Wednesday, 25 May 2016


The year was 1975. I was about to turn 25 and I was travelling to a foreign country where I knew absolutely no one; I had just a couple of hundred quid in the bank. At least I had a job waiting for me. I knew that I wanted to taste the world, to see what was out there and be a part of it. I hasten to add, I knew nothing about South Africa except it was warm, sunny and a blessed relief from the cold and grey English winter. Little did I know that South Africa sanctioned the most brutal regime against ‘blacks’ (Africans) in their own country through laws known as Apartheid. Laws that had created a number of ‘homelands’ in the 1960’s, where up to 4.0 million Africans were forcibly removed. Rural dumping grounds in the most unproductive regions of the country, which provided cheap black labour for white employers.

I was prepared to ignore the politics because excitement beckoned. My Mum and Dad, bless their hearts, did not mumour one word of caution or warning, and without a care in the world were about to wave me off to my new life from Heathrow airport – maybe if I had been more aware, I may have seen some apprehension on their part, but they didn’t show it.

I still don’t know how or why this event had happened. I was meant to emigrate to Canada but their Embassy had lost my emigration papers after a delay of 4 months, and sick of the thought of re-applying I had responded to an Ad in the Daily Telegraph for Computer Programmers in South Africa – no problems with lengthy formalities, just fill in the forms and Permanent Residence would be granted within 3 weeks. I had applied for and been accepted for a computer programming job at OK Stores in Johannesburg, which was also the largest retail organisation in South Africa. And they had 2 IBM 360/55’s with 512K of memory each, which was simply huge for that time (remember that Apple and Microsoft had not been invented at this point, and all programs had to be written onto pieces of coding paper and then punched and verified onto punch cards, and returned in a metal tin. It may seem pretty basic today, but at the time it was cutting edge).

I came home one evening from my fantastic job as one of a select group of computer programmers with Nestle in the UK, to give the news to my Mum and Dad that I was leaving this gift of a job, a secure career with one of the largest multi-national companies in the world (based in Switzerland), to go half way across the world to virtually a ‘police state’ where anything could happen, and probably would! And they didn’t bat an eyelid – not a word of warning or disapproval – they just carried on as if everything was perfectly normal! Insane!

The next 3 years would be a kaleidoscope of people and events, clarity and confusion, like on a continuous wave driving me forward without any control. It appears at times that I didn’t know what I wanted to do in those years, that I had lost my rudder in life and was aimlessly pushing forward without a clear direction. It’s impossible to impose order, or reason or logic on this period of my life. But that’s the great thing about being 25; the events of everyday life are unpredictable, and any pattern is difficult to discern. You just have to ‘go with the flow’!

For me, everything was in front of me – new places, new friends and new experiences. The time was 1975, I was turning 25 years old and I had some living to do.

My name is David Haigh, and this is my story of the communal house scene in Johannesburg between 1975 and 1978.

Read on…

Note:   Prices quoted are in South African Rand. In 1975, R1 = $1.10 AUD.
If you live in Australia, you must multiply 1975 prices by 7 to get current day prices. So in 1975, something costing R1 (or $1.10 AUD) would today be worth approx. $7.70 AUD

Authors Note: The events described here are true; as memories of when things happened begin to fade, they may not have happened in the exact sequence described, but they did happen. Some of the direct quotes from people are taken from my assumption of what may have been said at the time. The characters are true but some of their names may have been mistaken or forgotten over time. Nothing in this story is made up!!
It should be remembered that the era of the 70's was fundamentally different to today; it was the era of free love, student unrest, dope smoking and racial segregation (in South Africa). This Blog is my personal account of those times. 
Events are described in the present tense as if they are happening as I describe them. This is just a convenience to the story-telling.

To access each chapter (or Post) in this Blog, find my 'Blog Archive' in the right-hand Panel and access each chapter by clicking on it.

Friday, 20 May 2016

Who's Who

David Haigh – Houghton and Tyrone. Author of Blog. Lives Melbourne
Rosie Izard – Houghton and Tyrone. David Haigh’s GF. Deceased UK 2014
David & Gayle – Houghton. Editor of Communal House newsletter. Later by Pat Myhill.
Carol – Houghton
Dieter – Houghton
Peter – (photographer) Houghton

Joshua – House boy

“Chuck” Sharpe (6’6” crane mechanic) and girlfriend Viv – early Tyrone
Len Taylor and Colin (Londoners) – early Tyrone
Chris Pond – early Tyrone
Graham Fisher (ex-Rhodesian) – early Tyrone. Lives Fremantle, WA
Norman & Geraldine (cockneys) – early Tyrone

Eva Schweitzer – early Tyrone. Swiss. 
Bryan Wasserman (ex-Rhodesian) – Tyrone. Deceased Joburg approx. 2003
Mike Sterne – Tyrone. Married Belinda. Lives Perth, WA

Chris Burgess – Friend of Mike S. and Johnno
David Forrest – Tyrone. Lives Lake District UK
John and Michele Shanahan – Tyrone. John ex A.C. Nielson. Live Sydney
Nick O’Keefe – Tyrone
Dawn Breary – Tyrone

Brian Gallagher – Dawn's BF. They later married 
Marlene Blomerus – Tyrone. Lives Joburg

Janus Blomerus – Marlene's brother. Lives Calgary, Canada
Johnno – Tyrone and La Lucia, Durban. Lives Geelong, Victoria
Sarah Evans – Johnno’s GF.
Paul Overton – Tyrone. Deceased Brighton, UK approx. 1990

Pat Myhill – Tyrone, MilnerLoo &Jubilee Rd. Paul Overton’s GF. Lives Ramsgate, nr Durban
Tony – Bryan W’s brother. Deceased London, UK mid-1980’s

Yvonne Reynolds – Bryan W's GF. Lives Saskatoon, Canada
Sally-Ann Dawson – Bryan W’s GF. Lives Kenton, Eastern Cape

Maggie – Tyrone. Deceased Joburg 2014
Bryan Bourke – Lives Perth
Steve Hoppe – Tyrone

Carol – Tyrone
Deere – Cook/maid, and Josiah – Matabele gardener

Belinda – Rachan. Married Mike Sterne. Lives Perth
Dan Archer – Rachan. Deceased Capetown 2013
Chris Little and Marilyn – Rachan. Now married, Joburg

Redmond – Rachan
Ray Ninow – Rachan. Lives Auckland

Other Houses
Brian Turner – Milner Loo. Married Charmaine (Gasworks). Lives Durban
Peggy-Ann Mist – Milner loo
Elsbeth Tilly – Milner Loo. Ken Bell's GF
Ken Bell, Charlene, Bruce Bain and Patti – Milner Loo
Alec Spiller – Gasworks
Malcolm – Gasworks
Charmaine – Gasworks. Married Brian Turner (Milner Loo). Lives Durban
David Tranter – Gasworks. Canadian. Peggy Mist's BF.
Peter Robinson – Roman
Dave – Roman
Nat – Roman
Paul Matheson
Len Bolton – Square One. Married Pat Myhill then divorced
Chris Helm – Square One
Mac Glaser – Square One
Rex Devereaux – Kiwi Estate

John and Sue Parkes - edited the Communal House newsletter before Pat Myhill.
Alison Laing – Hyde Park. Mac Glaser's GF. Pat Myhill moved here after Tyrone

Julia Clements and Gayle – Cyril’s Six
Lucy Kenna (Freks) – Gail Road
Trevor Johns – East Street
Roger Savage – 'Savages' and Cumberland Castle
Helena – Rosebank
John Metcalfe - Parktown
Yvonne Hoy – Lives Johannesburg
Merlin Grant – ex A.C. Nielson. Lives Johannesburg
Cliff MacGregor – ex A.C. Nielson. Lives Cape Town
Mary Lion – Florence Nightingale Hospital
Peter Knot and Tony – Jubilee Road
Annie – Jubilee Road
John Spurgeon – Buccleuch
Alan and Les Henley-Barker – La Lucia, Durban. Alan died Sydney 2013
Gerry and Julie Barker – La Lucia, Durban. Now married, Perth
Leah – Gardens suburb, Cape Town

OK Stores, Commissioner St., Joburg
Taffy Hewson – Director (played rugby for South Africa)
Paul – DP Manager
Jenny  Charters – Sec to Paul, DP Manager (also at Sox, Bedfordview)
David Swanson – Computer Programmer
Derek – Systems Analyst Manager
Peter – Operations Manager

List of Communal Houses. Johannesburg 1975

*This list was created by Gayle in Houghton who edited the Communal House newsletter
Ark - Westcliff
Bacchus – Ferndale
Barge Inn – Linksfield
Bastille - Parkview
Bellosquardo - Auckland Park
Bishops Arms – Norwood
Cardigan – Parkwood
Chateau Chunder – Observatory
Chateauneuf – Kelvin
Clog Hall – Cyrildene
Club 47 – Lower Houghton
Cuckoo’s Nest – Malvern
Cumberland Castle – Bedfordview
Cyril’s Six – Highlands North
Durham Arms – Raedene
Eton Arms – Parktown
Fagapagati – Observatory
Forty Nine – Bellevue
Gail Road – Parktown West
Ganga – Parkhurst
Gasworks – Randberg
Houghton – No.1, 2nd Avenue, Houghton
Hassle Hall – Witkoppen
Heath Place – Blackheath
Jalis Inn – Highlands North
Jubilee Road – Parktown
Karonga – Blackheath
Kiwi Estate – Bryanston
Klip Street – Observatory
Kruger Road – Oaklands
La Petit France – Sandown
Louis Arms – Westcliff
Main Jollers – Greenside
Melville – Melville
Milner Loo – Observatory
Mondello – Bordeaux
Mothers – Greenside
New Lodge – Rosebank
Nikajumi – Parkview
Pig Pen – Berea
Pink House – Illovo
Preller Drive – Roosevelt Park
Rachan – Club St., Linksfield
Roman – Club St., Linksfield
Royal Academy – Observatory

Savages – Kensington
Soixante Neuf – Bryanston
Slide – Kew
Square One – Sandown
St. George’s – Observatory
Sting – Bryanston
Stud – Randburg
Swamp – Edenvale
Tyrone – Club St. Extn., Linksfield
United Nations – Northcliff
Watership Down – Northcliff
West End – Sandown
White House – Houghton
Wild West One – Houghton
Xanadu – Sandown
Ye Olde Pumphouse - Maraisburg
York Street – Berea


Jan 75
Fly to Johannesburg from Heathrow
Start work at OK Stores, Commissioner St., Joburg
Braai at Paul Sumner’s house
Move into Kensington house

Feb 75
Derek and his gun (at work)
Impressions of Joburg and South Africa
The ‘black problem’
Sunnyside Hotel, Parktown

Mar 75
Rosie arrives in Joburg
Rosie gets a job in Oz Boutique, Hillbrow
We move into ‘Houghton’

Apr 75
Party at ‘Houghton’ Meet Irish Lucy (‘Freks’)
First encounter with South African ‘dakka’

May 75
Joshua is caught behind the bar drinking
Garden boys at the weekend
Rosie has her portfolio photographed by Peter

June 75
Braai in the highveldt
‘Freks’ does some modelling poses for Peter and I

July 75
Bar Night at Jubilee Road

Braai at ‘Houghton’
Blue movie “Behind the Green Door” at Chateau Chunder
Police road block

Aug 75
Gayle springs surprise on David!
David and Gayle move out of ‘Houghton’
Rosie and I move to Tyrone
Sept 75
Joe serves dinner with white coat and gloves.
Party at Rachan.
Movie Nights and Bar Nights at Tyrone

Oct 75
Horse riding at the ‘Saddle Up Ranch’ near Heidelberg
Johnno moves into the outside room beside the pool

Nov 75
Saturday afternoon braai/party with Oompah band
I buy Mini Clubman
Joe runs illegal shebeen at back of the house.
Rosie and I go to Kruger Game Park 

Dec 75
Camping weekend at Sodwana Bay, near border with Mozambique
I become Pool Attendant responsible for the pool cleaning etc
Python snake discovered in pool filter

Jan 76
I buy 3 A-H ‘frog-eye’ Sprites for restoration
Party at Cyril’s Six with Gayle and Julia
Camping weekend at St Lucia, north of Durban
National Service and guys from OK Stores go to war in Angola
Pat Myhill moves into Milner Loo

Feb 76
Johnno plays tennis with Peter and Tony at Jubilee Road in Parktown
Party at Jubilee Road
John and Michele Shanahan’s wedding at Tyrone.
Richard moves out and Paul Overton moves in

Mar 76
Keith and Julie, English hitchhikers, stay in the lounge
Bryan builds Bar in the garage
Mega-party at Tyrone to celebrate opening night of the Bar
David Forrest moves out and Maggie moves in
Mike Sterne takes over as Treasurer

Apr 76
Bryan repairs the mains electricity to the house
More holes in the roof and buckets are needed when it rains
Bryan and I get trail bikes.
Weekly Bar Nights in the garage.
Incident at the central railway station.

May 76
Tyrone gambling and blue movie “Emmanuelle 2 
Weekly roulette nights
The South African police pay us a visit
Nick O’K gets a trail bike
Trail bike riding in the veldt. Wheelies by the pool
Maggie moves out and Carol moves in

June 76
Weekly Bar nights in the garage; one of the ‘patrons’ fires a few rounds in the garden
Soweto uprising. Deaths and more unrest in Alexandra
Carol moves out and Marlene moves in
House Olympics at Gasworks in Randburg.
Overnight support of computer systems at OK Stores

July 76
Party at Jalis Inn
Bryan, Nick and I get lost in Soweto on our trail bikes
The Irish ‘troubles’ in England
Mike visits America and meets US president Gerald Ford
Drakensburg Mountains and Blyde River Canyon

Aug 76
I sell Mini and buy back VW Beetle I previously owned
3-day strike in Soweto of 150,000 - 200,000 black workers
Violence spreads to Cape Town - 33 people are shot dead
Sept 76
Michele’s 21st birthday party and the Pavlova
The “Rocky Horror Show” with Bryan W's brother, Tony
Sporadic outbreaks of violence continue to occur in Soweto
Rioting breaks out in Johannesburg
Mike and Belinda spend a weekend at Londolozi Game Reserve
Rosie leaves the house and joins Kiwi Estate in Bryanston

Oct 76
I meet Helena who is 40!
Mike and Belinda are a couple
Marlene goes out with Dan Archer from Rachan
The township of Soweto flares into violence again
Mike and the waterbed episode
Freks and I get friendly
Nov 76
JP is seeing Mary Lion, a nurse from the Florence Nightingale Hospital
Hangi in the garden, Kiwi-style
Spit-roast at Freks house
Proposition at the Rand Inn hotel
Dec 76
TV introduced in South Africa (Tyrone gets a colour set)
Hillbrow nightlife (Shiaparelli’s dance club)
Bongs, pipes and gourds
An attractive stranger visits the house on afternoons

Jan 77
Leah, Marlene’s friend from Cape Town, stays at Tyrone
Servants – washing, cleaning and housework 24/7
Tyrone weekly shop at Checkers supermarket
John S. falls asleep at dinner
Johnno moves out (to Durban) and Steve Hoppe moves in
I move to the outside room by the pool
Bureaucracy – the Langlaagte Traffic Department
Terry flies John S. and Michele to the Kruger Game Park

Feb 77
Nick gets ‘tick-bite fever
Mary Lion and I are going out
Stripper and bar night at Tyrone. Glenda Kemp and her pet python is a ‘no show’
Mary and I visit Johnno in Durban.
Beach episode in Margate, south of Durban

Mar 77
Nick O’Keefe sets off by bike on his trans-African adventure
Dawn moves in
Paul is going out with Pat Myhill who works with John S. at A.C.Nielson
I trial the first IBM program library system in South Africa
ANC rebels are being trained in Rhodesia, Botswana and Mozambique

Apr 77
Dinner at a local restaurant – we all change tops with each other
Braai in the high veldt with house members
Casino weekend in Swaziland.
Michele heads home to NZ to finish her nurse training

May 77
Paul Overton and I visit Johnno and Sarah in La Lucia, Durban
Gerry Barker goes for a training run with Julie Angel
Alan Barker is going out with Lesley Henley
Johnno’s room is flooded in a storm
Party time in Durban
Surfing at Umhlanga Rocks, North Durban.

June 77
Paul Overton and Pat Myhill holiday in Rhodesia
Johnno drives the Eastern Cape surf route to Cape Town
Johnno and I stay with Leah in Cape Town – Hout Bay, Table Mountain, Stellenbosch
District Six is demolished and renamed a ‘whites-only’ suburb
Plan to leave South Africa – overland from Joburg to Cairo

July 77
Formula One Grand Prix at Kyalami, Joburg
I see Rosie for last time
Paul O. moves out of Tyrone (to work in Lusaka) and Pat Myhill moves in.

Aug 77
Blue movie “Deep Throat”, with Freks, at Eton Arms in Parktown
I am going out with Jenny, my boss’ secretary at work
I secretly check out my personnel file at work

Sept 77
The death in detention of Steve Biko
Johnno and I plan our trans-Africa trip
Tyrone is auctioned for R1.5 million; more holes appear in the roof and upstairs gets flooded

Oct 77
Steve Hoppe and I go camping
Dinner at Jenny’s house
Lake Hartbeespoort Dam for lunch in the A-H Sprite

Nov 77
Urban Legend at the Carlton Hotel in Joburg
Passports, injections and exchange controls for our trip
The guys at an adjacent house build a concrete-hulled yacht

Dec 77
New passports arrive
Final farewells

Jan 78
I sell Beetle to Marlene for R50 – a steal

Feb 78
Time to leave - Johnno and I go overland to Cairo via Botswana, Zambia, Malawi and Kenya

Mar 78
Michele returns to South Africa after her final year of nurse  training in NZ
Tyrone is disbanded; to be re-developed for a townhouse development

Photos. 1975 - 1978


Rosie at Kyalami

David at Kyalami

Michele at Tyrone
Olympics - Rex Devereaux (3rd from R)
Olympics - Johnno and John S.
Olympics - Tyrone team (Marlene, Sarah, Michele, Bryan, Johnno and Nick). John S., Mike S., Rosie, me and Tony missing

Olympics - Jubilee Rd team (Pat Myhill 4th from L)

Olympics - John S. (right) on 'Slippery pole'
Olympics - 'Beer race'
Olympics - Michele puts one away for the Team

Maggie and Bryan Bourke

Houghton - Our room top front+balcony
Braai in the high veldt
Braai in the high veldt

Rosie at Kruger Game Park
David at Kruger Game Park

Irish Lucy ('Freks')
Freks and Rosie at Houghton
Ken Bell and David on drive to Sodwana Bay

Rosie at Sodwana Bay, near Mozambique

Rosie and cat at Houghton

David's 'Frog-eye' Sprite

St. Lucia - Johnno, Nick and Julia

Camping at St. Lucia

John and Michele's wedding
John, ?, Deere, Joe, Michele (L to R)

Peggy Mist and Pat Myhill - John and Michele's wedding

Beer supplies for the mega-party

Bryan W. before the mega-party

Mike S, Dave F, Bryan W, ?, Keith
and Tony after the party

Trail bikes

The 'Three Rondavels' - Drakensburg

Drakensburg - the 'Three Rondavels' from our lodge

Nick in the Drakensburg

David in the Drakensburg

Drakensburg - David horse-riding

Drakensburg Mtns

Rosie cooling off


John S.

Resort accommodation
The gorge

Local inhabitants

More local inhabitants
'Freks' and Rosie

David and Bryan W.


Michele behind the bar
Camps Bay, Cape Town

Rachan (next to Tyrone)
Roman (below Tyrone)
Mike and Belinda (Tyrone porch)

John and Michele (Tyrone porch)
Janus Blomerus and John S. (Tyrone Bar)
Julie (Keith GF), Mike S, Nick, David, Nat (Roman),
friend, Bryan W, Dave F, Paul Matheson, Tony W,
and Keith (hitchhikers)

Mike S, Johnno, Michele, Nick, David,
and Rosie (background) 


Julia (back view), Johnno, Nick, John S,
Tony W (playing darts)

Julia Clements

John and Michele (wedding) with Fr. Leathem

Relaxing - Irish guys from Kiwi Estate
John S's Alfa (background)

Pool party on the lawn

Johnno - table laid for champagne breakfast

Sarah Evans - Johnno's GF

John and Michele at Kruger Game Park

Kruger Game Park - never turn your back
on a crocodile!

Michele making lunch
Rachan pool - Michele, Ken Bell, Pat Myhill,
and Peggy Mist

Rosie and Michele


John - working on his fitness

Bryan Bourke

(L to R) Alec Spiller, ?, Nick (obscured),
and Michele

(L to R) Nick, Michele, David H,
Rosie and Alec Spiller (back of head)

Josiah, our garden and house boy, serving
drinks in his white jacket

Michele, Rosie, Bryan W, and Nick
posting up wedding photos

Johnno and Nick play tennis at
Jubilee Road in Parktown

Nick, Johnno, Michele (back view)
and Peter at Jubilee Road

Peter, Johnno and Marlene Blomerus

Tyrone - "Good times"!
To continue with the story, scroll to the Blog Archive in the right-hand panel and click on '1975: January to December'.