Schooling, Military Service, Universities
During those years, although the school dormitories were established in Mowbray, being an Anglican College, the classrooms lay just behind the Cathedral in Cape Town city. The boys, of course, attended church services there and many were in the choir.
Some incidents I recall concerning Peter during his college days were that, in order to obtain a bit of extra pocket money, he started a magazine for the other pupils called (I think) “Bloomendal News” This was after the name of his school house, ‘Bloomendal’ and he sold each issue for about sixpence (or six cents). He produced and printed it using a rather old, second-hand roneo machine and black ink. It was a very messy business but, apparently, proved quite popular among the other students. I still have some copies hoarded away somewhere.
Also, he decided to write a novel and progressed surprisingly well over this, persuading the mother of one of his friends to type it out for him. I don’t know what happened to this manuscript, but after reading quite a large part of it, I do recall asking him how it was going to end and his reply was “I don’t know, I am keeping myself in suspense!”
Another enterprise was the invention of a toothbrush, designed to allow the handle to be filled with toothpaste, which fed onto the bristles as needed. Unknown to us and without assistance, he submitted this idea to the Colgate Company and received a letter back from them to the effect that while they acknowledged his ingenuity, they didn’t feel they could market such an article successfully.
For some reason, we became concerned over Andrew’s eyesight and tried to test each boy’s eyes at home. All seemed well to us, but later Peter went to have his checked professionally and bought himself some glasses for his short sightedness.
Also while at St George’s Peter took part in a couple of plays, one being, if I remember correctly, J. M. Barrie’s “The Admirable Crichton” in which the boys joined with the girls from Rustenburg Girls High School and Peter played the part of The Rev. John Treherne.
Another was a murder mystery by Agatha Christie, “The Ten Little Nigger Boys” and this one required ten small statuettes to be made by casting them in Plaster of Paris. These were displayed on stage then, one by one they disappeared as the murders took place. I still have one of these ‘Little Niggers’, which Peter gave me after the play was over; it is in the Dutch display cabinet with most of my other mementoes.
In 1967 Peter won the school prize, called the Ian Fairweather History Prize but, ironically the only other prizes I recall our sons winning were for Bible or Religious Studies, which happened on several occasions!
In 1967 Peter passed his matriculation and, as was compulsory in South Africa at that time, this was followed by two years military service, he being designated to serve in the Medical Corps.
While in the military he became very friendly with another young man, Andre Joubert, whose parents lived in Gordons Bay and they also became close friends of ours in consequence. But the original connection came about because of a problem that arose between Peter and the Matron in charge of the hospital where they had been posted. As South Africa was considered a bilingual country at that time, all military personnel were entitled to be addressed in their home language, but this matron insisted all those under her were to be spoken to in Afrikaans. On principle, Peter insisted on his right to English and this caused a great deal of conflict to the point where Andre, whose whole family were completely bilingual, became concerned and involved in what he, too, considered an injustice and that formed the basis of their friendship and their common enmity of the matron. We only learned of all this because Andre confided his anger at Peter’s situation to his parents, although Peter preferred to fight his own battles.
With his military service behind him, he was then able to attend the Cape Town university where he obtained a BSc degree (1969 – 1971) in Chemistry I, II, and III, Geology I and II, Oceanography, Mathematics I, and Physics I and BSc (Hons) in 1973 for his thesis on ‘Computer Simulation of Metal Ions in Biochemical Systems; Models for Blood Plasma’, working under Professor Peter Linder. He also took a year away from the university to teach at his old school, St. George’s College in Mowbray, Cape Town (part time 1971, 1973 and 1974; full time 1972).
On 4.2.1975 Peter Michael May married Heather Ainslee nee de Jager, a divorcee with 2 sons: Sebastian and Jasper Ainslee.
Between January 1978 and December 1981 he was at the University of Wales, Institute of Science and Technology, having been invited first (in 1976) to St Andrew’s University by Professor David Williams and then to accompany him as his assistant when he took up a post in the university in Cardiff. While at St Andrew’s University, the family, including Heather’s two sons, Sebastion and Jasper, lived in the small coastal village of Crail and their first son, Eric was born during that time.
Peter applied for a position at Murdoch University in 1985 and left for Perth, Australia in October of that year.
We agreed that it might be wise for us to come over to Cardiff to assist over the move, in particular in order to be able to handle any uncompleted arrangements after their departure and this turned out to be very fortunate indeed because the man who purchased their house, a Frenchman, was very crafty over signing the agreement after offering to purchase. In fact, he strung them along until the very morning of their departure hoping to be able to pressure them into reducing the agreed price more than once, but eventually he had to realise that we would be able to deal with the sale even after they left the country. We were also, of course, able to oversee the packing and transportation of their belongings and the payment of any last minute bills, etc. We were extremely fortunate in that the next door neighbours, Rene and Stanley Gitsham, suggested we stay with them after the removal of the furniture and until all was finalised. They became firm friends and we have remained in touch ever since, even continuing to correspond after Stan died and Rene moved to be closer to her daughter and family.