This is Mary’s story, as best that it can be told.

Mary Mdingane was born eighty six years ago in the hills around Kimberley and was one of five sisters.

She left Kimberley when she was eighteen to train as a mission school teacher which she thought would be her lifetime devotion according to Gods calling.

Within a year,  she was the English teacher at the Wesleyan Mission School in Qunu in the Transkei where a nine year old Nelson Mandela was among her pupils.

Nobody could have realized then the profanity of a statement that boy’s father would make of his son leading the South African nation to freedom and greatness just before he died on 21st October 1927.

Mary cannot forget the day a few weeks later when the young boy joined her class and she was given the responsibility of christening him with a new name.

Nelson after the great British naval commander Lord Horatio Nelson.

Nor can she forget the day when her great  Aunt Elizabeth visited the mission school only a few months into her commission.

Mary continued teaching for many years afterwards.

In 1940, she left South Africa to help the war cause as a nurse and in so doing met and fell in love with a brash Scotsman named Jack Daniels who was a doctor.

The whirlwind war romance led to marriage and after the war was over, they came to live in the highlands of Scotland.

She would never again step foot on South African soil.

In 1950, Mary was saddened by the passing of her dear Aunt Elizabeth.

From afar, Mary became aware of the impact apartheid would have on her nation of South Africa in the post-war years and on the developing life of the man she called The Madiba.

Mary has settled well over the years into her new life in Scotland and gained acceptance from the locals in spite of the colour of her skin.

Today, Mary will receive a most honorable visitor, distinguished indeed by history itself.

A man does not travel half way around the world without a reason.

And this is no impromptu visit.

The world does not need to know why this man, now an acknowledged statesman, would interrupt his political visit to London in order to fly to a remote area of Scotland and meet a frail and poorly sighted pensioner.

The world does not need to know they are of the same South African tribe and speak the same native tongue.

Mary is well acquainted with the man she is going to meet again after so long.

She has followed his life story through his pursuit of a law degree, his involvement with the African National Congress, his long detention on Robben Island and his long walk to freedom leading to his election as South African President in 1993.

On a cold and somewhat bleak morning at a remote restaurant location beside a shimmering loch and a huge mountain in the background, a helicopter lands on the restaurant grounds.

Mary, sweet Mary Mdingane meets and greets her Madiba.

It is a momentous meeting indeed.

The man has not forgotten the woman who played such an important part in his education all those years ago.

Mary is accompanied by her grandson Alexander, a talented rugby player who is expected to play for Scotland at next years Rugby World Cup hosted in South Africa.

Alexander would indeed play for Scotland in a group match against South Africa at the 1995 tournament.

Nelson Mandela shook his hand at the pre-match inaugurals.

Theirs was a handshake like no other.

Mary proudly watched from a televison set at her home.

She passed away a few weeks later but the vision had been realized.

History had a way of speaking for the future.


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