Thursday, March 17, 2022


Dear Readers,


          This is an account of Storm Reilly’s life as given to me by his wife Patricia.

 “Storm was an outstanding lawyer and I can well remember saying to him one day, ‘You can bullshit your way out of anything’ to which he readily agreed,” his wife Patricia told me.

She very kindly agreed to give me a pen picture of Storm’s life in Cape Town after I had contacted his Advocate daughter Claire who passed my request onto her mother as her legal work was keeping her extremely busy. Unfortunately Storm was not in a position to do this himself as he was diagnosed with vascular dementia a few years ago. His short-term memory had gone but the long term remained.

Strangely Patricia and Storm have been married for 60 years but had spent the last 30 years living apart.  “He was gregarious,” she went on, “and joined many clubs – Royal Cape Golf Club, Royal Cape Yacht Club, Cape Flying Club, Olympic Sports Club (squash, soccer etc) and possibly others that I don’t remember. 

“He was Chairman of the Kelvin Grove Club for many years, Chairman of the Flying Club where we both learned to fly and where he graduated to flying twin engines.  He was also Chairman of the Body Corporate of the block of flats where he lived for some time and was President of the Cape Chamber of Commerce at the age of 39 years (the youngest to date I believe) in the seventies.”

Storm's wife Patricia

Possibly Storm’s best known case was when he represented the insurers of two 330 000 ton super oil tankers the Venpet and the Venoil that managed to collide off the South African coast near Port Elizabeth in December 1977. The US-owned ships were too large to go through the Suez Canal and that was why they came round the Cape on their way to Europe and the Americas. On this occasion the Venoil was full of oil while the other one was empty.

The Venoil’s bow sliced into the other ship resulting in a huge fire. In what port authorities described as a “miracle” 82 crewmen were saved by passing ships and a helicopter. Only two lost their lives.

The one tanker on fire

As sister ships that were heading in the opposite direction they may have been passing close to each other to allow the crews of the vessels to exchange greetings, a common maritime practice.

“It looks like the world’s most expensive handshake,” Captain Ian Simpson, the Assistant Harbour Master at Port Elizabeth was quoted as saying.

The damage revealed

The damage was in the region of $50-million.

Storm and Patricia have two children, Claire is their first born. She attended Herschel in Claremont and after qualifying as an attorney she worked in Storm’s office for 14 years. She then went on to become an advocate and is now running a very successful practice at the Cape Bar.

Their son Paul went to SACS, the Government school that is a lot cheaper than Bishops and this was how Patria explained their reasoning for this. 

“At the time Storm and I felt that sending him to SACS instead of to Bishops was the better option.  A number of our friends and colleagues had sent their sons to SACS and were very happy with their decision.  On his first day at school Paul was excited to find that a large number of his class mates were from Constantia, where we were living at the time, and that he knew them all.  He thrived academically and excelled at all sports.  In his final year at school he was appointed first prefect. 

“Near the end of prep school Storm did ask him if he wanted to go to Bishops to complete his senior school years.  Paul, however, would not budge as he loved SACS and did not want to leave his friends.  So that was that and we were all happy with the arrangement.

“He is working as a Network Engineer in Surrey, U.K. He married Nadine, a German girl and they have two sons, Aidan and Owen.”

 Storm is now in Murambi House in Wynberg in Cape Town. This is a frail care retirement home that specialises in dementia and Alzheimer’s care.

 “The facility is very well run and he is well looked after,” Patricia assured me. “He tells me that he is very happy living in his ‘Murambi House Club’.  He is 87 and will turn 88 on 2 September next.

“I was O’Sullivan before I married so I suppose both Storm and I have Irish roots.” 

Thanks Patrica for all your help.


Jon Abbott




 Dear Classmates,


My first reaction to Jon’s request was “no ways” am I going to put myself on display. But then, perhaps he is giving us the unusual opportunity to write our own obituaries! So “OK”.

Being a hands-on mechanical sort of person, I entered my matric year with plans to go on to UCT (University of Cape Town) and study mechanical engineering. Then halfway through the year my father, getting bored after his early retirement, bought an apple farm in Piketberg, precipitating a rapid change in my career planning.

I remember well a year-end Afrikaans class with Frikkie Viljoen our Afrikaans teacher when he asked everyone what their future plans were. When I said “To go farming”, Godfrey Gird, coming from a Karoo farm, laughed and said “What do you know about farming?” Of course the answer was “Absolutely nothing”. But after four years at Stellenbosch University (U.S.), and with a BSc Agriculture degree in hand, a-farming I did go. Fruit farming must be one of the most technically challenging agricultural fields (pun intended), but what a wonderful life it was, enhanced by living in a close-knit community of like-minded farmers.

 And what an environment in which to raise a family. Growing up on a farm is something special, so little wonder that the four children that my wife and I raised turned out to be the sort of adult that would make any parent proud. Despite the long hours – sunrise to sunset until new labour laws intervened – there was plenty of opportunity to indulge in hobbies and recreation. 

My school and university sport of rock-climbing, at which I became reasonably proficient despite a distinct lack of skill at school sports, gave way to motor-sport, doing quite a bit of rallying, and a couple of sallies on to the track at Killarney, including one ill-starred attempt at the Killarney two-hour endurance race in 1962, where my co-driver and I managed to complete a grand total of three laps before blowing the engine. All this was of course in the days when local motor sport was not yet so commercialised; much like the club rugby of those days.  

But as one gets older (and married) one moves on to safer activities, and I became obsessed with golf. Although, the highlight of my golfing life was not on the course (apart from one solitary hole-in-one, and a flash in the pan round of net sixty three during a sponsored day) but in designing from scratch, laying out, and being involved in the construction of the Piketberg golf course, where the game was played for many years before being taken over for RDP housing.

The perfect life Donald and his wife Mariette

While at U.S. I was introduced to snow-skiing at Matroosberg (Ceres), and this became a passion which I chased with dedication. It took me to some of the most wonderful places: Bariloche and other Argentinian resorts; many ski resorts in Chile; the US Rockies in Colorado, Utah (Salt Lake City), Idaho, and Wyoming (Jackson Hole); the Swiss and French Alps; the Austrian Tyrol; and the Italian Dolomites. A great and exhilarating sport, described by one instructor as “dancing with the mountain,” and I managed to keep at it, accompanied by my patient wife Mariette until 2019.

I had decided that at age eighty-six, 2020 would be my swan-song, but unfortunately Covid stymied those plans.  Perhaps just as well! After nearly fifty years on the farm, and having lost the patience needed to deal with a large labour force, I called it quits in 2001 and retired to Langebaan on the west coast. A pleasant conclusion to a happy and satisfying life.

I look forward to hearing what the rest of you have been up to.

         Donald Goodspeed.



 Dear Readers 


I was born with a silver spoon in my mouth which resulted in me being undernourished as a child. My dad owned Markhams, the men’s clothing business that had branches in Cape Town and Johannesburg when I was sent to Bishops. To prepare me for Big School I first went to the very fashionable Wet Pups (Western Province Prep School).

Dad had been the 1921 Bishops Rhodes Scholar, so as the eldest of three boys a lot was expected of me when I became a border in School House. Unfortunately I let the side down badly as I plugged matric. I’m now waiting for the pass mark to be reduced to 10% before trying again.

I redeemed myself slightly with some success in athletics not only at school but afterwards when I represented Western Province at the SA Junior Championships putting the shot and throwing the javelin. “All brawn and no brains,” was what masters at Bishops might have said.

          After a short time training to follow my Dad into Markhams I decided it was not for me. It was too boring measuring men for suites; asking them which side they hang and generally being subservient. My present wife Gayle is constantly reminding me that if I had stuck it out she could have been the wife of a millionaire now and not a struggle ex-journalist turned Private Eye. My old man sold out to the Foschini Group, which inexplicably changed the name to Markham (without the S) and now has close to 200 Markham outlets.

At aged 22 I spent a year criss-crossing Africa hitch-hiking alone to get to England to become a journalist. On the way I bought a dug out canoe from one of the locals and paddled 700 miles down the Congo that is reputed to be the deepest river in the world. This was by far the craziest part of my African safari because I had no life jacket and I can’t swim. If I had drowned Bishops would have been to blame for not stopping me from ducking swimming when I was there.

Kenya was being terrorised by the Mau Mau when I arrived, so to replenish my meagre finances I spent three months in the Kenya Police Reserve in charge of a Police post at 12 000 feet on snow capped Mount Kenya. That had its moments.

For instance some joker had ensured that there was an unexploded hand grenade down the long drop. It was never occupied for long that’s for sure.

My brief stay at Dr Albert Schweitzer’s hospital at Lambarene in French Equatorial Africa was a real eye opener. The sanitary arrangements for the patients and their hangers on would never have been allowed anywhere in his native France, and certainly not at a hospital. Yet it was the founding of this that was the main reason for him being awarded the 1952 Nobel Peace Prize.

I hadn’t cased the joint at all before I arrived in England. A great start for a would-be journo. The unions were very strong then and the one for journalists decreed that an apprentice started at 17. I would have had to have been paid as if I had several years experience, so papers were not rushing to employ me. Miraculously I got a job on the Melton Mowbray Times, a weekly that was so small it had missed the union’s scrutiny. The town is famous for pork pies of all things.

The paper consisted of a weedy little editor dominated by a Fleet Street veteran with long, nicotine stained finger nails, effectively running the show as the news editor with three reporters, a girl and one other chap about the same age as I was. It was a real sweat shop. The girl was in tears almost every day and after eight months I was the most experienced reporter.

I moved on to bigger weeklies and the Express and Echo, a daily in Exeter before joining two ex-Fleet Street journalists to form the Exeter News Agency.  It was a reporter eat reporter jungle in which we not only wrote for all the Fleet Street papers, like the Daily Mirror, the Daily Express etc, but also competed with their own West Country correspondents.

          I returned to South Africa to join the very conservative daily The Star in Johannesburg where I like to think I introduced investigative journalism. I won the grand sum of R70 for the best story of the year in 1971 for my tyre re-grooving expose`. From there I graduated to the Sunday Times to do investigations where I also wrote a hard hitting weekly column Business is Business for two years. Raymond Ackerman of Pick n Pay fame, the Patron of Bishops, who turned 90 in 2021, got a ticking off in one of them. We were in the same house at Bishops with him being a couple of years ahead of me.

Digging up the dirt on shysters earned me the runner up spot in the 1974 Stellenbosch Farmer’s Wineries National Award for Enterprising Journalism. In addition my muckraking resulted in two Government commissions of enquiry, a military board of inquiry and the first resale price fixing conviction several years after this was outlawed. It involved Pentax cameras sold by a subsidiary of Premier Milling.

          I left journalism to become a self employed Private Investigator specialising in life insurance. For 20 years all the major life companies like Liberty Life, Old Mutual and others that have since been taken over or gone under had me chasing all over Southern Africa, and even to India on one occasion to get to the bottom of illegitimate claims.

On a personal level I was about as successful as I was in my matric. Journalism and marriage don’t mix, was my excuse. It took me two wives before I found Gayle, who has been such a glutton for punishment that she has stuck with me now for nearly 50 years. She was also responsible for typing miles of reports and doing the admin that was the backbone of our two person PI business.  She is a St Mary’s (Joburg) Old Girl (she’ll kill me for saying that).

Sadly in addition to my parents I have survived two ex-wives, my younger brother Michael and a half brother David, who were both at Bishops, and two grown up children Simon and Samantha. These are the crosses you have to bear the older you get. My youngest brother, health crank, artist and bridge teacher Anthony is still alive and at 80 is doing his best to catch up with me. If I could have had my life over again I would have taken him to task for embarrassing me at the old school by not only passing matric, but going to university as well.

My wife Gayle who 
deserves the biggest
Long Service Medal 
of them all

Gayle and I have a daughter Belinda married to Cam. A designing woman (aren’t they all) she is a fair dinkum Sheila now with her own fashion house in Melbourne. Then there are the older ones in South Africa, pretty Mandy, a former hairdresser now living a life of luxury married to Erick, an advocate and on the go transitional coach Sally; Gayle’s daughters from her previous marriage. Sally became a Covid leper after she survived it twice, but hopefully people speak to her now. The customers fortunately didn’t know that when she was promoted to a Brand Manager at Clover Dairy she fell with her bum in the butter. She is married to paddler of note Alan Witherden, who has been a canoe judge at the Olympic Games and other international canoeing events for as long any anybody can remember. He’s an international business consultant in his spare time. And to think that we once thought he had a steady job.

 Alan, who is almost as old as I am, didn’t go to Bishops and nor did the husbands of the other two. Obviously Gayle and I were not very happy about that, but I better shut up now because to say I am outnumbered would be a gross understatement.

From the Bishops magazine

For the last 12 years I have been far from gainfully employed on my DearJon-letter Blog. Google pays peanuts and I’m the monkey. My Blog might well be sited as the other woman if I ever get divorced again. I have written posts on a wide range of subjects from congratulating the Yanks for celebrating my wife’s birthday on the 4th of July to an investigation into how Jersey BBC radio host, Murray Norton effectively cyber bullied my 47 year old son Simon to death. This was not long after his sister Samantha, who was living in England, had jumped off a car park building a few months after the birth of her first child. There is also one on how I might have become King of England if my mother had not been so picky.

I have self published two books Dearjon Exposed, a collection of the best posts from my blog and The Butcher of Rosebank. This is a true story about Dr Wynne Lieberthal, who was possibly South Africa’s worse orthopaedic surgeon ever. It was based on information I collected during one of my PI life insurance investigations, because he was not only a terrible doctor, but a crook as well.

My wife and I now live in Cape Town near Kommetjie in an estate appropriately named Imhoff’s Gift for us blue blooded Abbott’s. It’s made particularly picturesque by flocks of flamingos on the adjoining vlei with mountains in the background.



P.S. Fellow OD Mike Mathews’ memory is better than mine (I haven’t yet found a surgeon who does brain transplants, unfortunately). This is what he told me. “I recall your letter some years ago to the old OD magazine calling for a change in its format, design etc and have been much impressed with the new-look, biannual magazine which resulted from that letter. Well done!”
















 Dear Readers,


After a year in Post Matric I went to Natal University in Pietermaritzburg to study Agriculture with no fixed idea of what to do afterwards.  Having scraped through Botany, Zoology, Chemistry, and Physics I changed course and went to UCT to complete a BSc degree majoring in Zoology, Botany and History.

Two years at Lincoln College, Oxford followed and these were magical and unforgettable.  I was fortunate enough to have a few games for the University cricket team with the only first-ball duck of many years of playing cricket being a low-light.  It wasn’t too much of a disgrace in that it was against County Champions, Surrey, and it was Alec Bedser (who Don Bradman had selected in his all-time-great cricket team) who had me caught at leg slip off a devilish off-cutter.

In 1957 I married Alice Hofmeyr, her brother Gys had been in Founders matriculating in 1949 having played centre in the 1949 first XV, often rated as one of the really great Bishops rugby teams.  Alice had been head-girl of Herschel in 1953, and taught at the Dragon School in Oxford in my second (calendar) year.  I duly completed a BA hons in Modern History which enabled me to get a job at Hilton College teaching History and Biology. I coached the U14A cricket side which had the highly talented Mike Procter opening the bowling - off the wrong foot, but most effectively.  After two years I returned to Bishops to teach, which in hindsight was probably an error and after two years I answered a Union Corporation (a prominent Mining House) advertisement in the Argus inviting applicants with University degrees for managerial training.

Mike and his wife Alice

To leave teaching was probably a good decision and Union Corporation top managers were very nice people to work for.  Aware that gold had a limited life, the Mining Houses at the time were looking to diversify, as Union Corporation had already successfully done in starting SAPPI.  When the work I did on the proposal to invest in the Durban shipping company, African Coasters, was accepted, I was sent to Durban to work under Murray Grindrod to ‘gain practical experience’.  African Coasters bought out its two rival shipping companies to form Unicorn Shipping Lines; and I stayed for 20 years, ending as Deputy Managing Director.  These were the challenging years of the introduction of containerisation, the revolution which transformed the shipping industry world-wide.  We had some 30 ships and traded from Lourenco Marques to Walvis Bay and established services to Chile, Brazil, the Congo, Mauritius, Sri Lanka, Iran and Israel.  I was then transferred to Grindrod and Company as MD.  Grindrod had several companies: Ships Agents, Stevedores, Sea Freight, Air Freight, Travel and Container consolidators.

For various reasons and at the age of 53 I resigned and took on the task of turning-around Freddie Hirsch, Bizerba Scales, a Cape Town company that was in poor shape.  With the aid of a brilliant Financial Manager we reduced the number of debtor’s days dramatically and soon posted good results. This was a signal to move on and move overseas to run Safmarine’s clandestine off-shore operations in Antwerp.   This involved the cruise ship ASTOR (which we sold to the Russians), 22 refrigerated ships running bananas from the West Indies to the UK, a container leasing company and one or two other shipping ventures. This was the time of heavy boycotts against South African companies and our Antwerp operating companies were all centred in the Caymen Islands where we had to go from time to time for Board Meetings, keeping it all strictly legal and most favourable tax-wise.

Mike speaking to Private Eye Jon Abbott in his hey-day

My final move was back to Durban to head up the SA Sugar Association, which undertook all the common activities of the Cane Growers and the Millers such as the five experimental farms, exports, marketing and liaison with the Department of Trade and Industry where the Minister had to be encouraged to control the tariffs against mainly Brazilian competitive sugar imports. The Deputy-Minister was David Graaff whom I had taught at Bishops. This was the time of great political change in South Africa.  My role included preparing the Industry for the new dispensation and I invited leaders like Trevor Manuel, Alec Erwin, Jacob Zuma, Dr Frank Mdlalose, Dr Ben Ngubane and others to address the Council.

Eventually I retired to Hermanus in the year 2000 where, together with two friends, I was involved in the start-up of the Overstrand Hospice.  After a few years as Chairman I became Honorary Life President so as to be on the letterhead to give credibility to the role of getting financial contributions to purchase properties for the offices and, importantly, for the Shop.   This enterprise has been hugely successful and their free services provide specialist care for an average of 69 terminally ill patients in their own homes at any one time.





 Dear Readers,

Julian with his mentor
Harry Oppenheimer

(Here is Julian Ogilvie Thompson’s account of his life as only he could tell it. If only we all could have had such a ‘fortunate life.’)

A Fortunate Life

I was born in 1934 and brought up in the Cape Peninsula, joined by my sister Virginia in 1937.  My mother traced her ancestry back to the three de Villiers brothers who came from France in 1689 with the Huguenots and were allocated large portions of Franschhoek. My father’s ancestors came out, presumably from Scotland, in 1809 i.e. before the 1820 settlers.  An ancestor was Mayor of Grahamstown in 1836 and presented Piet Retief with a bible on departure of the Great Trek.  (Commemorated in a lintel above a door in the Voortrekker Monument.)  My father’s father rose to be Chief Magistrate of the Transkei.  My father was a renowned lawyer who was finally appointed Chief Justice of South Africa against the odds.

My sister and I enjoyed all the facilities and beauty of the Peninsula.  She to Herschel.  I after two? years at Wet Pups (Western Province Prep School) to Bishops Prep and then College, absorbing all the Christian ethics and other fine standards of a great school.  I grew too fast and missed my second year at College, thus coming to compete with Christopher Lawrence as I had with Roger Whiting.  It meant I had good friends in two years.

I was particularly influenced by a great Headmaster, Hubert Kidd, an aesthetic classicist.  How lucky to have such a man as Headmaster, there are always enough masters to ensure sport flourishes.  I was Head of my house, Founders, in my last two years and Senior Prefect in my Post Matric Year.  I was fortunate to be chosen the Bishops Rhodes Scholar for 1953.  We had a good XV over four years of whom 6 ? went on in 1953 to the unbeaten U19A at UCT where I spent 9 months before going by ship up to Oxford.

I enjoyed Worcester College, reading PPE, making lifelong friends, playing rugby for the College and the Greyhounds (including in 1954 a tour of Germany including Berlin and twice only for the University plus its tour of Ireland in 1955).  Cricket for the College and the Authentics and I became a member of Vincent’s a sports Club predominantly for Oxford Blues. I was elected to Jim Swanton’s Arabs.  This cricket club was founded by Swanton, a pioneer cricket commentator and one of the best known cricket writers of his day. We skated on the Worcester Lake in January 1954.  I learnt so much from my tutors and built a special relationship with Asa Briggs, later Provost when our Anthony and Katharine went up to Oxford.

In our first summer 3 ODs, Anthony Landsberg, Roger Whiting and I toured France and Italy, camping just anywhere, not in camp sites.  I planned to repeat this in August 1955 when my sister was in England for a secretarial course.  We invited a son of a Rhodesian rancher friends of my parents whom we knew from UCT and he in turn invited Tessa Brand whom he had briefly met through his sister at secretarial college with Tessa.

We hired a Morris Minor (not a Mini), four suitcases and two tents (one large for the boys, one smaller for the girls) on the roof rack, sleeping bags and cooking equipment in the boot.  And so we went across to Munich, down to Venice, Naples, Rome and back through France.  All moods turn up in a month. Tessa and I found ourselves doing things together.  At the end we met Tessa’s mother at Le Bourget and my sister and I dropped the two of them to stay at the British Embassy.  I feared that was that.

Back in England I was organizing a reinstated ball (ultimately at the Festival Hall) for after the Varsity Rugby Match in early December.  My Cambridge counterpart and I would meet in London every other Friday and I would then spend the weekend at Mill Court (Tessa’s family home in Hampshire).  The other weekend Tessa would come to Oxford, happily being able to stay with her great aunt Dolly Feildon at Headington. And so we became engaged.  I got a job with Anglo American at £60 per month (chosen over Goldfields and Union Corporation).  We were married on 24 July 1956 the day the exam results came out and so began 63½ years of a glorious marriage.  Tessa’s father gave us £300 and his father’s Jowett Javelin and we travelled through France and round Spain and Portugal for 5 weeks – all on £300!  I started work in Anglo’s London Office on 3 September 1956.

Tessa was broadly educated.  Cheltenham Ladies College, a very select sort of finishing school in Merton Street Oxford (only 6 pupils, French and German), a trimester at the Sorbonne, the usual secretarial course and the Courtauld Institute’s Painting section.  She was a country girl, hunting and riding.  When we got engaged her mother rushed her to the London Polytechnic to learn “how to run a home without the servants their mothers had”.

Julian's wife Tessa

Tessa had written a memoir for family consumption of her childhood in London, the blitz, the two years in Washington DC (over in a flying boat sharing a seat with her sister, back in a convoy) when her father was head of North American supply for the UK during the war.  Nine months based on our London Office including a month sorting diamonds (at least I learnt the nomenclature), a month or so each in Rowe and Pitman (Anglo’s brokers) and Lazards who were helping train people for the new merchant bank in Johannesburg, U.A.L.

Back to South Africa in the Winchester Castle for a few days in the Cape and then Johannesburg.  Anglo Secretarial Department.  In 1957 we had two spells of 3 months in houses of assistant managers on long leave to the UK and moved into Froome in Atholl, Johannesburg on 1 March 1958 which has been our home ever since.  We were postal vote agents for cousin Oswald Newton Thompson standing for the UP in North West Rand.

Four children – boy, girl, boy, girl have given us so much pleasure and now 12 grandchildren (if only one granddaughter) and one great grandson.

In November 1957 Sir Ernest Oppenheimer died.  Harry Oppenheimer (HFO) resigned as a member of Parliament for Kimberley and returned to run Anglo/De Beers full time.  I was fortunate to be chosen as his PA in February 1958.  Thus began forty years of working for and with a most remarkable man of so many parts till his death in 2000.  What a privilege that was and how interesting.  It was so totally transformative too.  Harry had a profound influence on me.  Tessa and I were privileged to enjoy a great deal of travel with HFO and BDO and family.  I recall India, Israel, Iran, Brazil, Mexico, Australia and Siberia.  We were indeed spoilt and in other ways too.

        In 1964 I moved with Grey Fletcher (Military Cross) from E. Oppenheimer and Son to the Anglo Finance Division where Grey succeeded Maurice Rush who went to head our new Canadian Office.  In the late 60s I succeeded Grey as Anglo Finance Director.  I was spoilt in being appointed a Director of De Beers at the age of 32 in December 1966.  About 1972 I became effectively the co-ordinating director in De Beers (Peter Gush taking over the Finance Portfolio) and building closer relationships financial and otherwise with the De Beers London Office.  The 1970s and 1980s saw long and tedious negotiations, ably assisted by contemporary OD lawyer Pierce Newton King, in Botswana regarding the expansion of Orapa, the opening of Jwaneng and the increase in Government’s shareholding from 15% to 50%.  In the 1970s I also became the Head Office contact for South America where Mario Ferreira was building up Anglo’s interests.  In the 1970s several visits each year to South America, twice a year in 1980s and one week each year in the 1990s.  I tried to visit a project/mine on each visit.

There was much international activity following Kaunda’s nationalisation of and then paying out for the Zambian Copper Mines, increasing our holding in Charlie Engelhard’s group, the formation of Minorco  (initially in Bermuda later Luxembourg into which all Anglo and De Beers non South African non diamond interests were put), the dawn raid to 26% in Consolidated Goldfields etc.

Because of my involvement with Anglo and De Beers international activities I visited London many times a year (one year 11 weekends part or all at Mill Court, Tessa’s family home in Hampshire.).  Tessa’s sister in whose favour the Dacre barony was called out of obeyance between her and Tessa absenting after her father’s death, was married to William Douglas Home, the noted playwright, which brought a whole new world to our lives and politics to a lesser extent.  We spent many weekends at their home and several Scottish visits together.

(from the book Bishops Rugby: A History by Paul Dobson)

I was privileged to develop a special relationship with Tessa’s father, Hon. Thomas Brand later Viscount Hampden (and Baron Dacre) a senior partner and at his death Chairman of Lazards a leading London merchant bank.  THB taught me so much and was a major influence on my development as I plied him with questions.  He and my mother-in-law came to South Africa each year as THB was Lazards representative on the UAL Board which he had help set up.  Sadly he died at 65 in 1965.  Lady Hampden continued to live at Mill Court, Alton, Hants the house they had bought in 1947.  We gradually took over the responsibility and today our eldest son and family live there and our elder daughter and family in the nearby Oast House which we altered for them.  We have our own room etc.

So the 1960s – 80s were very active.  We all worked as a team of friends, if competitively.  At one stage of Anglo’s 8 departments 6 were headed by Rhodes Scholars!.  In the early 1970s HFO instituted an Annual Chairman’s Conference, soon always at Mbulwa near Sabie, at which the Board of Executive Directors and a few others reviewed the Group’s worldwide activities.  Thitherto only a few (HFO, Sir Keith Acutt and Bill Wilson) knew the whole.  Now we all got to know each other so well.  I succeeded HFO as Chairman of Minorco in mid-1983, of De Beers in January 1985 and after OD Gavin Relly’s 7 year chairmanship of Anglo in March 1990.

In the late 90s it was decided to separate Anglo and De Beers management for anti-trust reasons and Nicky Oppenheimer (NFO), HFO’s only son, took the De Beers Chair in January 1998.  I continued as Deputy Chairman. We then embarked on the complicated exercise, led by our Finance Director, Mike King, of undoing the S.A. Mining Finance house structure of tiered holding companies. This enabled us at a cost of “turning a unique mining house into a generic” one to merge Anglo American of SA Limited with Minorco (really Anglo International) as London registered Anglo American plc.  In mid-2000 I handed the CEO ship to Tony Trahar.  In 2001 we thought we had a new Non-Executive Chairman in Gorhan Lindahl but he got caught up undeservedly in the ABB bonus awards scandal and I continued as non-Executive Chairman until November 2002 when Sir Mark Moody-Stuart, formerly Chairman of Shell Managing Directors took over.

I stayed on the De Beers and E. Oppenheimer and Son Boards until NFO took De Beers private in the early 2000s thereby eliminating the 33% each way voting “control” the investors so disliked.

I was honoured and privileged to be a Rhodes Trustee from 2002 for 14 years, then Emeritus for 4 until 2020.  This was fascinating with a most interesting body of Trustees – ex-ministers, senior civil servants, Heads of Colleges etc.  I was also a Trustee for this same period of the Mandela Rhodes Foundation which offers scholarships on the same criteria as R.S to universities in South Africa.  I think I was able to help Shaun Johnson who so successfully built the MRF to set up a sound financial reporting system in the early years.

For me this Rhodes connection had a special appeal as a school’s Rhodes Scholar and, I think, the only person post Cecil Rhodes’ generation to be on the boards of each of his 3 great companies, De Beers, Goldfields and the British South Africa Company (Charter Consolidated).  I had also been privileged to reply on behalf of the scholars (presumably because I was then Deputy Chairman of De Beers) to Harold Macmillan, Chancellor of Oxford, at the dinner in Trinity Gardens in 1983 to mark the 80th anniversary of the scholarships.

From 2002 November Tessa and I had a wonderful 17 years of retirement with lots of travel, golf and more time at the Game Farm which we had bought in 1969 and 71.  The first farm with the proceeds of the sale of the share Tessa had inherited from her father in Hebron, a tree planation run by SAFI and owned by a group from Lazards ‘Private Fortune Department’.

We also took the children and later the grandchildren too on an annual family trip of which Antarctic over Christmas/New Year 2016/17 was the highlight, the East African migration (twice), Galapagos, India, Okavango (twice) and Uganda gorillas are also memorable.

Our visits to the UK were no less frequent but probably longer both at Mill Court and at the Flat in London, that I had bought from De Beers in 1999.  We enjoyed many visits to the opera and the Royal Opera House (originally in the Anglo/De Beers seats) and the English National Opera, dinners with friends etc.  In January 2020 Tessa had a successful heart double bypass operation but later complications set in and she died on 14 February.  We had a service in a nice Anglican church on the Strand and all the children and spouses and several grandchildren attended, Christopher taking the service.

Thus ended 63½ years of a special marriage – 46 years working and 17 in retirement.  Fortunate me.  Indeed a Fortunate Life.

Kind Regards,





Dear Readers,

          I’m Jon Abbott, a lifelong story teller and this could be the most unique one anybody has ever written. After this introduction I am hoping to bring you other posts authored by my fellow OD’s. They will tell you what they made of one of the best possible starts anyone can have in life - a Bishops education. It’s something for the relatively few privileged members of our society. 

        It's remarkable that at Bishops we all started this race on the same line but went on to have very different lives. Hopefully my final year colleagues, who might be reluctant to contribute their memoirs, will take this philosophical advice to heart: “Blowing your own trumpet is the most hygienic way of doing it” - JA.

         My last school year seems to have had more than its share of Very Old Boys or Old Diocesans to give them what they would prefer to be called. They all had the benefit of an education for the elite at the Diocesan College, commonly known as Bishops in Cape Town.

Jon Abbott not 
taking any chances

         What really stands out for the 1951 Class is the number of ODs who are in the running to be the first to reach a century being almost 90 now. I accept that this is like no other race as most of them will probably be eliminated before they reach the finishing line, and sadly there’s little they can do to change that.

          A lot of us have had a varied and incredibly good innings already, so it will be even more impressive if one can reach that elusive 100 mark not out. If it’s not me please be sure to let me know who makes it so I can be the first to announce the result on my blog. I am assured that if he is not already a member of the OD Union he will be given free membership for life.

          Because of the unusual feature of this race it has been difficult for me to know exactly who is still in it now, or who has gone to that happier sports field beyond, where everyone is a winner.

          Dedry Weich in the office of the OD Union very kindly gave me a list of my year’s ODs that they still have contact details for. Understandable she is not allowed to give me their email addresses, but she did email them requesting that they get in touch with me. She had addresses for 19 out of 37 on her list whereas I was told there was originally 66 boys altogether.

          The response I have had so far has been disappointing, either I misjudged the interest this would generate or there are survivors too old or too modest to give me their life story in a few hundred words, or............ This has been a bit of a minefield of touchy egos.


Michael Mathews (aged 88), who was also in School House, deserves special thanks for being quick to pass on his extensive knowledge of OD affairs to an ignoramus like me. He also made a considerable effort to persuade hesitant contributors to let me use their story and he believes there are 36 of us still around.

Mike set the ball rolling with his potted life story. Here's a list  of our OD’s and their occupations that include those who are still with us, and those who are not that he compiled from his memory bank, with the help of the names Dedry gave me. I have also added ones taken from my own research. *The italics indicate the deceased.

Chairman:  Julian Ogilvie Thompson (87) Anglo American and De Beers, also a Rhodes Scholar. He is by far the top achiever of our year.

Architects: Basil Sgoutas (87), Anthony Hockly (88) and Michael Calder.

Authors: David Dallas, Michael Mathews (88) and Neil Huxter (88), Poet and Rhodes Scholar.

Businessman: Michael Mathews (88) who was also an Author.

Conservationist: Bob Murray (88).

Farmers: Ken Saywood (87), John Torr, Godfrey Gird and Ian McGregor.

Hotelier and Farmer: Frank Musson.

Journalist and Private Eye: Jon Abbott (88), an Author as well.

Lawyer: Storm Reilly (87), Bruce Hart (88), Pierce Newton King.

Medical doctor: Steyn Louw.

Men's Clothing Representative: Peter Copeland.

Parsons: Alistair McGregor (88) and Tim Bravington

Professors: Tim Shaw (87) and Adrian Gear (87).

Rhodes Scholar: Christopher Lawrence.

Springbok rugby player: Tommy Gentles.

The ones Mike didn’t know were:  Rowland Thompson, Jeremy Hewett, William De Villiers, Bruce Balne-Hart, David Brink, Donald Ayres, Bob Murray, Michael Elliott, Rory Arnold, Jeremy Twigg, Reyner Body, Lawrence Solomon, Paul Goodlet, Martin Tromp van Diggelen, Reid Howes, Robert Burgess, David Needham, Bob Morris and Neils Hauffe.

Julian Ogilvie Thompson really came up trumps with his "A Fortunate Life." It's something every Bishops boy would have had reason to expect but his was far more exceptional than the rest of us had. 

Donald Goodspeed, John Groves and Tom Morse contacted me as a result of Dedry’s circular email. So that was encouraging until I only got one hit out of these three when it came to getting them to pen me the story of what became of them after Bishops.

Here’s Donald’s perceptive introduction to his contribution:

          “My first reaction to Jon’s request,” he wrote, “was ‘no ways’ am I going to put myself on display. But then, perhaps he is giving us the unusual opportunity to write our own obituary! So ‘OK.’”

           The other two did not see it like that. John sent me an extremely interesting account of his life together with his photograph only to back out at the last minute. Although I had made it clear that what I was writing was for my blog he some how got the idea that it would be restricted to the Bishop's website and would not be available for outsiders to see. It was not as though he had revealed any dastardly deeds in his background that he was ashamed of. I was told to delete everything he had emailed me.

           Tom on the other hand initially thought I was trying to organise a reunion, but when I told him what I was up to he replied: "I cannot imagine anyone would be interested in what I have done."

           Retired architect Tony Hockly also declined my invitation to air his life on my blog.

           Apart from Julian Ogilvie Thompson, Mike Matthews, Donald Goodspeed, I also got a good response from Storm Reilly's wife Patricia. I'll explain this when I post his life story. Then last but no least there's Your's Truly's crazy mix up life.

         I'll welcome late comes, but they must not forget that time is not on our side. 

          There must have been something special in the food for us borders in School House because the majority of these durable codgers in the Class of 51 were in that house.

Things were not nearly as enlightened at Bishops in our day as they have been in recent times. I am sure that like me the rest of our year must have been disappointed to learn that practical sex education classes were only introduced long after we had all left. It’s distressing to think that in my formative years I missed out on what some Bishops boys have enjoyed at the College. No wonder I failed to keep my first two wives happy. “Three,” my present wife of 49 years piped up.

Dream teacher

In 2019 history teacher and water polo coach Fiona Viotti made a huge media splash when she took playing ball too far for a 173 year old Church school founded by Bishop Robert Grey. She resigned after her sexual antics with a matric boy were exposed and it then emerged that she had scored with five other boys between 17 and 18 from as far back as 2015. All the school needed to complete this embarrassing episode was for one of them to have become a father.

The life stories I get will be in posts that follow this one with a heading that begins with the name of the contributor like this: Jon Abbott in Bishops College's Class of 51’s Race to 100.

Best of Luck to all Competitors,



P.S. Here are the links to the life stories of the following:

Julian Ogilvie Thompson (View Post Here)

Michael Mathews (View Post Here)

Jon Abbott (View Post Here)

Donald Goodspeed (View Post Here)

Storm Reilly (View Post Here)

P.P.S. It’s unlikely that you will find any errors in this post or the ones that follow on the same subject, but if you do please be understanding enough to excuse them because of the senility of the writer.