Bob (Robert) Maxwell Molloy was born in Belfast, Northern Ireland in 1929. The sixth of eight children. His father was gassed in the trenches in France during WW1, returning in ill health to a labouring position, in the Harland & Wolf Shipyard. In a time of very high unemployment following WW2, Bob’s father and mother were determined that he and his siblings would secure apprenticeships to help them make their way in the world and Bob had to forego his academic aspirations.
Bob was a teenager during the Nazi blitz that destroyed many Belfast homes, shops and businesses. He developed a love of cycling and Youth Hosteling, during his electrical apprenticeship at Harland and Wolf Shipyard, where he worked on the construction of the aircraft carrier HMS Eagle. Whilst the shipyard was fondly referred to as the “University of Life,” it never offered the academic education Bob aspired to. On completing his apprenticeship there were few job prospects in Northern Ireland and none within Harland and Wolf. With housing scarce, the continuation of post WW2 food and clothing “rationing”, this ambitious young man and his pregnant young wife, Edna, set off to make a new life on the Johannesburg Goldfields at the end of 1952.
Bob was found to be medically unfit for underground working, (due to his bantam weight and heart murmer). It was suggested he try his luck with de Beers and CDM at Oranjemund, in “German South West Africa.” Having secured a two year contract as an Electrician, Bob and Edna flew into Alexander Bay at the end of 1952. When they looked out of the aircraft at the small township and never ending sand, they could never have imagined how good a place this would be to bring up a young family, nor could they have anticipated that they would happily continue to live there until 1967.
Their three children Sinclair, Colleen and Siobhan were born in Oranjemund, and fondly remember their privileged and “idyllic” childhood there. Bob joined the Boxing Club, ran the odd half marathon, assisted the Oranjemund Players and was an active founder member of the Cormorant Yacht Club. He and Aubrey Luck built one of the first Enterprise class yachts. Bob named her “Banshee”, retro-fitting a very intimidating stainless steel bow plate and Edna affixed a silhouette of a witch on her broom to the yellow sails. Bob was also a very keen gardener. For a time Edna and three friends ran the local cafe (The Odd Spot) with Edna responsible for the in house cake and pastry baking. Edna enjoyed entertaining and cooking great food, taking up golf, learning to swim and to sail and was one of the first town residents to permanently hire a car, a Morris Minor, specially sprayed navy blue at Edna’s insistence.
Bob encouraged his younger brother, Eddie, a diesel fitter and wife Sally to settle in Oranjemund. Sally worked in the Store and Eddie became a prolific photographer and keen fisherman. He manufactured his own aqualung, circa 1959 and began harvesting crayfish on an industrial scale. Eddie may still be remembered as the man who killed two hawks, in self defence, when they attacked him after he accidentally disturbed their nest while prospecting for spares at the dump. He felt obliged to nurture the three chicks, going out every lunch break to hunt down live lizards and teaching the young hawks to hunt in his living room. The hawks remained in the town for some years, unafraid of people, and adept at taking meat right off the BBQ or one’s plate. Eddie was also known to make outrageous bets with newcomers. If he spotted a desert hare, he bet that he could catch it. Eddie would trudge off over the dunes, wearing boots and overalls, eventually returning with an exhausted hare held by the ears, to collect his winnings. Eddie eventually settled in Port Elizabeth, before retiring to Ballycastle on the beautiful Antrim coast in Northern Ireland, where he died in 2000. Sally still lives there.
Bob railed against the six day/48 hour, artisan contract and he often refused overtime because it interfered with his distance learning attempts to Matriculate. Life long friendships were developed in those early years, when Bob became one of the first to ski on the Pink Pan - towed behind a Land Rover. This was before the Pan was excavated. It was very shallow, a thick crust of pink salt covering a thicker layer of slimy black mud! Bob also made an early attempt to surf the Atlantic breakers on a surf-ski, made from canvas, fibreglass and hardboard. Sitting well astern, he paddled out into the first big roller which forced the boat high into the air ……..Bob’s head punching a face shaped hole in the boat deck when it eventually came back down. Bleeding profusely from a a jagged neck wound, Bob declared his first surf attempt to have been a “roaring success”. He found a use for the many old bicycle frames and bicycle wheels recovered from the town dump, building a fleet of land yachts, used for many years by young Oranjemunders.
On a weekend father and son bonding session with Sinclair, circa 1965, they found themselves camping on the beach. Bob waking up just in time to deter a strandwolf, about to take a bite out of his son.
Somehow during his time in Oranjemund, Bob also found time to write science fiction and other short stories and he was published in UK and South African newspapers and magazines. He became the local correspondent for several South African newspapers and for the Windhoek Advertiser.
His correspondence course studies continued and through sheer hard work and determination, Bob eventually won a combined honours degree in Psychology and English from the University of South Africa. A new career as a Clinical Psychologist beckoned, requiring a postgraduate qualification from the University of Cape Town and necessitating the move to Rondebosch East in 1967.
To meet his university fees and sustain his family, Bob secured a job with the Cape Times as a junior reporter, working the night shift, attending University and clinical placements during the day. Edna refreshed her touch typing and shorthand skills, obtaining a part time position at the University library. Bob quickly learned the craft on one of the finest newspapers of the time, his name appearing on many front page news stories. He did not find the same job satisfaction in Clinical Psychology and after a very short career, he was very pleased to return to his vocation at the Cape Times as a Staff Reporter, writing a weekly column, eventually becoming the Science and Environment Correspondent and for a time their restaurant and theatre reviewer.
After their marriage broke down in 1969, Edna and the children moved to Northern Ireland and Bob moved to Mowbray . Edna worked in Housing Management whilst obtaining the necessary qualifications to gain a place on a full time Social Work degree course, leading to a distinguished career with the Northern Ireland Probation Service.
Bob moved to Beach Cottage in Hout Bay, which became a gathering place for many Cape Town movers, shakers and trendsetters. Here Bob took up wind surfing and horse riding and became an early consumer and environmental campaigner. He planted and nurtured many flowering gum trees on the Cape Peninsula, published a wind surfing manual and began ghost writing columns, memoirs and autobiographies including for Christian Barnard, the heart surgeon who carried out the world’s first successful human heart transplant.
Bob married Keri, a fellow journalist and accomplished artist in 1980. They visited New Zealand that year and discovered that Kiwis “whilst they weren’t rich, sure were happy”. Kate’s arrival in 1982 saw the start of Bob’s second family, and after Amy arrived, they moved to New Zealand in 1985, buying into the newspaper business to secure residence. The Northern News and Bay Chronicle won many prestigious awards and the business was very successful, although Bob much preferred the writing to the managing. They settled in Keri Keri, in the Bay of Islands, built a new family home and bought a sailing boat. Bob continuing his work as an environmental campaigner, local issues activist and Rotarian. Bob always enjoyed debate. It was often unclear whether the line he took was from conviction or purely to ensure a continued debate, although he would always be able to back up his apparent conviction with solid references. Becoming more chilled in later life and developing a new political awareness and analysis that made him the cool guy for his grandchildren to chat to and exchange e-mails with. The younger grandchildren enjoyed his company too and he enjoyed reading and long conversational meal times at the poolside with them.
Bob continued, after retiring from the newspaper world, to ghost write and publish fascinating biographies, ( including John Ray; Keri Keri Fighter Pilot and Edward Little Selby, Missionary and developer of New Zealand fruit farming in Keri Keri) He continued to attract young people who enjoyed his well informed and thought provoking company over a cold beer. He remained an active Keri Keri Rotarian and member of Toastmasters and continued to encourage the planting of many thousands of Pohutukawa trees on the Northland Crimson Trail.
There were great clan Molloy gatherings both in Europe and in New Zealand and many a South African friend and ex- Oranjemunder visited the Keri Keri Molloys over the years. The last great family gathering was over Christmas and New Year for daughter Kate’s wedding in January 2015, attended by Bob’s children and many grandchildren, who gathered again at the end of May to celebrate his life at his modest funeral bash
Submitted by Sinclair Molloy
Link to Forum Post!