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Johannesburg Customs Reunion 2008

It seems the JBG Reunion 2008, held on July 12 & 13th, 2008, was a great success.  Grateful thanks to Frank Kennerley and the Committee (plus other helpers) for a well planned successful event where former colleagues were able to become re-acquainted.
To ensure the event is not forgotten, and to encourage more people to attend the next one, please send any pictures & reports/stories/comments & compliments to the webmaster.  Additionally, please feel free to add to the comments in the guestbook/weblog

A memorial photo album from this event is also available to members of the exCUSTOMSnet.

This is the speech given by Leo Fincham at the Reunion:


Some time ago a speaker asked someone from the audience what he thought of the talk he had just delivered. He was told that there were only three things wrong with it; firstly, he read it; secondly, he read it badly; and thirdly, it wasn’t worth reading. If any of you feel that I have fallen into the same trap this evening, please spare me the details. 

I seldom get a chance to tell anyone exactly what I think of them, so I consider myself lucky to have this opportunity. To borrow a phrase from my youngest son, I think you are BLOODY MARVELLOUS.  Some have travelled enormous distances from overseas; among them Aussie and Neil, and Bill, Fay and Herbie from the UK. According to a list I have, Neil is from the Isle of Wight (is there perhaps an Isle of black in that vicinity?); then John and Connie, Nigel, and Dan have come from Australia; and perhaps furthest of all, John from Auckland, New Zealand. I wonder if John would have been allowed in if the All Blacks had won this morning. From neighbouring countries have come Graham and Rona, and Pat and Coranne from Botswana; Terry and Marilee and Mike from Zim; and Ken and Anna from Beira. Still others, like Eva from the Western Cape and Yvonne from the Eastern Cape, have travelled significant distances in this country. Some have come from KwaZulu Natal, Limpopo, Gauteng, and some intrepid travellers, braving minibus taxis and the local traffic, even from Benoni. Well done, guys; it shows how highly you regard each other.

Clearly, you must be special people, who have a special affinity for your former colleagues in a Department that was, unquestionably, one of the most efficient of its kind anywhere in the world. You and others like you made it so, and I believe that you have every reason to be proud of yourselves. Certainly, the country you served with distinction also had every right to be proud of you. I have a letter from a former Secretary to the Treasury telling me just that.

It is heartening to know that many of you, having left what might almost be taken to be the comfort zone we enjoyed when we were in the Department, went on to make successes of new careers in new countries. It could not have been easy, but the same spirit and determination that made you the officers you were stood you in good stead in new, unfamiliar surroundings.

We are grateful to Aussie, who conceived the idea of the exCustoms network and got it off the ground. Were it not for his efforts we might well have lost a lot of contact with each other. It speaks volumes for his commitment that he is here this evening. He has been untiring in his long-distance efforts to sustain the momentum needed to get this reunion off the ground. We are also grateful to Arthur Adams for the work he has done in designing the website and generally helping many of us to keep in touch internationally. There are many who not are not on the network, which is a pity.

It has been a wonderful experience for me to sit on the sidelines and watch Frank and Rick deal with all the thousand and one things that had to be done to arrange everything for this reunion, which was spawned by a remark by Pete Sands at Graham Bennett’s funeral, well over a year ago. Frank and Rick, you are superb organizers. It must be a legacy from all the mischievous things you did when you were in places such as Victoria Falls, Beitbridge, Plumtree and Lourenco Marques, not all of them mentionable here. You haven’t lost your touch. You have worked really hard, and you deserve your success and our gratitude.

Occasions such as this are often tinged with sadness. There is  serious talk of a civil war erupting between ZANU-PF and the MDC.  Can anyone be anything but heartbroken by the ghastly turn of events in the country we loved?   

 The list of former colleagues who have died is becoming longer. The most recent addition to the list is Tubby Tolson, who passed away in Australia earlier this month. For now, let us remember them all with respect and affection, and let us be grateful for the memories. As Michael Caine said, “As the years go by the time we have left becomes less valuable, but more precious.”  

Many who would have liked to come cannot be here, for one reason or another. Some have sent messages of goodwill, among them Joe Robertson, from Western Australia, who said, “My regards and apologies for not being able to make it this time.” Andre Guernier from Queensland, Australia says, “Wishing you all the best for the big reunion bash. And to pass on my salaams to all the troops who will be attending. I shall be camping and canoeing up in the dry country over the next few days but will be thinking of you all and will be there in spirit if not in person.”

Roger and Irene Hiscock, from Andalusia in Spain said, “As we cannot make the 2008 Customs reunion Irene and I would like to be remembered as absent friends to all those we knew whilst I was in the Department. If any of you happen to be making a trip to sunny Spain please give us a shout.” John Clifton and Charles Wilcox said, “We send our best wishes to all our colleagues and apologise for not being able to be present at the 2008 Customs reunion.”

Derek and Ada Brent said, “We will not be able to attend the 2008 Customs Reunion. I have successfully obtained a post retirement position managing a small estate on the Unlalazi River with duties starting on the 1st of July 2008. You can imagine the upheaval exercise. Ada and I extend our love to past colleagues who were all absolutely special people.”

D’Ollie and Gail de Oliveira  said, “Regrettably Gail and I will not be able to attend. Please give our regards to all at the 2008 Customs Reunion.” Pete and Les Grieve said, “Just to wish you who managed to attend a great reunion. We just wish we could make it but… Please pass on my best wishes to anyone who remembers me, especially Dave Amos, Stu Baisley, Graham Burt, Allan and Colleen Howard, Neil Harper, Rick and Margaret Plane, Bill and Fay Jack, John Mills, Nigel Reid, Peter Sands, Ken and Anna Swinton AND Brian Llewellyn (who gave me a hard time in the training school.

(Other announcements

Lindsay Baisley (Geoff Hall’s daughter and Stu’s better half) has had to stay at home due to business pressures.

We have one birthday to celebrate this weekend : it is Wendy Bernhardt’s birthday tomorrow – 13th July.

Errors and omissions blame Frank Kennerley. He obviously hasn’t got his Tariff Guide up to date!)

John Glynn has brought fraternal greetings from Dave Sandell (Port Pirie, Australia), Peter Charlton (Brisbane), Dave Collis (Brisbane), Andre Guernier (Cairns), Dave Gillam (Auckland, New Zealand), and Dave Daniels (Reading, UK).       

And Jeff Ker has brought greetings from Tony Close, Robbie Robinson, Don Berger and Albie Whythoff, all of Zimbabwe.

They may be absent, but they will always be friends. Let us drink a toast to their health. TO ABSENT FRIENDS.

Before we ask for grace, I want to leave you with these words from the philosopher Stephen Grellet; “I expect to pass through this world but once; any good thing therefore that I can do, or any kindness that I can show to any fellow-creature, let me do it now; let me not defer or neglect it, for I shall not pass this way again.”

And now, the grace: We thank you, Lord, for all the gifts we receive from your infinite bounty. We thank you for this food, and ask that you should bless it to our use and ourselves to your service, and that we should be ever mindful of those less fortunate than ourselves.             AMEN

Below is the article that appeared in the Freight and Trading Weekly magazine on 1st August, 2008.  Many thanks to Brian Kalshoven for initiating the article, getting it published and for submitting it for inclusion in the website.  Reproduced here per kind permission of Freight and Trading Weekly Magazine.

Leo Fincham keynote address JBG 2008 reunion


Amos, David Ingwelala Pvt Game Reserve, Limpopo South Africa
Austin, John "Aussie" Northwood Hills, London United Kingdom
Baisley, Stu  Pietermaritzburg KwaZulu/Natal South Africa
Bernhardt, Rick & Wendy Benoni, Gauteng South Africa
Burt, Graham & Rona Gabarone Botswana
Fincham, Leo & Sheena Boksburg, Gauteng South Africa
Glynn, John Auckland New Zealand
Hall, Geoff Pietermaritzburg, KwaZulu/Natal South Africa
Hardwick, John & Elaine Highlands North, Johannesburg South Africa
Harper, Neil East Cowes, Isle of Wight United Kingdom
Heiden, Ron & Vera North Riding, Gauteng South Africa
Heron, Chris  Randberg, Gauteng South Africa
Howard, Alan & Colleen Springs, Gauteng South Africa
Jack, Bill, Fay & Herbie Wilstead, Bedfordshire United Kingdom
Kalshoven, Brian & Dil Musina, Limpopo South Africa
Kavanagh, Gene Boxburg, Gauteng South Africa
Kennerley, Frank & Margaret Kensington, Johannesburg South Africa
Ker, Jeff Sandton, Gauteng South Africa
Llewellyn, Brian Benoni, Gauteng South Africa
McCallum, Wade Alberton North, Gauteng South Africa
McGregor, Terry & Marilee Harare Zimbabwe
McRoberts, Andy Alberton North, Gauteng South Africa
Mills, John & Connie Warwick, Queensland Australia
Mitsialis-Souster, Eva Pinelands, Western Cape South Africa
Palm, Yvonne Summerstrand, Eastern Cape South Africa
Plane, Derek & Jo Pinegowrie, Gauteng South Africa
Plane, Rick & Duhling North Riding, Gauteng South Africa
Reid, Nigel Perth, Western Australia Australia
Richardson, Nick Gauteng South Africa
Roper, Pat & Coranne Gaberone Botswana
Sands, Peter Boksburg, Gauteng South Africa
Schoonraad, Dan Perth, Western Australia Australia
Shaw, Mike Harare Zimbabwe
Shepherd, Dennis & Yvonne Krugersdorp, Gauteng South Africa
Stirk, Neil Springs,Gauteng South Africa
Swinton, Ken & Anna Beira Mozambique
Venner, Thernon "Nobby" & Shannon Edenvale, Gauteng South Africa
Waldeck, Melvin & Val Gauteng South Africa
Wood, Peter Gauteng South Africa