Peter Cunnington

I know a man

I know a man. He was born on on the 30 December, 1945 – as he would say, when Kruger played for Diggers. The first child of Wilfred and Lynne Cunnington.

I’d imagine he was a large, happy, if somewhat loud and noisy child. Always eager to meet new people and test his tongue on his mother’s or any other language.

A few years later, the family grew by one with the birth of a baby sister, Lindy Cunnington. And a number of years later a laat lametjie, Rob.

His young years were filled with sport and unsurprisingly, plenty of friends where he grew up in Van Der Bijl Park. He attended Hendrik van der Bijl Primary School where he excelled at rugby and athletics.

Peter later attended Kearsney, where again, rugby was is passion. Perhaps fittingly even then, Pete was made head of junior house where he would have needed to look after boys younger than him.

Although there must be quite a few, I know only one story about Pete from his time at Kearsney. He maintained that he had a hand in helping one of South Africa’s most famous athletes, Paul Nash, concentrate more on sprinting than on rugby. Those of you who know the hallowed Meadows field at Michaelhouse may imagine the the pressure on a young Kearsney wing, Peter Cunnington, who had to mark a man who was already running low 10 second sprints.

Pete told me that he had to time his tackle perfectly because Paul Nash was so quick that he could just run around him. Hopefully Paul Nash did that against Hilton, but on this particular day, he got caught by Peter Cunnington in full gallop. Pete told me he tackled Paul in the mid section and rode of top of him for a good few metres before he heard something go crack. Apparently is was his collar bone, and Peter insisted, that after than incident, Paul Nash never played rugby again, sprinting his way into the history books instead. After school, Peter was drafted into the South African signals corps. Initial training was conducted at Voortrekker Hoogte and later at Heidelberg Gymnasium. Peter rose rapidly through the ranks within the South African Defence Force, eventually attaining the rank of major.

Peter’s service to his country extended long after the standard terms of national service deployment. I’ve been told, Peter saw action in operation Protea. He told me a story that when the government of they day was insisting that no South African troops were in Angola, he was sitting on top of a hill, and, using a pair of binoculars, was observing Cubans unloading tanks from transport ships in Luanda harbour.

I was also told, but not by Peter, that he was at Brug 14 – where many young South African soldiers died.