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Former CBC pupil and winner of the 2014 Stockholm Water Prize, John Briscoe.


UPDATE 12/11/2021

12 NOVEMBER 1907, A child dies after being hit by a tram on the municipal tramline on Barkly Road.
12 NOVEMBER 1936, Britain lose to Kimberley Combined bowls side 159-74 at Beaconsfield.
12 NOVEMBER 1953, Sportsman and attorney Charles Hertog dies.
12 NOVEMBER 2014, Former CBC pupil and winner of the 2014 Stockholm Prize for water, John Briscoe, dies.


John Briscoe 30 July 1948 – 12 November 2014

World-renowned South African water engineer and academic Professor John Briscoe, (pictured), who was the 2014 recipient of the Stockholm Water Prize, also known as the ‘Nobel prize for water’, died at the age of 66. Following a two-and-a-half-year battle with cancer, he succumbed on the morning of November 12 2014 at his home in Maryland, in the US – his wife, Conceicao, and family were at his side.

Briscoe, who worked for 22 years at the World Bank, was born in South Africa and schooled at St Patrick’s Christian Brothers College (CBC) Kimberley, before studying civil engineering at the University of Cape Town and later obtaining a doctorate in environmental engineering at Harvard University. Prior to his death, CBC Kimberley set up the John Briscoe Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics Award, to be presented to the Grade 12 student who showed the greatest achievements in mathematics and science and had indicated an intention to study engineering. Briscoe matriculated at the school in 1965, having excelled both academically and on the sports fields, representing Griqualand West in both cricket and hockey.

In an interview with “Engineering News Online”, Briscoe said he believed growing up in the semi-arid setting of Kimberley helped inculcate in him an acute sense that water security was not necessarily a given. There was always a sense, he said, that water should not be wasted, that it was expensive and that taps should be turned off. As a young engineer in the Department of Water Affairs, Briscoe was involved in projects designed primarily to transfer water from areas of plenty to resources-heavy hinterland nodes many hundreds of kilometres away, where the absence of water had become the main constraint to economic growth and development.

In the mid-1970s, Briscoe lived in a small village in the interior of Bangladesh, and learned first-hand how infrastructure for protection from floods and droughts could transform the lives of the poor. Later in the 1970s Briscoe worked as an engineer in the government of newly independent Mozambique, learning that you were a credible policy maker only if you could help resolve basic problems of building and running infrastructure. These experiences, together with an exposure to apartheid inequality (primarily through his mother’s work at an orphanage and day-care centre in Soweto) inspired a desire to integrate the quest for human rights with the right of people to develop. This twin objective found practical expression during Briscoe’s time at the World Bank, where he was central in crafting the bank’s water strategy, through a process that, for the first time in the bank’s history, gave emerging economies the decisive voice on the board.

Briscoe said he received the Stockholm Water Prize, which was presented by King Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden in September, on behalf of a category of water industry professionals who have one foot in the “practical” world of engineering and the other in the “thinking” world of policymaking and academia. He said he had learned the importance of both infrastructure and institutions from a “great generation” of South African engineers, such as Theo von Robbroek, Paul Roberts and Bob Pullen, as well as the director of water resources in Mozambique, Arnaldo Lopes Pereira. Understanding the importance of building both institutions and infrastructure remains, he argued, critical to addressing contemporary water problems, including managing variability between floods and drought, which has always been and remains “the water challenge”. “Walking on these two legs – the infrastructure and the institutional legs – I think is critical.”

Briscoe received the 2014 Stockholm Water Prize for his “unparalleled contributions to global and local water management” and for combining “world-class research with policy implementation and practice to improve the development and management of water resources as well as access to safe drinking water and sanitation”.

Obituary from Creamer Media Engineering News

Written by Terence Creamer, Creamer Media Editor


UPDATE 12/11/2016

12 November 1907, A child dies after being hit by a tram on the municipal tramline on Barkly Road, 1907
12 November 1936, Britain lose to Kimberley Combined bowls side 159-74 at Beaconsfield, 1936
12 November 1953, Sportsman and attorney Charles Hertog dies, 1953
12 November 2014, Former CBC pupil and winner of the 2014 Nobel Prize for water, John Briscoe, (pictured), dies, 2014


Men and women in the prime of the lives – between 25 and 45 years of age – were literally dropping in the streets of Kimberley and being carried off to either the hospital or home by members of their family not afflicted by the Spanish Flu. Work in the town soon came to a halt and most businesses closed their doors or operated with skeleton staff. The mines were particularly badly hit. There were virtually no policemen on the streets.

Public transport at one stage was reduced to a solitary tram running between Kimberley and Beaconsfield. Many trams had their seats removed and were turned into mobile soup kitchens, and carried food supplies and medical stores.

At the Kimberley Club, the famous Club founded in 1881 by Cecil Rhodes among others, there were no waiters and for the first time the members were forced to serve themselves.

De Beers General Manager Alpheus Williams, led a relief committee, and the Kimberley Club played a prominent role in this work, a total of ₤191/3/6 in cash, food and medicines being distributed. The Head Steward, J. Harper, and a waiter, Townshend, were singled out for special mention in a letter thanking volunteer workers. The same letter commended the Club:

“In all the stress of a desperate situation, the Kimberley Club …proved a great distributor of nourishment, the expenses of which were proportionately borne by different members.”

Both the Kimberley High School and Christian Brother’s College, on vacation when the epidemic hit, closed for the duration of the epidemic, and only re-opened on Armistice Day (11 November). They should have opened on 8 October. Benjamin Bennett, later a well-known author, was a pupil at the High School:

“Many of the senior boys helped at the Kimberley Hospital. Others were themselves stricken or had to look after the sick in their own homes.

Fortunately the plague passed by my home, and I remember vividly, as a little boy, cycling through Kimberley’s streets of death to collect lemons at the City Hall – they were said to be good for one’s health and somehow staved off influenza – then watching the unending funeral processions on their way to the cemeteries”.

The Irish Christian Brothers, those still on their feet, `rendered yeomen service in assisting the few doctors available by nursing the sick in their own homes and in the Kimberley hospital’. Quite surprisingly, no Brothers nor Boarders from CBC – all of whom contracted the flu – died from the disease.

Solomon Plaatje and his family, living in the Malay Camp, were not immune to the disease, and Plaatje himself and his eldest daughter Olive were extremely ill. Indeed, Plaatje was laid up for weeks in bed as the influenza caused what he called an oppressive heart disease to take hold, a condition doctors announced to be incurable. It is likely this damaged heart contributed to Plaatje’s death some 14 years later. Olive, who assisted other flu sufferers before catching the disease, contracted rheumatic fever in her weakened state while ill, and this brought about her early death a mere three years later in 1921.

The Champion golfer of the Diamond Fields from 1911 to 1914, and a South African Foursomes Champion of 1907, R.S. “Bob” Chatfield, did not have the chance to defend his title in 1919 – there were no championships because of the war – as he too died. A true gentleman and respected diamond expert, Bob had fought with the Kimberley Light Horse during the siege of 1899-1900, and had been working as a volunteer nurse when he contracted the disease.

Miss Hughes, Principal of the Lanyon Terrace preparatory School, and Mr W Fraser, recently appointed as Inspector of Schools for the Kimberley region, were but two of the educationists who died.

From Kimberley Calls and Recalls on Facebook By Steve Lunderstedt

Aeon Computer Kimberley

About Steve Lunderstedt


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