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I was given the following document (Thanks to Margaret Cox from Melbourne) while researching some family history, involving the sailing vessel 'Sound of Jura'. I thought it historically important, and hopefully of interest to many researchers. Please contact me for comment or if you can help with extra information.
I was given the following document (Thanks to Margaret Cox from Melbourne) while researching some family history, involving the sailing vessel 'Sound of Jura'. I thought it historically important, and hopefully of interest to many researchers. Please contact me for comment or if you can help with extra information.
1867 - 1949
A Swedish pioneer in the South African fishing and whaling industry. As recorded by his daughter, Esther Oceana Greenwood (nee Johnson).
A Swedish pioneer in the South African fishing and whaling industry. As recorded by his daughter, Esther Oceana Greenwood (nee Johnson).
From Margareta Bjork from Sweden
I'm a Swede, dealing with geneological research, and I have read the story about Carl Ossian Johnsson with great interest. I'm not related to him, but to his first wife Christina (Stina), who was a cousin of my grand-father. I know a few things to add to the story:
Esther Oceana wrote that Carl Ossian and Stina got two sons, but in fact they got three. First they got twins and then a single boy, but one of the twins died early.
The only exact date that I know is that Stina, according to the administration books, left Sweden in late November 1891 to go to North America. Old relatives have told me that she went there together with Carl Ossian and that they married when they arrived to New York, which would have been about New Year 1892. Esther Oceana wrote that the youngest son, Sigurd, was born in 1895. The twins probably were born in late 1892 or in 1893. Their names were Calle and Eric.
Esther Oceana wrote that Carl Ossian probably went alone to South Africa in 1897, but that is wrong. The whole family went together and it was a terrible trip. Stina had typhoid and was really ill, and they hadn't fuel enough, so Carl Ossian had to put equipments from the ship in the boiler, so they could reach a port of refuge. I'm not quite sure, but it might have been during that trip that the son Eric died.
I enclose a few photos of the family from that time. (It's a bit confusing that both the father and one of the sons were called Calle, but I'm sure that you understand who is who.)
Calle & Stina
Probably taken in New York (Margareta)
A young Stina & Calle
Calle & Stina at Goteburg
Stina with twins Calle & Eric
Calle & Sigurd
Stina with Calle & Sigurd
Photo taken in summer 2010 in a local "homestead park" in the little town of Braas in Smaland, Sweden. Under a shelter they keep the jaw of a whale that Carl Ossian brought to Sweden and first used to decorate the house where he lived during WW2 with his second wife, Siri.
My sincere thanks are due to Mr. Lawrence Leask, director and employee of Irvin & Johnson Limited for fifty years for allowing me access to a confidential file entitled 'The History of Irvin and Johnson Limited' ; Part I from 1903 - 1922 is type-written, Part II is hand-drafted with some pages missing and was never completed. The author of this document is Mr. H. Abao, one time secretary and Director of Irvin and Johnson Limited. I am grateful to Mr. Greener, secretary of Irvin and Johnson Limited, for letting me study a history of the firm compiled by Mr. Eric Rosenthal. Ione and Jalmar Radner helped me to edit the story. And last, but not least, I wish to thank Irvin and Johnson Limited for their kind assistance in having the manuscript typed.
My father, Carl Ossian Johnson, was born in Hjalmseryd parish in Smaland, Sweden, on 15 March 1867.
His mother was Maja-Lisa Plit, Daughter of a soldier by this name. Carl was very proud of his grandfather Plit, and the fact that he came from a long line of soldiers who had served the crown in war and peace for well over 200 years. All such families had eked out a precarious living on the smallholdings that the crown provided for its soldiers.
Maja-Lisa was the last daughter a hermadotter. She married a man by the name of Johnson, who was a clerk at the match factory in nearby Vaxjo. He was not a man with a strong personality, but Maja-Lisa seemed to have had a colourful temperament. She was very gay and went her own way in life. She had three sons, to which her husband was father to none. Carl was the eldest. His father was a namdeman the equivalent of a rural magistrate in whose house Maja-Lisa served as a maid before her marriage. When she became pregnant by her employer, the namdeman, she must have married for convenience, and Carl got her husbands name.
In later years my father often told me that he would have preferred his mothers name, with the soldier tradition.
Maja-Lisas second son, whose name I was not told, emigrated to America. He was never heard of again.
The third and youngest son was Fritjof. He seemed to have been a weak person who could never keep a job, probably because of drink. I remember from my childhood that Fritjof caused his older brother much trouble. Carl helped and supported him until his death.
Carl also supported his mother, Maja-Lisa, until her death in Vaxjo. I was taken to visit her, as a child, several times. She was just as gay and lively as ever. A rather pretty old lady with bright blue eyes and high apple-blossom cheeks. She was very fond of Esther, my mother, but I still remember that she told my mother to chastise her son.
My father, Carl, often used to recount to me that he left school because he found that his teacher, in his opinion, had no more scholastic knowledge to bestow on him. So Carl decided to escape at the early age of eleven. He was soon caught though, brought back to school and given a thrashing.
A year passed and not fruitlessly because Carl earned his first bit of money a venture which he often related to me. He bought a certain undoubtedly foul brand of cigars, nicknamed The Green Death, from the general dealer. Then he resold them one by one, at the then famous Oxmarket and fun fair in Vaxjo. He used to recount to me exactly how many ore he made on each cigar. Sad to admit, I have forgotten the exact sum that he made in his first business enterprise, which seemed to be a source of pride to him all his life.
He had another little trade in snuff and in brightly printed cotton handkerchiefs. These used to be nicknamed snuff-kerchiefs in those days and definitely not a good renammee. Now, in 1979, they are the height of fashion.
At last Carl turned twelve years old and made his final bid for freedom. This time he was not caught. He made his way, mostly by foot, to the sea I believe, Gothenburg and got a berth in a windjammer as a cabin-boy. That must have been in the year 1879.
Those days were tough on cabin-boys. No matter what hardships they had to endure, they were not allowed to break a contract. To escape was punishable by law, with prison. A cruel skipper could thrash a cabinboy for the smallest mistake. The crew also had a hard time and perhaps took out their grudges on the youngest of all, the cabinboy. Naturally things were not going better for Carl because of his stubborn inclination to fight back. He defended himself with his fists and other means.
Despite poor nourishment, he soon grew strong enough and his stories of how, at last, he used to get the better of his opponents, were countless. One eye witness of these fights must have been the kindly old Swedish sea captain, Von Zweibergh, who lived in retirement in a pensioners home in Pinelands, as late as 1930. He told me then with some awe that he had never seen a cabinboy having such a rough time as my father often due to said cabin-boys fiery and fighting spirit.
When things became really bad, the only solution in those days was to jump the ship. Thus it happened that Carls first visit, and stay in South Africa, was accidentally caused by just that. He jumped the ship in Cape Town and managed to flee out to the Cape Flats, where a kind Boer farmer took pity on him. He let Carl tend his sheep, gave him food, clothes, shelter with his family and even a little pocket-money. Carls first purchase seems to have been a small pocket-knife with several blades.
My father often told me he learnt to speak Afrikaans, then called Dutch, long before he learned to speak English. Many many times he recalled how kind this Boer family was. It was always noticeable later when he was a successful and wealthy, man, with what interest he identified himself with the cause of the Afrikaners. I do not know how long he stayed with this kind family. It must have been at least three months before he took ship again.
He also took special interest in the Coloured people who manned his trawlers. When the new Native Reserves were to be created, he took an interest in this too. We went on a special tour to Pondoland. That trip, in 1930, along the coast to visit the various branches of Irvin & Johnson Limited, was an epic in early motoring in South Africa, not always appreciated by my fathers traveling companions in the Studebaker. This faithful car was stranded in fords several times and had to be dragged out by oxen. All the springs were broken on arrival in Durban. After due repairs there, where the passengers also had a chance to recover from nervous strain, it was a special experience to drive up to Johannesburg. No accurate road-maps could be obtained. Often the tracks divided, so the unfortunate map-reader, which was I, had to guess the most likely direction.
There were huge crevices in the ground, approximately three-quarters of a metre wide and very deep, due to erosion. When stopped at the brink of such an obstacle, my father, who did all the driving, never said a word.
He just reversed approximately ten to fifteen metres, then started up at a terrific speed and the Studebaker gave a very good account of herself in this kind of stunt-driving
I am recording these events here, although it is not chronologically correct. How else could I give the reader a better idea of Carl's indomitable character?
Another "Jump the ship" that Carl often recounted in later years, took place in Malmo, Sweden. There he was set upon by the police, and while scaling fences through the backyards of the low wooden tenement houses, he was rescued by two lady school-teachers and their mother. They hid him and fed him for days until the police gave up searching. He was 14 years old then. Carl never forgot such kind help and was for ever thankful. In fact, in later years, until I was well in my teens, regular payments were made to these, then, elderly retired ladies.
My mother had to pay all such pensions for him out of the money that my father sent to her for our maintenance. These money orders from South Africa were sometimes generous, sometimes meagre, always irregular, depending altogether on how much company profits Carl re-invested in his various enterprises for further development. Because of these fluctuations, there were times in my youth in Sweden when these 'thank you pensions' and others, were paid before my mother's and my material needs were met. One was never certain if it was going to be champagne and caviar, or herring and potatoes - very useful lessons.
I have again deviated from the chronological order in the narrative of Carl's life, mainly to illustrate the endearing qualities in his character. He never forgot a friend and was always generous.
I have not many direct accounts from Carl's life as from the age of fourteen. He continued to sail the seas, no longer as a cabin-boy but as a deck-hand, and slowly rose in the grades. He seemed at one time to have been very devoted to a "timmerman" boatswain on one ship and learnt a lot of his skills.
One objective in Carl's career must have been to save enough money to be able to enter a Navigation School. He always let me and my mother understand that he had passed out as a navigator from the Navigation School in Gothenburg, Sweden, and for good measure, he also took the examination for a ship's engineer. Unfortunately his name does not appear on the alphabetical register of the Navigation School in Gothenburg. Both the register of entries and that of successful examinations have been checked from the years 1870 to 1907.
This is remarkable and I can only draw the conclusion, that he must have got his Navigator's papers from a Navigation School in England. Port Authorities in every harbour would have refused to let him navigate the several ships recorded if his papers had not been in order.
Before Carl entered the Navigation School, he must have touched at the harbours of South Africa, the Far East, England, the United States many times, and of course, Sweden. In his home county Smaland he must have met again his childhood sweetheart, a girl called Christine Pettersson.
She eventually followed him to the United States where they were married in New York. The year was 1892. It was there, that in 1896, he bought a favourite watch, a big "Silver-Rova" pocket watch with a heavy silver chain, which is now in my possession.
As I only knew Carl when he was already separated from his first wife - although not divorced - I never heard him talk about his wife in a positive way. This is probably unfair. She also came from Smaland where people had survived only through their stubbornness. Carl probably did not give her an easy time. In fact he did not give any of the women he was so fond of in his life an easy time. So the first Mrs. Johnson retaliated by refusing a divorce for over thirty years - the last 10 to 12 years through a complicated financial court case, much publicised in the newspapers.
Their two sons were born in America, the elder called Carl or Callie, after his father, the younger named Sigurd, born in 1895.
One thing is certain, Carl realised very early that he would never make a fortune just as a plain seafaring skipper. If a fortune was to be made he had to look for other opportunities. Amongst several ventures in the States, without success, was the establishment of a soap factory.
I do not know when he left for South Africa, but I do not think his wife followed him then, seeing that the marriage did not go so well.
The two sons were American citizens and fought in World War 1. The younger, Sigurd, became, what in those days was called "shellshocked" in France. Maybe, through lack of proper treatment, his mind became deranged. He lived out his unfortunate life until 11 September 1968 in Cape Town as a permanent mental invalid. The mother, Christine, was magnificent in her care for her son. as long as she lived. She died 10 February 1952.
Mr. Lawrence Leask, who started his working career with Carl's enterprises as a messenger-boy and ended up by representing him at the Company's Board meeting during World War II - Carl being stranded in Sweden from 1939 - tells how he, as a young man, went to evening classes with Callie, who then lived with his mother, Christine. She always insisted that they should have a good meal before those classes.
Such little incidents give a human and more friendly picture of Christine, which feels good to me as I write this. The misery and agony caused by Christine's prolonged public court case against her husband, both in South Africa and in Sweden, and the ensuing gossip was very hard on those involved. It took years to get over.
Carl's search for an idea to strike it rich in South Africa did not seem to include any dreams of joining the diamond or gold rushes. His mind was bent on manufacturing. Amongst other ventures, he tried to run a bicycle factory in Durban, which also failed.
On the other hand, be had a brilliant idea, that actually brought him his long-awaited financial success. He saw the tourist potentialities in the colourful, Zulu ricksha "boys" in Durban. It was not long before
he imported from Japan the rickshas and organised a big fleet of these. He personally supervised and encouraged much bead-work, horns and lion and monkey tails on these fantastic-looking Zulus. He also encouraged all their acrobatics and supervised the vehicles exactly as he was later to supervise all his trawlers, whalers and other vessels. I have been told he was merciless. The ricksha fleet must have been very profitable, because he ran this enterprise till 1907 and thereby made the first money with which he could purchase the second trawler. Looking back I can now understand the look of pride in his face when, in Durban, we took our first ricksha ride in 1930.
He saw the Norwegian whaling station In Durban, which must have given him food for thought.
He was probably back in Cape Town by 1900. He never once mentioned to me the Anglo-Boer War, which was then being fought. This surprises me now.
It was in Cape Town that he got the big idea that eventually led to the success he had so long searched for. Seeing the rich hauls the Coloured fishermen brought in and sold in an unorganised way, he must have remembered the trawler fishing as carried out in the North Sea by British and Scandinavian fishermen.
In 1897 the Fisheries Division of the Cape Colony took delivery of the first fisheries survey ship, the "Pieter Faure" This vessel was equipped for trawling and carried out a survey of the Agulhas Bank, and soon established the fact that there were extensive trawling grounds in that area. Carl must have heard of this, and decided somehow to order and bring out to South Africa a trawler from Sweden. He returned to Sweden for this purpose and proceeded with his plans. The first trawler, which he named "Berea" was built in 1902 at "Garns Varv", Gamla Lodose. This shipbuilding company was owned by Johan August Svensson, my greatgrandfather. His son, Johan Oskar Johanson, my grandfather, probably helped in the designing. Johan Oskar had graduated in Gothenburg as a shipbuilder and also operated his own concern in Lodose called "Eckerna Skeppsvarv".
When Carl came to take delivery of the "Berea", he met a young girl of sixteen in the home of Johan Oskar Johanson and his wife Augusta, who also came from a wealthy family, after the standard of those times. This girl was their only child, Esther Ackvelina Oskara - a pretty brunette.
The "Berea" was the first privately-owned trawler in South Africa, and Carl brought her out from Sweden under her own steam.
Meanwhile, a firm of trawler owners in England, Richard Irvin & Sons Limited, of North Shields, had also conceived the idea of starting trawling in South African waters. They registered a company in North Shields called the African Fishing and Trading Company Limited, the shareholders consisting of Mr. Richard Irvin and members of his family. They built two trawlers with refrigeration and facilities for making ice on board. Their names were "Star of Peace" - a rather significant name after the Anglo-Boer War - and "Star of the South". The Irvin family must have had poetical minds. These two vessels under command of
experienced skippers, arrived in Cape Town hard on the heels of Carl's "Berea" in October/November 1903. George Irvin, a son of Richard Irvin, was sent out to manage the business on behalf of the Company.
From the very first, good catches were landed in Cape Town by all three trawlers. It was found difficult, however, to dispose of the trawled fish, which was something new. Irvin was even obliged to sell some of his catches by auction on the Grand Parade, Cape Town, without much success. Carl, on the other hand, was obliged to approach Irvin for assistance in the disposal of the "Bereas's" catches. Thus the first contact between the two men was established. The unsold portion of their catches was stored with the Imperial Cold Storage Company Limited. This was also a new contact, but one which later was to last for many years to come.
In view of the difficulties encountered, Carl very soon decided to seek fresh fields. He took the "Berea" to Durban and began line-fishing with her, as there are no trawling grounds off the Natal coast.
Irvin continued trawling operations in Cape Town, and in time began railing fish to Johannesburg, where there was a ready market. He even added a third vessel to his fleet.
Meanwhile, Carl had also started sending fish from Durban to Johannesburg. He found that he needed to expand, but did not have enough capital. According to records, later related to me, he formed an alliance with two other Swedish skippers in Cape Town. Unfortunately, I have now forgotten their names. With capital raised by the three Swedes, Carl again sailed for Sweden to place the order for the second trawler, which he named the "Bluff". She was also built of stout Swedish timber, like the "Berea", but the commission went to a shipbuilding company in Gothenburg in 1906.
In the meantime, Johan Oskar Johanson had died in 1903, only forty years old, His shipbuilding companies had been sold together with the estate by his widow. She kept only some family silver and special antique furniture. She wanted her capital in ready cash, and she and her daughter had moved to Gothenburg.
By the time Carl came to fetch the second trawler in 1907, he met Esther again. She was now a young woman of twenty-one, who had recently lost her mother in January of that year as well. She had thereby inherited all the capital that her mother had saved. Not for a moment do I suspect that Carl saw his opportunity to take advantage of Esther only for financial reasons. He already lived separated from his wife and had tried to obtain a divorce. Admittedly, he had an eye for pretty girls and a way with them, but this was a romantic love from both sides. And for Esther, her fate was sealed. She had met the only man in her life.
When Carl took delivery of the "Bluff" and navigated her back to South Africa in l907, Esther sailed with him. Strict relatives had tried to stop her, but she was 21, and love reigned supreme. Besides, Carl said he would get a divorce, so they could get married later. Esther had also entrusted her inheritance to him, as an investment in his company. Furthermore, a sister of her mother had also invested, as a loan, some capital in Carl's trawling business in South Africa.
On arrival in South Africa, the "Bluff" began trawling in East London. Mrs. Christine Johnson was by then in Durban, so Carl and Esther lived as Mr. and Mrs. Johnson, first in a boarding house, then in a small house in Three Anchor Bay. They were very happy, and on 20th June 1908, a daughter was born, Esther Oceana Johnson, the writer of this chronicle.
Many a time have I wished that my parents had been more orderly and orthodox in selecting the circumstances for my birth. Illegitimacy, in those days, was no fun, neither for mother nor for child, a fact that Carl, my father, seemed to be supremely unaware of.
Of course, that year, 1908, was a very busy year for the trawlers and the three sea-captain partners. Within a year "Bluff" had earned eight times the original investment. My mother used to tell me that this is the only time she ever saw my father drunk. It was on French champagne. I am glad, also, to record that he was absolutely charming and good-natured on this occasion. This is a fact rather nice to know about his character. Especially if you had seen him, as many had, in a rage which was not a pretty sight.
The two other skipper-partners evidently felt that they were rich enough by then, so Carl saw his chance and quickly bought them out with all the money he had or could lay hands on. He also paid back what he had borrowed from my mother's aunt in Sweden. But he never paid my mother back what he had borrowed from her. This fact has to be recorded now, as it later figured as a very important economic feature in Carl's grueling court cases in which he had to defend his own assets against his estranged wife's claims,
Some time during 1908 or 1909, Mrs. Johnson came to live in Cape Town. She refused absolutely to grant a divorce. Carl probably also had little time to pursue the matter very vigorously. Mrs. Johnson even wanted to adopt the illegitimate daughter, as Carl seemed to be very fond of the baby. This my mother resisted, however, but she seemed to have given up hope of an early marriage and did not wish to continue her dubious life in Cape Town. In 1909, when I was one year old, she decided to go back to Sweden. She did not break her alliance with my father, but she thought it would be better to wait for the divorce at home. She sailed on a German passenger steamer via the Suez Canal.
My mother was only twenty-three when she returned to Sweden. She certainly did not have a hearty welcome from any of her family. She was promptly disowned by all, except the one sister of her mother. She had to find a good foster home for her baby, try to learn a profession, move to Stockholm, start a new life in order to give her child a good home. She did all that, and later found a good school. But she never managed to become independent of the man she loved.
During the years that followed, Carl often visited England, Sweden, Norway and France on business. He demanded Esther's presence and companionship also on his travels. In later years, from the age of eleven, I accompanied them.
In 1920, when Carl worked for a year in Liverpool for Lever Brothers, my mother and I visited him again in England. That summer Carl wished to try air travel for the first time, so we flew to Paris in a former World War I Air Force plane. It had been slightly converted, i.e. it had a roof against the wind. It seated four passengers and I seem to remember a pilot and a navigator. The flight took three hours. On arriving on the poppy-strewn grass field, one had to avoid the exhaust pipe on the side of the plane for fear of burns, and had to jump directly into the arms of the ground crew. The return journey to England went over Calais and Dover. No seasickness for me as my father made me walk the decks steadily on all boats, no matter how rough the sea was. The visit to Paris must have been to sell the valuable ambergris found in whales and used by the perfume industry.
All these little episodes in Carl's public and private life were intertwined with the life of "his family", who had their full share of partaking in many of his adventures.
In I909, George Irvin's African Fishing & Trading Company and Carl Johnson decided to enter into partnership, under the title of Irvin & Johnson. The partners needed ice for storing the fish in properly insulated holds of the trawlers.
The supplier of the ice was, of course, the Imperial Cold Storage. This name held a mystic and fearful place in my imagination during all my youth, and even later. The I.C.S. and their directors were constantly on my father's mind. He wrestled incessantly in years to come to make the various Irvin & Johnson companies independent of the I.C.S. Until 1922, I.C.S., through their monopoly in ice-making, played a dominant part in the progress of Irvin & Johnson companies. But also after 1922, the business relationship continued.
In 1929, Carl, who by then one can say was the major shareholder in the Irvin & Johnson companies, managed to secure an agreement with I.C.S. by which his company became free to make their own ice. Orders were placed for two plants, of which the one for East London was never erected. The one in Cape Town started production only later.
I realise now that Carl's battle for independence for his companies eventually also caused clashes of personalities. It is enough to state here that he only attained his stubborn victory in 1935 through tough and ruthless perseverance.
Carl's progress in his business enterprises is very complicated to describe. For the layman, it is an entangled tale of new partnerships and companies formed. Then again, these companies were re-organised to become holding companies of other subsidiary companies in various fields. It is the story of new share issues, of "take overs" of other companies who were in competition. In short, it is the story of incessant striving for monopoly and defending it when finally achieved.
Carl's progress was also marked by so-called ''ventures". Some were undertaken with his partners' agreement. One special venture he proceeded with alone. Not all ventures were successful. I shall only later relate the more remarkable of his private ventures.
Irvin & Johnson became Irvin & Johnson Limited in 1912. Branches had then been established at Port Elizabeth, East London, Durban and Johannesburg.. It was in order to visit all these branches in 1930 that the epic motor-car trip, which I have already described, took place. By that time there was also a branch in Bulawayo.
From 1912, Carl spent a lot of time in Sweden. He was in Sweden during World War I when he bought a country place which my mother named "Solhagen". It was not to be such a sunny place for her. Thus I remember seeing him sitting writing endless letters, always in longhand, mostly I should think directed to his partner, to his solicitor, Mr. Knox Baxter, who had a charming and vivacious wife of the de Villiers family, to Mr. Abao, the Secretary of I. & J. and to many others.
I remember the magic names of Marion and Prince Edward Islands and the old photographs from the first sealing expedition to these islands, which Carl personally had led. The company, under whose aegis these expeditions were made, was already formed in 1909 and was called theSouthern Whaling and Sealing Company. For easy reading one can say that it was jointly owned by I. & J. and the sealing was actually started before the whaling. The whaling and sealing seemed to have been Carl's absorbing interest which lasted all his life, even until the late 1930's. In retrospect, it may seem revolting to us in our modern awareness of the importance of nature conservation. But in the first decades of 1900 nature conservation and the balance of marine life was hardly given a thought.
All Carl's drive in the early days was directed to the catching of whales and seals in any manner, wherever they were found, in order to extract their valuable edible oil, which found a ready market in Europe. In his fertile brain he conceived the idea of the world's first factory ship. A second-hand ship called the "Restitution" was bought in 1909. It was operated as the first floating factory after certain changes had been made to her for this purpose. Whale-catchers were also purchased. The "Restitution" and her catchers were employed in South Georgia another magical name for me - in the summer months and at Port Alexander in Angola, in winter months. Rough and ready methods were used, but apparently with success. The whalers were brought alongside the factory ship, the blubber was stripped from the whales, then hauled on board for rendering down in the "Restitution's" digesters, the oil being stored in the ship's tanks. There was also a sailing vessel called the "Sound of Jura" which acted as a carrier.
The "Restitution" did not last very long. After a couple of seasons she foundered in the Bay of Biscay and became a total loss. So theSouthern Whaling and Sealing Company established a shore whaling-station at Prince Olaf Harbour, South Georgia, and another at Port Alexander in Angola.
Very early, the Southern Whaling and Sealing Company had acquired the controlling interest in a whaling-station operating in Durban, the "Southern Co." It also held the lease for a shore whaling-station at Donkergat, Saldanha Bay. In 1917, I. & J. decided to start whaling under their own name. They bought up the rest of the shares in the Durban whaling company and purchased the lease of the Donkergat station.
Using some of the Durban whale-catchers and purchasing a few other second-hand catchers, the Donkergat factory was opened. The season at Donkergat lasted mainly from May until October each year.
Their Durban whaling company also purchased the shore station at Cape Hangklip from the Norwegian whaling company which had, until then, operated the station. The factory in Durban was closed down and the rest of the catchers were brought to Hangklip.
Carl, being a very "Swedish" Swede, tried all his life to bring young Swedes out to South Africa, especially from Smaland, and turn them into gunners, catcher crews and factory employees, but in this he had no luck. Especially the gunners had to be Norwegians. He had no animosity towards Norwegians and was a life-long friend of Consul A.C. Olsen of Sandefjord, who acted as agent for I.& J. and contracted Norwegian personnel for the Company.
After the season was over, some of the whaling crews went home, but some of the catchers, with their Norwegian crews, were sent to South Georgia to operate during the summer months in the Antarctic, only coming back to be refitted in time for the South African winter season.
As the whaling crew was paid wages and bonuses only at the end of the Antarctic season, one can understand that much money was spent by the men on their return to Cape Town. It used to be riotous times - stories were repeated, adventures retold.
Tankers were hired to come out from Europe and pick up the Donkergat and Hangklip production of whale oil. From South Georgia, the company's own vessels were used for carrying stores to the station and taking the whale oil back to Europe.
Malin Magnusson, the wife of a former Swedish Consul in Cape Town, Gunnar Magnusson, said to me once: "You will not believe me, but your father 'the Old Man', as the Swedes call him, is still held in awe here." The story they told of him must have happened long ago when one such tanker was loaded with whale oil, over the water-line, ready to steam to England. Three of the crew refused to sail with the ship as she was loaded over capacity. When this was reported to my father, he went down to the quayside, asked the men to report to him, one at a time. Each man stated his case and refused to leave with the ship. Time was getting short, so again my father reverted to his skill with his fists. He gave each man, in turn, one of the best, which seemed to have been a knock-out. After this, each man was carried on board to recover. Thereafter, my father himself took the responsibility of navigating the tanker to Europe. I do not know if the legend is true, because my father never told me this himself. He used to be fond of telling me such stories from his early life during the, long evening walks he took with me as a young girl. However, it could well be true.
Before describing the development of the I.& J. whaling enterprises a rather interesting episode must be mentioned. In 1916 Commander Shackleton arrived at South Georgia Whaling Station, where reputedly only Scandinavians survived the antarctic, summer. Shackleton and his five comrades from the exploration ship "Endurance" which had been crushed by
the ice and abandoned, were well received. They were lent a whaler to return for help to try to rescue the rest of Shackleton's team in the Antarctic, if still alive. A British ship brought Shackleton back and managed to save the rest of his antarctic party, all 28 of them. Two years later Shackleton returned with a second expedition. He was again unsuccessful. He died at the station and was laid to rest under the cliffs of South Georgia.
When, many years later, the South African Weather Station was set up on Prince Edward and Marion Islands, the information collected by the whaling crew of I.& J. proved of great value to the authorities. So Carl's early enthusiasm was not entirely in vain and was to be of use to South Africa later.
In 1920 I.& J. purchased the Donkergat Whaling Station outright from its Norwegian owners, together with four whale-catchers. By this time there was, fortunately, a Government regulation that all parts of the whale carcass had to be utilised, not only the blubber. Different parts had to be processed into bonemeal, protein products and guano. By the way, whale-steaks are very good!
When I visited South Africa in 1922, together with my mother, we went on an inspection tour to the station which was then called SaIdanha Station. It meant a long drive to Langebaan on untarred roads. I remember seeing and smelling the herd-boys' dung fires on a cold winter's night on the "veld". It meant arriving late at the Langebaan Hotel, sleeping the night and the next day waiting for the weather to clear so that the motorboat could take us over the water to the whaling station. We waited a whole long, stormy, winter's day. The following morning the weather cleared, the motorboat arrived to pick us up. It took some time to get over. Strangely enough, I do not remember much about the whaling station from that time. I know my father loved to be there. The whales were gigantic and the stench incredible. I have much dearer memories of the station from the year 1930.
In 1922, we also took the long drive over Sir Lowry's Pass to try to get to Hangklip Whaling Station by road, In the evening we arrived at the Bot River. The road ended at a hanging rope bridge over the river. Of course, it rained again. My father helped me over the bridge and, being fourteen, I thought it a great adventure. Not so my mother. She refused to risk the swinging bridge and we had to return to Cape Town without having seen the Hangklip station. At my next visit, in 1930, there was a pontoon on which to cross the river. My father was very proud of its construction. It was hand-operated and could take a car and passengers with some supplies.
Another incident from the visit in 1922 is very vivid, and was the cause of much pride then. One morning, after having had breakfast in the Mount Nelson Hotel, my father suddenly announced that he thought of climbing Table Mountain that day. This was before the advent of the Cableway. Would I like to come? Of course - who would not? "Put on some good walking shoes", he said, and proceeded to butter three left-over breakfast scones. Fortunately, they were big old-fashioned ones. He wrapped them in a serviette and put them in my pocket. After these scanty preparations, we walked up towards Kloof Nek and on the way he bought a small bunch of bananas. Not a word of explanation - but he
must have asked for some information the day before, because he seemed to know where to head for. We took the easy path up, leading from Kloof Nek, It was not a mountaineering climb. My father just wanted to see what it looked like up there. He was fifty-five years old then and looked more like forty. We had a good time walking all over the top of the mountain and exploring parts behind the crevices. There was no hurry. When a little hungry, we ate our scones and some of the bananas and drank some delicious ice-cold water. The day wore on - suddenly my father realised that the light was fading. He started to look for a gorge to descend. We ate the rest of the bananas and then began the difficult downward path. It was not easy to jump from rock to rock and we had to be careful of rolling stones. It became darker and darker. Sometimes he lit a match and then we scrambled downwards again. We arrived back at the hotel at 11 o'clock. Nobody in the party could understand why my mother was worried. There was nothing much left of my shoes. I was a bit hungry, but had had a wonderful day. Such impromptu adventures were very typical of my father.
In fact, Carl was unpredictable all his life, also in serious business, where he was inclined to go his own way. The "Kerguelen Sealing Venture" is an example of this stubborn inclination to follow his own devices. This venture caused the first rift with his partner, George Irvin.
Kerguelen Island, another magical name for my youthful imagination, is situated in the "roaring forties". Already, in 1919, Carl had conceived the idea of sending an expedition to the island to hunt sea-elephants. The blubber of these seals yields a valuable edible oil, comparable with whale oil.
George Irvin and the Imperial Cold Storage, however, were not enamoured of their partner's proposal, so Carl proceeded to act on his own initiative. He found that the French Government had granted a sealing licence in respect of Kerguelen Island to a Frenchman by the name of Rene Bossiere. Carl thereupon concluded an agreement with Bossiere to cede the licence to him in consideration for which Bossiere was to receive a royalty on the production. But this licence had one disadvantage - it allowed no processing of the blubber on the island. This did not seem to daunt Carl in his Kerguelen sealing project. Without the authority or knowledge of the Board of I.& J. Carl bought two "Mystery ships", the Kildalkey and the "Kilfenora" from the British Government. He ordered these ships to be delivered to an engineering company in North Shields for conversion into factories. The object was to send these factory ships to Kerguelen. Furthermore, he bought two so-called drifters in England.
After this fait accompli Carl expected I.& J. to pay all the expenses for his venture. The Board was not amused, to say the least. The Directors took up a firm attitude. They insisted that Carl should accept personal responsibility for the entire venture. Eventually they agreed, under protest., to manage and finance it on Carl's behalf. This involved I.& J. in considerable financial embarrassment, but with the assistance of a South African and a British Bank the necessary funds were raised.
By 1922, three expeditions had been sent to Kerguelen with varying success, and Carl was in debt to I.& J. to the tune of £158,000. It must have been as a financial precaution that Carl, in 1920, entered into a private contract with Lever Brothers in Liverpool, under which he gave
expert advice against a very substantial remuneration. Lever Brothers had, in 1919, purchased the Southern Whaling Company from I.& J.
In the end, the dispute between the partners over the "Kerguelen venture" was settled by compromise. The Kerguelen Sealing & Whaling Company Limited was formed. This new company was re-organised and in 1923 a new public company, under the name of Irvin & Johnson (South Africa) Limited was formed. The principal partners in this new company, with equal shareholdings, were the Imperial Cold Storage & Supply Co. Ltd., African Fishing & Trading Co. Ltd., (the Irvin family), and Carl 0. Johnson. It was a purely South African company, although the words "South Africa", in parenthesis, gave the impression that it was a branch of a British company. The object of this was to enable the company to sell shares in England and later in South Africa to the public. This intention was never fully realised during Carl's lifetime. The details, however, of the formation of this new I.& J. company are too complicated to be properly described here. However, we can see that the Imperial Cold Storage continued to be an important partner. Carl, on the other hand, although holding the same number of shares as the Imperial Cold Storage, was in a tight financial position owing to his "Kerguelen venture". In order to obtain working capital until part of the new issue of debentures were sold, the Company's immovable property, as well as the fishing and whaling fleet, were mortgaged to the Company's Bank. Nevertheless, a good dividend could be declared already after its first year of business, in addition to paying interest on the Company's debentures.
The new company must have enjoyed the confidence of its Bank, who also must have realised its potentialities,
Through the" Kerguelen venture", however, the seeds of dissension had been sown which were eventually to lead to the dissolution of the partnership which had hitherto existed between George Irvin and Carl Johnson. I have singled out the "Kerguelen venture" as it illustrates Carl's unpredictable nature and gambling spirit. He cannot have been an easy partner. Throughout this whole period, the trawling and fishing activities had continued to expand and prosper, so that by 1922 that side of the business was in a very healthy condition.
The whaling at Donkergat and Hangklip had also been maintained, but a loss was sustained in 1921. This was destined to be a forerunner of further disappointments in respect of the company's whaling activities at its two shore stations.
The Kerguelen Sealing and Whaling Co. Ltd., continued to operate under the auspices of I.& J. This development eventually led to the ordering in 1929 and the building of the first "twin screw whaling factory steamer" the "Tafelberg", at Newcastle-upon-Tyne, England.
She was a 16 000 ton factory-ship with all interior modern equipment, especially strengthened to work in the Antarctic ice together with a fleet of whale catchers. She was, of course, equipped with tanks to enable her to carry the whale oil from the Antarctic to Europe. The "Tafelberg" was then the largest ship ever to have flown the South African flag, and was launched on the Tyne on 29 April 1930 by my mother, in my presence. My father was in South Africa at the time. The
"Tafelberg" was later, in the 1930's, his favourite conveyance to and from Europe.
Shortly after the outbreak of World War II this ship went down to the 1939/40 Antarctic Whaling season and on her return in April she was requisitioned by the U.K. Ministry of War Transport. She delivered her cargo of whale oil to New Orleans and was then sent to the U.K. where she ran ashore near Cardiff and lay there for well over a year. She was then repaired and, while on her way to America, was torpedoed and sunk in 1944.
The very first offices of I.& J. were situated near the Clock Tower in the Docks, Cape Town. It was a modest building with utility space on the first floor and offices above. In March, 1918 this building was gutted by fire. The safes were saved although badly singed, but all records were completely destroyed. Subsequently, the site adjacent to the East Quay where the trawlers had always discharged their catches, was secured from the Railways and Harbour's Administration but with considerable difficulty. The office and utility buildings erected on this new site were the only ones that I ever got to know. They can, as I remember then from 1931, still be described as rather modest.
I have already mentioned the strained relations between the three principal shareholders on account of the "Kerguelen venture" and Carl's absorbing interest in whaling. The new I.& J. company had been formed in February 1923. Very soon, however, the disagreements between George Irvin and Carl reached a point at which Carl offered to buy out the Irvin interests. The offer was promptly accepted. Terms were arranged in July 1923 and George Irvin was granted twelve months' special leave of absence. Thereafter, he ceased to take any active interest in the company. With the assistance of his company's Bank, Carl was able, to pay the Irvin family out within two years, and in 1925 George Irvin formally resigned from the Board of Directors.
Up to about 1920, the trawlers at Cape Town, Mossel Bay, Port Elizabeth and East London were operating exclusively on the Agulhas Bank. In 1919 a trawler was sent from Cape Town up the West Coast, just north of Lamberts Bay, on an experimental trip to look for now fishing grounds., She returned with a large catch of "super" soles, but they were of an inferior eating quality to the Agulhas soles.
It was felt, however, that the West Coast had to be explored for trawling purposes to gain new fishing grounds and to ensure that the grounds at the Agulhas Bank would not be exhausted. With the help of the Provincial authorities. who needed a lot of persuasion, their survey ship the "Pickle" was despatched at the end of 1921 to continue the search. I.& J had to run the vessel and share the total expenses. Operating in 140 -150 fathoms, she soon found extensive trawling grounds between Hout Bay and north of Dassen Island. These grounds accordingly came to be known as the "Pickle grounds", and some of the Cape Town based trawlers were immediately directed to that area. This was the beginning of the discovery of extensive trawling grounds on the West Coast. Gradually, after further surveys, a rich new trawling field was opened up.
There were some disappointments regarding the variety and quality of the fish, which could not be compared with the fish trawled from the Agulhas grounds. Nevertheless, the discovery of the West Coast trawler grounds completely revolutionised the trawling industry and enhanced the importance of Cape Town as a trawling centre. In fact, but for the discovery of the new grounds, the trawling industry could never have expanded very far, and the price of trawled fish would have become considerably higher.
In retrospect, one can of course imagine the disastrous economic affect this development must have had particularly on the Coloured population in the fishing villages which lay scattered along the West Coast. Those were the days, however, when such considerations were unheard of. I cannot defend Carl by saying that he was an exception to anybody else. Business was the first priority, and social responsibility - as some of us think of it now - probably came very far down the list.
As the trawling business developed over the years, the distribution of the different varieties and qualities of fish to the various centres in South Africa, and later Rhodesia, became a complicated feat of organisation. The bulk of the fish catches came from Cape Town, the finer varieties from the East Coast stations and from Durban where linefishing continued. Every variety of fish was accepted in Johannesburg at different price levels according to quality.
The success of the distribution of fish and other products would have been impossible to achieve if I. & J. had not from the beginning operated on the principle of keeping full control of these activities, both wholesale and retail and, furthermore, maintained a standard of reliability. Their subsidiary company in Johannesburg purchased from the Imperial Cold Storage, played a very important role in this respect.
The problem of communications between the trawlers and their shore stations and the whale catchers and their factories, including "Tafelberg" later on, was overcome by the introduction in 1928 of the Marconi Company's new shore-to-ship wireless telephone sets, suitable for small craft. These sets were installed in all the company's trawlers and whale catchers. I well remember how fascinating it was to listen to the exchanges at a pre-arranged time, at the Saldanha Whaling Station in 1930. This method of wireless communication with the trawlers also became an integral part of the company's above-mentioned distribution organisation. Later the trawlers were also equipped with echometers, a device which enables the skipper to determine the depth of water in which he is trawling. The echometers were in some cases equipped to record on a chart the contour of the ocean bed. I suppose since these early years more progress in sophisticated modern trawling methods has been made.
In 1929 Carl again was the driving force in sending an expedition to Heard Island for sealing purposes. It was led by Mr. Quenton Bullard, a South African whom I.& J. had employed especially to install the new wireless telephone sets on all the vessels. Perhaps the sealing was not an successful as Carl had hoped. But at the request of the British Government the British flag was hoisted on the island by Mr. Bullard and thus claimed as part of the Commonwealth. Heard Island, however, now
belongs to Australia. I record it only as another example of Carl's incurable pioneering spirit.
At this stage of the narrative of Carl's progress in the trawling enterprises, it might be suitable to sketch a simplified picture of how I.& J. eventually managed the "takeover" of several bigger and smaller smoked fish businesses.
For many years I.& J. had been manufacturing smoked fillets from Stockfish on a, moderate scale. During the 1920's, Mr. Ephraim East and his father-in-law, the Rev. J.M. East, also entered into this field and established a smokehouse in Maitland. They purchased their supplies of stockfish from I.& J. and began exporting to Australia, in addition to supplying the local market in competition with I.& J. There were also a number of local wholesale fish merchants who were in the smoked fish business on a limited scale.
After a time, East & Co., grew dissatisfied with the supplies of stockfish they were getting from I.& J., and being unable to get any redress from the company, they decided to start trawling for their own account. They acquired a second-hand trawler from overseas and began trawling with her out of Cape Town under the name of East Limited. I.& J. stopped supplying East & Co., when faced with competition in the fresh fish business from East Limited. At the same time, another "smoker" acquired two second-hand trawlers and also began fishing out of Cape Town in competition with I.& J.
It was not very long before negotiations were instituted by I.& J. with the object of buying out these businesses - including the trawlers. In 1927, by which time the Rev. J.M. East had died, the negotiations were brought to finality. The fish-smoking businesses of I.& J., East and Co., and the third company, together with two other smoking businesses, were merged into Union Smokeries, all parties undertaking to cease smoking for their own account.
Union Smokeries carried on the smoking business for both the local market and for export. Mr. E. East was appointed a Director and Manager of the company. In 1928 the Maitland smoke-house was purchased from East & Co., by I.& J. Union Smokeries acquired the property from I.& J. in 1935 and the main factory building was extended in 1938.
The association with Mr. E. East proved to be most significant both businesswise and on a personal level. Mr. East became a Director of I.& J. and a life-long friend of Carl and his varied "family". I remember him and his family as warm-hearted friends in the 1930's and also when I visited them in their home in the Gardens, many years later.
Other personal, rather amusing, memories of my father's lively interest in the smoking business are from the 1930's. The object was to smoke hake to be used as a breakfast dish instead of the imported Scotch kippers. With this in mind, he had brought out an expert kippersmoker from Scotland. But it was my father himself who tried out and demonstrated different cooking methods with smoked hake. His patient but fascinated audience and sample-tasters were of course, his "family". It was also in 1930 that Carl started to discuss and plan for the making
of vitamin oil from fish livers. This was only undertaken and started in 1940, but in reality it was Carl's brainchild. The vitamin oil production ceased in 1962 when artificial vitamins could be produced more economically. The tale of Swedish Carl's pioneering work, both in trawling and whaling enterprises has in respect of some events, brought us up to 1935, 1938 and 1940.
Of course, his progress was marked by toughness, an adventurous imagination, courage to take calculated financial risks, and a will to see even the most difficult projects through. On several occasions, he had to battle to prevent other forces from taking over his company's supremacy. He was generally short-spoken and laconic, but when putting forward his plans he became lively and eloquent. When opposed or challenged, violent arguments could result. Most of the time, however, he succeeded in having his way.
The trawling and fishing business with their by-products had always continued to prosper. It formed the solid background to Carl's financial progress. It supported Carl in his struggle for independence for his companies, and also in his involved private problems. It is therefore time to give recognition where recognition is due, especially as Carl was so often absent from South Africa.
Firstly, his partners and directors must have been very astute and capable men, and I venture to say, in some cases very long-suffering. Moreover, after the dissolution of the various partnerships, when Carl and his nominees virtually held the majority of shares in I.& J. and its subsidiary companies, he had the privilege and security of knowing that these companies were directed and led by men of outstanding qualities. These were Mr. Knox-Baxter, his solicitor and a director, Mr. Abao, the Secretary and later a director, Mr. A. Garden, a director; and Mr. J.T. Hewitt, a director, who, had originally come out from England in 1912 for Mr. Irvin; Mr. E. East, a director; Mr. L. Leask, whom I have already mentioned; and there was Mr. J.W. Lobban in Johannesburg.
There were also the managers of the whaling stations. I remember particularly Mr. Jorgensen at SaIdanha and Mr. Christensen at Hangklip. There were the managers of the branches, the skippers and the crews. Without the loyalty, brains and business acumen of all these men, Carl's various enterprises could never have succeeded, especially as for so many years Carl's court cases against his wife, Christine, must have involved the company of I.& J. as well.
According to Mr. Leask, a kindly and easy-going spirit existed between the different office-bearers. Much of his eventual success was due to the judgement, advise and help of all these very special men. I can only think, that in spite of all Carl's eccentricities, he must have possessed a force and quality which inspired his co-workers to loyalty, a kindly spirit - and even confidence.
He certainly had very unusual ways of imparting confidence when teaching a child of six to swim - and a girl of eighteen to drive a car. The swimming lesson consisted simply of taking me out on a deep lake in a rowing-boat, persuading me to jump into the water voluntarily on his promise that he himself would jump in after me and help if I got into
difficulties, I will admit that it took a little persuading, but at last my confidence in him made me literally "take the plunge". It worked. I could swim, but he was also there with a ready hand. His driving lesson was very compressed. He made me drive for hours solidly on the left side of the road, carefully sneaking round bends, braking gently, stopping with clutch out of gear again and then again. Finally, having negotiated the streets of Stockholm from the southern suburbs to the northern, the reversing lesson began. We used his new, very elegant car. He told me to turn and reverse on an old road bordered with big trees. Of course I hit one of them. There was a bang and an ugly bump on the back of the car. I expected to be reprimanded - but no, not an unkind word was heard. Instead, he behaved as if this was the most ordinary occurrence and gently told me to try again. After another hour, his pupil could reverse in all directions in very little space.
During the same period, I saw him catch and subdue a mad horse which the owner could not manage. When the horse attacked him he stood completely still and dropped flat on the ground only a few centimetres, in front of the oncoming animal, so that it was forced to jump over him. After a few more attempts, the horse became docile and my father caught it by the mane.
Carl had met a Swedish scientist in South Africa by the name of Mr. Skog. Mr. Skog was chief taxidermist at the Zoological Museum in Gothenburg. He had been a member of an early Arctic expedition. He and Carl became good friends when Mr. Skog came with him on the very first expedition to Marion Island. We often visited Mr. Skog in the Museum and admired his skill. However, Mr. Skog kept as a pet, a very large ape - maybe a chimpanzee - which he had brought from Africa. This animal was mostly kept free, but I cannot say that it was mutual delight when this uncannily human being tried to embrace me. Mr. Skog had brought the chimpanzee from Central Africa to where I now remember that my father had partly accompanied him. As one of the trophies from this trip we had, in my childhood a beautiful skin of a cheetah in our living room, and of course my mother had to wear a very special sealskin coat from the early expeditions for sealskins.
Through Mr. Skog's friendship with my father, the large Natural History Museum in Stockholm obtained as a donation a skeleton of a blue whale, complete with all joints intact. This was a very costly and difficult operation. My father also paid the costs of the transportation to the Museum. For this service to natural science in Sweden, the director of the Museum recommended my father for a decoration - the Vasa Order. I remember how disappointed I was when he refused to accept this honour. He would not even discuss the question. The donation remained anonymous. To house this colossal skeleton, the Museum had to build a separate new Exhibition Hall.
This was not the first time Carl had donated complete whale skeletons, to a museum. Already in 1923 Dr. L. Peringuey, Director of the South African Museum, had approached him to get skeletons for his museum. One was assembled with great difficulty, but was eventually delivered intact at the top of Cape Town gardens and eventually re-assembled at the museum.
In this story about Carl Ossian Johnson's life and achievements as a Swedish pioneer in South Africa, it is impossible to make a clearcut division between his business affairs and his private life. One reason for this is that he completely ignored and did not even attempt to live personally according to socially-accepted standards. Most of the time his private affairs did not interfere with the progress of his business interests. The legal battle, however, which he was waging for years with Mrs. Christine Johnson, who claimed Community of Property, did have certain effects on the distribution of the company's shares.
As Carl gradually became the major shareholder, he distributed shares to members of his "family", safeguarding the shares from Mrs. Johnson's claim. On studying the four typewritten undated pages marked "Private For the information of Mr. C.O. Johnson", which must have been drawn up by the Secretary of I.& J.,Mr. Abao, one can see how gradually his shares were transferred to people whom Carl felt he could trust.
Apart from the original partners in the I.& J. Companies, my mother, from 1913, held a small number of shares which Carl transferred from his own holding. As the Companies developed, as I have already described, more shares of Carl's were transferred to my mother and to Callie Johnson, his son. At the same time, in 1921, some shares were transferred to me, his acknowledged daughter and to Siri Anderson, who by then had come into his life. The various directors on the Boards of the Companies always held a small number of shares. The major shareholders were always members of Carl's "family".
I do not know when Callie fell out of favour with his father and for what reason. He was a likeable young man, as I remember from the few times I met him as a child. One such occasion was when my father introduced Callie's future wife to my mother in Sweden. Callie must have had a very difficult position between his mother and his father.
I myself, was blissfully unaware of all these shareholdings until 1930. Interest in any case was never paid out and I am certain that none of us in Carl's so-called "family" ever had a real feeling of ownership. My mother continued to try to be economical. I was often told that we could not afford the things that I asked for.
Carl had already, in my seventh year, become involved with another young woman. Her name was Siri Anderson. She came from Vaxjo and her mother was a distant relative or friend of my father. One can almost say that she literally pushed her daughter into my father's arms. My mother tried to break with my father then. I remember being taken out of my bed at "Solhagen" by my mother and speeded with her to some coastal resort outside Stockholm. It was still summer and children should then at all costs not stay in town.
As I have already related, my father always managed to come back to my mother. And so it became a pattern that my father visited South Africa one year with my mother and me and the next with Siri Anderson. Carl was supremely unaware of the fact that conventional people could find anything strange in this situation.
The same must have been the case during his visits to London and Paris. I remember a typical trip with him to Paris. On this occasion
he and his business associate, a portly French bachelor, took me out for dinner. The restaurant was very expensive, but one can say not strictly respectable. When the hostesses who were responsible for the dispensing of numerous bottles of champagne realised that Carl's young companion was his daughter, they were genuinely "bourgeois" shocked - I was too innocent to understand why. They were very sweet girls, some only a few years older than me. They became motherly and protective towards me and said to each other: "Elle est gentille, Ia petite". I understood some French.
We also visited the museums in Paris. I was interested in art and it was a delightful surprise to me when my father showed a genuine and sensitive interest too. His eagerness for knowledge and new experiences had few limitations. Much later, after I had broken our friendship in 1931, he came for a surprise visit to the place where I was studying textiles and handweaving. It was impossible for me not to feel pleasure when he asked for detailed information with intelligent questions, and then listened attentively. Again, we found ourselves having the same relationship which had existed when I was growing up.
On that occasions he told me that he had just come from Cape Town by air. This was in 1935 and he had flown with the Imperial Airways who at that time operated with flying boats. His vivid description of the Central African mountains and plains, the vast herds of elephant which dispersed when the 'plane was flying very low, made a fascinating tale. Carl's ways of crossing from one continent to another were always unorthodox. One year he came back from Cape Town with the Union-Castle Line first-class - proudly displaying how he had managed to pack all his clothes for the trip, including a dinner-jacket, into an old-fashioned genuine sailor's knapsack. He also had a great deal of knowledge of astronomy. I am sorry that I did not take enough advantage of this.
In 1927 or 1928 the Swedish Department of Revenue had started to investigate my mother's tax returns. It was, of course, my father who made her submit them so as to pay as little tax as possible. His argument was that, after all, the money she lived on was not earned in Sweden. I remember these occasions and also that she was very worried when enquiries were made. An eminent advocate, who later became our friend, was consulted. He managed to convince my father that my mother had to leave Sweden and take up domicile abroad if he wanted her to avoid Swedish taxes. As I was about to matriculate from school, the departure was postponed until June 1928. She had to break up her home and store her furniture. She decided to settle in Nice, France, temporarily. I had to come with her, but of course I did not want to stay in France. I begged to be allowed to go to University in Sweden with my friends. But she evidently could not bear to part with me, so I had to stay with her.
Simultaneously, my father evidently had started to worry over the question of who would one day take over his involved business interests. He decided it should be his only daughter, and I was informed of his intentions for my future. My mother seriously believed him. I was youthfully interested and decided that in such a case I had better start to learn something useful. Until then I had just been learning French and had taken art classes in addition to swimming, playing tennis and dancing. It was grim to learn bookkeeping in French, but in the end I
passed an examination.
At some stage we visited Sweden with my father in 1929. He then got to know a young man whom I had known since I was 13, and whose family were friends of my mother. My father took a fancy to the young man, and with his usual drive decided that this young man should be my husband, to help in the "I.& J. venture". The young man already had his university degree from Ultuna Agricultural College, Upsala. His name was Olle Hakanson. We liked each other - but it was still to be an arranged marriage.
My father invited Olle to come to South Africa in 1930 after our engagement. My mother and I stayed in Europe and launched the "Tafelberg" in April 1930. After that my mother and I came out to Cape Town and it was then we had the fantastic trip with the Studebaker and visited the Whaling Stations. In those days there were clouds of pink flamingoes over the innermost part of SaIdanha Bay. At low tide we also visited a typical old Boer farm - very idyllic - on the shore.
I also got to know the directors of I.& J. Everyone was kind - but I do not blame them if they did not take my father's intentions seriously. Because - unpredictable as he was - he was already tired of my future husband.
My mother still hoped that everything would be all right. We eventually all went back to Sweden. The wedding took place and needless to say, my father charmed all my girl friends.
In the beginning of 1931 my husband and I came back to Cape Town. My father was already there. My mother, mistakenly, also came out later in order to protect us against my father's unpredictable moods. He did not give my husband any work, no directions of any sort, and no fixed salary. He decided what car we should buy and for finances, he gave me a cheque account of £100,000. It was a joint account. Both I and my father could use it. The reason was, of course, that my father needed to settle as much capital as possible in other people's names because of the court case, and still have access to this capital himself. It was very discouraging for my husband not to be given any work. So we decided to draw just a minimum sum from this account every month to show my father that we could be trusted.
During that year the court case was given large headlines in the daily papers. Being hard-pressed to preserve his capital, my father was advised to settle some money in my mother's name in England, and also a smaller amount in my name. On these new accounts he had no drawing rights, which I realised when we signed the necessary documents in the bank.
The year wore on. I could see no progress in our relationship with my father. The strain on my mother under these conditions was telling on her. One day I suddenly realised I was a grown woman and should rule over my own destiny. So I decided that it was time to break all relations with my father. I had no idea how many shares my mother and I held in I.& J. - nor did I really care. In my estimation, my mother had never been paid back anything of her initial loan to my father. She had only had a maintenance allowance and I had got my father's name and a good
education. I cannot remember how I persuaded my mother to take her freedom and transfer the money in her name from England to Sweden. I did the same with mine. Alone, I faced my father with these facts and explained that we intended to return to Sweden and that he could consider himself free from his original debt to my mother. We wanted nothing more from him. His reaction to my statement was a stony-faced silence.
My mother left for Sweden, but my husband and I had to stay on as my father had used my husband's name as owner of a house in Sea Point. This house had to be sold before we could leave.
After the final scene, I still tried to show my loyalty to my father in his business and attended a shareholders' meeting for the first and only time. The time was at the beginning of the depression. The director of I.& J. objected to the idea of sending the "Tafelberg" whaling that summer in the Antarctic. My father made a passionate plea for the venture. When the matter had to be voted on he was defeated. I think he noted that my husband and I voted with him.
From the time we parted in 1931, I have not much intimate knowledge of the life of my father, nor of the progress of I. & J. I already knew then though that he had been advised by overseas legal experts to transfer all I.& J shares held by himself, my mother and we and other nominees to a company which he had founded in Guernsey, Channel Islands. This was called "The Guernsey Foreign Investment Trust Limited". It was finally accomplished in 1933 in utter secrecy because of the still raging court case.
This court case was also fought in Swedish Law Courts. After my divorce from my husband, I lived with my mother who had started a new life, even changing her name to Jorelius. In 1936 she had to defend his case for him by confirming his original loans of capital from her. Of course I had to be there too. The Board of Directors of I.& J. had some very difficult meetings because of this never-ending court case. In June 1937, Mr. Knox-Baxter died and Mr. Abao was appointed director in his place but still retained the secretaryship. Shortly after that Carl cabled from Europe, offering to purchase the whole of the whaling assets of the Kerguelen Company from I.& J. at book value. Carl was 70 years old then. One can only marvel at his tenacity and spirit in regard to his whaling interests.
The directors had become so thoroughly tired of whaling that they would have been willing to sell. Mrs. Johnson's lawyers objected, as this sale could mean a loss to the assets under dispute. After complicated and harassing Board Meetings, Carl was finally persuaded to withdraw his offer. This was probably very fortunate because Carl was not in good health, nor were some of his directors.
I have already related what happened to the "Tafelberg", Carl's favourite ship.
The SaIdanha and Hangklip Whaling Stations were subsequently sold.
In 1938, Carl's court case was at last concluded in his favour. He finally obtained a divorce in Reval, a divorce which according to Swedish
experts was not valid. Be that as it may! After all those years, he came to my mother and asked her to marry him. This was in 1939. She asked me if I wanted her to do so. She had not seen my father during the intervening years, Perhaps it was an old loyalty which prompted him. She would have married him if it had been my wish, but I am afraid I did not even consider the question and its economic advantages. My mother is a charming woman and she had by that time her own circle of friends. I could not see why she should be disturbed again by my father's unpredictable will. Besides, if she had wanted to marry him, she would not have asked me. I believe he was very hurt and upset. It was a shock for us too, when soon afterwards, he married Siri Anderson.
Carl was again caught in Sweden during World War II, having travelled to and from South Africa in the "Tafelberg".
In the meantime, I had accepted a textile contract in Pretoria and met my second husband Norman Greenwood, and came to live in South Africa.
I.& J. seemed to prosper under the able leadership of its directors. After the war, Carl came out with his second wife to settle in South Africa. One day in 1946 there was a 'phone call from I.& J's offices in Johannesburg. Could my father come and see me that afternoon? 'Yes, of course'- how could I refuse after all those years.
So he came, he met my husband and our three daughters and he seemed to be happy in his silent way because his eyes had the dark-blue look not the stony ice-berg quality. He still looked very young for his age. When he rose to leave, he suddenly took out his cheque book and wrote out a cheque in silence. I hesitated, having sworn never to accept anything from him again. In the end I thanked him but did not look at the cheque. We all followed him out to the waiting car. Back in the house, I studied the cheque. It was for £5,000.
Later, I visited him in Cape Town several times, also after his stroke. I also made friends with his second wife, Siri, who nursed him faithfully. Fortunately, Mr. East had recommended Mr. Abe Bloomberg to assist Carl and I.& J. in financial, matters so that the great concern which he had pioneered could continue to flourish.
Carl Ossian Johnson died in Cape Town on 25 June 1949. He had become a South African subject only two months before his death.
He is buried in Vaxjo in his beloved Smaland.