(b 1941) I was born, two years into the second world war, in a small rural town in South Africa. My father was an Episcopalian pastor and my mother an high school teacher. Of interest for historians is that the last organised “diamond rush” took place, from the town where we lived. Following the second world war, when my father served in North Africa, my childhood and early teens were spent at different parishes in Natal, SA.
A first encounter with timber was during the time my family lived in an isolated village with no electricity, railway or tarred roads. The house was surrounded by dense Pinus sylvetris planted in the 1920’s. The house lighting was by paraffin lamps and the gloom caused by these trees was oppressive. My mother ordered at least some be removed. A team of local wood cutters and sawyers turned up. They dug a saw pit in the garden and after felling a number of trees cut the logs into planks. An unforgettable memory.
My father in retirement took up wood carving, perhaps because my grandfather was a carpenter on the gold mines. When my wife Laura and I married, we asked guests to bring “trees” for wedding presents. At that stage our home was a small holding on a rather bleak parcel of land initially devoid of trees but with a good bore hole and wind pump. Over ten years or more, we planted and nurtured these wedding trees and planted another thousand or more of different varieties. Our challenge was drought and fighting fires, sometimes winning but often loosing with tears.
A national highway development, persuaded us to be removed from this spot. We found another small holding, this time with a small seasonal river. Tree planing started again including many indigenous and exotic varieties.
On the commercial side, I developed a system of portable chemical toilets (unheard of in Africa in those days where a spade was standard equipment). I designed the toilet compartment to be built using four standard domestic doors bolted together. Unconventional but very cheap and providing employment. Hired out as Rent-a-loo’s the business was successful, the construction worked and some of the companies we set up keep going today. Persuaded to sell the company, my wife and I then spent time working with local communities of farm workers, who were being evicted due to political upheaval. It was our privilege to meet Nelson Mandela and Archbishop Desmond Tutu through this work.
Business beckoned and in conjunction with my son Mark we developed a UV curing system, a technology well before its time. This was responding to the need for cheap colour material for adult literacy students. Printed material of this type was out of their reach. The SeriPrinter (as we called it) interested the RICOH group in Japan sufficiently to establish a product line. By arrangement with my Australian partner, the SeriPrinter was manufactured in the United Kingdom, so we moved to Whitchurch in Hampshire, where we still live. The main take up was printers across the United States and for many years this country was a regular commute for our family. The SeriPrinter continues as a legacy product for those who have not found an alternative and my son and daughter-in-law have taken over the company, Freed up, so to speak, I have developed a novel picture framing system called Smartframz. As this stage, in its infancy I have a bit more time for the interesting study of wood which ties in with my Smartframz development.