In 1961, by the time he was five years old both his brothers had been at Monterey boarding school in Constantia for a couple of years and each time their holidays came to an end, he missed them so much that he was constantly asking to go to school, too. This was not easy from the farm as there were no facilities for kindergarten but we consulted the head teacher at a new Preparatory school called Somerset House in Somerset West and they agreed that, although he was rather young, he could start there in their pre-school group. So it was arranged that on certain days he would take a lift into the village with a mother and her daughter who lived off the Steynsrust Road and I would take the two children to school on alternative days. However, this did not suit the neighbour for very long and it was not possible for me to take him each day when I was needed on the farm. Consequently, the headmaster suggested he become a weekly boarder. In hindsight, this was not a very good idea and Warwick would probably have been happier with me on the farm, particularly as the school had mistakenly entered him as being a year older than in fact he was and the teachers naturally expected too much from him. However, as he was due to go to Monterey at the age of seven and needed to have some elementary education prior to that, we made the arrangement that, at the time, seemed most suitable. As both his parents had found that boarding school was the best thing for them, they did not doubt that it would be advantageous for their children, especially as the alternative was to send them to the government school in Strand (which was the one designated for the area) where the teaching was in Afrikaans and not English, their home language.
During the school holidays, we sometimes went to the Drive-in Cinema and the boys looked forward to this outing. However, it always amused me that by halfway through the film the two older brothers were asleep on the back seat and Warwick had climbed over to the front to be with us, where he remained wide awake until we got home, however late that might have been.
One school holiday Peter and Andrew came home with mumps, which they passed on to Warwick. As was usually the case, he seemed to be much more severely affected by these childhood infections and was still in bed after his brothers had recovered. They would tease him about his swollen neck and even took a photograph of him to his annoyance.
During 1961 his parents bought the house on the beach at Gordons Bay and moved in during November/December. There were visitors staying with the family over Christmas and the New Year and to the next door neighbour’s dismay the whole party, adults and children, celebrated after midnight of 31st by running across the beach and into the sea naked.
As it was his parents contention that the three boys should earn their pocket money, one of the ways they did this was by collecting the many empty bottles left on the beach and selling them to the local shopkeeper. This was encouraged as high tides caused broken glass and would become an unnecessary hazard on the sand. During a visit from friends who lived in Canada, Warwick had collected a couple of bags full of bottles and took a lift in the car with them to the shop but they became very irritated with him over the time it took while bargaining with the dealer for a good price, something Warwick always insisted on obtaining and which was a tussle both he and the Jewish shop owner enjoyed.
In 1963, the year he turned seven, he joined his brothers as a boarder at Monterey, the preparatory school in Constantia. As a child he was always very interested in insects and animals, collecting shells and other similar things and had enjoyed that aspect of the farm especially and these interests continued after the family moved to a house on Beach Road in Gordons Bay, down a small cul-de-sac adjacent to Bikini Beach.
At the time we had a cat that was a real hunter and often caught small snakes, which having killed them she then brought into the house and laid them on the kitchen table, presumably for us to admire her trophies. When possible, I would place these in a brown paper bag and take them to Warwick for him to see. Apparently he used to play with them much as small boys play with cars and then later, with some ceremony, bury them. I also copied out many anecdotes concerning animals and insects from books by Robert Ardrey and sent those with my letters to him.
At the beach during the school holidays he collected many interesting and ‘exciting’ objects to keep, however I drew the line on one occasion when he brought home some highly obnoxious, smelly red-bait. Like our German shepherd, Cherie, he usually accompanied me to the office where the staff got to know him and one day the typist, Mrs Truter, who always came to work by train, found a very large and beautiful moth on the station platform, which she presented to him saying, ‘Warwick, do you collect moths?’ ‘Oh, yes’ came the reply, ‘I collect everything!’
Even as a small child Warwick got along well with both children and most adults (except those he found ‘very bossy!’) but did not respond well to all his various teachers. Consequently, it soon became obvious that his educational progress was only successful in those subjects taught by teachers he liked. On the other hand, he had an uncanny ability of knowing what others liked or wanted, particularly in the way of gifts, and could always suggest something suitable as a present even when very young. Like his father and grandmother, he was particularly interested in auction sales and liked to accompany us whenever possible when we attended one of these, which we did on numerous occasions. Two in particular come to mind; the first when he was only about eight years old and was held to sell off the possessions of a friend who was devastated over the loss of his wife and was very short of capital, so we really only went to help boost the prices. However, we did buy a few items, including some blankets and among a job lot of odd teaspoons we obtained a beautiful, small silver butter fork. I had never seen a butter fork before and became very attached to it but, unfortunately, it disappeared many years later after a family dinner, when Warwick was visiting us in Somerset West and Phyllis and Bill Spooner and their family joined us. Was it thrown away in error? What happened to it I do not know but loosing it caused regret both because to me it was unique and also had a sentimental attachment to our, by then both dead, friends.
At this auction Warwick made his first purchase. His eye was caught by one of those wooden, carved picture of the interior of a Swiss cottage and I told him that if he really wanted it he would have to bid for it himself. I did not expect that he would be successful but he stood close up to the auctioneer and as the bidding was to start, Warwick offered half a crown! The auctioneer was rather taken by surprise, but immediately knocked it down to him. A lady standing quite close by was most put out, saying ‘I wanted that!’ It was especially embarrassing as we were only there to assist our friend by raising the prices obtained, not to look for bargains!
The second auction of note was held in about 1971 in a large home on the road between Somerset West and Sir Lowry Pass and we only intended buying a lawn mower there, so hung about waiting for the garden items to be offered, which were traditionally only put up to bidders after the household articles were sold. Warwick got a bit bored waiting about outside and returned to the house where he noticed that a couple of items had never been offered and these included a painting that took his fancy. He was interested to notice that, although under glass, it was in fact an oil painting on canvas of a group of children and he came out to inform me of this. Phillip drew the auctioneer’s attention to the fact that these had been overlooked, but by that time most of the potential buyers, thinking the auction was over had departed, so although the actual owner had obviously anticipated that adding them into a rather prestigious auction would bring a better price, in fact because of the auctioneer’s oversight this was not the case. The picture was painted by W. Helmsley and was in an attractive guilt frame, which Phillip valued at about twenty pounds and he was prepared to bid up to that figure, but in fact the picture was knocked down to us for eighteen pounds!!
A couple of years or so later, David Fletcher, the son of our neighbour, on a visit from England, called to see us and was immediately interested in this acquisition as he recognised the artist’s name and gave us to understand that it might be of some value. Consequently, when Sotherby’s representative came to the Cape shortly afterwards I spoke to him on the ‘phone describing the picture, the size and frame. He only asked one question, ‘Was it a colourful portrayal?’ and then said it would probably fetch about six hundred pounds, which of course delighted us, and also as Warwick as can be understood.
Then some years later (about 1985) when Warwick visited us at the townhouse outside Somerset West, Phillip asked if ‘he would like to take the picture as he was tired of being told that it was Warwick’s picture’! Of course he wanted it and had it especially packed by a furniture removal firm in Paarden Eiland, so that it could be opened and shown to the customs as he passed through Britain on his way to USA but, while in London, he also took it to Sotherbys, who explained that the artist had recently died, and they valued it at, I believe, four thousand pounds.
In addition, there was a small watercolour picture of steam yachts on the Thames (they looked to me rather like small house boats) but I no longer recall for certain if J. A. Biesel, uncle of Percy Augustus May (grandpa) was the artist. These boats were given by John May, one to each of his many daughters, as was remembered by Percy and Phillip. John May must, presumably, have been a well-established and wealthy merchant by the time his family were adults. This picture was in Warwick’s possession the last I knew of it.
In hindsight, I believe that Warwick was slightly dyslexic, although at the time this was generally an unknown disability, but it probably made progress at school much more difficult for him. For his secondary schooling we decided to send him to the Seventh Day Adventist College near Somerset West, which encouraged the pupils to take an interest in farming, building and other outside occupations in addition to the academic tuition provided.
Then, in order to assist him further in his education my father and stepmother agreed to have him stay with them at ‘Graystones’ while he attended a ‘cram’ college in Johannesburg. Consequently, he moved there at the beginning of the following year. We, as parents, had two main goals concerning our children and, from an early age we set out to encourage them to be independent, able to stand on their own feet and to give them the best education we could afford, because we believed that, no matter what life holds in store, these are assets that nothing can take away. All parents make mistakes but, rightly or wrongly, we put our efforts regarding our sons towards these ends.
Warwick was the one child that we actually planned to have but we loved them all. My parents were very reserved and undemonstrative but I never felt there was a lack of love in our home; his father’s family, on the other hand, were demonstrative people, often touching and hugging and, while they were small, our sons were often cuddled by him.
Like his brothers, Warwick’s compulsory military call-up was to the Medical Corp. where he was involved more with the postal service rather than medical matters and he got on well with his Superiors by all accounts. He remained living in Johannesburg after his discharge, renting an apartment in Hillbrow and working eventually at “His Majesty’s’ restaurant in the city.
Because Warwick always had a large number of friends of his own age who visited his apartment, a nosey neighbour decided that they must be involved with drugs and informed the police of her suspicions, so they raided his place. At the time, among the group there, was a young girl who found the situation very funny and laughingly told the police that of all the young people Warwick was the last to be involved in drugs as he even refused to smoke or take alcohol. They were persuaded to phone Warwick’s step-grandmother, Alice, for a character reference and whatever she said assured them that they were mistaken but this unnecessary episode left Warwick really shaken and upset.