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1. Helen McGregor and her marmalade at Rainhill
2. The Tale of Henry Hartley of Thorndale
3. The Hartleys and McGregors intertwined
4. Photo Gallery

McGregor Family Notes
(As compiled by Maurice McGregor, April 2002)
Helen McGregor, "the benefactor  lady of Rustenburg"
Frank 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.
Mr. Ströh, prominant business man, picking up laundry at a well-known hotel in Rustenburg. Circa 1916
But 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.
Left: Mr. Ströh, prominent business man, picking up laundry at a well-known hotel in Rustenburg - Circa 1916.
Packaging the Mcgregor Marmalade

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.

 

Above: Helen McGregor, "the benefactor lady of Rustenburg"
Fruit pickers in line
Above: Fruit pickers in line
Above: Packaging the
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 years.

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 in Parys.
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 summer afternoons).


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The 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.


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The 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 fate!