In Memory

Anthony Thompson

Anthony Thompson was a cheerful and outgoing pupil, but even at a young age he was very much his own person, with no great respect for school rules and school authorities.  Tony was a boarder at DHS  but was a keen member of the Boy Scouts and spent much of his free time at weekends and holidays on scouting activities, developing a love of the outdoors that persisted throughout his life.  After two years with us, 1958-1959,  Tony had more than enough experience of the disciplinary excesses of the boarding establishment, and transferred to Westville High School as a day boy.

Tony wanted to be a teacher but despite being a bright pupil he lacked the patience to sit through the four years of university classes necessary for the B.A. Dip. Ed. qualification, so he opted for the shorter Natal Teachers College course instead.  After his training he held teaching appointments in Pietermaritzburg at the Pelham Junior Primary School and then at the prestigious Merchiston Preparatory School, where he was head of the English department and coached both rugby and cricket.  Tony was by all accounts a dynamic, riveting, and hugely popular classroom teacher, but he disliked the bureaucratic aspects of the job and was irked by regulations and formalities.

Eventually Tony left Merchiston to pursue his other great interest, a career in nature conservation.  He worked for the Wilderness Leadership School and the conservationist Dr Ian Player, and ran a private game lodge in the Umkomaas Valley.  He also became an honorary officer for the Natal Parks Board:

Tony married Edwina in 1971 and they had two children, his daughter Caitlin and his son Ryan.  Tony continued his interests in sport and the outdoors, becoming an expert canoeist.  He participated several times in the famed Duzi Canoe Marathon, a gruelling 120 km course from Pietermaritzburg to Durban that involves challenging rapids and episodes where the canoes have to be hand-carried for long distances over difficult terrain:

In 1997 Tony made a radical change in his life by moving to Zambia to take up teaching positions once more.  He became head of department and a geography and PE teacher at Simba Secondary School in Nbola from 1998-2003, and thereafter taught at Lechwe International School in Kitwe from 2002-2009. He coached many sports, but rugby and cricket were his favourites. Tony was particularly proud of having taught pupils of 23 nationalities during his career. He and Edwina separated in 2003.

Over the years Tony had developed a familiar relationship with tobacco and alcohol -- too familiar, as he was the first to admit, for he suffered health consequences in later life.  He suffered a stroke in 2009 which made teaching and coaching difficult, so he returned to South Africa.   This photo was taken shortly before he left Zambia:

For a while Tony managed a fly fishing resort outside Howick, but eventually chronic asthma and heart problems led him to settle in the nearby retirement community of Amber Valley.  This photo of Tony with his daughter Cailtin and grandaughter Zara was taken about 2007:

Tony very much hoped to attend our 50 year reunion in Durban in 2011, but unfortunately fell ill with pneumonia just before the event.  To cheer him up, his classmates presented him with a crate of the specially labeled Wrinkles McIver Wine that was served on that occasion, and he gave this vintage a most favourable review!

In recent years Tony became unable to live independently and moved in with his daughter in Hilton.  Despite his physical problems he remained as mentally quick and alert as ever -- classmates who contacted him were struck by the extraordinary fluency of his thought and speech.  This photo of Tony with his son Ryan was taken last year, in 2020:

Unfortunately Tony fell ill with covid in July this year and became critically ill as a result of blood clots.  Surgery to stop the clotting was unsuccessful, and Tony passed away on 13 August 2021.

Anthony Thompson was a character of great vitality who lived his life on his own terms.  He is survived by his ex wife Edwina, his daughter Caitlin, his son Ryan, and his grandchildren Thomas and Zara.


[Special thanks to Pete Jubber, Roger Sheppard, and Tony's daughter Caitlin for their help with this In Memory notice.]

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06/10/21 06:39 PM #1    

Christopher Harris

Tony was one of life's refreshing characters.  I didn't know him at school but met him when I moved to Maritzburg.  As I wanted to continue playing hockey, I joined the Collegians Club and found myself a member of a team of blokes, mostly long in the tooth, who enjoyed turning out on a Sunday morning to show the younger players how the game was played.  Tony was manager, captain, head of post-match refreshments and chief party planner.  All the time I knew him, I had no idea that he was a DHS boy, assuming that he was a College lad.  He was certainly a dynamic and inspiring teacher and an outstanding sports coach.  I was an academic adviser in the Natal Education Department.  Tony assisted me by organising a holiday school for more able pupils, doing all the grunt work in making it happen.  Needless to mention, it was a good week for the kids and plenty of fun for all the volunteers whom Tony had recruited for the event.  I recently made contact with him again via Facebook and we semi=arranged to have a chat.  Sadly, that didn't happen.  I remember Tony as a guy who enjoyed life, had scant regard for authority, which sometimes got him into hot water, and who was a good friend to many.  He will be missed.

08/10/21 09:00 AM #2    

Roger Sheppard (Class Of 1962)

On to Anthony Thompson - as I understand his real name is/was.
Tony Thompson was behind me at DHS. However, I am not sure how far ahead I preceded him. We were friendly, and I recall meeting him properly at the Westville Moth Hall socials of a Friday evening. Dave Pollecut and Dicky Loader and The Blue Jeans, and then other various bands would play, and we would jive the evening away.
Tony was not a dancer, as I was aware, but, he kept a focal point going for himself with his sense of humour in company. As I recall he traveled to DHS from Westville daily, and he joined in with much banter as was around anywhere on the DHS campus.
Tony was a fair scrumhalf, and Clive Shedlock has re-affirmed this as he played fly-half to Tony in their final 1st XV days at Westville Boys' High
Tony attended Natal Training College in Pietermaritzburg circa 1968 - 71. He taught at Pelham Primary and Merchiston, and proved to be brilliant, in moments, of the fields of science, natural science, drama and literature studies for primary school children. His former Headmasters and HOD's have testified to that in clear terms.
 I witnessed a primary school presentation in the NU PMB Science faculty, the famous MSLT venue, which was astonishing. He attempted to display what is meant by an uncontrolled vs a controlled, atomic explosion, to Gr 6 and 7 primary school children. The lecture room was full, and enthusiasm was rich!
Tony laid out a triangular series of rat traps, in a perspex square bowl, probably a metre cubed, each one loaded with a ping-pong ball. To his left he had a wooden tray with perhaps 110  Lion matches - those big ones - plugged into a piece of shutter-board, perhaps half-a-match length away from each other, in this triangle of matchsticks.. 
With flashing eyes, in which Thompson had no equal, he turned to the ping-pong balls and explained an uncontrolled atomic explosion, and upon which he stood back a little and threw a ping-pong ball into the perspex cube. 
It hit a trap, that ball was released and in turn it sprung, uncontrollably, and hit an arbitrary second ball, which in turn followed suite.
In short this set into play this uncontrolled release of ping-pong balls, popping all over the cube, with many being sprung well into the audience from the rat-trap releases! Ho Ho Hum...he cried, and the audience - perhaps not really appropriately - roared. 
\When all had quietened somewhat, but with still a buzz around he turned his startling eyes to his left, and the board with its triangular layout of match sticks.
He placed a sheet of heavy aluminium foil over the whole, placed a protective pane of laminated glass between this and his audience, and then explained to watch the first single match being lit.
He used a stick with a lit match on its end, and lit the first match. This is turn lit matches 2 and 3, which in turn lit 4, 5 and 6 and 7, and suddenly the whole triangle burst into flames with a roar. He waited perhaps 2 seconds and then snappily removed the foil, the controlled explosion!
A mushroom cloud, unmistakeable, plumed into the air and so dreadfully slowly, rose to the high ceiling of the auditorium, an almost exact replica of that mushroom shape we all so fear - rightly so!. 
Tony also put on a dramatic and powerful one-man-show, a presentation of Charles Herman Bosman, at a stage in Hilton. It was stunning. He never missed a word, nor an emotional representation, or the incidents of note in the stories he portrayed. 
It was outstanding drama! He played this to full-houses for several days.
Tony knew almost all the grasses to be found in this part of the then Natal Midlands - paspalums, cynodons, you name them he knew them. He knew aloes, cussonias (cabbage trees) the many acacias here, countless birds, and butterflies.
Tony never really was meant to settle. He left his lovely wife, who he had met at NTC, and moved to Zambia. There he took on a school and remained for a number of years. 
Tony returned after much painful experiences there, to South Africa, and ended up close to his daughter in Howick. 
I contacted him to join us in a DHS OB gathering at the Garlington OB Lunch earlier this year. He did say he would call on me for a lift if he could make it.
I sat with Nick Gray and John Thompson (no relation) and let them know that he felt he could not make the lunch. 
He was in bad shape in all sense of the words.
By October of 2020 he had become seriously ill, and this could not be repulsed. Diabetes claimed him too.
Sepsis set in, as I have been informed by folk close to his daughter, and a now several weeks ago he had his left leg amputated.   
However, he remained in hospital, and Tony passed away on Friday 13 August, in hospital. His lovely former wife sent me that message.
Tony was charismatically an enigma. He had untold talent and had a mind that just raced and raced. He once told me he could never have sat through three years of undergrad; I do not doubt he had the intellectual capacity to graduate!
There is much more to tell of Tony, and given the nature of the man, I am certain he did not play the 'social gifted avuncular' to all.
Many, many children have experienced him at his best, and ...what a legacy is that!
Tony Thompson  RIP.

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