My wife Sheila’s second eldest brother, Alan, passed away in 2007 in Vereeniging Hospital, Gauteng Province, aged sixty four. He was admitted on 10th August; Neil, his brother was informed that he had difficulty breathing and was on oxygen, but he passed away on the 13th.
When Sheila started her tertiary education as a student nurse in Cape Town in about 1970, Alan was there to keep a brotherly eye on her. They became close during this period, and her progress as new wife and mother in the years that followed were keenly and proudly watched. Her divorce was a serious disappointment and was the reason that Alan and I had a rocky relationship. He disapproved of me as partner for his only sister, and although we actually got on well after his initial bristling, every time we met, the same scenario would play out again and again each time we did so. I liked him. I found him very entertaining with a great sense of humour and was saddened by the fact that he kept reverting to a state of animosity.
Years back, on visiting his eldest brother, Tom Maling in Johannesburg, I found Tom and his wife away and Alan was house-sitting. Tom’s youngest son, Neville was not yet back from school. Reluctantly Alan invited me in. Soon we were amicably drinking red wine, and he suggested a scene where, when Neville got home, he would find us both covered in tomato sauce, still fighting!
Of his art, another South African artist, Johan du Plooy, has said that Alan’s use of shadow was exceptional and he appreciated Alan’s skill. His work can be found in homes and galleries throughout South Africa.
After his passing, his cousin, Norah Shelver (nee Gibson, now Wingreen) wrote the following which I am grateful to share here:
ALAN ERNEST MAXWELL MALING
I was six years old when Alan was born in 1943. He was the second son of Chris (Christopher Thompson Maling) and VicMaling (Victoria Alice nee Tricker). Aunty Vic was my mother’s eldest sister. As my father had died when I was in my third year, the Malings became very significant in my life. My mother stayed with them until she found work in Johannesburg, and I spent many school holidays with them throughout my youth.
Alan was an intelligent, talented child. He had a great interest in cars and from an early age he could identify every car on the road. He was fortunate to have a father like Chris who was not only mechanically minded, but a great teacher.
Aged twenty, I decided to complete my nursing training at Frere Hospital in East London (Eastern Cape Province) in 1958, where Alan was a boarding scholar at Selbourne College at the time. He had several friends from Rhodesia, together with whom he would visit me at the Nurses Home, and one of them even invited me to partner him to the matric farewell, which I loftily turned down!
By this time Alan was already showing great promise as an artist and gave me a painting of Xhosa women living on the Maling farm. This is still one of my favourite possessions.
Alan took up Interior Decorating; working for Uptons in Port Elizabeth for a time, where I visited him in hospital when he contracted infective hepatitis. He later moved to Cape Town, where, when I was studying psychiatric nursing at Valkenberg , and my daughters were at Capetown Technical College, we saw a lot of Alan and enjoyed his company. He had a small studio at Firndale Mansions, Tamboerskloof where we would spend many an entertaining evening with him and his friends, sharing mince dishes, wine and music. Edith Piaf, and Chris de Berg were among the favourites we had in common.
Money was always in short supply with Alan, but he was disdainful of the suggestion he produce pot-boilers to help with his income. I loved his scenes of fishing boats at Hout Bay, and the cottages and scenes of the Genadendal area. We loved the opportunity to attend his exhibitions set up by his friends. We had cocktails at the Mount Nelson Hotel where a mutual friend, Bruce Gardner, would play the piano and join us during his break. Another joy was outings in the vintage cars that Alan slowly collected, attracting attention wherever we went.
Contact was reduced to phone calls when Alan moved to Henley-on-Klip in Gauteng, where he was to remain for the rest of his life. The last time I saw him was when we both stayed with a cousin to attend the 90th birthday of our mutual Aunty Jewel. Such fun memories.
Where do we go when we die? We remain in the hearts of those who loved and remember us.