The Mortimer Cup hockey tournament was a fixture on the Dundee sporting and social scene for almost 70 years - from 1927 until 1996. The tournament was typically held on the Sunday of the Family Day long weekend, in early July. It was a "mixed" tournament, with five women and six men on each team (the goalie had to be male). The venue was always King Edward Park on Union Street - the cricket oval.

My first recollections of the Mortimer Cup weekend go back to the years before the first time that I played in the tournament, which was in 1961 - my school dairy for Sunday, July 9, 1961 contains the notation "Played in Mortimer Cup for 'The Teenagers' team." Those early recollections are simply of hordes of exuberant hockey players descending on the town, filling the main street with cars from distant places, and filling the bars and hotel lounges with the occupants of those cars. However, I don't recall ever attending the tournament before 1961.

I have always assumed that the cup was named for A. W. Mortimer, a local Dundee businessman, and mayor of the town in the World War 1 years of 1915 though 1918. Given that Mr. Mortimer was long gone before I grew up in Dundee, I do not know what his involvement was in Dundee hockey. However, the first tournament was held in 1927, and it was held annually thereafter until - sadly - it was cancelled because of persistent bad behaviour of the participants.

The 1960's and 1970's were probably the heydays of the Mortimer Cup from an attendance point of view, but even them probably not from a behaviour point of view. That is the period in which I was involved in Mortimer Cup, as I last played in the tournament in about 1971 or 1972. In the years of my participation the Mortimer Cup tournament was definitely the party event of the Natal hockey calendar.

On the scheduled Mortimer Cup tournament weekend players started arriving on the Saturday around mid-day (most people still worked on Saturday mornings in the 1960's!). The vicinity of the Royal and Masonic/El Mpati hotels - which were always filled with hockey playing guests - was always the centre of the off the field, informal social action. Some teams made their way down to the field for Saturday afternoon friendly games, but there were no official tournament games on the Saturday, and most players confined themselves to meeting old friends from previous tournaments and having a few drinks.
There was normally a dance on the Saturday night, and dance venues included the El Mpati Hotel on the corner of Victoria Street and Boundary Road, or the Agricultural Hall on Union Street. These were exuberant affairs, especially as regulars who played each year at the tournament renewed their acquaintances.

Hockey was played all day on the Sunday, followed by a dance and/or braai at some venue. Once again the Agricultural Hall was a regular venue for the after-tournament braai, and at least one year the Sunday night event was held at the Glendee Yacht Club on the shores of the Tom Worthington (Hattingspruit) Dam. The following Monday found some players engaged in social "pick up" games at the field, while others gathered in the courtyard of the Royal Hotel on Victoria Street, where there was drinking, singing, and - on at least one occasion - a semi-striptease by one of the lady players from the Durban Collegians team! Then after lunch, in the worst tradition of those times, people climbed into their cars and drove home!

The tournament attracted as many as around 30 teams, generally playing in two divisions. Two points were awarded for a win, one each for a tie, and none for a loss. All teams played all of the other teams in their division - anywhere from six to ten games of a half hour to twenty minutes in duration. Division winners played semi-finals and finals - which normally produced exciting, good quality hockey. Otherwise, the quality of the hockey was not uniformly good. The whole tone of the tournament was definitely social, although there was some good hockey too. Some clubs consistently entered teams of high standard, e.g. Dundee, Ladysmith, Newcastle, Estcourt, Zoo Lake, Benoni, Durban Collegians, Maritzburg Collegians, Old Johnnies, and my own eventual team, the "Hurlingham Rovers" - a social team from the Natal University, Durban. Other clubs that participated generally sent their social teams too - staffed with players that were more into partying than hockey!

Some other teams which participated (not necessarily falling into the category described in the preceding paragraph) were Vryheid, Durban Municipals, and various social sides (i.e. non club affiliated) from Dundee and elsewhere. Often these social teams were comprised of Dundee's youngsters, such as the "Teenagers" team - of which I was a member - which played in the years 1961 through 1965. The Qzaqzaela social team - managed by "Ajax" Kneppers, and which included Vaughn Shaw and John Douthwaite - claims to have beaten Dundee in one of the years that they played - which was in the late 70's and early 80's.

I expect that the Dundee team probably appears on the cup as the trophy winners more often than most others. Stalwarts of Dundee mens' hockey teams in the 1960's included Roy Kirkness, James "Stiff" Teversham, Keith Cavanagh, Glyn Durham, Graeme Elliott, Mike van Wyk, Clive Bunting, Tony Krugel, Shaun Richards, A. D. "Kelly" Kelbrick, Dave Levine, Dennis Gehren, Peter Abraham, Robert Whysall, Paul Whysall, Neil Whysall, John Lloyd, and John Veglia. Women's' team stalwarts included Leonie van Wyk (nee Vincent), Yvonne Kirkness, and Springbok Loretta Maree.