Nostalgic return to family farm

Esme Morris with Nazeer Sonday, chairman of the Philippi Horticultural Area Civic Campaign.

When a Meadowridge woman went to a meeting in the Philippi farmlands, she was surprised to find herself returning to her family’s old home and revisiting old memories.

Esme Morris, a long-standing member of Meadowridge Common Friends group, heard from a friend about the event, which was held by the Philippi Horticultural Area (PHA) and the Wildlife and Environment Society of South Africa on Tuesday March 19.

But Ms Morris had little idea that it would lead her to her old family home in Schaapkraal. The property PHA chairman Nazeer Sonday calls home was once owned by Mr Morris’s father, Christopher George Starke, who died at this farm in 1961.

That Tuesday was the first time that Ms Morris and Mr Sonday had met, but Mr Sonday said he had been told by Mr Starke’s grandson, John, that the property had been built by his grandfather.

“At the time, it was a master-builder house in 1955,” said Mr Sonday, who bought the house in 1991.

Mr Starke was a member of parliament and chairman of the Divisional Council. The Starke family founded the Starke Ayres seed company, which recently celebrated its 150th anniversary.

Ms Morris said her dad had once owned a far bigger farm, near the sewerage works. But World War II had come along and he had left it to her brother to look after.

Ms Morris grew up on the farm and attended Wynberg Girls’ schools. She still remembers catching the bus to and from Wynberg station.

Like her dad, she says gardening is in her blood. She is a volunteer at Kirstenbosch Botanical Garden and has hiked Table Mountain for many years, searching out plants and identifying them.

In 1947, her father sold the farm and moved to Bergvliet, which had been created for ex-servicemen. He worked for an agricultural implement company but had hankered after farming.

That is when he built the house in Schaapkraal.

There was not much social life for Ms Morris and she moved back to Bergvliet to stay with her sister before getting married in 1958.

Last week, re-visiting her past she said it was reassuring to see the farm was still running the way her dad had run it.

But she is concerned about the rest of the area.

“There are rows and rows of vegetables growing there and fields of cows. There are plans to build houses there, but it’s where our vegetables come from. What will happen to the farmers, and their labourers, and to the aquifer?”

*Tours around the PHA are being held on Saturdays until the end of April. Contact Nazeer Sonday at 072 724 3465 for details.