14 Jun A Morning With Two Special Ladies
A morning with two special ladies
I was privileged enough to spend a morning with two wonderful ladies, Doreen Allsop neé Golden, and Shirley Swanepoel, neé Lawrence, who both attended ‘Miss Fuller’s Homestead’ school on the Plaston road approximately 80 to 90 years ago. Shirley is pupil number 60 and Doreen is pupil no 27 on the original Miss Fuller’s Homestead School Register. Doreen’s husband Eric Allsop was pupil no 4 registered for Miss Fuller’s Homestead School. Doreen’s daughter Margaret Allsop, also joined us for tea. Doreen recalls that the time came for her cousin Dulcie Goodwin to go to school. Dulcie’s mother Dixie Goodwin was anxious that good quality education be available for her children. Good foundations had been laid by Noonie Cazelet who had run the first private pre-school in White River. Dixie was pleased to hear of the arrival of Miss Matilda Fuller an experienced teacher in 1927, who had come out from England to look after her brother, Bishop Fuller. He had in the meantime got himself neatly married, so he didn’t need a sister to look after him. It is thought that Bishop Fuller owned the Homestead property and that Miss Fuller took ownership of the property at a later stage. On Miss Fuller’s arrival, Dixie asked Miss Fuller ‘what am I going to do about school for Dulcie?’. Miss Fuller replied, ‘Don’t worry, my dear. I will start a school when the time comes.’ Mrs. Page also had an English speaking daughter, called Barbara the same age as Dulcie. Mrs. Page also wanted her daughter Barbara to go to school, so there were the two of them. As the English children grew old enough, they started going to Miss Fuller’s like a day school, then she ended up having a small boarding school. Pupils came from Nelspruit, Alkmaar, and Sabie. There were approximately 8 pupils at Miss Fuller’s Homestead school when she started. According to Miss Fuller’s register, they were Dulcie Goodwin, Barbara Page, Mary Andrews, Anne Calder, Eric Allsop, and Henry Wolhuter. Miss Fuller’s classes were held in the lounge. As the school grew, more desks were brought in. Classrooms were built as an extension to the main house, and later two dormitories were added; with 7 or 8 beds per dorm, one for the girls and one for the boys. There weren’t many boarders, Dorene and Shirley recall the Cox girls, the Parsons, Ruth Ludman, Nancy, and Joyce from Elandshoek, not sure if Selome and Esther Rachmiloff’s were boarders. There was ‘rest’ time after lunch for both Boys and Girls. The verandah was fly-screened and served as well as a dance studio, stage for drama productions, etc.
Doreen took a look at the early register of pupils who attended Miss Fuller’s Homestead and recognized Wendy Whyte (no 23 in the register) and Clifford Viner (no 22 in the register), who lived near Shirley at Plaston. They recall how the Jones boys were often feared by the girls. Doreen mentioned that she is still in touch with Nancy Parsons daughter who lives in the Natal Midlands. If one takes a look at the names in Miss Fuller’s registry, you notice many ‘old’ Lowveld Surnames, such as Chaundler, Merriman, Lawrence, Allsop, etc
Shirley recalls how Miss Fuller used to take the boarders to Plaston Church once a month, for the monthly service. She also shared how Plaston got its name, which is a really interesting story. The Connaughton’s House became the first White River School in Plaston. John Connaughton, an Irish land surveyor came to live in the area. In lieu of a salary, he was granted a large tract of land in the present Plaston area called ‘The Ranch’. His land shared a boundary with Dirk van der Plas, a Dutch immigrant, and together they formed a small village called Plaston, a combination of their names. Van, der Plas built Parson, St Christophers Anglican Church, on his land. They are both buried at Plaston cemetery. There are still ruins of van der Plas original home, behind the old post office.
It is clear that ‘Fullies’, as Miss Fuller’s Homestead School was known, and Miss Fuller herself made a lasting impact. The little country school flourished and Matilda Fuller ruled this small empire for the next 16 years. She was regarded with a mixture of awe, fear, and fondness by her small charges.
School days were the happiest that they could be. It was a time of laughter, sunshine, parties, picnics, and riding.
Margaret Allsop tells the story of how her Grandfather on her father’s side, Fred Allsop, came to the area and was working on Websters Estate before it was converted. The early origins of the Allsop family were first found in the county of Derbyshire in the midland of England where they held a family seat from very ancient times. Their name was recorded in the Domesday Book, a census was taken by King William in 1086. At this time the name was spelled Elleshope. In 1175 Gamel Allsopp was recorded as having estates in or about the village of Alsop, in Derbyshire. Shirley’s father was Tom Lawrence. The White River Farmers’ Association was originally established with 29 members, Tom H Lawrence was the first member. He was very involved in the development of the White River settlement. Tom Lawrence Street in White River is named after him.