Thomas Bain is internationally regarded as one of the greatest mountain pass builders of the nineteenth century. He pioneered many of the techniques still in use today. He had the reputation of being “the engineer with the theodolite eyes”!
One of his first jobs, at the age of 16, was in the role of apprentice to his famous father, Andrew Geddes Bain, helping in the construction of the original Houw Hoek Pass which they worked on at the same time as they were building Mitchell’s Pass.
He went on to build 25 major mountain passes including the Tradouw, Meiring’s Poort, Prince Alfred’s Pass, all the passes along the old road between George and Knysna and on through the Tsitsikamma to Uitenhage. Many consider his greatest memorial to be the Swartberg Pass which most of our members will know.
Besides building passes, he was a very accomplished geologist, naturalist and water engineer. He pioneered the use of irrigation from underground water in the Northern Cape and what was then Bechuanaland. He played a major part in saving the Knysna forests from the wood cutters.
Robin will be able to add colour to his talk about Bain by introducing a family perspective. His grandmother Georgina Lister, whom he knew well, was Bain’s third daughter and he recalls at first hand her stories about life as a “pad-maker’s daughter”
Robin now lives in Hermanus. He was born at the Cape, grew up in what was then Southern Rhodesia, matriculated from Bishops, and took an honours degree in geology at Oxford before joining Arthur Guinness the well known brewers in Dublin where he met and married his wife Deirdre. He returned to South Africa in 1976. He spent 30 years in the investment management industry and founded the very successful fund management company from which he finally retired as chairman. He has travelled widely and has climbed extensively in the European Alps, participated in five Himalayan expeditions and walked and climbed throughout the Western Cape. He is a member of The Alpine Club, the oldest mountaineering club in the world, as well as the Mountain Club of South Africa.