11 August 2012


Bubbles Schroeder
Jacoba (Bubbles) SCHROEDER was 18 years old when she was found murdered on 12 August 1949 in Birdhaven, Johannesburg. Her killer or killers, have never been found. She is buried in grave number 519 at Benoni Cemetery.

She was born in Lichtenburg. Her maternal grandfather, Carl Friedrich Wilhelm HASELAU was born in Lower Saxony on 26 August 1851. He worked as a mercantile clerk in Brandenburg, when he decided to immigrate to the Cape. At the age of 27, Carl and his wife, Justina Sobina LANGE (21), left on 10 October 1877 aboard the Caroline Behn, from Hamburg to Cape Town. The ship’s passenger list shows Carl and Justina from Neu-Meichow (Brandenburg) and that Carl was an labourer (arbeiter). He worked for a Mr. CROSSMAN, who employed him to manage the farm Buck Kraal, near Peddie. Most of the couple's children were born there, and educated by Miss Pinkie HARTLEY. Carl bought some land at Mngquesha near the Pirie Forest in the King William's Town area, where he started a timber business and farmed. He built a school and re-built a church that had been destroyed during the 1876 Frontier War. A grandson, Otto HASELAU, later still lived at Mngqesha. Carl died on 29 December 1918 and Justina on 01 October 1928.

One of Carl's daughters, Louise Ella HASELAU, married Ernst SCHROEDER. They were the parents of Jacoba, who was born on 08 June 1931. When she was four years old, her mother had to go out to work, and she was cared for by a cousin in Vereeniging until she was 13. In early 1948, she worked for a coal company in Vereeniging but moved to Johannesburg two months later. She got her nickname from Philip STEIN, a 52 year old Jewish bookmaker, that she met at a dance in Orange Grove and then lived with him. He found her to be sweet, except when she was drunk. Early in June 1949, after coming home drunk, he asked her to move out. Shortly afterwards, she moved to Dorchester Mansions in Rissik Street, where she shared an apartment with a friend, Mrs. GRIFFIN, who was a hostess. Bubbles never had a regular job in all the time she lived in Johannesburg. It is believed she entertained men, probably as a dancer or hostess. According to Mrs. GRIFFIN, she spent her days at the beauty parlour and her nights at night clubs.

On Thursday 11 August 1949, Morris BILCHIK visited Bubbles' apartment and made a date with her for the following Saturday evening. After the date, they went back to his home and she spent the night there. The following Monday, Morris told his friend, David POLLIACK (21), about his date. The two visited Bubbles that afternoon, and they tried to arrange for one of Bubble's friends, Penny, to go out with them that night. Penny was nowhere to be found, so the three decided to go out later. After Morris and David left Bubbles, she went to visit Philip, where she spent the rest of the afternoon having a few glasses of brandy, before returning home at 6 p.m. Morris and David were already waiting for her. She changed into a green dress and refreshed her make-up. The three left at about 7.30 p.m. for David's house, Hlatikulu, in Illovo, as his mother was in Durban at the time. Bubbles went in David's car, while Morris took his own car. Upon reaching the house, David's cousin, Hyman Balfour LEIBMAN (20), was leaving for Houghton to pick up his date. David and Morris invited him to bring his date back to the house to join the party, but Hyman declined as he was taking her to the cinema.

David asked Irene MIYA, his family's cook, to prepare some food, and at about 9.30 p.m. they sat down to a meal of asparagus soup, chops with chips, and a dessert of tinned peaches. Bubbles also drank a few glasses of brandy and snacked on peanuts. At about 11.15 p.m. Morris left. Bubbles and David listened to records in his room. Not long after he had left, Morris phoned and spoke to Bubbles, and then David. At about midnight Hyman returned from his cinema date. Although he lived in Brits, he often stayed at Hlatikulu when Mrs POLLIACK was away. David told him Bubbles was drunk and he wanted to take her home. Hyman later said he went upstairs to the room and saw that she had been drinking, but was not drunk. She insisted on having another drink. He gave her a brandy. At about 12.30 a.m., Bubbles decided to go home. Her mother was staying with her, she said, and expected her back by 1.00 a.m. At about 1.30 a.m., the three of them walked out onto the driveway. David wanted to take her home, but she got into Hyman's car and wouldn't get out. Hyman drove her home, but before getting there, she wanted to drive. Hyman wouldn't let her, and about twenty minutes after leaving the house, he arrived back at the house alone. He told David she made him stop and let her out, when he refused to let her drive. David got in his car and went looking for her. About an hour later, he returned home, without having found her.

"Don’t be surprised if you read about my corpse in the morning papers" were the last words Bubbles apparently said to Hyman, as she got out of his car and began the long walk home from the corner of Oxford Road and Corlett Drive in Illovo, to Rissik Street in downtown Johannesburg.

The next day, Morris phoned David at work. Morris had gone to Dorchester Mansions to see Bubbles, but was told by her mother that she hadn't returned home from her night out. David went to see Mrs. SCHROEDER. Morris, David and Mrs. SCHROEDER drove to Rosebank Police Station to report that Bubbles was missing. Her body was discovered, 30 hours after her death, at Birdhaven by Samuel Ngibisa MOBELA. The plantation was less than a kilometre from the spot where Hyman claimed to have dropped her off. She was lying on her back among burnt-out grass about 30 metres from the road. There were some scratch marks and bruising on her neck. Her handbag, coat and shoes were missing. Dr. J. FRIEDMAN, the Johannesburg District Surgeon who arrived on the scene, noticed the position of the body - it appeared that she had been carefully placed on the ground, suggesting that she had been murdered nearby and then carried into the plantation. Although her shoes were missing, there was neither grass nor soil on the soles of her feet. The bodice of the green dress she wore was slightly ripped and one button was missing. The lower right leg of her stocking was snagged in a number of places. Her panties were torn on the right side, but her black petticoat and black bra were intact.

The post-mortem revealed that she had not been sexually assaulted, that she was a virgin. In her mouth were some pieces of a hard, clay-like material. Although some of the bits lay deep in her throat, there were no particles in her lungs. Dr. FRIEDMAN examined the contents of her stomach, and this agreed with David and Morris' subsequent account of events on the night of her death. The post-mortem revealed that she was suffering from a condition of the thymus gland which would have caused her to fall unconscious very quickly from slight pressure around the neck. The bruising on her neck indicated that she had been strangled from behind, probably by a scarf, and had scratched herself in an effort to tear it away. Dr. FRIEDMAN concluded that cause of death was asphyxia and inhibition due to the pressure on her throat and the impaction of a hard clay-like substance (similar to that in a heap of builder's lime a couple of metres away) in her hypopharynx. He estimated the time of death as around two o'clock on the morning of Tuesday, 16 August.

The police launched a large-scale search in the area around Birdhaven, but without success. On 13 October, Hyman and David were arrested in connection with the murder. They appeared in court the following day and were remanded in custody. They were later granted bail of £5 000 and £500 respectively. Their trial began a few days later at the Johannesburg Magistrate's Court. The evidence presented by the police was almost entirely circumstantial. The prosecution based its case upon the fact that the men had been with her late on the night of her death. There was no direct evidence to suggest that either of the two men were connected in any way to her murder. They were were acquitted. Their lawyer was Israel (Isie) Aaron MAISELS. He passed away in 1994. One of the police investigators was Colonel Ulf BOBERG.

The murder made newspaper headlines for more than a year. Benjamin BENNETT, a crime writer for The Argus at the time, suggested that Bubbles probably tried to hitch a lift home and was picked up by a passing motorist. It is still one of South Africa's unsolved murders. Bubbles' father was in Johannesburg after the murder, and in the 1950s the police contacted her mother. Nothing further is known about them since the murder.

In May 1961, Pierre BOTHA released the Afrikaans film, Die Bubbles Schroeder Storie. It had been turned down for public viewing in South Africa by the Censorship Board in 1960. In 1961 the Board allowed screening only to White audiences over the age of 18 years. By 19 June 1961, it was drawing full houses at all seven drive-in theatres on the Rand.

E. Bilchik and Co. was established in 1932 in Johannesburg by Efraim BILCHIK. He died in August 1985 and the company was run by his son Morris BILCHIK. In March 1999, Morris BILCHIK (69), owner of an interior decorating company, appeared in the Johannesburg Magistrate's Court. He was called to testify in the inquiry into the death of Lawrence Keith BENGIS (50) in May 1994. Lawrence worked for the company as an accountant. He was found with five gun shot wounds in his car near the Oriental Plaza Fordsburg, a few days after he had told his wife that he had discovered evidence of fraud at the company. He was rushed to the Garden City Clinic but later died. The investigation into his murder had been dormant, until Peter SOLLER, a Johannesburg lawyer, asked for an inquiry in December 1998.

In October 2002, David POLLIACK (74), a multi-millionaire, was in the High Court in Pretoria in connection with maintenance payments. He was ordered to pay R30 000 per month to Jenny POLLIACK (43). The couple were married in 1995 and had a son a year later. She was his third wife. David was then a director of at least 12 companies, including United City, POLLIACK Investments, Sandown Mews and Realco. David died in December 2006 in Johannesburg, and was buried at West Park Cemetery.

In 2012, Rahla XENOPOULOS wrote a fictional account - Bubbles tells the story of Bubbles' childhood in Lichtenburg and later life in Johannesburg. Born in the poorer part of Lichtenburg, Bubbles grows up with a bitter mother who takes in laundry to make ends meet and a dull-witted aunt. She has never known her father. Bubbles dreams of a better life for herself and at 16 she moves to Vereeniging to work in a coal agency and is befriended by the sophisticated Winifred Walker. Winnie teaches Bubbles some social graces. Bubbles soon moves to Johannesburg where she is taken under the wing of a middle-aged bookie, Barry. He introduces her to wealthy young men who find her captivating. She is convinced that the perfect beau is about to swoop in and take her away to a grand home and a life of fun and luxury. Bubbles finds that the world to which she aspires turns menacing and, ultimately, fatal. The film rights have been bought by Lisa Bryer, co-producer of The Last King of Scotland.

Kathryn SMITH is a forensic artist. Her latest exhibition, Incident Room, was recently on show at the AOP Art Gallery in Johannesburg. She used photos of the location where Bubbles was found, her grave, the suspects, the death certificate, letters, and newspaper reports. She first heard about Bubbles, when she read a book in high school.

For Men Must Work, by E.L.G. Schnell, 1954
Deutsche Wanderung Nach Sudafrika in 19 Jahrhundent, by Werner Schmidt, Pretoria
The evil that men do, by Benjamin Bennett
Loon van die sonde, by Chris Vermaak, Pretoria, 1990
The Boberg Story, by Ulf Boberg
A life at law: the memoirs of I.A. Maisels, QC
Benjamin Bennett Collection 1904-1985, University of Cape Town
Beeld newspaper archives

08 August 2012


It snowed over all the provinces of South Africa on Tuesday, 07 August 2012. The people, and the media, went crazy. Not much work was achieved around the country on this day, what with office staff running outside to catch snowflakes and take photos. Some said it was the first time all provinces received snowfalls on the same day - but history tells us otherwise. It doesn't snow often in South Africa, or does it?

03 September 1853
A snowstorm occurred in the Eastern Cape. Hundreds of people froze to death in the districts of Graaff-Reinet, Burgersdorp and Somerset East.

25 June 1876
Heavy snowfalls in Kimberley.

11-14 July 1886
Snow fell from Sunday afternoon until Wednesday morning in the Eastern Cape. At Graaff-Reinet the snow was lying 30cm deep, residents who had been living there for more than 60 years had never seen anything like it. At Molteno the snow was 60 cm deep, and there were many stock losses, mainly on the night of the 12th.

10-12 June 1902
The most severe snowstorm to hit the country swept over a large portion of the interior. On the 9th it also snowed on the Palmiet River flats at Caledon. During the next three days snow fell unceasingly in the Karoo, Eastern and North-Eastern Cape, the Free State and Natal. Strong winds accompanied the snowstorm and there were great stock losses. In the North-Eastern Cape, where the snow lay 60 cm deep, tens of thousands of small stock perished. In East Griqualand, the snow lay 1,5 metres deep, and more than 13 000 sheep froze to death. This snowstorm was known as the Peace Snow, as the Anglo-Boer War ended in May 1902.

Snowball fight at Springfontein Concentration Camp (Anglo-Boer War 1899-1902), Orange Free State
Photo contributed by Garth Benneyworth 
08 August 1906
Heavy snowfalls fell over the South-Western Cape. In Upper Roeland Street snowballs were being thrown early that morning. Heavy snowfalls were also reported in Worcester, Touws River and the Langkloof. For the first time in living memory, it also snowed for half an hour in George.

16-17 August 1909
The heaviest snowfall yet was recorded in Johannesburg. It started snowing on the evening of the 16th and carried on through the next day. Snow lay 30-40 cm deep. On the 17th the temperature remained below freezing point all day.

29-30 September 1913
Heavy snow fell on Monday evening and on Tuesday at Venterstad, Lady Grey and Elliot where it lay 30 cm deep in town. Heavy stock losses were suffered. Snow also fell at Kimberley for the first time in 30 years.

24 August 1914
Snow started falling at 10 a.m. that Monday in Great Drakenstein valley and continued until 12:30. The depth of snow varied from about 4 cm in the valley to nearly 8 cm higher up.

18 July 1915
Snow fell in Johannesburg and lay 5 to 7 cm deep. Light falls were reported the next day.

08-10 August 1917
Snow fell intermittently but was washed away by rain.

07-09 September 1921
Heavy snow fell over the eastern interior. At Kokstad it started snowing early on Wednesday morning (the 7th) and continued for 15 hours. On Thursday morning snow fell for many hours at Ladysmith and most of the Natal interior. In the Midlands it was lying 35 to 40 cm deep (Greytown vicinity). At Newcastle the depth was 10 cm. Snow fell at Volksrust and Harrismith. Between Harrismith and Van Reenen snow lay up to 60 cm deep on the rail tracks. More snow fell on Friday (the 9th) over the south-eastern Transvaal and that morning also in Johannesburg.

15-20 May 1922
Heavy snowfalls fell over the interior, in places up to a metre deep. Natal was cut off from the rest of the country for six days. There was also snow in some parts of the Free State.

11 July 1926
Snow started falling in the Witwatersrand early in the afternoon and continued for about three hours. At places in Johannesburg city centre snow lay up to 7 cm deep and telephone wires broke under the weight of snow. Snow fell at Brakpan, Germiston and Krugersdorp where it was measured at 12 cm deep. The eastern Highveld saw light snow falls.

03-04 September 1926
Heavy snowfalls over the south-eastern Transvaal that Friday and Saturday. In Volksrust it lay 20 cm deep. The Wakkerstroom area was covered in a white blanket and large stock losses were suffered. Light snow fell at Klerksdorp. The eastern Free State, Reitz, Bethlehem and Memel also had heavy snowfalls.

08-10 July 1929
On the 4th and again from the 8th to the 10th snow fell over an extensive area of the southern Cape, from Laingsburg / Fraserburg to as far as Middelburg / Cradock, and also at George. At Paardekraal in the Beaufort West district the average snow depth was 60 cm.

22-24 June 1933
Fairly heavy snowfalls were reported on the Hex River mountains and in the central and south-eastern Cape.

28-29 August 1933
Heavy snow fell over the southern and Eastern Cape. In the Eastern Cape farmers lost 50 000 head of small stock.

26 May 1935
Snow fell in the evening in Bloemfontein and over the southern Free State.

10-11 September 1936
Heavy snow, accompanied by strong south-westerly winds, fell over the Eastern Cape, Natal, the eastern Free State, the Highveld, and as far north as Pietersburg. There were heavy stock losses and several people froze to death. On the 11th it snowed all day in Johannesburg.

24-25 September 1939
Heavy snowfalls were experienced in the north-eastern Cape.

05 May 1940
A severe snowstorm, accompanied in many places by heavy rainfall, caused extensive damage in the Eastern Cape, Natal, the Free State and the Highveld. Main line trains between Natal and the Transvaal were delayed for hours. Snow fell at Standerton, Breyten, Ermelo, Piet Retief, Volksrust and other towns in the area.

10-15 July 1947
Rain, snow and gale-force winds were experienced over the southern Cape. The mountains around Ceres were white with snow. A piecing wind blew over the snow-capped hills of the Karoo. On the 14th and 15th it snowed at Uniondale, and at Adelaide it was the heaviest snowfalls seen in living memory, with sheep deep in snow up to their bellies. Heavy snow also fell at Hogsback.

25 July 1947
The mountains at Worcester and the Hottentots-Holland Mountains were already snow-covered early that morning. It also snowed that morning at Noupoort, Coligny and Mafikeng. The heaviest snowfall was over the north-eastern Cape, the southern and north-eastern Free State, the Drakensberg area, the eastern Transvaal and the Natal Midlands.

06-07 December 1950
Yes, it is the height of the South African summer, but snow fell on the Wintershoek Mountains near Tulbagh on the 6th. The next day it snowed in the districts of Murraysburg, Aberdeen and Tarkastad. In Cradock, where it started falling in the morning, the snow was 20 cm deep by 13:00.

24-25 July 1951
Heavy snow fell in the Boland. It snowed on Table Mountain, Devil's Peak, Stellenboschberg and the mountains at Great Drakenstein. The higher mountains towards the interior received the heaviest snowfalls in many years. Loeriesfontein also saw heavy snowfalls, as well as in the Karoo and the Eastern Cape. In Cradock the snow lay 30 cm deep. At Palingskloof in the district snow completely covered fences on some farms.

29 July 1953
Snow fell at Springbok for the first time since 1927.

13-14 September 1953
Large parts of the country were covered by a snow blanket. Several mountain passes were closed. At Sutherland the snow lay 20 cm deep on some farms. De Aar and Venterstad also saw snow. Molteno had the heaviest snowfall in 25 years. At Mount Frere it lay up to a metre deep on the mountains. Heavy snow fell in Natal, as well as the eastern Transvaal. From Bethal to beyond Ermelo it lay 30 cm deep in places. Immense stock losses were suffered. At Dordrecht snow lay 2,5 metres deep, causing road closures.

01-03 July 1957
Heavy snowfalls and rain over northern Natal and the eastern Highveld.

31 August 1959
Heavy snow fell over East Griqualand and the Natal interior. For the first time in 30 years, it snowed in the outskirts of Pietermaritzburg. The Boland and southern Cape mountains were covered in snow. Volksrust also reported heavy snowfalls.

12-13 September 1959
Heavy snow fell on the 12th on the Boland mountains, and later over the areas to the east. In the Eastern Cape cars had to be towed out by tractors, whilst in Volksrust cars were stuck in 60 cm deep snow. On the 13th Bethal experienced its heaviest snowfall, whilst it snowed that afternoon in Johannesburg, Boksburg and the West Rand. That evening snow fell at Voortrekkerhoogte.

26-28 August 1962
After heavy snowfalls on 05-06 May and again on 13-14 June, this rough Cape winter was hit hard on Sunday, 26 August. At Matroosberg, heavy snowfall was accompanied by heavy rain and gale-force winds. The heavy snowfalls spread eastwards over most of the country on the 27th and covered the Karoo, Natal, the Free State and the south-eastern Transvaal. Johannesburg saw its heaviest snowfall since 1936. The Magaliesberg mountains also received snow. Natal saw its heaviest snowfalls in 20 years.

02 July 1963
Heavy rain fell in the Namib region, with snow on the 1st t Aus and on the sand dunes between Aus and Luderitz. Snowfalls up to 60 cm deep were experienced in the eastern interior of South Africa, with the heaviest falls at Standerton, Bethal, Ermelo, Volksrust and Majuba. Snow also fell at Louis Trichardt, Johannesburg and Lyttleton on the 3rd. Wakkerstroom was cut off from the outside world for several days.

18-19 June 1964
The Free State, Eastern Cape, Natal and southern Transvaal saw heavy snowfalls. Several places were isolated, with Bloemfontein hardest hit with snow lying 60 cm deep. The snowfall in Pretoria on the 18th was the heaviest in 30 years. After heavy snowfalls in Johannesburg on the 18th, light snow fell the next day. In the north-eastern Cape there was snow up to the 25th and helicopters were used to bring relief to people and animals isolated for several days. Further snowfalls were experienced during the rest of the winter and as late as the beginning of October.

31 May 1965
Heavy snow fell in the Eastern Cape and Natal. Several farms were isolated. At Dordrecht cars were stuck in snow, and school was closed the next day. The south-eastern Highveld also saw some snow.

16-18 June 1965
Heavy snow again fell in the Eastern Cape and Natal, with several towns being isolated. Middelburg, Cradock, Dordrecht, Barkly East and Maclear saw heavy snowfalls. There were heavy stock losses. The Free State also saw heavy snowfalls.

18 October 1965
Heavy snowfalls caused large-scale disruptions and heavy stock losses in the eastern interior. The Natal-Transvaal border areas had snow more than a metre deep. The Reef also had some snow.

12-14 July 1967
Heavy snow started falling on the evening of the 12th, mostly in the Eastern Cape. Train services were disrupted, mountain passes were impassable and farmers were isolated on their farms. Snow lay up to two metres deep on the mountains. The snow weather advanced eastwards to Natal and also the eastern Transvaal. Johannesburg had light snowfalls on the 14th. South-eastern Transvaal roads were closed.

03 June 1968
Snow fell over many parts of the country during the preceding weekend. On that Monday morning heavy snow fell on the Wolkenberg near Tzaneen, the first time since September 1936.

11-12 June 1968
Snow fell at many places. At Jansenville it was the first snowfall since 1886. Several mountain passes were closed and trains delayed. The Witwatersrand and some parts of Pretoria had snow on the 12th.

26-27 August 1970
The Eastern Cape saw heavy snowfalls, with Queenstown by hardest hit.

06-07 December 1970
Another summer snowfall. Heavy snow fell on Sunday the 6th on the Cape mountains. Several mountain passes were closed such as the Swartberg Pass, Loostberg Pass and the road across Wapadsberg. The eastern Free State and Natal saw unprecedented heavy snowfalls.

11 August 1972
The southern Cape saw record snowfalls. It snowed in George for the first time in many years that Friday afternoon, with streets and gardens covered by 7 cm of snow. The Knysna forests had heavy falls, as did the Langkloof where snow lay 45 cm deep. Table Mountain was covered in 50 cm deep snow. Widespread snowfalls had occurred earlier that winter. On 30 April it snowed in all four provinces and on 25 June snow fell near Knysna. Heavy snow fell on 30-31 July over many areas, including Zululand where it had not snowed for 50 years.

19 August 1973
Widespread heavy snowfalls at Graaff-Reinet, Middelburg and Queenstown. For the first time in this century, it snowed at Bedford, Adelaide and Seymour.

20 June 1976
Following snowfalls on Table Mountain and Boland mountains, heavy snow fell that Sunday over large parts of the Eastern Cape. For the first time in living memory it snowed early that morning in Grahamstown, where the snow lay 17,5 cm deep.

10-11 August 1976
The Koue Bokkeveld saw some of its heaviest snowfalls for many years. Two of the three mountain passes leading to Ceres were closed. At Sutherland, the only things visible above the snow-covered ground were patches of Namaqualand daisies.

23 August 1977
The eastern Highveld received heavy snowfalls that Tuesday evening, as far north as Sabie. The Long Tom Pass was closed.

07-08 July 1981
The Cape experienced heavy snowfalls. Porterville and Ladismith were hit. At Pearston the snow lay 15 cm deep.

28-29 August 1981
Again heavy snowfalls over large parts of the Cape. De Aar saw its heaviest snowfall on Saturday the 29th. Aberdeen and Beaufort West received their heaviest snowfalls in 50 years. At Van Wyksvlei snow lay 30 cm deep. Pofadder, Upington, Kenhardt, Keimoes and Kanoneiland also received snow. Several mountain passes in the Eastern Cape were closed.

10 September 1981
Large parts of the interior received heavy snowfalls on that Thursday, including the Long Tom Pass, Amersfoort, Bethal, Witbank, Standerton, Ermelo, Springs, Delmas and Vanderbijlpark. In Johannesburg, where it snowed all day, it lay 15-20 cm deep. Pretoria also had some snow in the morning. Trains were delayed, hospitals had to use emergency power, and flights to and from Jan Smut International Airport were cancelled. Hundreds of telephone poles between Harrismith and Warden bent under the weight of snow.

01-02 July 1982
The Eastern Cape and parts of the Free State had heavy snowfalls. Several mountain passes were closed. Light snow fell at Johannesburg on the morning of Friday the 2nd.

13-14 June 1984
The Eastern Cape had heavy snowfalls on the 13th, with several mountain passes closed. The Natal Midlands were covered in a thick layer of snow. On the 14th it snowed at Volksrust, Memel, Vrede, Bethlehem and Kestell.

11-12 July 1985
The southern and eastern Cape was hit with heavy snowfalls. In Sutherland the streets were covered in a 5 cm deep layer. The snowy weather spread on the Friday to Natal, the Free State and the Highveld. Snow fell at Volksrust, Standerton, Bethal and Wakkerstroom. Mountain passes on the main routes between Natal and the Transvaal were closed.

17-18 June 1987
The Eastern Cape received heavy snowfalls. Several mountain passes were closed. In the Cradock district snow lay 30 cm deep. On the 25th snow fell in the eastern Free State and Drakensberg mountains.

19-20 July 1987
Heavy snow fell in the Boland on the 19th. At Sarelskop near Tulbagh it had not snowed for many years. Table Mountain was lightly covered in snow. On the 20th it snowed in the Karoo, Eastern Cape, the eastern Free State, Natal and the south-eastern Transvaal. The Oliviershoek and Naudeshoek Passes were closed. Snow also fell at Long Toms Pass. Harrismith saw its heaviest snowfall in many years. Zastron had last seen such heavy snowfall in 1954. Light snow fell in the evening of the 21st in the Johannesburg vicinity.

25-26 August 1987
After heavy snowfalls in the Natal interior and on the Maluti and Drakensberg mountains on the 15th and 16th August, heavy snow fell again in the eastern Free State and the Natal interior. The roads leading to Memel were closed and farmers had to shovel snow off their roofs to prevent damage. About 32 cm was measured at Van Reenen. Matatiele and Cedarville also received heavy snowfalls. In Fochville it snowed for the first time since 1967.

26-28 September 1987
After snow fell on the night of Saturday the 26th in the north-eastern Cape, Sterkstroom, Dordrecht, Elliot, Molteno, Barkly East and Ugie were cut off from the outside world for several days. Dordrecht had snow lying up to a metre deep by Monday and suffered large stock losses. A passenger train was trapped in the Eastern Cape, several mountain passes were closed and towns isolated. Hikers were trapped in the Drakensberg and were rescued days later by helicopter. In Lesotho, helicopters had to ferry fresh water to isolated villages.

28 May 1988
The north-eastern Cape received heavy snowfalls. At Dordrecht, where it snowed all day, the noon temperature was still 0°C. At Elliot the snow lay 10 cm deep.

08 June 1988
The southern and eastern Cape mountains had heavy snowfalls. In the Swartberg Pass snow lay 1,5 metres deep.

12 June 1988
It snowed on the Naudesberg east of Graaff-Reinet, and the mountains of Cradock as well as the Kouga mountains in the Langkloof.

27-28 June 1988
It snowed at Bloemspruit and on the smallholdings east of Bloemfontein, in the eastern Free State and the south-eastern Transvaal. The border posts to Lesotho were closed.

09-10 July 1988
Heavy snow fell on Saturday the 9th, on the Boland mountains, the Swartberg and the Outeniqua mountains. It also snowed on the Hantamberg at Calvinia, the Kamiesberge at Leliesfontein and the mountain peaks near Springbok. Heavy snow fell that evening at Somerset East, Pearston, Cradock and Dordrecht. From early on the Sunday morning heavy snow started falling over Natal, from Kokstad to Newcastle. At Bulwer it lay so deep that windows were covered in snow. Underberg and Himeville were isolated. At Nottingham Road the snow lay 30 cm deep. Ladysmith received its heaviest snowfall since 1922. The N3 and all mountain passes in the Drakensberg were closed. It snowed all day at Wakkerstroom. Volksrust had a layer 15 cm deep. More than 500 000 people in the mountainous areas of Lesotho were cut off and the South African government assisted with air transport of emergency supplies. Numerous mountain climbers were rescued by the South African Air Force.

16-18 July 1989
A cold front, accompanied by heavy snow in places, moved across the sub-continent. Snow fell as far north as the Karonnaberg mountains, north of the Olifantshoek in the northern Cape. Snow also fell over Namaqualand, Bushmanland up to Prieska, Kimberley and Bloemfontein. Many mountain passes were impassable and many schools were closed.

04-05 September 1989
The Koue Bokkeveld saw its heaviest snowfalls in 20 years. The Du Toitskloof Pass and Mitchell's Pass were closed.

August 1990
Heavy snowfalls occurred over the month in the eastern and north-eastern Cape, Natal, the Drakensberg, and the south-eastern and eastern Transvaal. The Lootsberg and Wapadsberg Passes were closed. On the 29th heavy snow fell in the Underberg, Himeville, Matatiele, Jamestown, Dordrecht, Indwe and Elliot.

15-18 October 1990
Snow fell on the mountains at Uniondale, Middelburg and Graaff-Reinet on the 15th. On the 18th it snowed at Graaff-Reinet, Middelburg, Cradock and Dordrecht, spreading to parts of Natal and the eastern Free State. Van Reenens Pass was closed to heavy vehicles. Peach and apricot crops in low-lying orchards in the eastern Free State were damaged by the cold.

07 August 2012


Along with his winning son, Chad Guy Bertrand LE CLOS, Bert made headlines all over the world during the 2012 London Olympics. A BBC-TV interview with Bert straight after Chad won his gold medal, went viral on the Internet within hours. A new word was coined for Olympic parents - MADS (Mums and Dads). Bert, his wife Geraldine, and younger son Jordan, were pool-side for Chad's winning performances in the 200m butterly (gold) and 100m butterfly (silver).

Marie Joseph Bertrand (Bert) was born in Curepipe, Mauritius, one of 10 children born to Guy LE CLOS and his wife, Claude Giblot DUCRAY. Guy and Claude were married in Curepipe, Mauritius. The family moved to Durban, South Africa, after Bert's fifth birthday in the 1950s. Claude was the daughter of Marie Guy Felix Giblot DUCRAY (1893 - 17 Nov 1972 in Plaines Wilhems, Mauritius) and Therese Simone BARBEAU (died 16 Mar 1989 in Curepipe). Claude was the sister of Paul Giblot DUCRAY, a former bodybuilder and public figure in Curepipe. Guy was a former Secretary-General of the Mauritius Sports Association. Chad's great-uncle, Henry LE CLOS, was the Mauritian national shotput champion for many years. Some of the LE CLOS families left Mauritius for Australia.

Chad was born on 12 April 1992 in Durban. He attended Penzance Primary School and Westville Boys' High School, matriculating in 2010. He started competitive swimming at the age of 10. He also enjoys surfing, and was a speedy left-winger in school soccer. He’s the second-youngest of Bert's four children - Bianca, Justin (28), Chad and Jordan (14). Bert and his first wife, Corinne, had a daughter, Bianca (now 34). She is married to Pedro MATOS and they have a son, Rocco. After the divorce, she lived with her mother in Pretoria and later Port Elizabeth. Bert owned a butchery, Bert's Meat Market.


When you think of a castle, you probably think of England or Europe. South Africa has a few too, although not connected to Royalty. Coedmore Castle is today situated in the Stainbank Nature Reserve in Yellowwood Park. It was built in 1882 by Dering Lee Warner STAINBANK, who arrived in Durban from England on 24 July 1857 onboard The Lady of the Lake. The ship was owned by his father and grandfather, along with the Lady Franklin. His brother, Henry Ellerton STAINBANK, had gone to Natal in 1855. After scouting a site for a home, Dering chose a spot on the south bank of the Umhlatuzana River. He used two Scottish stone masons from Aberdeen to build the house, using stone quarried on-site. Three years later, the castle, with tower and battlements, was completed. The castle remains unchanged, except for the installation of electricity and running water. The rooms have steel-pressed ceilings and carved panelling. A circular iron staircase leads to the tower room above the battlements. The original furnishings and household contents are still used. Coedmore Castle has remained in the family for four generations.

Coedmore Castle
Dering was born on 03 March 1841 in Elm Grove, Peckham, Surrey. His parents were Richard Henry STAINBANK (born circa 1808 in Boston, Lincs; died 15 July 1882 in Brighton) and Mary ESSEX (born 01 November 1806 in Pancras, London; died March 1882 in Brighton). Dering died on 13 July 1907 at Coedmore. He married Ethel LYNE (born 1869/70 in Pietermaritzburg) on 08 October 1889 and the couple had seven children. The boys attended St David's School in Greytown and Michaelhouse. The girls went to St. Anne's Diocesan College in Hilton. The children were:

1) 2nd Lieutenant William Dering STAINBANK was born on 18 September 1891. He died on 08 April 1916 during service with the Royal Field Artillery. He was buried at St John the Baptist Churchyard, Broughton, Lancashire. William had also served in German South West Africa.

2) 2nd Lieutenant Arthur Reeve STAINBANK was born circa 1894. He died on 20 July 1917, age 23, during service with the Royal Field Artillery. He was buried at Ypres, Belgium. He served in the German South West Africa War, after which he went to England and was gazetted to the Royal Field Artillery.

3) Kenneth Lyne STAINBANK born circa 1895

4) Christopher STAINBANK was born on 03 April 1897. He died on 10 June 1938. On 29 November 1921, he married Kathleen Edith SPEIRS (born 09 June 1902, died 30 October 1980)

5) Mary Agnes STAINBACK was born in 1899, eldest daughter. She died in 1966.



Upon his mother's death in 1942, Kenneth Lyne, the third son, inherited the castle. His two elder brothers were killed in World War I. Kenneth's daughter, Elizabeth KEITH, lives at Coedmore.

Mary Agnes Stainbank
Many of the castle's rooms contain sculptures by Mary Agnes STAINBANK, Dering and Ethel's daughter born in 1899 at Coedmore. In 1922 she enrolled at the Royal College of Art in London, obtaining her diploma in 1925. She also attended a school of engineering in London to study bronze foundry work. Mary returned to Natal in 1926, and had a studio at Coedmore where, between 1926 and 1940, she produced many sculptures. During Word War II she worked in a military drawing office. After the War, she lectured at the Durban School of Art until she retired in 1957. She died in 1966 in Durban.

In the early 1940s Kenneth decided to establish a nature reserve for the people of Natal, and his offer of land was accepted by the Administrator of Natal in 1946. In 1949, during the African-Indian Riots in Durban, more than 2000 Indian men, women and children took refuge at Coedmore, before being put into refugee camps. Kenneth created the township of Yellowwood Park where the first houses were built in 1960. The adjoining 253ha was proclaimed the Stainbank Nature Reserve in 1963. Today it has 13km of walking trails, a 10km biking trail and a picnic site. Coedmore Castle is open to the public, and tours are conducted by appointment for groups of 10 or more, which include tea and scones in the Grand Dining Room. The grounds are often used for weddings and functions.

Henry Ellerton STAINBANK was born on 21 February 1836 in Peckham, Surrey. He died on 15 July 1915 in Pietermaritzburg. After his arrival in Natal in 1855, he spent a short time in business in Durban, before moving to Coedmore where he cultivated coffee. He did this for 13 years and was known as Natal's Coffee King. He was also manager of the Natal Coffee Works in the Umgeni Valley for 12 years. He retired in 1883, living in Durban. In 1886 he was elected to represent the Durban constituency in the Natal Legislative Council. In 1892 he was elected Speaker, serving until 1897. He married Eliza MUNRO in 1858 and they had four daughters and three sons. Henry is buried in the Anglican Section of Commercial Road Cemetery, Pietermaritzburg. Eliza died on 19 February 1912 and is also buried there.

Coedmore Dairy
In 1940 Roy UWINS (10) and his brother Gordon (12) were put on the Children's Overseas Reception Board by their parents. This Board was set up by the British government to evacuate children abroad during World War II. They said farewell to their parents and two siblings on 19 August 1940 at East Croydon railway station. The children were equipped with gas masks and name labels, and set off for Holt School in Liverpool, before boarding the Llanstephan Castle on 24 August 1940. The four week voyage saw the 308 children divided into groups, each with an escort. The two boys' escort was Vera CROCKER. They sailed in in a large convoy for four days. The ship stopped at Freetown to refuel, spending two days there. It docked in Cape Town on 20 September 1940, and the children were taken to the Governor-General's residence for a welcoming ceremony and photographs. Some of the children were placed with families in the Cape Town area. The two boys were part of a group taken to the Cape Jewish Orphanage until arrangements could be made for them to go to other families around South Africa. During their two week stay, the children were taken on trips to Hout Bay, Muizenberg and Paarl. They travelled by train to Johannesburg via Kimberley. Most of the group got off in Johannesburg, and about 20 continued on to Durban. The two boys were placed with Ethel STAINBANK at Coedmore, where they spent the next five years. At that time, the farm was run mainly as a dairy farm, with two STAINBANK sons and their families living on the farm with Ethel. After Ethel's death in 1942, the unmarried Edith STAINBANK became the two boys' surrogate mother. The family kept up with the war's progress by radio and newspapers, and were also involved in fundraising for the War Effort. The boys received letters from home, and were allowed three radio broadcasts to their family, as well as sending airgraphs (single sheet letters that were microfilmed and sent by air). When the war ended in 1945, the two boys left Coedmore in August 1945. They boarded the Mauretania in Durban, but the ship's doctor noticed Roy's health records mentioned an unknown tropical disease and he refused to let the boys sail. They were returned to Coedmore for another six months where Roy recovered fully, and in January 1946 they boarded the Caernavon Castle, arriving in Southampton. They took a train to Waterloo station where their parents met them. The Board, which began in May 1940, was cancelled after the City of Benares was torpedoed on 17 September 1940 with the loss of 71 child evacuees to Canada. The Children's Overseas Reception Board evacuated 2664 children, 1532 to Canada, 576 to Australia, 353 to South Africa and 203 to New Zealand. It was known as Operation Pied Piper. It is believed that another 15000 children went by private arrangement, over 6000 to Canada and the remainder to the United States. A history and detailed account of the Board is documented in the book, The Absurd and the Brave, by Michael Fethney.

If a child was evacuated via Operation Pied Piper, the billeting officer's register for their original home area would be at the County Record Office or public library. It lists the child's name, date of birth, home address, parents' names, foster parents' names and address as well as the date of departure. In 2009, a commemorative service was held at London's St Paul's Cathedral to mark the 70th anniversary of the evacuation. The Evacuees Reunion Association organised the event, which was attended by 2000 people. About 3.5m people, mainly children, were evacuated from 1939 to 1945. Of the 1.5m citizens evacuated as part of Operation Pied Piper, 750 000 were children on their own.