by Maurice McGregor, April 2002)
McGregor's father, James Abel McGregor (d. May 1924) was a Scottish bank clerk.
Somewhere around 1875 he moved from Scotland to the north of England where he
was manager of a smallish branch bank in Liverpool. Either his home or the bank
was in a suburb/village called Rainhill. Frank (1883-1977) was educated on a
music scholarship at a school called St. Michael's (where education was free
because his voice got him into the choir) and thereafter articled for some time
with an architect.
James Abel was an old tyrant who had already caused the eldest son, Duncan,
to emigrate to South Africa where Milner was reconstructing the civil service
destroyed by the Boer War. So Frank, at a guess around 1902 emigrated to South
Africa and joined his brother in Johannesburg.
Mr. Ströh, prominent business man,
picking up laundry at a well-known hotel in Rustenburg - Circa 1916.
The two brothers were
determined to get their mother, Clara Neuber/McGregor (1847-1921) and their
sister Helen, away from their father and out of the home as quickly as possible.
They must have succeeded within a few years because the deeds show that different
portions of the farm they called Rainhill were purchased by the three of them
(from Meyjes and Posthumus) in 1909. It is possible that they rented the property
for a few years before that.
Helen McGregor, "the benefactor
lady of Rustenburg"
Fruit pickers in line
McGregor Seville Orange Marmalade
My mother, Eleanor Roechling
McGregor (Ella) (1891-1975) was born in Leicester, England, and educated at
a school called Roedean and then Oxford, also on scholarships.(She passed
the exams for a BSc in chemistry but women could not get degrees in those
days. After all, how could a woman be a bachelor of science?) Milner, around
1902, had asked Roedean to start a school in Johannesburg
and my mother was recruited by her old school to go out to teach chemistry,
probably around 1910. She subsequently was a lecturer at the Transvaal School
of Mines, later the University of the Witwatresrand.
In 1915 she married Frank McGregor in the Anglican Church, Rustenburg. This
same building, lovingly transported to a new site close to the present hospital
by Ike Rosmarin and my mother, is still standing. But although Frank's mother
and sister must have been well installed at Rainhill, and Frank and Ella had
been frequent visitors, she did not go to live at Rainhill until she could
have a house of her own. So an old storeroom (the present "Big Lounge")
was repaired and added onto, and became her "house", I guess in 1919. My
brother, Hugh was born in Johannesburg in 1918. I, Maurice, was born on the
farm, Rainhill, in 1920.
Frank McGregor's plan had been to purchase this beautiful farm at Rustenburg,
for his mother, his sister and his wife to live on, and for him to follow
shortly as soon as the farm was paying. But it never did. So from 1920 to,
I think 1945 when he retired, he commuted from Pretoria to Rustenburg most
weekends. In the early 1920s, the Station Master allowed Frank to keep his
bicycle in a shed at the station. So every Saturday at noon he would cycle
up the dusty hill from the station to Rainhill, and every Sunday, back down
again. From about 1926 he commuted from Pretoria in various automobiles, taking
me with him on many weekends since I was, from 1928 to 1932, in a boarding
school, WHPS, in Pretoria. His job was in the Labor Department where his last
commitment was as Chairman of the Wage Board. (Since only Whites could join
trades unions, wages for "the rest" were fixed by " compulsory arbitration",
carried out by the Wage Board). So the Wage Board had considerable power,
which he used to the maximum, to raise the wages of Blacks and Indians in
industry and commerce. The farm never paid, of course, so he could never retire.
He told me that through most of my childhood his salary just covered the interest
on the bank loan. The first time he could afford to retire was around 1940,
but World War II had just started and he could not do so for another five
The farm was a citrus farm. It didn't do too badly until about 1930 when the
Great Depression came along and nobody wanted, or could afford oranges. So
what do you do with a lot of oranges you can't sell? You turn it into marmalade.
And this is what they did. With one large pot, Helen and Ella started to cook
and market marmalade, at first for sale to the Gold Mines and later for the
retail market. Under Civil Service rules neither a civil servant, nor a civil
servant's wife, could own or operate a company, so it was registered as Helen
McGregor's Home Made Marmalade. By about 1931 Helen dropped out, sold her
portion of Rainhill to Frank, and went to live with her friend Dora Pierce
But Ella persisted, improving the product and selling personally to every
little store and shop from Northem through to Boksburg. It slowly succeeded
and by the time the war started the little farm factory was doing quite well.(In
1940, getting vitamin C to the South African army in North Africa was becoming
an increasing problem. Ella, assisted by a chemist friend, Bernard Segal,
set about making a vitamin C-rich candy from orange juice concentrate to send
to the army "up north").
But Ella's life must have been very isolated, especially during the first
15 years or so. A trip to Rustenburg was a major treat for the children. In
a mule cart it took about two hours to get there. Once arrived the mules were
unhitched and installed in the stables of Philip Wulfsohn's Store. (Citizen
loyalties were divided between the two general stores, Philip Wulfsohns and
Van der Merwes) After the week's grocery shopping, and always a gift of a
chocolate bar to the children from Mr. Rapeport, or more rarely from the great
Mr. Wulfsohn himself, the family went down Plein Straat to the National Bank,
Gauldies Pharmacy and then, highest moment, the Princess Cafe for a fizzy
lemonade. If they were lucky they were allowed to wet their feet, running
behind the water cart, a tank on wheels, mule drawn, which sprinkled water
onto the dusty streets. Then, after visiting some of the Indian shops, and
always trying to sell marmalade or oranges wherever they went, back to Wulfsohn's
where the rested mules were put back into the shafts for the journey home.
By around 1925 transportation was dramatically improved by the acquisition
of Henrietta, a model T Ford, made in Canada in 1918. She was first the possession
of a Mr. Ardern who lived on Rainhill in the early 1920s. She was then acquired
by my Mother for a few years, sold to Winfred Cox/Krohn for a few years, and
eventually re-acquired in about 1927 for the staggering price of five pounds
Sterling and given to my brother, Hugh, and myself. (In about 1978 she eventually
made the trip to Canada in a container where she still lives in the country
home of Maurice McGregor's and earns her keep by transporting Frank and
Ella's great grandchildren to the local village for ice cream cones on hot
tale of Henry Hartley of Thorndale
Henry was born in Mansfield
England in 1815 and was only four years old when he came to the Cape Colony
with his family, in the Carlton party of settlers. He grew up in Bathurst
with his large family of brothers and sisters, attending the village school
run by the Rev. Boardman.
Those early days of the
settlement were full of hardships and tribulations but these conditions bred
a generation of hardy young men. Life was earnest and dangerous and in this
hard school Henry grew to manhood, well equipped for the life of adventure,
travel and big game hunting that he elected to pursue.
Henry left the Cape
Colony in about 1841 after his father's death and at the age of 25 travelled
north to the Transvaal Republic. He settled in a fertile valley in the Magaliesburg.
Here he established his farm, Thorndale. This was 47 miles southwest of Pretoria.
He was heartily welcomed there by the Boers and was one of the first Englishmen
to be domiciled in the Boer republic. He soon received his full rights as
a "burger" of the state.
On his farm, in addition
to the usual crop-and-stock husbandry, Henry initiated the cultivation of
tobacco, which later became famous throughout South Africa as the "Hartley's Horseshoe
Tobacco" and which was the solace of many thousands of British soldiers during
the Anglo-Boer war.
Henry became, in time,
one of the most celebrated hunters in South Africa. His record of 1200 elephant
has never been beaten and it certainly never will be now.
These years from 1849
to 1874 were (long succession of journeys) filled with excitement and danger.
At any time Hartley was to be found either in the Transvaal or Matabeleland
traveling by ox wagons and trading or hunting. He had acquired a sound knowledge
of drugs and was a clever amateur surgeon. He frequently treated the Matabeles
for accidents and disease and was responsible for numerous recoveries and
cures. He was thus revered as a great white medicine man amongst the Matabele.
On Hartley's last hunting
trip he was walking through the bush with his horse behind him, when a rhino
suddenly charged. Henry fired and mortally wounded the rhino when it was only
a few paces from him. The rhino overtook him and tossed him into the air.
He came down on the rhino's back. Unfortunately, the beast, in its death throes
rolled over onto him and collapsed, dead pinning him down. Henry's horse,
Bokkie, was an old friend and calling now to Bokkie, he commanded the horse
to lie down in such a way that he could get hold of the stirrup. Bokkie then
pulled him from under the rhino. Henry was seriously injured and never quite
recovered and at the age of 60, on the 8th of February 1876 he died and was
buried on his farm Thorndale.
The Hartley name however
lives on. Henry Charles Hartley senior, the great grandson of Henry Hartley,
now resides at Rainhill Farm with his wife and extended family of sons and
daughters. Hartley's, the name of the restaurant on Rainhill Farm is indeed
a fitting tribute to the first legendary Henry Hartley.
Hartleys and McGregors Intertwined
Who would ever have imagined
that fate could link these two families? Yet this is what happened.
On the 8th of July 1925
Charles Henry Hartley, the grandson of Henry Hartley married Cecilia van der
Westhuizen and settled in Rustenburg. Cecilia's mother was one of the few
midwives in the town and it was probable that she was summoned to Rainhill
to deliver Frank and Ella MaGregor's baby boy, Maurice, in 1920.
When old man Frank McGregor
died in 1977 the farm Rainhill was put up for sale. Who should have purchased
it in 1978 but Henry Hartley, son of Charles and Cecilia! What a quirk of