Wednesday, June 9, 2010

My visit to Marsh Memorial Homes

While visiting Cape Town in June 2010, I decided it was time for me to visit the orphanage my brothers and I were placed in back in 1963 when I was four years old. My father was unable to look after three boys and work and in those days’ day- care-centres where few and far between. The decision to place us in an orphanage being made due to the fact that my mother had passed away from a very sudden and unexpected heart attack.

The gate house and entry to Marsh Memorial Homes

I write about my experience of the home in the blog entitled “The boy that loved Rabbits – Facing my shadows” … to read the story follow this link: THE BOY THAT LOVED RABBITS

The Brand boys from top to bottom, Peter, Alan

and Gary Brand on the steps of Eveleigh House

I had mixed feelings about visiting the home and was pleased to see the gates open and a welcoming board indicating the directions to the reception area.

View of the gate house from inside the property.

I was welcomed by one of the staff and given the opportunity to explain my reason for the visit. I had called some months earlier and was aware that the home now has changed from an orphanage into a safe haven for abused children or children needing special care. I asked if I would be allowed to walk around explaining that the visit was mostly for me to face some of the shadows of my past and to allow me to take some photos for my blog page. I explained what work I now do and how in some small way the experiences both bad and good at the home as a small boy of 4 years old had helped to shape and form the man that now stood boldly in the reception of Marsh Memorial Homes. Now I must mention that the building now used for the reception area and offices used to be the principles home when I was resident at the home and it was a total no enter area. The stately building with the most amazing stain glass windows, grand wooden staircase leading up to the second floor still appeared both majestic and filled me with a sense of dread. Yet the friendly staff and openness and welcoming attitude made all these feelings fade into the normality of the sunny warm day in June. In had promised to make sure that no children where in the photos I took and with the feeling of a warm welcome in my heart I stepped out into the grounds to see where this journey would take me.

The reception and office - (previously the principles home)

I walked around the grounds unable to go to close to the huge red roof building with its 8 chimneys, that was the home I lived in sharing a huge hall type room with the many other boys so many years ago. The building next to this one had burnt down many years ago and the rabbit hutch and fruit orchards behind this building had been rezoned and sold and now filled with residential housing. The home also no longer has a school as was the case when it was an orphanage as the children currently in its care attend local schools. I started sub A (now grade 1) although during this year (1962) of my life my father remarried and we were removed from the orphanage and I continued with my first year at school in Parow Primary.

The residential building I was housed in as a child

I remained satisfied to take pictures of the buildings from the outside allowing the memories to flood over me.
• The white bread served with cold milk and white sugar as a special treat on Sunday morning for breakfast.
• Rabbits in a rabbit hutch also locked into cage reminding me that I felt no different than a caged rabbit.
• A loving kind senior boy that had taken me under his wing and became my protector while living at the home.
• A tree house in the fruit orchids,
• A pray mantis on the railing of the sanctuary one morning at service praying with me for my mother.
• Cookies my little brother (1 year old) baked at creche and stored for us as a special treat.
• Cold winter nights in a hall lined by rows of beds filled with sleeping boys and yet loneliness and tears.
• And many, many more

Residence - Marsh Memorial Homes

It was only later that day when on the plane flying back home to Johannesburg that I suddenly realised why the experience of my visit to March Memorial Homes was a pleasant one and why it has now become part of my journey of healing. I was totally free to enter and leave of my own free will. The gates of the beautiful gate house that has stood the test of time remained open. I cannot even remember if they were closed and locked when I was a child (I guess they must have been). The reality that I was placed there without knowing why or understanding why my mother was not coming back to care for me or ever visit me obviously has had a profound impact on my feelings about the home. The short visits on Sundays by my father after church and the pain of his departure and his abandonment of me lie somewhere deeply buried in the fabric of my heart. The memories of attending church services in the chapel on the premises are always filled with both joy and pain. Joy that perhaps my dad might visit us and the pain that he would leave us behind again.

The chapel at Marsh Memorial Homes

Now I could feel the warmth in the sun and the building no longer seemed dark and like a place to lock children up from society. I had a feeling of freedom of an institution now reaching out to children that have been abandoned or abused by their parents finding a place of love and safety.

Able to participate in society by attending school and with gates wide open welcoming rather than gates locked separating and removing.

I shall have to visit the home again and the next time I wish to become a contributor to the many needs they have in supporting and caring for children in need.

View across to the other residence - Marsh Memorial Homes




Marsh Memorial Homes strives to be recognized as a leading multicultural child and youth care centre in the Western Cape. Whilst affirming and including children of different cultures, all activities at the centre will be driven by strong Christian principles. The range of activities offered will be holistic, and will focus on the needs of the children at risk and their families, offering them hope and empowering them to contribute towards healthy and functioning communities.


Bedroom furniture and bedding
General furniture (lounge suites, dining room table and chairs, study desks)
Working second hand computers
Kitchen appliances, crockery and cutlery
Camping equipment
Gazebos (to be used at our fete day)
Clothing and shoes (ages ranging from 4-18 years)
Food Parcels
Sport equipment
Bibles (English/Afrikaans/Xhosa)
Church youth groups willing to arrange an activity or out for the children.
Volunteers to assist a child/children with a certain subject or homework.
Educational toys
Educational software/programmes

Marsh Memorial Home for Abused Children - Western Cape, Cape Town, Rondebosch

Non-Profit Organisation Registration Number: 011 270

The home now accommodates 60 boys and girls between the ages of 2 and 11.

Established: 1901

Kindly contact Marsh Memorial Home for Abused Children directly for banking details.

Heather B Goble 021 689 9301/2

084 624 2365 021 686 4501

Norton Way, Off Milner Road, Rondebosch P O Box 9, Rondebosch, 7701


  1. Thank you so much for these photos and the blog. My mother was a resident of the homes also from approximately 1948-1964 and I am very curious about the place. My mom told me details but she is now disabled. Loved reading this blog.

  2. Dear Alan,
    I am writing from the USA – IL and from time to time I search for my mother’s past which is why I put it Marsh Memorial Homes. I really enjoyed reading your blogs today. It even made me cry. My mother is 68 and lives here in IL now, but is disabled due to a car accident at the age of 54. It was good that, unlike me, you at least have a story as to what happened to your mother, why you were sent there, etc. etc. I wish that Marsh Memorial homes had a webpage where you could look up relatives and past people that stayed there. A sort of facebook for Marsh Memorial Homes. I would love to write a bio of my mom and read about others who shared time in the homes. I don’t know much about my mother’s family but I do know that she had 2 sisters and they were known as the ette sisters. That I do know about and am in touch with my aunt Odette who currently lives in Jeffery Bay and is 71 years of age. Did you know my mom? Her name was Suzette Kruger (now 68) and her older sister was Odette Kruger (71) and younger sister was Colette Kruger (deceased but would have been 66). Take care. It was nice that you blogged because I enjoyed reading and seeing the pictures. Kim Evans

  3. The following was recieved from Beryl Moore in response to the above blog:
    Dear Alan

    I was very interested to see your blog on the Marsh Homes! I need to introduce myself – I am Beryl – formally Berghege – and I lived in the Marsh Homes from December 1964 to March 1971. I left when I was in Standard 10 as my father remarried.

    I lived in Eveleigh House most of the time – upstairs from you it seems! My brother Barry was also in Eveleigh for a long time and then moved downstairs with Danny and Eddie Williams and I think David Beelders was the house father.

    I was chatting to a friend at work recently and found out her mom was also in the Marsh Homes and in fact shared a bedroom with me! She was a famous swimmer at that time, Amada Mostert. Kim, her daughter, works with me and lives with her partner, Jayne, in Plett. Her dear Mom, Amada, dies a few years ago and they were very close as it took Kim a few years to get over the loss of her Mom.

    I would be interested to hear more about when you were there and how long your were there for as I don’t remember your surname.

    I made enquiries with the Marsh Homes as I would like to get copies of the brochures they used to produce with pics of us. I was in some of them and it brings back lots of memories and would love to get copies.

    Great to get in contact with you and wish you all the best.

    Kind Regards


  4. Thank you for posting such a useful, impressive and a wicked article./Wow.. looking good!
    Lounge Suites

  5. Hi Alan,

    What house were you in as I don’t recall you, sounds like you were only there for a short period of time, not like some of us. I was also there in that period of time, I remember the Williams brothers? My brother George had rabbit hutches at the back of Oxenham house, maybe these are the rabbits you are referring to?

    Would like to hear from you.

    Rocky Ruthven

  6. I recieved the following comment from Johan van der Westerhuizen.

    Hi Allan,your visit to march memorial caught my attention.As I was in same home as from 1956 up to 1962.Is their any possibillty that I can obtain photos from those years.Can remember of my soccer and cricket photos in mr Stevensons office.When my kids were young,I took them their in the 80s.As Sister Peggy Peterson was our house mother.I was also in house Evaleigh and later in oxemhouse until I left in 1962. Will appreciate any info or contact numbers. My name;Johan van der Westhuizen. My brother Hennie, my sister Lynnette……regards johan

    My response to Johan:
    Hi there Johan, great to hear from you. I am in no way connected now to the Marsh Memorial Homes other than having been a child like you who was housed at the home from the age of 4. I have however as you read on my blog visited the home and they were very helpful and are more than willing to look up through the archives and find your file etc which apparently many ex residents do. I was able to simply visit and have a memorable time recalling my childhood both the good and the bad and hence have been able to move on to a great extent.

    I now have taken on supporting the home through donations and in whichever way I can but as I live in Johannesburg this is not always easy. The home now is state run as I understand and is a aimed more as a refuge for abandoned and abused children which is quite different from its purpose when we attended.

    The social worker at the home is very willing to help ex pupils and will gladly take your call and assist.

    You can contact the home directly as follows:
    Kindly contact Marsh Memorial Home for Abused Children directly for banking details.

    Heather B Goble 021 689 9301/2

    Mobile 084 624 2365 or 021 686 4501

    Norton Way, Off Milner Road, Rondebosch P O Box 9, Rondebosch, 7701

    Kind regards
    Alan Brand

  7. Hi, I lived at Marsh Memorial From 1987 to 1989. The People I remember were : Rev Eddie - Aunty Peggy and Uncle Stan - The Jackson family - Wilma and Madalein. The kids I remember - Tracy - Theresa - Trevor - Clinton - Stephen - Solitare - Caroline - Mitchem - I lived in the Gate Way house a year before I moved onto UCT. It was only a two year stay but have loads of wonderful memories.

  8. Hi there, I am creating a Facebook Page called Marsh Memorial - email addy is - I would like us to add pics and stories on Facebook - Please let me know if you are interest - anyone is welcome

    1. Hi I was there from 1960 to end 1966. my email address is I am interested

  9. Hi there, I was at Marsh from 1980 - 1988 reading your blog brought back alot of memories and good ones... Myself and my three sisters the "BECK" girls. Anyone remember?
    Marsh was my foundation...

    1. Hi girls !

      Good to hear from you again. Remember the Grace's and Becks went to Marsh at the same time :)
      Some very good memories.


  10. Hello i was in the March home from 1969 to 1972.. I remember the earth quake, was terrifying.. I also remember i was 5 or 6 years old me and 3 other children i remember Michael Collins we ran away, gosh was i scared.. My brother was put into st Michael home ,me marsh home and my sister was adopted.. sad story , Im busy writing a book on my life as I have never really healed from my childhood abuse and been neglected. I find writing helps for me. there was also a girl ion the home with me, she was abit older, think her name was Kathy, she had lost both her parents in a car accident, and she really looked after me.. would like to know how to find her. how do I do that?? can some one help me. Thanx Rene

    1. Hi Rene, my name is Angela Drescher (nee. Flack) my brother Errol and I were also at The Marsh Homes from 1969-1971. We were put in there because my alcoholic mother walked out on us, and my father was fighting to get custody of us, and my baby brother (who was 2 months old) who was not at the Marsh. I think Sister Daisy and Sister Enid looked after us. I loved the school there, but pretty much hated everything else, probably because I was so traumatised, confused and most of all, abandoned. I remember the Nicklose children: Kim, Sharon and Neil. I remember the disgusting Maltabella porridge that I REFUSED to eat. My brother, Errol, was really rebellious, well, as rebellious as you can be at age 7 ! I also drive through there now and again, but find it quite traumatising and sad.

  11. Comment received from Eleanor Nield ( le Roux)

    Hi Alan,

    I trust this finds you well and continuing your Positively Alive campaign.

    I came across your story, while looking up issues related to Employee Wellness programmes, so a link to the past was most unexpected!

    I was charmed to see your story and lovely photos, from your visit to Marsh and was greatly moved and touched by your blog re The Boy who Loved Rabbits. I too was at Marsh from a very early age...and although I never felt abandoned and was very very happy there for more than 10 years...I can relate to your sense of loss and confusion in the whole experience of uncommunicative or absent parents and the whys and wherefores of being sent away from family etc.

    I’m not the most IT proficient ex-Marshie!!...but would love to be in touch with some of the people who replied to you...I remember Beryl and her brother Barry and more particularly Rocky who was in the same house as me for some time, and a good friend of my brother Stewart Le Roux in the 60’s. I also remember Rene and Shay well too. I did try to reply to Rocky’s comment to you... but not sure if that went through. (??) not sure who got a reply at all!

    I did go to a reunion at Marsh about 15 years ago but found that rather harrowing actually, but have also been on walkabouts and enjoyed seeing the changes and how they have moved on.

    I am in touch with a few of my close friends from Marsh days and we often talk about our happy time there and all the stories of camps, bundu bashing, tree climbing, our go-carts, our little private school, my gang, the almost magical middle lawn tree, the movie nights, fetes we held, the choir and so much more....but mostly the very kind and devoted people we had the privilege of caring for us...or at least I had kind and well informed people looking after me, but I know that some kids weren’t as lucky in their respective houses! So many people who came and went...and I do sometimes wonder what became of many of them.... I have met up with some folk over the years but mostly it has been a case of each of us leaving and having to get on with ones own life and not having much of a sense of that “family” it was lovely reading about you and a bit about your life’s experiences.

    I look forward to hearing from you – maybe you can post my reply on your blog or forward to Beryl, Rene and Rocky...don’t know how to do that myself!!... I am in the process of learning all of this...WiFi and ADSL being the new thing for now!

    Best regards,

    Eleanor Nield ( le Roux)

    1. both my parents were at marsh about the same time, my dad danny willimas and mom barbara, i would love it if somebody could perhaps email me stories of their time there or maybe those who were friend s with my parents as i don't know uch about their time there and sadly my dad passed away so i cannot even ask. would be interesting. i know pegs and stan as they were my dads parents as he called them. my email is Hayley

  12. I am reading all these comments, finding it all interesting as both my parents were at Marsh about the same time. My mom Barbara Richardson and dad Danny Willimas. Eddie and George Williams are both my uncles. I find these stories interesting as I do not know much about my parents childhoods and would love if people could let me know about their times at Marsh. Hayley

    1. Hi Hayley - We were there at the same time as your folks (in the erly sixties) for just over 2 years. Went at age 7 and left at 10 - my sisters are Isla and Margie and the surname was Symmonds. My bother Bobby was there for a shorter time and we stayed in Wesley and Milner House with Sister Rosemary and Sister Daisy. I remember your Mom - her hair was very fair and she was a quiet girl. We were about the same age. Your Dad was energetic and a bit mischievous from what I remember! Amazing that they got married after being at the Marsh together! The Brand bothers stayed over the other side which was quite far away when you are small so can't remeber them! My sister Margie is currently involved in doing the garden and in fundraising. I haven't been back to visit but apparently the beautiful old buildings that we all stayed in are in need of some serious maintenance. We had some happy and sad, good and naughty times but for me there was no place like home! All the best.

    2. That will be fine


Let me know what you think of my blog