News reporting at its best – the launching of the ML 4002 : “From Pamela to Penelope”
Mrs Gwen Ranger lived at the Heads with her husband and two sons, Keith and Peter. She ran the Heads Tea Room together with her sister, Miss Smith, the scene of many happy dances where we danced in the middle room and sat outside on the wide veranda overlooking the sea.
But Mrs Gwen Ranger is perhaps best remembered for her gossip column – kindly gossip – reporting social events in the local rag, the weekly ‘Knysna Advertiser’. Her column was called “From Pamela to Penelope” and in it she recorded all the social events of the week with enthusiasm and panache worthy of a professional society columnist. For those of us away at school , college or the army, the ‘Knysna Advertiser’ was a must! “Pamela” kept us abreast of all the local comings and goings, and especially of those coming home on leave from the army, navy or air force.
For Vicky and me the column has been a mine of information, often bringing to the surface useful as well as entertaining details of events, such as the launching of the Fairmile Motor Launches built by Thesens for the war effort, which could be found nowhere else and often gave a more intimate picture of war-time Knysna than official facts and figures could show. Margaret & Vicky.
‘Knysna Advertiser’ July 21, 1944
“Penelope, my sweet … You do miss such a lot by living in a town instead of a village. How can seeing a few ships in the distance compare with being close to one when it is launched. Yes, another champagne bottle has been broken, and the things that impressed us all so much were firstly, the very neat way in which Mrs Cyril Noble broke the bottle, and her perfect self-possession as she stood on the platform looking very nice in a green silk dress under a fawn coat, and a smart felt hat to match. Ryland, her son (a perfectly lovely kiddie) is evidently following in father’s footsteps. He was must more interested in machinery than he was in the ship his mother was launching … All the usual people were there and one or two unusual ones, including Mrs van Reenen, charming and handsome as usual, Mrs Stent, who we were all glad to see, and Jack Venter. We dashed over when the ship was moored, to watch the look of pride on Bobbie Collier’s face as he tried vainly to very nonchalant about it all and to see Mrs Noble receive her trophy, the champagne cork.”
A description of the launching of M.L. 4002 (the last of the Fairmiles to be built here) was related in the ‘Knysna Advertiser’ in February 1945.
This took place on a Saturday afternoon and there were “hundreds and hundreds of people there. The ship looked grand – flags fluttering from bow to stern, the Union Jack floating from the front, and the flag-wrapped champagne bottle dangling, ready for the critical moment. The Navy were all hovering around, just too beautiful in spotless white. On the platform, were Bishop Watts; Rev.Farr; Canon Sharples; Mrs Andersen; the pretty and charming Provincial Commandant of S.A.W.A.S.; Mrs Eric Thesen; Captain Francis; Mrs Vosper (in a neat grey suit); our genial mayor, Mr Wilson; Mrs Eedes, the Jansenville Adjutant, very smart in (S.A.W.A.S.) uniform; Mrs Cawood, another member of the Jansenville band; Commander and Mrs Hampshire; Mr Littlefield (the Admiralty overseer; he and his wife were ever so nice, Penelope); and last, but not least, Mr Rolf Thesen and Mrs Nel, Jansenville Commandant, who had the proud privilege of launching the last Knysna ship. Captain Francis said some very nice things about our ships, and congratulated Thesens, and the skippers. Then Mr Rolf told us about all the people who had helped to build them.
The Bishop conducted the short service and then Mrs Nel (she’s just a darling – we all liked her so much) came forward to do her part. She named the ship, and then those words that always bring such a lump to my throat: “God bless you and keep you, and all that serve in you”. The ship then, to the cheers of the crowd and the nautical airs of the orchestra, gracefully and gallantly took to the water – the pride of the skipper and his officers, of Jansenville S.A.W.A.S., and thousands of people besides. Good luck to her!”
All the money Gwen earned from these columns she gave to the War Effort.
But, by many here in Knysna whose memories go back to the days of World War II, she will be particularly remembered for her popular column in the ‘Knysna Advertiser’.
Source: ‘Memories of Knysna’ researched and compiled by Mrs Margaret Parkes & Mrs Vicky Williams