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 Milner Park 24 Hour Rock Festival Raid 1970

Milner Park 24 Hour Rock Festival Kruger Day, Sat 10th Oct 1970

Daily News Headline 10 Oct 1970
Daily News Headline 10 Oct 1970
Big Mac Before the Kruger Day Attack 1970 (Photo by John Massey-Taylor)
Big Mac Before the Kruger Day Attack 1970 (Photo by John Massey-Taylor)
Big Mac and Robbie Hahn make national headlines after their Kidnap ordeal.
Big Mac and Robbie Hahn make national headlines after their Kidnap ordeal.
Front Page of the Rock for Peace programme.
Front Page of the Rock for Peace programme.
Die Beeld Photo & Headline News Paper Report
Die Beeld Photo & Headline News Paper Report
Solo Robbie Hahn at the Take 5 in Durban 1967
Solo Robbie Hahn at the Take 5 in Durban 1967

David Marks writes: Here is Mac's personal take on this strange event (that took place on the 10th October 1970, @ The Milner Park ‘Rand Easter’ Show Grounds; an event that would have far reaching consequences far & away from what those Pretoria University students did to the Johannesburg Rockers. In those days rock festivals were still referred to as POP festivals by the mainstream media. But this was no popcorn festival - It was a SAfrican ROCK & ROLL event of note - produced by Billy Forest & Zip Code Promotions - ironically in the interest of peace & harmony - See the full line-up & program notes in the News Letter - Oom Paul Kruger’s direct ‘missionary’ decadent descendants: Suck, Louis Greef, Jacob Haye, Hawk, Freedom's Children, Hocus (Stevie Van Kerken & Mutt Lange), Conglomeration (with Trevor Rabin, Ronnie Robot, Allen Rosenberg & Neil Cloud), Otis Waygood Blues Band, Abstract Truth & many other Folk ‘n Rockers - Mike Dickman, Brian Finch, Duccio Alessandri, David Marks etc. Pop festival indeed!

I met Big Mac in 1963 on (or in & down?) the East Rand Gold mines. It was he who introduced me and Ray Watson and John Booth and Terrence Blount and the rest of us previously loud rock & rugger orientated gold diggers to the Johannesburg Folk scene; it was Big Mac who encouraged me to sing the underground songs I'd been writing. We have been the best of friends ever since - family if you will - despite being world's apart. We played as a duo on and off for some years between 1966 and 1968 and in a number of Band projects in the mid to late 70's and early 80's - most notably The Elastic Head Band, The Medium Wave Band and Words & Music by Bob Dylan.

Neil MacCallum now lives & teaches in Toronto, Canada.

Note: Abstract Truth - See a brief background to 3rd Ear Music's connection with this great live band below; certainly one of South Africa's most innovative, influential & creative bands at the time. Unfortunately they recorded 2 appallingly bad studio albums for EMI - produced by Clive Calder - and one with Big B one of the first Indie Labels.

Neil Big Mac MacCallum writes:

The 1970 Kruger Day Hair Massacre lives on in my memory.

I will tell you my side of it and how I perceived Robert's (Hahn) experience. The next time you see him, get him to tell you his side of things. The whole affair freaked him out to a huge extent. I was never a great fan of (so called) pop festivals - they were inevitably boring. The only reason I went down to Milner Park that night was to pitch my relatively complicated tent for Abstract Truth to hang out in. Robbie and I went to pick Pat McCarthy up after his show at Adam Leslie and then went over to Milner Park with the stupid tent. We chose a spot near the back so that the boys could have relative privacy to get up to whatever it was they needed a tent for in the first place.

Everybody was fashionably stoned so I unpacked all the tent stuff and laid it out while everybody else stood around giving expert advice. I wanted to get home to bed as quickly as possible, so I picked up some tent pegs, got down on my haunches and started pitching the tent. Somebody started playing with fireworks over to one side of the arena. Slack-jawed, stoned-out people stood and took it all in. I suddenly started moving backwards rapidly. Two HUGE buggers had me by the arms and were running as fast as they could towards an open gate at the back of the stadium. My feet didn't touch the ground for the first hundred meters.

We (they) were running at full tilt through an advancing crowd of young men carrying pick handles and other blunt instruments. I thought I was going to be taken out into the dark show grounds and beaten to a pulp. As went through the open gate I saw a security guard standing by, watching the fun.

HEY! HELP ME, MAN! He just laughed. He had obviously opened the gates for the hit squad in the first place. What do you ous think you're doing? We're just going to take you to Pretoria and give you haircut, they reassured me. They were gawe ouens. So I wasn't going to die! I have never been a particularly fit person so by the time we got down to the parking lot on Empire Road I was blowing hard. Another open gate with another security guard standing by - another night op die dop, watching half-mense being taught some manners. I was bundled into the back seat of a VW Beetle and we moved off on our way to Pretoria.

I engaged my captors in conversation in Afrikaans, which surprised them. What was this all about? You people were warned that Helde Dag (Kruger Day) is a sacred day for us Afrikaners and still you are having your Pop Festival. We have decided to teach you a lesson you'll never forget. We are going to cut off your hair and make a man out of you.

Ironically, I had had a haircut a couple of days before this - my hair was relatively short. I examined my two captors and the driver of the car. They were children. How old are you oukies? One of them was eighteen, the other two nineteen. Hell, I was ancient, going on twenty-five! Have any of you ever had a job? No, they were divinity students. When I was nineteen, I had already worked down a mine for two years and yet you lighties are going to make a man out of me by cutting off my hair?

This is nonsense! How will cutting my hair increase my masculinity? What about Samson? When his hair got cut he became a weakling. Haven't you learned anything from the book you're studying? Mutter, mutter, mutter. You know, if you really want to behave like Christians you should turn the car around and we can go and find some coffee and talk about this. No, that is out of the question.

The ou manne know that we have you in the car and we will be in deep shit if we let you go. So what? I'm in deep shit if you don't. Is this the Christian way of doing things? I always thought that the most appealing thing about Christianity was the compassion. The conversation ebbed and flowed like this for a while. Nothing serious was going to happen to me. They promised. They would look after me. Just a little haircut. No problem.

We pulled into the Fountains parking lot. There were a lot of people waiting there for the raiders to return. Ours was the first car back. The driver got out of the car to report to the ou manne. A crowd came over to the car. You ouens promised to look after me, hey! Don't worry! I was worried.

A guy called Herman opened the driver's door and leaned into the car. So you're one of the Communists! He slapped me in the face as hard as he could. I didn't feel it. I became aware of the fact that a part of me was observing this madness coldly and dispassionately. I supposed my Third Eye had been jolted open. Cool. This is the closest I have ever come to any kind of spiritual revelation. Herman dragged me out of the car and delivered me to the waiting mob of children. My abductors, to their credit, they did try to intervene but to no avail. I was the first longhair that this waiting crowd had come into contact with and they were keen to start my education. I was grabbed by my arms and legs and my backside was positioned to offer a tempting target. A guy started whipping me with an army belt. He worked really hard at it. I still felt no pain and even started laughing at the absurdity of the whole situation. This infuriated my abuser. Eventually, the blows became more and more feeble and petered out. Soutpiel, jy's 'n taai moerskont! I presumed that this was meant as a compliment, coming from a divinity student and all.

Billy Forest's Peace Appeal
Billy Forest's Peace Appeal
By this time other cars with other victims had arrived. Haircutting was in progress. All of us longhairs, about eight in all, were pushed down to the ground in front of some cars that had their lights on. My hair was hacked off by a number of people brandishing scissors.

I have had better haircuts. There were short bits and long bits. Some of the scissor cuts went down to my scalp. I was obviously going to have to shave my head. Ho hum.

We were then all made to stand with our hands cupped over our genitals. So this was what being a man was all about! An older man gave us a lecture on the importance of Helde Dag and how this sorry set of circumstances was the result of our total lack of respect.

This sucker even got applause from the crowd. It was all very odd and otherworldly. A bus, full of retuning heroes and their captives, pulled into the parking lot. The violent element ran over to join in the fun that was to be had with the next set of victims.

I found out much later that Robert was on the bus. About twenty people were left standing around in the headlights. A young guy approached me. Hey man, I'm really sorry about what has happened here. I didn't think it was going to be like this. How can I help you? Get me away from here and back to Jo'Burg! He had a car and some equally apologetic friends, one of whom had recognized me from Springs. The generator warning-light was showing in their car so they couldn't give me a ride back to Jo'Burg. They drove me to Pretoria Station, bought me a ticket and sat and waited with me until the train eventually pulled out at about three-thirty A.M. Their concern and generosity made up for a lot of the nonsense I had just been through. I found the whole incident incredibly childish and ridiculous. How could I be angry?

I caught a taxi back to the flat I shared with Robert. Robert was involved with Abstract Truth and they were staying with us at the time. Them and all their friends. And some of their friends' friends. It was those times. The place was in an uproar. Nobody knew what had happened to us. They had seen the two of us being grabbed and that was it. People were relieved to see that I was still alive. Robert was still missing. He pitched up a couple of hours later with a terrible haircut and in a VERY bad mood. Nobody had taken him to the fucking station - he was forced to walk for miles until somebody finally gave him a lift and dropped him off at our place.

Die Beeld Photo & Caption Report
Die Beeld Photo & Caption Report
He still had his FN rifle and some ammunition from his army days. He wanted to get in the van and go over to Pretoria and start wasting people. A very BAD mood. I finally convinced Robert that the way to go was to get over to the
Hillbrow Police Station and report the incident. Let the Boere take care of things. Yeah, sure.

We walked over to the cop station. I had never been there so we went into an office marked CHARGE OFFICE. There were a number of plain-clothes cops lounging around the place. We'd like to report a crime.

Ja? What seems to be the problem?

We were kidnapped, assaulted, our hair was cut off and we'd like to start legal proceedings against the people who did this to us. The cop who was obviously in charge leaned back on the counter and started laughing. Well it seems to me like you should thank these people. I think you look lovely! The other cops in the room found this hilarious and started falling about. This really pissed me off.

HEY LISTEN!!! I didn't come here to be insulted by you public servants. Do your bloody job and start writing down some details. The laughter stopped abruptly. You listen. This is the C.I.D. Charge Office. This is common assault - none of our business. The uniformed branch is in the main building. Get out of here!

We went home. So much for the police. We decided to go to the Rand Daily Mail. It was Kruger Day. Nobody was home. We bumped into another guy with a bad haircut. He came over to The Star with us. The story was on the front page of their noon edition. We went home to bed.

Abstract Truth was due to play in the early evening so we went back to MiIner Park to catch their set. When we got there, Billy Forest came bustling over. The cops were looking for us. The Colonel at Hillbrow was very upset by the way we had been handled by the police and wanted to make amends. We went into the police office under the grandstand. They took our statements and were VERY sympathetic. My backside was badly bruised from the beating I had been given. A police photographer was summoned to take an appropriate picture. The room was full of policemen. I went over to one side of the room, dropped my pants and pointed my arse at the assembled multitude while a policeman took a photograph. I caught Robert's eye.

You'd better smile! It was all just too fucking much. We got helpless.

Mill Park Program 1970 Line Up
Mill Park Program 1970 Line Up
The Colonel wanted to see us to personally apologize for our treatment. He was very busy so would we mind if they drove us over to Hillbrow? They only had a lock-up van - would we mind getting in the back? Nothing personal, ouens! Chuckle, chuckle.

Everything was fine and dandy. The Colonel met us at the door of his office, hand extended in open friendship. He wanted to know every detail. We settled in for a heart-to-heart chat with this affable, concerned father figure. Robert got so relaxed that he put his feet up on the Colonel's desk. Our new pal didn't mind at all. Anything to make his boys happy. Robert went first. He was still angry. He had had a huge Afro hairstyle so the boys on the bus assumed they had caught the King of the Hippies. He had been ragged mercilessly all the way over to Pretoria. He had even had some of his hair burnt off.

From this time onwards, Robert was single-minded in his resolve to get the hell out of South Africa. He saw the whole situation as being hopeless and totally anti-life. He was right, of course. I was still glowing from the kindness shown to me, so my story to the Colonel was much softer. It had been awful and stupid and all that but...I wanted the Colonel to at least have something to light up his evening. Robert couldn't believe his ears. He still gives me a hard time about it. Blah blah blah.

I could go on for pages and pages. I won't. A few parting details - The next day Clem (Tholet) shaved our heads with his fancy electric hair-cutting thingy - my last haircut for eight years. My hair ended up about a millimeter in length. I quite liked it. At that time Skinheads were in the news for violence in Britain. I started getting shouted comments on the street. Life is odd sometimes.

A couple of days later I had to have my injuries examined by the District Surgeon. I went over to the police station to wait for them to take me to him. While I was waiting, the cop who had chased us out of the Charge Office sauntered over for a good sneer.

So you're one of the Hippies who got taught some History, hey!

Yes I am - and you're the cop who laughed me out of the police station and over to the Star. Let's go. I'm sure the Colonel would like to compliment you on the way you did your duty. His face went ash-white.

I was only joking, hey! Let's forget about it. I laughed at him as he hurried around a corner and out of sight. It felt good.

An I.D. parade was held at a Tukkies (Pretoria University) hostel on the following Saturday. My boss at Hilton Radio suggested that I shouldn't attend. Saturday is your busy day. What's done is done. Let this nonsense go away. Also, if you identify anyone you'll have to spend days and days in court. You have a business to run." I find it astonishing that I took him seriously. I deeply regret having listened to him. End of story.

(p)© Neil MacCallum / Hidden Years Story 2003

Abstract Truth Totum Poster 1969 - Clockwise - Ken E Henson, Sean Bergen, Brian Gibson & Robbie Pavid.
Abstract Truth Totum Poster 1969 - Clockwise - Ken E Henson, Sean Bergen, Brian Gibson & Robbie Pavid.
Ed's Note: The students were eventually brought before the courts. Only one of them out of approx 300 who took part in the kidnappings and about 30 who did the beatings, were convicted & charged with assault & kidnapping - it was divinity student Christo Kritzinger. Chastised by the Judge for acting like a Nazi, Kritzinger eventually became director of SABC Radio & then TV News. I believe he still works for the SABC. None of the other Divinity students were charged with the assault. One wonders where in the New South Africa these people are? Wherever - we wish them well & hope that have by now become part of the majority & no longer a victimized minority? And gentle giant Billy Forest still thunders on Singing Country Music & philosophizing - without a hat.


Abstract Truth TP Mag Cover 10 Sept 1970) Clockwise - Ken E Henson, George Wolfaardt, Sean Bergen and Pete Measroch.Brian Finch, The Flames and myself were invited up to the Milner Park 24 Hour Rock Festival in Johannesburg, by Billy Forest & Zip Code. Abstract he Truth had been there for a few months, recording. Brian & I had to be back in Durban for our own gigs at Totum that evening, so we had to fly up for the day (I took Fran & he took Marion - for the outrageous cost of a return Air Ticket on the SAA - R19.20c / Nineteen Rand & Twenty Cents. Just about what we must have got paid for the gig, I think.) Fran & I were hoping to get together with the Truth on that Saturday - and to meet up with Mac - who wasn't singing much in those days. (He had just opened his Record Bar - A Wop Bop A Lu Bop A Wop Boom Bang in Rosebank and we hadn't seen each other for some months - not since I had returned from the USA.

I couldn't find Mac or Robbie at the festival - so we left for Durban early that evening, not knowing what had happened, until we read the news papers the following day.

3rd Ear Music had been involved with Abstract Truth for some time before this Milner Park Gig - mainly down at Totum in Durban. Earlier I had driven down to Capetown to fetch Sean Bergen & George Wolfaardt to join the new Truth line-up. (Sean had been in the original band from mid 1969, but returned to the Cape). Robbie Hahn had taken over - in what seemed to be a loose manager / friends' role for Abstract Truth (before Big B Brian Pretorius was appointed manager.)

Brian Gibson (ex 004's from Wales) had left the band; the new lineup for Johannesburg was Pete Measroch (Keyboards & Vocals), George Wolfaardt (Bass), Ken E Henson (Guitar), Sean Bergen (Flutes & Sax) & Robbie Pavid (Percussion). The Truth had left Totum (Durban) for Johannesburg to record Silver Trees & Live at Totum for EMI producer, Clive Calder who had signed them to EMI.

Brian Finch & I were playing at the Palm Beach Hotel - he down at the Totum Bar & myself up on the Veranda in Gillespie Street; Scotsman & Daily News Journalist Bob Wilson - who managed all the entertainment at the Palm Beach in his spare time - was becoming increasingly aware of the SAfrican song writing & music talent. He suggested that we make use of the Totum Disco that was closed on Sundays, for a regular weekly acoustic folk-type venue. Totum Disco ran Wednesday to Sunday and featured DJ Rubin Israel - who is still DJ'ing with his son in Durban, 30 years on.

Liquor & Dancing were banned on Sundays back then - as were 'pop' music events in many towns & cities - so Bob cleverly devised a way around the complex liquor laws. Included in the price of the ticket - a whopping 50cents per head - was a free bowl of Curry & Rice, Durban Indian strength - and a beer. I had a 3 or a 5-month contract (just before Richie Morris was to join me) and Brian had been there for some years.(01i - Abstract Truth)

The First Official Abstract Truth Sept 1969 (l-r) Ken E Henson, (Fran Downing / Marks just listening), Sean Bergen, Brian Gibson and Robbie Pavid.
The First Official Abstract Truth Sept 1969 (l-r) Ken E Henson, (Fran Downing / Marks just listening), Sean Bergen, Brian Gibson and Robbie Pavid.
Brian and I wanted to get our musician friends Mike Dickman (Acoustic Guitar & Vocals) & Pete Measroch (Piano & Vocals) - two born and bread Northern suburb's Johannes-burgers - down to stun Durban. Once again the Abstract Truth line-up was in for a brief shake-up. Robbie Pavid moved onto the 3rd Eye Band and Brian Gibson went Solo and became a well-known Gospel Preacher. Mike Dickman couldn't handle Durban, stayed for a gig or two and then went missing to re-surface in the Golden City back to his solo and wandering ways. Mike emigrated to France in 1985 - with French wife Vera - still playing guitar and translating Buddhist verse into French and English.

Tiles had all but faded out in 1969, Take 5 was closed after the negative Press about being filled with communists and Afrikaner-haters (02) Communist Coffee Bars Die Ster - March 1967) - so with not too many venues left, Totum became the legendary alternative for songwriters & experimental folk 'n rock and some light alternative jazz.

The combinations that were developed there were equally as legendary as they were forgotten; we never had a music media (print or broadcast) that would, or could document the folk 'n rock process. There was no TV in South Africa - not that it would have helped, then as now.

Abstract Truth TP Mag Cover 10 Sept 1970) Clockwise - Ken E Henson, George Wolfaardt, Sean Bergen and Pete Measroch.
Abstract Truth TP Mag Cover 10 Sept 1970) Clockwise - Ken E Henson, George Wolfaardt, Sean Bergen and Pete Measroch.
The Trend - a Daily News entertainment insert throughout the 60's, closed down. Edited by the (recently) late Owen Coetzer (RIP) and Roy Christie, the Trend had certainly helped establish Durban as the most vibrant and multi-cultural Rock, Jazz, Folk and Cabaret centre in Africa.

Dr. Connie Mulder, minister of the interior and one of the architects of what we called The Grand A Plan, had made certain that every long-haired hippie & mixed jazz venue was closed by the end of 1971. (For details on how this was achieved, read the Hidden Years Story - due out by Penguin Books in 2003). The Flames were about to be kicked out of the last (so called) mixed race venue at the Al Fresco on the Esplanade, before they too emigrated for Europe and the USA, spending many years with the Beach Boys.

But meanwhile back at the Totum, Mike Dickman & Pete Measroch were jamming with Ken E Henson (Electric Guitar), Eric Door (Flute), Robbie Pavid (Percussion) and either Ramsay MacKay or Brian Gibson (Bass). Brian G - who also played a mean acoustic guitar and sang appropriately - had a duo thing with Brian F on the side.

There were many exciting & experimental music permutations on those Sunday evenings - with the odd Jazz or Pop refugee sitting in from their diminishing weekly gigs; Sean Bergen on Sax soon became a permanent Totum fixture before he left for Capetown with George Wolfaardt; eventually Abstract Truth, as we knew them on the 10th October 1970, had become a major crowd puller and pleaser, far beyond Durban's borders. The Truth was one of countless 'alternative' bands without radio play.

Abstract Truth TP Mag Cover 10 Sept 1970) Clockwise - Ken E Henson, George Wolfaardt, Sean Bergen and Pete Measroch.
Sean Harry George 15 Aug 70) More Abstract Truth - Sean here with Harry Polous and George Wolfaardt Aug 1970.
When one hears from bands today, that radio (and the media in general) do nothing to promote gigs that don't come at them from the record industry, take heart. None of these events - the venues, the bands, the gigs and dates - were mentioned on SAfrican Radio. (The SABC was state controlled & the squeeze was on LM Radio - broadcasting out of Mozambique - to shut up; and there were no so-called independents. As we mention frequently, has anything really changed? Try getting Beast Coast Radio or Radio 5 to go with songwriters or alternative bands that do not record or come to them via some mainstream.) Anyway - it was word of mouth, posters and occasionally the snap, crackle & pop of LM Radios' Medium Wave Band jocks - nothing else. Yet people queued into Gillespie Street an hour before the doors opened every Sunday, just to listen to music that was, according to the Record Industry, not what the people want to hear. Has anything really changed!?) And it still happens - in Australia, the USA, UK, Far East etc. It seldom, if ever happens here. Think about it! Point is if local young bands are going to wait for the media to catch up or cotton on, they will never be heard. Just go out and do it. The limp wristed will soon follow! So too Free Radio. Time and Technology will tell.
(p)© David Marks

3rd Ear Music Company est. 1969 (Pty)Ltd.

P.O.Box 50633
Musgrave 4062
South Africa
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