Africa University 25th Graduation Ceremony

The Herald, March 16, 1979

WHEN 12-year-old Vincent Kelly of Kempton Park decided to visit his grandmother in England he didn’t bother with such formalities as air tickets and a passport – or even telling his parents.

But that did not stop him turning up in Leighton Buzzard in the English Midlands on Tuesday in time to give Mrs Florence Kelly the shock of her life and a big hug on her 65th birthday.

Vincent, who is in a children’s home in Bedfordshire while arrangements are made to return him to South Africa, claims he simply hopped aboard a South African Airways jetliner at Jan Smuts Airport near his home.

He had escaped detection by mingling with the passengers – a ploy he used again at Heathrow Airport in London where he “lost” himself in the crowds to get through immigration.

From Heathrow he made his way to Euston station and caught a train to Leighton Buzzard where, wearing only a shirt and trousers because he had thought it was summer in England, he wandered into a shop and asked directions to his grandmother’s house.

Mrs Kelly, a widow said: “When he arrived he gave me a big hug – you know what kids are like about their grannies.”

And she was too surprised to give much thought to the fact that his only luggage was a plastic bag full of sweets and toys he had been given on the aircraft.

Vincent told her initially that his father had sent him over. But later he asked her if she could “keep a secret” and told her he had ran away because he did not like his boarding school.


Where there is a will there is a way. They boy in the story was determined to go and see his grandmother who lived thousands of kilometres away and he managed to bypass stringent security at airports, and also managed to fly to Britain without paying.

Happiness and surprises can sometimes cloud one’s judgment. The boy’s grandmother was so surprised to see her grandson that she failed to notice that he only had a bag full of sweets.

Looking back at this adventure, one cannot help, but chuckle at the power of determination and love. How the airline crew allocated him a seat is also surprising.

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