A Tribute to Anthony Doidge

Pictured: Anthony Doidge with daughter Fiona

Class of 1953

05 January 1936  – 17 January 2017

Tony Doidge was born in Bergville, KZN where he lived and farmed for most of his life.

In addition to his warm and endearing personality, Tony is remembered by his classmates for his love of the school organ:

‘My fondest memory of Tony was of him perched on the backless seat of the grand organ in the Chapel, arms and legs dancing in tune to the awesome sounds of that instrument. He was, for many years the organist in his local church until, in his own words, “I had to stop, for how am I supposed to play with these banana fingers” which of course was the result of years of manual labour on his farm. At our 60th reunion in 2013, we encouraged Tony to play the school organ for us—but he politely declined, saying that he could no longer play the way that he’d like to. I was constantly impressed by his ability to speak flawless Afrikaans and Zulu and, as I was to discover later, his beautiful way with the written word.

A gentle man with always time to talk and reminisce’. (Gus Munnich).

‘No memory of Tony would be complete without mentioning his thrill when the pipe organ was installed in the chapel at Kearsney. He befriended the people installing the organ and spent every hour that he could joining them to help wherever he could’. (Denis Hopewell)

‘I have many happy memories of Tony from our years at Kearsney (in spite of him being in Gillingham!). Most of these memories are associated with my pleasure of singing in the choir and his incredible voice. In those years the choir travelled to quite a few Methodist churches to perform at their carol services or to perform over the SABC if they were having a live broadcast. Over the years there were trips to most of the churches in Durban, Pinetown and even to Pietermaritzburg, and all those trips involved travelling on the school bus which was a Bedford truck with canvass roof and sides. There was much fun and singing in the back of that truck on all those journeys’ (Denis Hopewell).

‘Of great importance to Tony was that he could escape the day to day tensions of school and retreat to the sanctity of the chapel to play the organ’. (J. Leigh)

‘Tony did not just ‘play at’ the organ—he was an accomplished organist. His tender and meticulous organ playing at the Sunday evening Services at school will remain a memory, but also the fact that he was the first student who was to be allowed to play the newly installed organ. That organ was ‘Squitty’ Oram’s particular vision and inspiration, following the dedication of the Chapel on Sunday, 2nd September 1951. He diligently supervised the installation, with a very willing hand from Tony, and the Chapel Organ was dedicated on Sunday 22nd February 1953, after which it was played for the first time.  Tony was given a key to it and told he could play it if whenever he wished’. (Terence Downard).

It is unusual to think back on classmates and to not have at least one negative memory of them– after all we lived together for 6 years and all had raging hormones—but Tony is one of those unusual people who was liked by all and gave of himself fully and generously. He was above joining cliques that are so prevalent amongst young boys, but he was welcome in any of these groups. He and John Leigh were the smartest boys in our class and there was always friendly jockeying for who got the top marks in any exam, and at the end of the year. (Michael Hall).

After matric, Tony took over the family farm from his father, who had been quite ill, and continued running it, with the help of his son Ian, until 2005. Speaking of which, he was amongst, if not the first dairy farmer to keep milk production records on a computer —a system which was subsequently adopted by farmers all over the country.

Tony was a champion for the rights of his farmworkers, and even when his neighbors were selling their farms as violence against farmers increased, he always felt that his relations with his workers, whom he spoke to in his fluent Zulu, and the surrounding communities, were so good that he had nothing to worry about. This trust was rudely and violently shattered one night when he went out to investigate a noise outside the house, and was savagely attacked, and left for dead, by robbers who were stealing piping that had been delivered to the farm. Upon regaining consciousness, Tony managed to crawl back to the house and call for assistance. Fortunately Tony recovered completely, sold his farm, which had been in the family since 1871, and moved to Pietermaritzburg. He lived in the home that he bought at Rehoboth where he became very active in his retirement community and his church. His daughter Moira notes that this was a very happy period in Tony’s life.

Upon hearing of Tony’s death, Jill Hall asked if her memories of her first meeting with Tony could be included in this tribute: ‘I first met Tony at the 50th reunion of the class of ’53, which I attended with Michael in 2003. We all met at Cathedral Peak Hotel for a pre-Founders Day get-together; it was the first reunion that Michael and I had attended since he matriculated –and of course, I was quite apprehensive at being thrust amongst these boys who had been such close friends during their school years. The first day of that get-together, we all went on a hike in the hills, and Tony set himself to be my caretaker and informant about South Africa in general and the ‘berg in particular. I was immediately captivated by his natural kindness and warmth, his beautiful deep voice and of course, his lovely eyes. Towards the end of the hike, an African was selling crudely carved walking sticks, (‘kieries’ as Tony informed me) with ‘hambe kahle’ burned into the shaft with a hot poker, and Tony insisted on buying one for me to use for the rest of the hike and for protection when I got back to ‘wild, wild America.’ I still have that ‘kierie’, and I shall treasure it, and my memories of Tony, as I have done all of these years”. (Jill Hall)’.

‘Tony Doidge was a remarkable man and someone who will be sorely missed in our community. Wesley Methodist Church has been blessed to have a man like Tony serve in many capacities over the years. He was very active in the leadership of our Small Group ministry and often bought resources out of his own pocket. I remember coming to church one morning to find Tony on his hands and knees wielding an angle-grinder, cutting a channel for the new sound system – this was typical of Tony; he was always willing to put his hand up and do something, rather than asking someone else to do it. Tony also help administer and lead our Tuesday morning coffee meetings that he held at McCafe in town. Many men used to gather for a quick coffee and devotion before work and Tony used to play an active role in this meeting. We will miss him greatly. (Delme Linscott, Minister, Wesley Methodist Church)

Tony’s first wife, Sally, died in 1987. He is survived by his second wife Christine from whom he was divorced but remained friends, his children, Fiona, Moira, Paul and Ian (Gillingham, 1980), and seven grandchildren.

Tony’s son, Paul, sent the following quote which Tony had pasted above his computer:’

‘Do all the good that you can

by all the means that you can

in all the ways you can

in all the places you can

at all the time you can

to all the people you can

as long as you ever can’

John Wesley

An apt and fitting tribute to a fine person, a gentle man and a treasured classmate, who embodied and lived these words and who will be dearly missed at our next class reunion.

Compiled by Michael Hall (Gillingham 1953).