Caryl looks after everything that grows
Caryl was one of the first people associated with St Francis Links, guiding the process regarding all flora on the Estate. She made sure that the protected plants stayed protected. She has since created brilliant signage with descriptions of what you find on the estate in addition to her daily improvements throughout. Caryl is part of the furniture, quietly keeping our beautiful Estate beautiful AND NATURAL! You need to appreciate the changing colours throughout the year. Who needs a trip to the west coast when it’s all here! Note: We did go to the West Coast and maybe the density was slightly greater in places!
When you see Caryl around the Clubhouse, stop her and ask her anything! She is a walking encyclopedia.
After forty happy years as a school- and headmaster, but frustrated writer, Bart retired and took to writing full-time.
In the last twenty-odd years he has produced blogs for the tourist industry, magazine articles, social history reports for government departments, two books on commission, two gazetteers and ten historical travelogues. (That on the Baviaanskloof has gone into two editions and is still selling well after nine years.)
During the Covid lockdown, he wrote blogs for our local botanical group in order to keep them motivated. Some of these he is now working on for a forthcoming book. Check this one out as it’s called A Round of Golf.
Gladiolus wilsonii on St Francis Links.
Christmas at the St Francis Links, walking a nature trail. Most of the spring or early summer flowers are over. The trail is now bordered by Monday morning-white silenes – Silene undulata – hanging out to dry after overnight showers, and by the scattered, nodding heads of the grass-lily – Cyrtanthus loddigesianus.
Then, tucked away on a bend in the path is a reminder of the very early summer, the creamy with a hint of pale mauve, fragrant flowers of Wilson’s gladiolus – Gladiolus wilsonii, and my mind wanders off in another direction, tracking down the flower-loving Wilson brothers, Alexander and John.
It’s all very well being reminded of someone, but in this case, despite paging through books, historical journals and the internet, there is very little that I know about Alexander Wilson. He was of Scots descent being the son of James Wilson, owner of the Greenside Nurseries of St Andrews, Scotland. In the closing years of the 19th century, Alexander was in Port Elizabeth (now Gqeberha) where he collected corms of a previously unnamed gladiolus and sent them to his brother John Hardie Wilson, of St Andrews University.
There was rather more to be found about John Wilson. His field of study included the disease resistance of plants, particularly potatoes. However, with his horticultural upbringing, it was no wonder that he was also a keen gardener. During the First World War, when all the University’s gardeners were called up for military service, John Wilson single-handedly maintained the University’s gardens. It is said that overwork during the war years contributed, in 1920, to his early death of pneumonia at the age of 62.
The proud boast of the golfers of St Andrews is that their courses are the most democratic in the world. This, they add, is only right and proper as the first recorded championship golf match was played by a king and a local tradesman in partnership, against two nobles.
Not surprisingly, living where he did, John Wilson also had an interest in golf. The courses associated with The Royal and Ancient Club at St Andrews are owned by the ratepayers of the town. Wilson, a ratepayer, had free access at certain times to the Old Course.
During the months of June and July, one is likely to see an Eastern Cape gladiolus growing beside the fairway at St Andrews. Perhaps John Wilson scattered seeds of Andrew’s plant while playing the course, but I suppose they are more likely to be garden escapees.
When John Wilson first received his brother’s plant from the Cape it had no name, but having successfully propagated the plant in Scotland he sent pressed specimens to the taxonomist John Gilbert Baker at Kew, who first published a description of the plant, naming it perhaps after the man from whom he had received it.
The Royal and Ancient, St Andrews, but with not a gladiolus to be seen.
While the game of golf is associated especially with St Andrews, it is believed that it was first played, using pebbles and bent sticks, bats or clubs on the fields surrounding Edinburgh, the first record of the game appearing in 1457.
Those of you familiar with Edinburgh will recall the maze of alleys and wynds that make up Old Edinburgh. Difficult enough for strangers to find their way around in the days of GPS navigation, it was well-nigh impossible in the 18th century. However, there was a solution at hand. At Mercat Cross one found a group of villainous-looking street loungers known locally as caudies, or as caddies to those from south of the Border. They acquired their name from the young Frenchmen, known as cadets, which formed a part of the entourage of Mary Queen of Scots when she arrived from France.
The Mercat (or Market) Cross in Parliament Square, Edinburgh.
The Oxford English Dictionary describes a caddie as a lad or man who waits about on the look-out for odd jobs. The caddies of Mercat Cross, who paid deference to a Chief Caddy, also acted, despite their appearance, as a local and unofficial police force. So good were they as informal constables, that it was suggested that the unemployed youth of other cities might well be used in this way.
They were also willing, for a small consideration, to guide one through the maze of Old Edinburgh, or carry one’s parcels, or even one’s golf-clubs. The Scottish writer and poet, Tobias Smollet, wrote in 1770:
Hard by in the fields called the Links, the citizens of Edinburgh divert themselves at a game called Golf. In which they use a curious kind of bat, tipped with horn, and small elastic balls of leather, stuffed with feathers.
Of this diversion the Scots are so fond, that, when the weather will permit, you may see a multitude of all ranks, from the senator of justice to the lowest tradesman, mingled together in their shirts, [One hopes that this refers to their playing without a jacket and not – heaven forbid! – to their being without their breeks] and following the balls with the utmost eagerness.
Incidentally, talking of early golfers, the first mention of a female player is in the second week of February 1567, when it was noted that Mary Queen of Scots left Holyrood Palace for the Links where she enjoyed a game of golf. From what I know of February weather in Edinburgh, she must have been an avid golfer.
At the time her appearance on the Links was regarded as scandalous, not because of the weather, or even because she was a woman, but because only a few days earlier, on the 10th of February, her husband and King Consort, Lord Darnley, had been murdered at Kirk o’ Field.
But why pass up the opportunity for a round of golf simply because one has suddenly become a widow?
Alexander Wilson was not the first to collect specimens of Gladiolus wilsonii. Seventy years earlier the traveller William Burchell, in 1813, collected plant material. Subsequently, further examples were collected by Christian Ecklon and Carl Zeyher, but despite this availability of material to European taxonomists, no one wrote a description until 1886, when JG Baker named it Tritonia wilsonii, honouring either John or Alexander Wilson or, according to Peter Goldblatt and John Manning in their 1998 publication, Gladiolus in Southern Africa, possibly both brothers. A subsequent name change resulted in its present appellation, Gladiolus wilsonii.
Locally, in St Andrews, it is commonly and understandably known as John Wilson’s gladiolus, but I feel that not only John but also his sharp-eyed brother Alexander should receive credit. And what of the influence of their nursery-man father, James? And let us not forget their mother. She, besides bearing the boys, must also have played a part in their upbringing. Whatever Baker’s intention, the whole family should receive credit.
It is likely to be a good many months before I see these blossoms again; next October at the earliest. So I raise a metaphorical hat to the dainty flowers beside the path, and also to the entire Wilson family, before passing on my way.
The pandemic is still with us, but it seems that life is becoming more ‘normal’ and we are again able to meet one another in the veld, albeit bent over and with eyes to the ground searching for that elusive ‘missing’ species.
Under the circumstances, this will probably be the last – for the time being – of the idle thoughts that have come your way over the last twenty months.
From now on we should be able once more to share our thoughts while having a picnic lunch in the shade of a tree.
The PGA is ON! 3-6 November 2022
4 May – Ecotect Medal – Ladies – Silver – Helen Bridges; Bronze – Sally Nienaber; Men – A – Chris Van Rensburg; B – Kern Wilson
7 April – Saturday – IPS – Christo van Loggerenberg
10 May – Colony Club – Margot McGregor, Elsa Senekal and Helen Bridges (ghost)
Our Next Family Fun Friday BONUS
June 3 is the date for the next Family Fun Friday with family Fun kicking off at 16h30 on the lawn. Special thanks to Deandre Dreyer and I-FIBRE for the generous support! The bonus before the Family FUN will be a talk from one of SA’s greatest “survivors”, Steve McGown, who survived 6 years after being captured by Al Qaeda. He’s on at 15h00
Download the Zapper app and take a chance!
Thank you all for caring about your course – #leading the way! Adopt a hole (AAH) works.
The 2021 Calendar and results