Heaven’s Door”. While I was still wondering about the idea, I got an email from Woody, asking whether I was one and the same as he of the same name in the address list, with whom he had rowed 40 years ago. And out of that email grew the idea of putting that same crew together on the water, to build up the thirst “for a drink together.....before we all die!”
It was surprisingly easy. Nev decided to come from London, Andre from Naboomspruit, Woody from Jo’burg, and me, from the Karoo, to meet at the Kowie. We wondered about the carbon footprint to be left by our travels, but not for long. There was far too much going on in the exchange of emails between all and sundry on that ever growing address list, urged on by Johno who wrote: “Keep the mails flowing while we knock on heaven’s door!” I cried with laughter at Porky Hogge’s account of his rugby match against the Bobbies, who hated those “Rhodes Betogers”, and at his description of his opposite number who “had muscles on muscles, and looked like a condom filled with walnuts”!
I was fortunate to have a foretaste of the weekend to come, in sitting down to Dinner on the Thursday night before it, with Johno, Bomb and five or six other Old Rhodians. The conversation flowed easily, Bob Dylan sang Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door, there was much laughter, and many empty bottles.
Rhodes Alumni Office was quick on the uptake, and was amazing. They arranged a Campus Tour, followed by a Luncheon on Saturday, and thoughtfully arranged buses to pick up all those going, at the Pig in Bathurst. The Pig owes the Alumni Office commission! The comments on the bus, on the way up, and whilst touring the Campus were priceless, opening the doors of memory long left closed, and almost forgotten. One comment was, however, repeated in several forms, and that was that Rhodes is in good shape, and in good hands. The expansion on Campus, in residences, facilities, and projects was impressive. The new Library was for me, just mind blowing. Comforting too, to learn that the old fashioned written word, on paper, in books, still capable of being photostatted, remains very relevant, although Computer Work Stations abounded. During lunch at what we all knew as the Mot, VC Dr. Badat gave a fascinating overview of Rhodes, its achievements, and its plans for the future. One comment I heard afterwards summed much of it up for me – “Rhodes punches well above its weight.” Bruce Klette threw the podium open to the floor afterwards for anecdotes, and Jumpy Wilmot got the ball rolling. Stu Pennington provided a superb riposte to Porky’s rugby story, with one about Monkey Edwards, and his opposite number on the wing, which had the floor in stitches. Prof Alastair Kerr’s dry humour at Johnny Neaves’ expense was remembered, and a toast was drunk to him and his recovery from an unfortunate fall.
RURC were most helpful, and provided us with an excellent boat, blades etc. Resplendent in white with purple badging, and with Woody’s 14 year old son Oliver lying in the Frontloader Cox position, sporting a handsome purple cap, we rowed early on Saturday morning, from the Ski Boat Club. We went all the way up the Kowie, beyond the Men’s Eights Boat Race Start, and back again. We had time to see bushbuck on the bank, Knysna Lourie (Knysna Turaco, for the Bird Life SA purists) flitting in the dense bush, and fish on the rise. The activity on the Kowie River was extraordinary, with at least half a dozen other crews, in eights, double sculls, and quadruple sculls on the water, with coaching launches in attendance. It was not like that in the 70’s! Our rowing was less than memorable – unlike good wine, we found it does not improve with age. We still would not have won any prizes. Soft hands were blistered, muscles under muscles long forgotten protested, and stiffened. But the morning was sublime, the entire outing memorable. But for Rhodes, it would not have happened.
Saturday evening saw us back at the Ski Boat Club. A splendid Dinner – fresh oysters, lamb and vegetables, and a sweet – awaited us. About 130 gathered for the evening, the largest of the various gatherings that had already taken place at the Golf Club, the Pig, on rowing outings, fishing trips, golf tees and elsewhere. New old faces not seen yet abounded. People surreptitiously scanned name tags. Conversations ran away, Alister Peter hugged all the girls he could, groups posed for photographs, cards addresses and telephone numbers were exchanged, the Barmen laboured manfully and the evening flew by. Johno awarded a bursary to a deserving Honours Student. Bomb proposed the toast to Rhodes, harking back to Anglican Liturgy, with a series of Charges, to which the assembled throng had to respond with “To Rhodes!” It went more or less thus:
“To the Institution that gave us a half-decent Education”.....”to Rhodes!”
“To the place that was our home from home”.....”to Rhodes!”
“To the place where several of us got beaten up by Ali Weakley”.....”to Rhodes!”
“To where many of us lost our virginity”....”to Rhodes!”
“To where many of us found husbands and wives”.....”to Rhodes!”
“And finally, to the place where we all made wonderful, lifelong friends, who we’re able to get together at the drop of a hat, forty years down the line, to share some memorable moments”.....”To Rhodes!!”
Now, as I reflect back on those years and memories, I realise that then, we all knocked on Heaven’s door, and were let in to one of Heaven’s rooms - for a while, at Rhodes.
©JMC Ferrar. September 2010.
Please click here to view photo album
Another successful reunion, for this group, was held this year on the 31 August at the Kelvin Grove Club for the Old Rhodians living in Cape Town and the surrounding areas, to attend.
R3730.00 was raised this year and donated to Rhodes University for the Annual Fund to be split between the Pocket Money Fund and Old Rhodian Bursaries.
Visit our Gallery to view the Knocking On Heavens Door 2011 photographs