This is the speech given by Leo Fincham at the Reunion:
REUNION DINNER: 12 JULY, 2008
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.”
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.”
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.”
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.
Baisley (Geoff Hall’s daughter and Stu’s better half) has had to stay at home
due to business pressures.
have one birthday to celebrate this weekend : it is Wendy Bernhardt’s birthday
tomorrow – 13th July.
and omissions blame Frank Kennerley. He obviously hasn’t got his Tariff Guide
up to date!)
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).
Jeff Ker has brought greetings from Tony Close, Robbie Robinson, Don Berger and
Albie Whythoff, all of Zimbabwe.
may be absent, but they will always be friends. Let us drink a toast to their
health. TO ABSENT FRIENDS.
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.”
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