Port Elizabeth of Yore: Bushy Park Farm of the 1920s & 30s

These are reminiscences of Bushy Park during the 1920 or 1930s by Hillary Turney whose parents were great friends of then current inhabitants of the huge house then under the stewardship of Harold, known as Hal, and Esme Lovemore. I have extensively but not slavishly used these memories.   

Main picture:    Ostrich farming by the Lovemores in Walmer

Even though it is unstated, these recollections are an amalgam of the house over a period and do not reflect it at a specific date. As Harold Lovemore passed away in 1937, I assume that these visits were prior to that date. The other bookend would be 1914 at the earliest date as the vehicle Hillary’s parents possessed, a Willy’s Knight was only produced from 1914 to 1933.  

Willy’s Knight motor vehicle

Reminiscences by Hillary Turney

My brother, Bryan, and I thought it a most wonderful house. It had many inter-leading rooms on the left, as one entered the front door into a spacious hallway. On the right-hand were the huge reception rooms. The first were the “parlour” in which children did not play! But I do remember a glass-domed case in which were beautiful stuffed birds. That case held a special fascination for us and was the first thing we ran to look at when we arrived. The adjoining room was a dining room of equally large portions. The only furniture I can remember in this room is a long, well-polished sideboard and an extra-long and huge dining table, which could seat, I think, about 15 to 20 people. It was always correctly laid with a snow-white cloth and all the heavy silverware of the family.

When the roast arrived – always a large leg of mutton or cut of beef – the meal would begin. Hal, of course, sat at the head of the table and made a ceremony of carving the meat. We did not serve ourselves but were served by the lady of the house from the vegetable dishes.

Esme and Harold Lovemore

Leading from the dining room was a rough but sturdy wooden staircase into the massive kitchen on a lower level. A big ‘kitchen range almost dwarfed the room, which was manned by numerous servants. The floor, as were many in those days, was of dung. This was made of fresh cow dung collected from the ‘kraal’ where the milking was done, mixed to a thick paste with water and smeared by hand over the floor. It made a hard shiny surface and had a strangely clean smell. (I watched this operation on my grandparent’s farm often. Hence my knowledge of how it was done!)

Stepping out of the kitchen was a pathway leading, on the one side to the outside doors of the bedrooms and bathrooms, on the other side were the schoolrooms where John and Colin were taught by a tutor. John was the older of the two and called by his father ‘Johnpoof, I don’t remember

what he called the younger Colin. These two boys were later joined by brother Claude and, very much later, by a sister, Loma.                            

Esme and her friend, Miss Birdsey

Hal was a huge man though not very tall with a head of plentiful black hair. He had a hearty laugh and a booming voice, which never intimidated us as he had a kindly though distant manner with children. He was noted for being an excellent host at the various large hunts which he organised, and which many well-known men attended.

Esme, too, was so kind and full of laughter. She was quieter than her husband but always seemed to anticipate his needs, which were many! She was a wonderful help and support to my mother, who was unable to drive a car, before my wedding. The day after we were married she and Mom fetched  John andmyself from Redhouse Hotel, where we spent the first night of our honeymoon, and took us to Jeffrey’s Bay Beach Hotel, where we would spend the rest of it. [My father, having imbibed rather too much the previous day was in no condition to drive, hence Esme stepping into the breach in her inimitable happy way.]

I can still picture the ‘katjie piering’ (gardenia) trees growing along the front verandah and underneath them flowering plants. A short distance away, on the Seaview side, was a walled enclosure, which housed the graves and tombstones of the Lovemores who had passed away over the years. It was well kept in those days.

The servants had brick and mud built ‘cottages’ across the main road. I remember one particularly, Old Naas whose work was to cut trees from the dense bush, load it onto an ox-wagon and take it to town. Here he was heard shouting “hoout” (wood) at which call housewives used to go out and order bags of wood for their stoves. He moved slowly along the few streets, at the pace of the oxen and flourishing his long whip.

BTW: This Hillary Turney must have been the person who was the reception at Clarendon Park Primary School for many years

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