CURROR FAMILY

My maiden name is CURROR, which has an Anglo-Saxon origin. It is a Scottish surname that is not only French in origin, but is descriptive of an occupation for it was given to a person who was either a messenger or who dressed tanned leather. The name is derived from the Old French words corëor or courreour, meaning courier or messenger. The family motto is Merite, which is the quality of being particularly good or worthy, especially so as to deserve praise or reward.

First names are always an interesting link when delving into family history and I have been fascinated to discover how far some of the recurring names in our family go back:  a William Currour was assizer (a juror) in Edinurgh, 1402; William Currour has been recorded as a charter witness in Edinburgh, 1425; and it is thought that William Curroure held lands near Edinburgh in the same year. There are several variants in the spelling of the name, as surnames were only standardised with the advent of Poll Tax between 1694 and 1699. William Currour or Courrour, then a merchant of Scotland, had safe conducts into England, 1408 and 1410. A George Currour was charged with “trublance of the toune” of Aberdeen, 1512, and William Currour was factor for the abbot of Jedburgh, 1560.  Much of this information comes from https://forebears.io/surnames/curror

The original Curror to settle in South Africa was my father, William David Curror, who sailed on the City of Hong Kong from London to Cape Town en route to the then Southern Rhodesia, where he was to be a Premium Apprentice on a tobacco farm. This was in about 1932. He later moved into the mining industry in this country. My father, who could speak English and a bit of Welsh, would be surprised to know that his family now encompasses Afrikaans- and German-speakers too!

In his memoirs, my father wrote: “We do not know the exact time that we [the Curror family] came to Dunduff [Scotland], but we can assume that it was sometime before 1715. As far as I am able to calculate, the first Robert Curror, shown on the [family] tree, of Dunduff and Craigdookie, was born in 1715. It is extremely probable that he was born in Craigdookie; his son was. He, also Robert Curror, was probably born in 1745.”

My father was keen on farming and always wanted to restore the name Dunduff, the original family farm in Scotland, to the Curror family and eventually did so in the De Kaap Valley near Barberton.

That farm has been sold and another generation has continued the name in another part of the country.

A BUSHVELD BREAKFAST

Although it is over a month ago, memories of the breakfast after we had celebrated what would have been my mother’s centenary still linger. From the first cup of tea as the sun was rising:

Pots were already warming up next to the fire which had been lit earlier:

Meanwhile, a fire was already warming the oven for freshly baked bread – so delicious when spread with butter while the slices are still steaming:

I steal a portion of fried onions before the finely chopped meat left over from the night before and eggs are added:

Thick potato skins left from having prepared the roasted potatoes are quickly deep fried:

Excellent additions were mushrooms and baked beans, of course:

While not my cup of tea, others enjoyed the marrow bones that had not been eaten the evening before:

Breakfast was a peaceful interlude before the process of packing and tidying up began; before we bid farewell to each other and dispersed to our scattered homes.

A BUSHVELD BRAAI

Although I am inclined to be more of a ‘herbivore’, the rest of my family are solid ‘carnivores’ and so it was only natural for there to be plenty of meat to braai when we gathered in the Bushveld for a special celebration. The enormous fire was started early in the afternoon:

When I saw these ‘smileys’ (sheep heads) perched next to the kettle, I couldn’t imagine them being eaten:

Although these have been traditional street food for years, ‘smileys’ have been brought into mainstream restaurants as part of the nose-to-tail trend. I wonder how many patrons actually see their ‘lamb cheeks’ in their raw state like this:

Nonetheless, there were many people to feed and so a large gas braai was brought into use as well:

I assure you I did not starve for there were several delicious salads on offer too – as well as the most wonderful potatoes roasted over the fire:

Our special family occasion was to celebrate what would have been our mother’s hundredth birthday. She would have enjoyed seeing us gathered together from near and far.

MEMORIES

“What is your earliest memory?” We ask this of siblings and friends alike. Do we really remember those very early events of childhood, or have we become familiar with them through the repetition of family stories or from paging through the family photo albums so often?

What do children do now that photographs are digitally stored on an adult’s computer to which they have no easy access? Do families with young children go through their digital collections with their children now and then whilst recounting events from when they were really small?

“Do you remember when …? Conversations with family and friends can toss up, stir and retrieve memories of events we might have thought were forgotten – that we had even forgotten that we had forgotten them. Then, in those moments of reliving past events with others the smells, sights, sounds, feelings and people return in a flash. We find we can add details others may have forgotten as their anecdotes revive our own memories – all of which emerge stronger and clearer than before.

Some memories are attached to things. I don’t know who owns it now, or even if it is ever used, but my mother often wore a brooch that for some reason we children used to call her ‘flea cage’. Just thinking about it in absentia brings my lovely mother to the fore, along with the wish that we could still converse. There are other more banal items that do the same, such as her (now) very tattered Concise Oxford Dictionary that she kept at hand for cryptic crosswords and that was the arbiter of our Scrabble games.

Memories fade when they are not shared and revived when they are. Sometimes a particular sound, smell, texture or sight opens the floodgate of memories either happy or less so. Oliver Sacks, a neurologist and writer, has been quoted as commenting that

We now know that memories are not fixed or frozen, like Proust’s jars of preserves in a larder, but are transformed, disassembled, reassembled, and re-categorized with every act of recollection.

It is that act of recollection that we owe to our children: the sharing of their upbringing and ours; the threads that root us to our families; the lifeline for the years ahead. As families scatter across the globe in pursuit of better careers or more comfortable and secure lifestyles, memories are what keep us together. Nurture them!

MATRIC FAREWELL

Apart from Volkspele, dancing was verboten at Barberton High School in 1968. The Matric Farewell of that year thus took the form of a dinner held in our school hall. I remember the fairly anxious wait to receive an invitation from a boy to partner him at the dinner. Excuse me (says I with hindsight) we were all invited to the dinner anyway! Conventions – we were hidebound by conventions then – all related to the formality of the occasion.

I remember little of the dinner. Looking at the menu now, I suppose we must have thought it was fitting for our farewell – certainly better than any food we received at the school hostel!  We sat at long tables set up in the centre of the hall, and probably felt quite important at the time.

When the prizes were presented, I was most taken aback to receive the English Prize – although at the time I was not enamoured with the book, a selection from the writings of Herman Charles Bosman culled by Lionel Abrahams. It remained neglected until I decided to use Bosman as the subject for my English III special essay – and fell so deeply in love with his writing that I have remained an ardent fan ever since.

Here is that 1968 Matric Class. What has happened to all these young people who were on the cusp of change? How has life treated them? I hope it has been kind.

CLAY POT

It is well over fifty years ago since I accompanied my Dad to the smaller portion of his farm, Dunduff, in the De Kaap Valley. This section had access to water from the Noord Kaap River, which he used to plant various vegetables – mostly gem squash – under irrigation. What was particularly special about this visit is that when we stopped at the home of the Swazi family who kept an eye on the farm during my Dad’s absence, I was presented with a gift of two small clay pots decorated with beads.

Sadly, only one has survived my many moves around the country. Still, all these years later, this little clay pot brings to the fore memories of the happy times we spent on that farm as children. We used to pick up delicately honed stone arrow heads and even larger hand axes – learning from my Dad about the ancient cultures that had lived on this land long before we did. I discovered the ‘soap plant’ (I wish I could still recognise it!) that grew along the edges of the irrigation furrow – it exuded a soapy liquid that would foam slightly if you rubbed it between your hands, which would have a lovely ‘clean’ scent after rinsing in the water. My Mom would sometimes walk in the veld with me to look at wild flowers blooming (all nameless at the time, except for the ubiquitous Barberton Daisy, yet greatly appreciated). My brothers and I would find large stick insects, try to catch frogs and watched birds in the veld. This little clay pot still conjures up such memories and more!

MY CHILDHOOD HOME

This is an undated view of my childhood home at Sheba Gold Mine in the then Eastern Transvaal Lowveld (now Mpumalanga), where I lived from the age of about three weeks. It is from here that I walked to my primary school down the road; it is where I came home to from boarding school; it is where many memories were created – and it is no more.

It was nothing fancy, as you can see: basically built from wood and corrugated iron on a foundation of local stone. These red-polished steps (mimicked on the other side) led straight into our living room. The open door you see there is a screen door – very common in those days to keep out mosquitoes especially; we also had screens fitted to our bedroom windows. It was while sitting on these steps that I, in the company of my family, observed Sputnik I on 4th October 1957 with such excitement. Commentary on the radio indoors kept us informed of its progress as we scanned the sky for what would look like an exceptionally large and bright ‘shooting star’ travelling across from one horizon to the other. Now we take satellites for granted, barely looking up at them if we happen to notice one in passing.

The far window is where our dining room was. I still have the table that we sat around for meals. It is there that my father encouraged us to know about a world wider than the small community we lived in. We discussed what he called ‘general knowledge’; he asked for our opinions; he told us about earthquakes and volcanoes; and would talk to us about interesting events he had seen or heard about. That is where I did my homework in primary school and thought hard about what to write in the obligatory thank you letters for cards or gifts from my grandparents.

You might notice a sprig of leaves in the top left hand corner of the picture. This is a glimpse of rambling roses that twisted their way this way and that through wooden lattice-work at the side of a shady veranda that ran the width of the house – providing protection from the sun for the two bedrooms that faced onto it. Believe me, the house used to get so hot during summer that on some evenings my mother would hose down the corrugated iron roof to bring down the temperature a little. We would sometimes see snakes threading their way through the roses: a fascinating yet fearful sight when we were small. Now I would be interested and reach for my camera. We were taught to have a healthy respect for snakes.

The building at the back was our garage – also constructed of wood and corrugated iron. More often than not there was one vehicle or another being taken apart to be fixed by my father and brothers. I loved being there with them; loved the smell of grease and oil; loved the way they worked together; loved being asked to hold something or to fetch a tool.  The bicycle would have belonged to one of my older brothers and the Jeep to my Dad.

An enormous Brazilian pepper tree grows behind the garage – a challenge to climb, along with the jacaranda just peeping out from behind the house and the Erythrina lysistemon on the right hand side of the picture. We grew up walking along the hills behind our house – a factor that probably influenced my decision to join the Mountain Club at university.

The driveway is not paved, which meant it was a wonderful place to make mud pies after heavy rains or to use a thin twig to tease the ant lions from their hollows when the weather was hot and dry. We used the driveway to play marbles or hopscotch – sometimes even gouging out a hollow so that we could play a game with two sticks called kennetjie. My childhood home was an unpretentious house filled with love.