In Memory

Rodney Tyson

Rod Tyson was a lively and friendly classmate.  He was a year younger than most of us, and remained in our class only for our third from year, 1958.  After that he took a leisurely journey through the school until he matriculated with the class of 1963.  Rod was a familiar figure to anyone who took a bus from the stop above the school on Vause Rd, as his home was right next to the stop and he would often linger to chat with the waiting boys.  His proximity to the school also led him to become friendly with many of the Blackmore's boys.

Perhaps Rod's greatest claim to fame during our years at the school was his recitation of Tennyson's "Charge of the Light Brigade" at one of the school's talent contests.  Many will remember Rod's confident and impassioned declamation, with his vigourous gestures alternately signalling "Canons to left of them!  Canons to right of them!" as he practically rode with with the six hundred through volleys of thunder!

Rod's cheerful and ebullient nature is captured in this anecdote from his profile:

I lived in Vause Rd opposite DHS. About 10 yrs after leaving DHS, the school began constructing a new building opposite our home. One night, about 2 a.m., I was awakened to see this new building (still incomplete) in a mighty blaze. I called the fire brigade and wakened the boarders in the school B/E. The firemen had difficulty locating fire hydrants (covered with rubble) & I became involved in assisting them in the environment which was strange to them, but familiar to me. In the darkness, I found a policeman wandering around with a torch. I asked him to assist me to pull a fire hose up a flight of stairs. He refused. In my impatience at his stubbornness in what was an urgent situation, I "accidentally/on purpose" turned the fire hose on him. He promptly arrested me, frog-marched me to a police van parked in St Thomas Rd., and locked me in the back of the van.

I was now really frightened and thought of ways to escape. Suddenly, I saw my old latin master "Theo" nearby in the crowd. Calling to him through the bars, I explained what had happened and that I was the one who had given the alarm and "rescued" the boarders. In his typical LCWT dignified manner, he stormed off, summonsed the policeman and instructed him to release me. Unperturbed, the policeman replied "No ways - you're just one of his mates". I was then carted off to the Smith St police station where I was charged with assaulting a policeman and other things. All ended well after a 4 a.m. telephone call to my regimental commanding officer who confirmed my "good character", and the station commander sent me home in a car.  The building was, in due course, completed, and is still standing today.

After leaving school, Rod qualified as a chartered accountant and spent his professional life in Durban.  He married Charmaine Gracie in 1975.  He worked first as an accountant, and then as financial director of a large supplier of automotive parts, and retired in 2008.

Rod attended our 50 year reunion in Durban in 2011 and greatly enjoyed catching up with old comrades.  This is a photo him at our reception:

Rod enjoyed an active retirement with his wife and family -- camping, sailing, snorkelling, and scuba diving, with long trips around South Africa, Namibia, Botswana, and shorter forays overseas.  A few years ago, Rod and Charmaine moved to Cape Town to be closer to their children and grandchildren. 

Christian faith was central to Rod's life, expressed not just in church activities, but in a deep commitment to be of help to others.

Rod Tyson passed away in Cape Town on 25 August 2020, of heart disease.  He is survived by Charmaine, his wife of 45 years, his sons Tim and Steven, his daughters Sally and Susan, and their families.



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17/09/20 09:27 PM #1    

Michael Cornelissen (Class Of 1960)

I'm sorry to hear of Rod's death - he was a good man, and I knew him for a few years after he left DHS.

Rod articled with Compton & Horne, the Chartered Accounting firm where I also served my articles.

He joined as a junior when I was in my third or fourth year, and was subjected to the indignities all we articled clerks had to undergo in our early years.

Rod worked for a senior manager (and subsequent partner), one Brian Stokoe, a man of biting wit generally delivered without malice.

Stokoe concocted a story that Rod had a hidden and unusual past, in fact being an actual descendant of a secret sect of blue-eyed fair-haired people situated in a remote part of the Indian continent.

And, the story continued, Rod’s real name was actually Rod-Narainsamy George-Lal Ty-Persadh, a name that stuck with him throughout his years at Compton and Horne.

Rod took these nonsense stories about his "Indian" heritage with his customary good nature.

Furthermore, every morning at around 10 am just prior to the morning tea delivery to our desks, the most junior clerk in the office was sent down to the local patisserie with enough cash to purchase a packet of mille feuille custard slices for our consumption.  As junior clerks were paid the princely sum of R20 every month, their reward for this service was to earn a free custard slice.

These slices are virtually impossible to eat without gobs of custard filling squirting out in unexpected directions.

Stokoe instituted a protocol whereby the two most junior clerks had to eat their custard slices in competition with each other, with the speediest having the honour and financial incentive of being sent off to make the purchase the next day.

Rod achieved near-immortality by winning this contest regularly by being the only known clerk allegedly able to consume a custard slice through his nose.

All in all a character building exercise peculiar only to future members of the accounting profession.

Christopher Harris (Class of 1961) father, Norman Harris, was a partner of Compton and Horne at the time.

Michael Cornelissen Class of 1960

29/09/20 03:54 PM #2    

Adrian Tronson

Rodney 'Lightning' Tyson: Man of Legends 

I hardly knew Rodney, except that he was in my Latin class in 3LG in 1958. He otherwise inhabited the upper and headier heights of 3A but descended to LG for Theo's Latin class. We used to exchange greetings and I was struck by his cheerful and friendly disposition. I remember his 'ebullient spirit' was well in evidence at the 50threunion. Regrettably I missed the Talent Show in 1961 because of illness and didn't witness his performance of The Charge of the Light Brigade, which must have been hilarious. As indeed is his account of his arrest after accidentally (?) dousing a policeman with a fire-hose and being carted off in the paddy-wagon, despite Theo's epiphany at the crucial moment. 

                  My mother knew Rod better than I did—even if she didn't know his name at the time. He lived just opposite the 3rd form classrooms.  She used to wait at the bus-stop opposite his house every morning on the way to work and was impressed by how he would shoot out the door on the first strike of the bell, exchange a cheery greeting, and just make it to assembly before the last chime had died away.  Theo used to call him ‘Lightning’—presumably after his namesake, the 1950's English fast-bowler Frank Tyson, rather than for his mercurial passage from his front door to Memorial Hall. 

                  Mike Cornelissen's entertaining account of Rod's early professional life and the office legend that grew up around him about his (fabricated) descent from the blond, blue-eyed race 'from the Indian Subcontinent', suggests that this is the tribe that claims descent from Alexander the Great's occupation-force that he left behind in the Punjab in 327 BC. In the mid 1990s, at the height of the civil war with the Taliban, a bunch of Afghan refugees answering to this description turned up in Athens and asked for asylum as 'Greeks', since they were, as they claimed, of Macedonian descent. It's strange how some people, seem to attract outlandsh mythologies about their origins, associations and actions.



29/09/20 08:17 PM #3    

Michael Cornelissen (Class Of 1960)

Adrian, an important addition to your post:

At the offices of Compton and Horne, Rod was known as "Typhoon" Tyson, after the famed English fast bowler.

As an addendum to my Tysonic connections, some may remember that his father was  a life insurance agent representing Sun Life Insurance Company.

When I married in 1967 I approached Father Tyson to subscribe a life endowment policy in favour of my new bride.

The policy was for R5,000, a princely sum in those days.  I still own the policy whose  annual dividends today more than adequately cover the annual premiums of $100.

30/09/20 11:34 AM #4    

Richard Dold

Richard Dold (Class Of 1961)

I remember young Rod Tyson in our first class at DHS (or was it at DPHS, before that?) At the time, Rod also had a namesake, viz. Frank Tyson the England fast bowler. The MCC had a big presence in touring SA during those years and Frank Tyson was regarded as probably the quickest and best fast bowler in the world at the time. The mere mention of the name, 'Tyson' would have been enough to have sent a shiver through any Springbok dressing room! The contrast in both stature and power between these two Tysons was astronomical and I seem to recall that the topic was the butt of many a joke among us (?) 

It's indeed curious that Rod worked for Ken Mackenzie at Kaymac. As it happened, 'Stork' (or Ken) Mackenzie was a great friend of my dad's when they both flew fighters in the SAAF in the Western Desert during the War. ['Stork' was the epithet which Ken had acquired because of his long, spindly legs!] By all accounts, neither man was innately "designed" for his aerial combat role or to be a particular danger to the Hun but each duly made his contribution to the War effort and both managed to come through the whole conflict unscathed. Although, sadly, one of Stork's brothers was killed during the conflict, which had been devastating for him. Both Stork and Dad attended my Wings Parade in Bloemfontein in 1966.

    After the War, Dad and Stork went their own separate ways and the latter became a spectacularly successful businessman whose Kaymac Foundation contributed to many an educational institution, such as Michaelhouse, Treverton, and The Drakensburg Boys' Choir School, to name but a few. It was a remarkable career for one who had started off without any qualifications! According to his daughter, his secret to success was his 'magic' touch in choosing the best people to work for him!

30/09/20 01:42 PM #5    

Adrian Tronson

Does anyone know anything about Rod's cricket career at school? I can't recall having ever seen him on the field.

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