SOS

Steve on Sunday

4 April 2021

Greetings my fellow bunnies and others,

A very Happy Easter to all my seven readers, may it be a wonderful day for you and do go easy on the chocolate and the fortified water. Much better for the brain to ease off from overdosing as one gets older – a pity that someone never told me this valuable information several decades ago. Or if they did, I conveniently forgot.

An outstanding memory (or two) as it happened more than once, was when the family trundled off to Lake Alexander (Odzani Dam) after church on Easter Sunday. This dam was north of Umtali Rhodesia (now Mutare Zimbabwe).

It would be a picnic lunch under one of the thatched and open rondavels and us kids – all four of us – would spend most of the day swimming and playing in the water. Elder brother would attempt to get us all to play cricket or rugby – where he would naturally win – but we got wise to those tactics and just stayed in the water. Which was quite cold believe you me.

There would be several brave yachtsmen out on the water, a few canoeists and some fishermen. Very few swimmers but for children the water never seemed to get cold.

Later the family would have a rowing boat which would be used extensively by me and my younger brother. Once we went a little too close to the spillway and we heard loud voices aimed in our direction. Although we ignored what was being bellowed we did move the boat away from the spillway. In all honesty we were never in any danger as there was quite a sturdy rope some twenty metres from the wall, the rope ensuring that boats did not get too close and then go over the edge. Living on the edge…

Anyway, that was several Easter Sundays when growing up. Good memories although I probably would not get in the water these days – too cold.

Enough of modern day history, let’s get back to the bad old days of 100 years ago plus…

Irvine Grimmer is not a well-known name in Kimberley and South African sporting circles, but it should be, especially to those who play or played the games of cricket, golf and billiards!

Irvine Rowell Grimmer was born in Colesberg, Cape Colony, on 7 July 1862, the eldest of eleven children to Dr William and Mrs Jean Grimmer, early Kimberley pioneers.

The family trekked to Kimberley in 1872 in wagons, outspanning first at Alexandersfontein and later at what is now known as Newton Park. While at Alexandersfontein Irvine and his younger brother Willie walked to Bultfontein mine and witnessed a stirring sight he would never forget – the sight of hundreds of diggers at work deep in the pit. Another younger brother was Johnnie Grimmer, close friend and confidante of Cecil Rhodes.

As the city and family settled down, the family moved into a wooden three-bedroomed house on Market Square and then later to a brick house in the grounds of the present Kimberley hospital. He was educated out of Kimberley at the Lovedale Missionary Institute near Alice, a good school that produced more than its fair share of outstanding citizens.

On 1 February 1884 Irvine started work with the “old” De Beers Mining Company in Warren Street as a clerk, and by March 1897 was the Assistant Company Secretary of De Beers Consolidated Mines. This post he relinquished in November 1905 when he was appointed the assistant General Manager, eventually retiring in that position in October 1932.

During the siege of Kimberley 1899-1900 he was a Divisional Commander of the Kimberley Town Guard, being stationed at the Kimberley Mine Redoubt Number 1, and also being mentioned in the despatches of Lt-Colonel Robert Kekewich for his good work. By 1948 he was considered an absolute authority on the history of Kimberley.

In every line of sport he was brilliant, but his three great loves were cricket, golf and billiards, his cricketing feats being legendary on the diamond fields. He was a hard hitting batsman, a good slip fielder and an exceptionally good bowler. He was the first bowler in South Africa to demonstrate the possibility of making a ball turn on hard ground, and his mastering of the overarm “off-break” set a new technique which was soon followed by bowlers all over the country. For a couple of seasons he was unplayable.

A founder member of the Kimberley Eclectic Cricket Club, he also played for the Stray Klips, a team from Kimberley that played all the top clubs in the Cape. In one match he had the extraordinary match figures of 16 wickets for 83 runs. He was a Griqua cricket stalwart for years and held many records, but his heyday was in the 1880s before the Currie Cup made its entrance to national cricket.

Grimmer was the Kimberley Golf Club captain on six occasions between 1902 and 1916, President from 1920 to 1922 and again from 1933 to 1947. He was the club champion in 1897 and 1903 and runner-up on no less than five occasions. He won the Rhodes Challenge Trophy three times, the Thal Cup twice and the Nind Cup once. At national level too, he was no slouch, winning the SA Foursomes in 1913 with Dr May and in 1903 he won the East London (Easter Championship) scratch competition, coming fifth in the SA Amateur the same year.

He held the Kimberley course record thrice, shooting 77 in 1897, 74 in 1905, and a magnificent 71 in 1907, all this with inferior golfing equipment and balls. And it was on the blue chip gravel greens, not the lush greens of today’s world.

He was a more than able administrator, and apart from serving on the golf club committee for 44 years he had the notable distinction of ensuring the smooth running of the SA Championships held in Kimberley in 1907 and 1913. In 1939 he was elected a Life Member of the golf club.

In billiards he was the Kimberley champion on numerous occasions.

Irvine Grimmer died in Muizenberg on 5 April 1951 leaving his wife Edith Jean to mourn his passing. There were no children to the union.

He lies buried close to many other well-known Kimberley diamond magnates and high ranking De Beers Consolidated Mines employees in the Muizenberg cemetery, his headstone barely legible thanks to the wind, rain and sand.

Have a good week. And remember, lay off the choccies…fortified water is fine.

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