My father, Joe Sutton had an unquenchable passion for telling news stories. This first emerged at the age of 10, when he produced a little family newspaper called “The Daily Messenger” – complete with adverts for popular products like Palmolive soap! Such was his passion for news that he broke with family tradition by becoming neither an educator, nor a man of the cloth, as had been the dual-vocations of both his father and his grandfather. He studied a Bachelor of Arts, majoring in History and Economics at Rhodes University and embarked on a life in journalism, never to look back. Joe began his career at the Evening Post in Port Elizabeth before moving to the UK, where he gained valuable experience working on British newspapers. (It was while working on the Scottish Daily Mail in Edinburgh that he would meet the love of his life, his future wife Bunty).
Joe’s other abiding passion was his alma mater, Dale College – the boys school in King William’s Town. To say that Dale ran in his blood would be an understatement. He was born at Dale, where his father was headmaster and his grandfather had been headmaster before him. (There was a 47 year reign of Sutton headmasters from 1890 – 1937).
Joe supported his school in numerous ways, not least of which was through publishing a news magazine, Transdale. Taking the reins of this publication in 1975, he continued to produce editions once or twice a year for some 38 years.
In 1961, Joe joined the Sunday Times in Johannesburg, which he served loyally for 30 years, under two iconic editors, Joel Mervis and Tertius Myburgh. He moved quickly up the ranks, serving as deputy editor and later managing editor, posts he held for the last 20 years of his life at the Times. He retained a natural ability to sniff out a story, an angle or a link which made for good reading!
Joe was in the prime of his life, loving his work at the Sunday Times, when ill health (lymphoma) forced him into early retirement in 1991. This was a cruel blow for him - to be put out to pasture prematurely, as South Africa was entering the most exciting time in its history! Mandela had been released from prison after 27 years and the “SS New South Africa" was leaving the harbour on an exciting, uncharted voyage! This was a time for reporting on “history in the making”!
Thankful that he still had his health, Joe accepted his fate. But “retirement” was not an option! He continued to pour his passion into seeking out stories about Dale – Dale boys, Dale parents, Dale Old Boys – for his publication. When printing became too expensive in the late 1990’s, Joe regretfully published his last edition.
However, his family learnt that you can’t keep a true newsman down. Like a Phoenix rising from the ashes, Transdale was resurrected a year later, as an e-version which was e-mailed to Old Dalians all over the world! Whenever Joe considered producing his last edition, another great story would emerge. He would often quip – “So many stories, so little time”! There was an unfinished edition of Transdale on Joe’s PC in February 2013, when he finally took the ultimate non-negotiable retirement - moving to the great newsroom in the sky. We are fortunate however, that before Joe passed on, he tackled one final giant project – compiling our “family memoirs”. For him this was not to be a dry tome, recounting dates, names, places and facts. It had to be a collection of interesting news stories. This was no small undertaking. After a few years, he had compiled over 100 pages of stories.
It is an unfinished memoire, as the author had no plan to check out as early as he did! We would often joke that our Dad thought that like Peter Pan, he would live forever. It was this innocent youthfulness and zest for life, coupled with qualities such as loyalty, a love for family, a sense of humour and kind heartedness that made him such a well-loved man.
So here you have it - A collection of newsy stories about the characters that have been part of our family history. Joe took great pleasure in researching the memoires, connecting with his extended family all around the world, gathering their contributions and shaping them in a way that would be “news-worthy”. He would hope that you will enjoy dipping into these stories and learning about the people that went before us.
What a wonderful legacy Joe has left us. May these stories live on as folk-lore about our forefathers, for many generations to come.
Stuart Sutton - May 2016.
Please note the stories recount events at the time of writing and people may have moved away or passed on since. We may add footnotes periodically to update the records.