Tim Prettejohn (55-59)

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Tim Prettejohn (55-59) died at Cairns Base Hospital in Queensland, Australia in February 3, 2017 following a stroke and a major brain haemorrhage.


Tim’s sister-in-law Alix Prettejohn writes:  “Tim was born in 1941 and grew up, almost on the Equator, on his father’s farm on the foothills of Mt. Kenya.  The farm abounded in wildlife in those days and though lion were no longer a threat, his father’s cattle often fell prey to leopard and hyena.  Buffalo flattened the wheat crops and it was not unusual for a few curious elephant to wander in from the surrounding forest too.


I first met Tim when he was only 16 – at home for the summer holidays – from his school in England, The Nautical College, Pangbourne.  On leaving school, and returning to Kenya, he took a diploma at the Egerton Agricultural College and then got his first job. 


It was the 1960’s when the ‘Winds of Change’ were sweeping across Africa and Kenya was about to become independent.  The Prettejohn farm, and all the neighbouring farms, were sold and divided into small plots to be distributed amongst hundreds of the local Africans.  Tim became the Settlement Officer, in charge of working out who got what, what they would grow, where their water came from and legally giving  title to their new little farm.  The Prettejohn family house servant, called Nyamu, assumed that as he had worked for the “Bwana” for many years he was bound to get the plot on which stood the beautiful two-storey stone house – and held it against Tim for the rest of his life when that didn’t happen.


In 1960, Tim followed his parents and late brother Richard, to the Eastern Cape of South Africa where they all started farming again.  Tim was a popular and enthusiastic supporter of anything that was going in the local village – be it Round Table, Tennis, Livestock Shows, and Cricket.  The local farmers gave him the nickname of “Kol-Manzi”, as his distinctive walk – with his head thrust forward – reminded them of a grey heron fishing in the shallows of a river.  The cricketers were even less polite and called him “Sluice Gate” as he stood so far away from his bat that the ball passed straight through the gap and he was often clean bowled.  In those days Tim had an insatiable thirst and had a nickname of his own for his son and three young nephews.  “KiliFA!!!” (meaning wheelbarrow in the local African language) would be the shout when he needed another beer, and the young would jump to attention to do his bidding.


After battling against the notoriously inhospitable Eastern Cape weather, Tim gave up the farming struggle and moved to the university city of Grahamstown where his aging parents now lived.  With his own experience of dairy farming, he worked for the local Cattle Breeders Insemination Co-op, travelling around the many dairy farms, advising the farmers on breeding, and training their stockmen in artificial insemination. 


By then he had become disenchanted with South African politics and – encouraged by his late uncle, Hugh Prettejohn – took his whole family to Australia in 1996, settling in the Palm Cove/Kewarra area of Queensland.  Here he started a business to manufacture, sell and apply specialised paints used in coating the roofs of industrial and commercial buildings, together with tiled residential properties. This gave him the ability to control quality from the initial materials to the finished product on the clients’ premises.


Over the years Tim was a proud member of the Prettejohn family and gave freely of his love, compassion and support to various members in times of need – especially to his aging parents in their final years in Grahamstown.  Having known Tim for all my adult life, I shall miss him desperately, as will my three sons who have known him all their lives – almost as a second father.  I think my most abiding memory will be Tim’s laughter.  He could enliven a room just with his presence, and his – often loud  and raucous – laughter.  Nothing much got him down, he never took himself very seriously and he found humour in most situations.


‘Hamba Gahle’ Little Bro.”