M3/7.  Andrew Eric Howard May = (1st) Christine Anne Barber.
(1951 - ) [m. 1977] (1956 - )
= (2nd) Belinda Tui Foreman
[m. 1992] (1964 - )
Andrew Eric Howard May, the second son of Phillip Alistair May andRuth Frances May nee Freemantle was born in Cape Town, South Africa. His mother choose the names Andrew and Howard, the latter being the maiden name of her mother and, oddly enough, his grandmother (his father’s mother) insisted that he should also be called Eric after his mother’s father (Eric Freemantle). At the time his parents were living in a cottage called ‘The Bungalow’. Roslyn Road, Rondebosch and he was born in a maternity home near Rondebosch Common on 31st. December, 1951 at approximately 7.30 in the evening, just short of two years after his brother, Peter.
I really cannot recall the names of the maternity homes in which our first two sons were born, so perhaps it was this one that was called ‘Holmleigh”. Although this was also a converted house, it was considerably more convenient and much better run than the one in which Peter was born.
We had been expecting the baby’s arrival from about the middle of December. It was very hot and I was getting impatient over the delay so, during the weekend I decided that I would visit the gynaecologist the next day and urge her to encourage the baby’s birth. I caught the bus on Monday afternoon, but when I got to the consulting room, the doctor told me that I had better get to the nursing home quickly as the baby was already on the way. I took the bus home but as I had no transport to enable me to get to the maternity home until the prospective father’s return from work, I had a bath and then we went off to the nursing home together and baby Andrew arrived about an hour later. Andrew was born in the Chinese year of the Cat, 31st December 1951.
By 8 p.m. when his father returned to see us, Andrew was looking beautiful, not red or marked as so many babies are, fast asleep and just like the picture of a sleeping baby that always hung in my mother’s bedroom, titled ‘A Little Bit of Heaven’.
At that time Phillip, Ruth and baby Peter were living in a small cottage which was just behind the house belonging to Phillip’s parents in Rouwkoop Road but, as there was no one to help care for two year old Peter as well as the new baby, Ruth’s parents persuaded her to stay with them for a couple of months, which she did, taking the two children with her, of course.
This was a great help over that period but, unfortunately, on my return to Cape Town by air, I found that I had lost all my milk and Andrew had to be put on to a powdered supplementary food, as cow’s milk did not suit him. It took some time to sort this out and he was not flourishing as he should have done. We took him to a Specialist who only told us what we already knew that he should have been gaining more weight, which he would not do unless he was able to digest the food given to him. One Sunday he was being nursed by his father, who had a glass of beer in his hand and the child was obviously anxious to have some of this, which he was given. From that time on his health improved and he was allowed a sip or two of beer occasionally as an infant, in consequence. We often wonder what it was in the bear that settled his digestion so well and put it down to ‘enzymes’ in the brew.
It was soon after their return to Cape Town and while living at the ‘Bungalow’ that a nasty accident took place. Andrew was less than three months old and Ruth believed he was too young to be able to move about much, so he was left on the carpet in the lounge while she took Peter out to the small yard at the back to hang out the washing. As soon as he started to cry, as was her wont, she quickly went to see what was the problem and found that he had made his way right across the floor, about ten feet, (by rolling presumably, because he certainly was not able to crawl or even sit up) and he had grabbed hold of the flex to the standard lamp. This was the old-fashioned rubber covered kind and the rubber must have perished, as there was an electrical burn across his hand. Unfortunately his Grandma had a dislike of anyone using her ‘phone and Ruth had to take the crying infant, plus Peter by the hand, and run down the road looking for a neighbour who was at home and would allow her to contact the doctor on their telephone.
His parents only remained in Cape Town for about a year because business is always much slower and more difficult to start in Cape Town than in a city like Johannesburg, so they had to return to the latter and all the family went to live at ‘Graystones’ for a while, hoping to establish a new business in that city. Meantime, Andrew’s father worked for a Manufacturer’s Representative which was very taxing as the owner of the business was extremely demanding.
Andrew was also christened at St. Martins-in-the-Veld and his godparents were his uncle, John Eric Freemantle, a close friend of his parents, Robert Francis Day and one of his mother’s friends from her school days, Ilva Phillippe.
Two stories about Andrew that I recall were both at Christmas time. The first was when he was about to turn two; we went up to my Uncle Ron and Aunt Con’s farm near Lydenberg and celebrated Christmas with them and their family. When Con realised it was Andrew’s birthday on 31st. needs must she would give him a party although the only children were Andrew and Peter. So there they sat on each side of a small table, a cake with two candles and other goodies, plus lots of fun and laughing. Con was always one for laughing and especially when life got tough as it was for them at that time. Because we knew that we would be away for Christmas we had purchased a tricycle for Peter and left it to be given on our return from the farm.
But I did not want Andrew to be left out so I had carefully painted Peter’s old red trike in blue enamel without the children knowing. As we got home, they ran out of the car to find the two trikes waiting. Peter was very pleased with his, but that was as nothing to the excitement in Andrew’s big round eyes as he said with glee, “Somebody has painted the little red trike!”. Of course, I was rather deflated as I had intended him to think it was a new one. These toys were both great favourites with the two children and they spent many happy hours riding up and down the drive.
(Andrew’s favourite soft toy was a biggish gollywog, which we had acquired before he was born. While we were living in Parktown North, Johannesburg, Phillip had, as he was inclined to do, offered help to one of his ‘lame dogs’, a disc jockey who had worked for the Lourenco Marques Radio, but having left there arrived in Johannesburg without a job and not much money. Phillip invited him to come to dinner and the next thing he was ensconced in the house for three months! He took a job as an announcer on the South African Broadcasting Corporation and, as his voice appealed to many woman, he received dozens of fan letters, even some proposals of marriage! Included among all the mail was a parcel containing this very nice gollywog that some silly woman had knitted for him and he passed that on to us. We had to lend him a couple of suitcases and drive him to the address of a girl friend in order to move him out of our home. He took with him Phillip’s dinner jacket, which had been lent to him to wear while being filmed for an advertising clip and we never saw him or the jacket again!)
The following Christmas we spent at ‘Graystones’ and in the afternoon we were all up at the swimming pool with the children jumping in and out of the water, Andrew encircled by a small rubber tyre (from a wheelbarrow) around his waist as, although he was always a very buoyant child, he still wasn’t quite swimming on his own. Then my brother, John and his wife, Marion, arrived with gifts for all the family. They had brought two small canvas deck chairs for Peter and Andrew. Again, it was Andrew who showed enthusiasm for the present and as he was about to sit down and try the chair for size, I said, “Andrew, you shouldn’t sit on your new chair in your wet costume.” Well, that was no problem. Off came his bathing trunks and down on the chair went his little wet bottom instead.
While the family were living with his grandfather on his own, (after the death of his wife) the two boys had their bedroom leading off his and in a sort of pie slice shaped, enclosed balcony. Both children went down with measles, but Peter was up and about very soon, leaving Andrew on his own in bed. He was allowed to have the wind-up gramophone and some records which kept him amused endlessly. Later, the two of them found a sick dove, which they brought into the balcony bedroom and it lived there for a couple of months, during which Ruth spent a lot of time cleaning up after it. They were always amazed at his grandfather’s tolerance over this, as he never made a word of complaint.
After my mother died, we remained with my father, then Phillip and his father sailed to England early in 1954 and I followed with the two boys some months later. During the interim, our Zulu cook began to enjoy a game with the children. George was not able to read and all the recipes he used were retained in his memory, but he did know how to add and he would ask the boys to do little sums. Peter was at nursery school and only just making contact with numbers, so he tried very hard to give an answer, but Andrew was much too small to understand. However, to George’s great delight, Andrew’s pure guesses were correct more often than Peter’s efforts!
In 1954 the family were all in England; that is his parents, Peter, Andrew and his grandpa, when it was decided that it would be very pleasant to take a small cabin cruiser for the five of them to spend about ten days on the river Thames. Before setting off, the possibility was discussed that one of the boys might fall into the river and it was arranged that, as Phillip would be at the helm he would go in after the child while I was to take over steering and bring the boat to a halt.[but ‘the plans of mice and men……’] That afternoon they had stopped to do some shopping in Redding and, for the first time on the trip the men had put on walking shoes and blazers. Phillip had offered to make the supper for a change, to give me a break, when looking out of the galley porthole he spied a small figure falling. He dropped everything and dashed up on deck hitting his head on the doorframe and dived straight into the water, weighed down by his extra clothing, while I tried to stop the boat but, in neutral, it was under way and Grandpa and I watched in horror as Andrew’s little head appeared to be drifting away down stream at a great rate. It was very fortunate that, as he was wearing a corduroy lumber jacket with elastic around the waist, which had filled with air, his head was kept above the water. By the time I got the boat into reverse, Phillip had reached the child and was considering swimming for the shore. However, that was unnecessary and as Andrew was collected from Phillip’s arms, a little voice said, very cheerfully, “ I kicked that water!”
In 1958, after the children’s Grandfather was married for the second time, to Alice Letty, the family moved to a rented house for 6 months and then returned to Cape Town, to the cottage in Roslyn Road, also for about six months while searching for something more permanent. During that time, Andrew attended a small, privately run school in a residential house in Kenilworth and continued to do so for the second half of the year after the family moved to the farm ‘Eendraght’ near Firgrove.
This was not a very easy or happy time for Andrew. As we had only one car, his father would drop him off at school in the morning, often late for the beginning of class and would collect him towards the end of the day when all his business had been completed, which sometimes meant Andrew was left sitting on the steps of the school house for a considerable time wondering when he could go home. We were far from satisfied about this necessity but he was not due to start school at Monterey until he turned seven at the end of the year. I would have preferred to send the boys off to boarding school after they turned twelve, but their father had always opted for the earlier age and when it turned out that the alternative was to send them to the local school in Strand, called Hottentots Holland, where the education was in Afrikaans, I agreed that boarding at Monterey would be preferable.
It was during this period, as I recall, that Andrew’s favourite expression every time he was cross, frustrated or teased by his brothers was “I’ll chop your neck!” I have no idea where he had heard this or whether he thought it up for himself, but saying it seemed to give him great satisfaction.
While we were at the farm the children found a wounded dove, which we treat with Mercurachrome and we watched the bird, with this large, painted, red marking, flying around the garden for several days before it flew away. Also, one day Andrew arrived at the farmhouse with a scrawny mongrel dog which one of the farm hands wanted to sell for ten shillings. However, the dog disappeared shortly afterwards we had purchased it and we often wondered to whom it had been ‘ sold’ after that.
While Andrew was at Monterey he made friends with another scholar there, Johnnie Kanter, whose father, Henry, was an orthodontist, was South African and Jewish, while his mother, Mary, was from England. We become very friendly with the family and one day Mary suggested that she and another couple of Monterey mothers and I should join her, with our children, and we would all go to investigate an interesting ancient cave site that lies off the road between Fish Hoek and Kommetjie ,on the road to Noordhoek, known as Schildersgat – ‘Painter’s cave’ – because of the prehistoric paintings on its walls, (or colloquially as ‘Piers’ Cave’ because of the three fossilized skeletons of Fish Hoek Man, who lived 10,0000 years ago and were found, as we remember it, by an anthropologist, Prof. Piers, in 1945) After tramping across the sand dunes, we reached the cave and one of the boys, who was more adventurous than most, always daring and getting into dangerous situations, climbed up onto the ledge overlooking the cave, hanging down to shout and attract the adult’s attention. While we were instructing him to get down, Andrew and Johnnie had squeezed themselves through a narrow slit at ground level that was much too small to allow other than a small boy through, and when they crawled back they showed us a dirty looking old bone. Mary being a helpful and indulgent mother said that she and Johnnie would take the bone to the Cape Town museum and asked if they could identify it. Apparently, the official there was not too pleased that the boys had encroached on an historical site, untouched for millions of years, but he told them that it was from a small rodent that had been extinct since pre-historical times. The boys were, of course, delighted in spite of also feeling a bit chastened.
He remained at Monterey until the end of 1964 and then moved to St George’s Grammar School at the beginning of 1965, attending there for two years before he changed again, when he was sent to Helderberg College, Somerset West.
It became obvious that Andrew was not doing as well as he might have done at St. George’s and it was the Headmaster’s opinion that he was being overshadowed by his older brother, Peter. As we had had some business dealings with HelderbergCollege and had noticed how happy all the boys and girls who attended there seemed to be, we investigated the possibilities of sending Andrew there instead. There were a number of aspects that recommend this establishment to us and Andrew seemed to be quite happy over the anticipated move.
However, I was responsible for one problem he encountered while studying there. One of the aspects that we really liked about the attitudes shown at St. George’s was that they set out to encourage the boys to show enterprise, to be inventive or individualistic. It was with this in mind that I suggested to Andrew that he start up a small magazine for the other pupils, as Peter had done a year or so before at his school and he set about doing this. Perhaps it would have been wiser if he had not called this roneoed paper “The Bomb”. However, we were all (that is Andrew and his parents) called into the Headmaster’s study and received quite a ‘dressing down’. The Head told us that it was not up to the standard that they expected for a school magazine, etc.!! I felt quite guilty by the time he was finished as I had been the instigator and had encouraged Andrew in this enterprise.
He remained at Helderberg College and matriculated there at the end of 1969, his subjects being English, Mathematics, Science, Biology, History, Geography and Afrikaans. As was compulsory in South Africa at that time, he did his National Service in the Medical Corp. for a year. After basic training in Pretoria, he was posted to No: 3 Military Hospital in Tempe, Bloemfontein where he served in the casualty ward, operating theatre and dental clinic. He managed to avoid standing duty during his stint; this came about because his friend (an admin clerk) managed to loose his roster card and later (being neither a driver nor an NCO) it was not called for.
After his military duty ended he became articled to the accountancy firm of Collin Corbet & Co. in Knysna, remaining with them for the year of 1970.