Frank Mellish
Full names: Frank Whitmore
Date of birth: 26 Mar 1897
Place of birth: Cape Town
Schools: Rondebosch SACS
Springbok no: 172
Debut test province: Western Province
Physical: 1.83m, 82.6kg
Date of death: 21 Aug 1965 (Age 68)

Test summary: Tests: 6 Tries: 0
First Test: 13 Aug 1921 Age:24 Loose-head Prop against New Zealand at Carisbrook, Dunedin
Last Test: 20 Sep 1924 Age:27 Loose-head Prop against Britain at Newlands, Cape Town
Test history:
13 Aug 192124Loose-head PropNew ZealandLose: 5-13 Carisbrook, DunedinWP
17 Sep 192124Tight-head PropNew ZealandDraw: 0-0 Athletic Park, WellingtonWP
16 Aug 192427Loose-head PropBritainWin: 7-3 Kingsmead, DurbanWP
23 Aug 192427Loose-head PropBritainWin: 17-0 Wanderers (Old Wanderers), JohannesburgWP
13 Sep 192427Loose-head PropBritainDraw: 3-3 Crusaders (St George's Park), Port ElizabethWP
20 Sep 192427Loose-head PropBritainWin: 16-9 Newlands, Cape TownWP

Frank Mellish : Doc Craven

A man among men - an outstanding personality and a never-to-be-forgotten character. I didn't know him well until the 1951/52 tour when he was manager and I was his assistant. I'd met him before, when I played for Eastern Province, being a teacher at St Andrew's College in Grahamstown at the time. During the 1936 Eastern Province trials Frank, as a provincial selector, called me aside and told me I'd been chosen to captain the side, and that my views on the players would be welcomed by the selectors.

He invited me to sit in on the selection committee, which was a wonderful gesture, typical of the open-minded person he was. A jovial person, a players' man.

Often on board ship to the U.K. in 1951/52 he would drag out his guitar and teach the young Springboks some of the popular songs sung by the Cape Malays of his time.

That was one of the reasons why the comradeship on that particular tour was so outstanding. Frank was ever consistent, an outgoing person, friendly, never moody.

I often think back to the day that he and I sat in a small boat on a stretch of water in Scotland, catching salmon; he opened his heart to me and told me how disappointed he had been when, as the then chairman of the selection committee, he'd been sent over to Britain to ensure continuity with our connections abroad.

While he was abroad, the board met and he was ousted. Understandably he felt very hurt.

Frank was loved by everybody and when it came to telling a yarn he could keep you entertained for days on end. After we had lost to London Counties in 1951/52, he called me aside and said: "Danie, I've often told you that you are too serious with the players. They must be able to let their hair down, otherwise they won't be able to complete this long tour.

"So, I'm now giving you an instruction: you take half the Springbok team to a night-club and I'll take the other half to another one."

I said that was fine with me on condition that I took the "tame" ones and he would handle the "rowdy" ones.

I'll never forget that night. We had ordered taxis to take us to the night-club and were standing on a cobbled street in Guildhall. When a taxi appeared, some of the fellows presumed that it was intended for us and piled in. The annoyed taxi-driver hailed two passing policemen who, upon being told by the taxi-driver that the taxi had been ordered by some or other aristocrat, told the Springboks to get out.

It had been an honest mistake on the part of the Boks and they felt that the cabdriver had no reason to call in the police. I then discovered how strong the Boks on that tour actually were. After the two policemen had departed they lifted the taxi, placed it with its rear against the wall and the front end up against the lamp-post, and told the driver: "Now let's see how far you get."

After a while our taxis arrived and I told them to take us to one of the best nightclubs in London. We were taken to one which looked rather posh. They even had a doorman outside, but upon being told that the club was downstairs we were asked to produce membership cards. Having none we were refused entry and made our way upstairs again.

It was now nearing midnight and the boys were not in such a happy mood, having lost to London Counties that afternoon. As we were leaving, the doorman came over to me and asked: "Excuse me, but aren't you Mr Craven?" I confirmed his suspicion and he responded: "Magtig, Basie, ek het vir julle baie gesien speel op Nuweland. Ek is 'n Kaapse Slamaaier." ("Heavens, Sir, I've seen you play at Newlands. I'm a Cape Malay.")

Upon being told of our problem he insisted that we accompany him back downstairs again, where he told everyone in sight including the management, that they had refused entry to the great Springbok rugby touring team and that he wasn't going to stand for it.

When Frank passed away I had the honour to be one of the pall-bearers at his funeral. I had a deep affection and abiding admiration for this warm, solid man.