Much more has come to light about the career and life of late former Wolves winger Cliff Durandt – thanks to two of his main inspirations.
We at Wolves Heroes were delighted to hear several weeks ago from Johannesburg-based Jenny Beddie, even though the circumstances that brought us into contact were sad ones.
A Google search done earlier this year by Jenny, the eldest of Durandt’s two sisters, revealed to her the news of the passing in July of Des Horne, a man she had known well both during and after his years at Molineux in the late 1950s and early 1960s.
“Des and Cliff were good mates and arrived together at Wolves within a few months of each other,” she told us in a Skype chat yesterday.
“I lost my husband earlier this year and Des was our best man when we married. He was a lovely man who we had been planning to invite over here again.
“I hadn’t realised until my search brought up the Wolves Heroes stories that he had died in 2015 as well. What has happened shows that you really shouldn’t keep putting things off…….do them while you can.”
Cliff died 13 years ago but, with him as the central figure, we have happily found ourselves once more in the position of reconnecting old friends; in this case, very long-lost ones!
“I’m 73 now and have made it my business to catch up with Des’s lovely first wife, Janice, who I probably haven’t seen since I was 18,” Jenny added.
“I met her in Wolverhampton and am very pleased to hear she is still well and active. I am visiting Britain next year to scatter my husband’s ashes in Largs as he was Scottish and would love to see her again. We were good friends. Des came to Cliff’s funeral as well because he had been back in South Africa for a long while then.”
Also in on the Skype chat was Jenny’s sister Lynn, two years her younger – and a woman with her own tales to tell.
“I was at the game at the Rand Stadium when our Cliff played for Southern Transvaal on Wolves’ tour of South Africa in 1957,” she said. “I clearly remember that Wolves won 5-2 and that Cliff scored both our goals.
“He obviously impressed Stan Cullis because Wolves signed him as a result and I remember being in Cape Town with our mom and dad when we waved Cliff off on what seemed such an incredible adventure. He went by sea with one of the Wolves directors (James Marshall) and they were seasick apparently. The ship was rocking plenty!
“When we turned 18, our parents gave Jenny and I the choice of having a small car or a trip abroad. We both chose to travel but went separately a couple of years apart.
“I was in England when Cliff got married over there to a lady called Wendy, who was from Walsall. I lived with her for a while and was bridesmaid at their wedding.
“My husband is from Romford, so we have been to England a lot but it seemed such a long way away then….it took three days to fly there via Entebbe and Nairobi. But I had the time of my life on the way back because I sailed on the Cape Town Castle and celebrated my 19th birthday on the journey.”
Durandt made his debut in a 4-0 home win over Manchester United and played 49 first-team games for Wolves, having signed in the summer of 1957. He scored ten times for them, with his best season coming in 1960-61, when his 26 outings included three in the European Cup Winners Cup and brought him eight goals, two of them away to Blackpool.
With Horne, Alan Hinton, Norman Deeley and, initially, Jimmy Mullen among his rivals for the role, though, he was in and out of the side and was sold in 1963 to Charlton for £15,000. He played alongside Mike Bailey and Mike Kenning for the Londoners against Wolves in a friendly in the pre-season of 1964.
“How lucky he was!” Jenny added. “How many young men are there who would love to play professional football – especially one from so far away in South Africa?
“He loved his time in England and the gold and black is still a big part of our family’s life, as well as the green and gold of our country.
“I went over there in 2009 and was given a wonderful tour of Molineux by Graham Hughes, as well as having a memorial brick inserted at the ground in his memory and buying two more to bring back here for the family.
“I can’t wait to go back next year because I have wonderful memories of my own from when I was there in my late teens.
“I was in Wolverhampton for several months and had a job in the accounts department of the Bradburn and Wedge motor company in Darlington Street. I recall people dashing up to the Queens Ballroom and going dancing in their lunch break!
“Lynn and I both saw a fair few Wolves matches and I recall going to one at Everton with Mr and Mrs Hall, who looked after Des at his digs.
“The club also used to send him home for a holiday and I recall hearing that they had insured his legs in case he got badly injured. They were very good to us as a family and got our parents tickets for the FA Cup final once.
“Cliff was also kind enough once to hand over a ticket he had come by for a performance by Shirley Bassey in Wolverhampton. He had seen her live before and knew she was a big favourite of mine. I felt so lucky to be sitting in the front row when she was singing ‘As Long As He Needs Me’.
“I was very protective of him. When he came back over here to play in South Africa and also in Rhodesia, he had put some weight on and I heard one spectator call him ‘Porky’. I said he’s not porky – but he was, really, when he stopped doing the same amount of training.
“He was a brilliant all-rounder at sport as a boy and used to play rugby in the morning at school and soccer in the afternoon, until the headmaster decided it was too much and told him he had to select one or the other.
“Sadly, he got fatter in later life and died when he had three massive heart attacks in the same day. It was a blessing really that he went in that way because he wouldn’t have handled being in a wheelchair or coping with dementia or anything like that.”
Wolves Heroes have already spoken to Horne’s first wife, Janice, and are now passing on the relevant contact details so, hopefully, an emotional reunion can take place next summer.
We also plan to bring much more to our readers from the Durandt family, who report ahead of the start of the South Africa v England Test cricket series on Boxing Day that the temperature has been up in the late 30s and enough to have them wading into their swimming pools!