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Olive McIntyre


UPDATED: 13/07/2021

13 July 1940, Salvation Army building in Crossman Road opened by Commissioner Cunningham.
13 July 1949, Springbok rugby player JWE “Klondyke” Raaff dies.
13 July 1990, Retired chief librarian Olive McIntyre dies.
13 July 1993, Artist Nellie Steenkamp dies.

(Pictured is Olive McIntyre and one of her paintings. Photograph of painting from Alan Duggan. Thank you.)

Olive McIntyre – an icon of Kimberley

The death in Kimberley of former City Librarian Olive Grant Vigne McIntyre on Friday 13 July 1990 severed a link with the city’s past that could never be replaced, as Olive had lived and worked with all the well-known personalities of Kimberley from the Great War (1914-1918) onwards.

Blessed with an encyclopaedic memory, Olive was a remarkable person with an equally remarkable life.

She was born on Tuesday 19 February 1899 on the farm Rietpan (just outside of Kimberley) the younger daughter of two to Kenneth Grant McIntyre and Sophia Edith Vigne McIntyre (nee Hull). Her mother Sophia was the daughter of Kimberley pioneer George Henry Hull, after whom Hull Street is named, and her sister was Mavis Aitken Hull Morris (nee McIntyre). The farm Rietpan was originally owned by George Hull.

She was baptised at the St Cyprian’s Church on 15 April 1899.

Having survived the Siege of Kimberley as a baby and the Anglo-Boer War as a toddler, Olive was taught initially by governesses on the farm and at a later stage became a boarder at Kimberley’s St Michael’s Anglican School for Girls.


Olive McIntyre Painting

It was in October 1917 that she commenced work at the Kimberley Public Library, starting as a junior assistant to City Librarian John Gow Ross. Ross became her mentor, and shared with her his infinite knowledge and love of library work, books, and particularly the collection and preservation of Africana.

When Ross retired in 1942 due to ill-health, Olive was the obvious successor, having gained much experience and acted as the Head Librarian for some time, her official appointment as such being ratified in early 1943.

She recognized the need and the many advantages of a Free Library – rather than a subscription library – which would mean affiliation to the Cape Provincial Library Service and reliance on the Municipality for the funding thereof. It took eight years of negotiations before the library became a Municipality controlled Free Library in 1961, having been a Subscription Library since 1882. She had worked with five different Mayors during this eight year period – Edgar Davis, Reg de Villiers, Lionel Jawno, Gabriel Hugo and Graham Eden.

She retired as City Librarian in 1963.

It is not just as the City Librarian that Olive is remembered. She was also an extremely talented artist and musician and loved history, literature and play reading, all of which absorbed what spare time she had.

Music was a great love, Olive being a gifted piano and cello player of note. At a young age she had achieved the highest marks in the country when she passed the Cape University Intermediate Examination with a distinction in music. She and her sister Mavis – also musically talented – often gave recitals for the Kimberley Athenaeum.

As a member of the Kimberley Athenaeum she came into contact with William Timlin, the well-known local architect and artist who was one of several who led Kimberley’s cultural life at the time, and it was he who fostered her artistic talent.
Her paintings, the majority of which depicted the veld of the Northern Cape, were very popular, and today still adorn many a home of Kimberley and former Kimberley residents. Her paintings were a feature of annual exhibitions held at the William Humphreys Art Gallery.

She was the Chairman of the Kimberley Society of Arts from 1962 until 1986, and served on the Board of the Art Gallery (WHAG) from 1952 until 1989.

In 1953 she was awarded the Queen’s Coronation Medal for her contribution to the cultural life of Kimberley and in 1989 received a Merit Award from the Kimberley City Council in recognition of nearly eight decades of service to Kimberley and her people.

In 1990 the Directorate of Cultural Affairs bestowed upon her the Culture Prestige Award and she was appointed President of the Historical Society of Kimberley and the Northern Cape, a society of which she was a founder member.

Olive was also an enthusiastic and regular attendee at St Cyprian’s Anglican Cathedral, being active in all spheres of Christian activity and service.

Her death in Kimberley on 13 July 1990 left a huge void in Kimberley’s cultural life – her phenomenal memory coupled to her years at the Public Library had made her an unequalled source of information.

May Olive Rest in Peace.

(Sources include the Diamond Fields Advertiser, the book “Daubs” and Rosemary Holloway’s dissertation on the Kimberley Africana Library).

UPDATED: 13/07/2020

13 July 1940, Salvation Army building in Crossman Road opened by Commissioner Cunningham.
13 July 1949, Springbok rugby player JWE “Klondyke” Raaff dies.
13 July 1990, Retired chief librarian Olive McIntyre dies.
13 July 1993, Artist Nellie Steenkamp dies.


Springbok March – Souvenir of the Successful Tour, 1906

Giant of a man, Klondyke Raaff, a former KHS pupil, dies

John William Edmund Raaff, (pictured) the son of Thomas Wilhelm Raaff and Elizabeth Raaff (nee Watson), was born on Robben Island on 10 March 1879. His father Thomas was employed on the island as an “issuer of stores”. Klondyke had at least two brothers, a sister and a half-sister, his mother being the second wife of Thomas Wilhelm.

Nicknamed “Klondyke”, he was educated at Kimberley Boys High School, and played rugby for the De Beers club, Griqualand West and South Africa, being one of the first “Springbokken” of 1906. He would play six tests for South Africa between 1903 and 1910, scoring one try in a test against Wales.
Employed by the De Beers mining company, Klondyke served during the Siege of Kimberley with the Town Guard and was awarded the Queen’s SA medal and the Kimberley Star.

Standing 6 feet three inches and weighing 86 kilograms he was a giant of a man at the time. The booklet produced for the 1906 tour of Great Britain wrote about him:


John William Edmund Raaff

“He is a very powerful forward, very good in the loose, for he dribbles well, follows up fast, and tackles very brilliantly; at the line out he is one of the best men in the team, making full use of his great reach; he takes the ball well, and passes with judgment. In loose rushes he is exceptionally good, and if he gets the ball anywhere near the line he is an almost certain scorer. In the present tour he has done remarkably well, his line-out play, having been brilliant, whilst in the open he has had few superiors. Although born in Capetown, all that he knows about the game has been learned in Kimberley. He started playing in De Beers in 1895, and gradually worked his way into the first team in 1899. He was then a tall thin lad, giving promise of filling out, and was not considered strong enough for representative honours. In 1903 he gained his first real representative honours, playing twice for Griqualand West against the English team, and twice for South Africa, at Johannesburg and Kimberley. When he played here, although giving a hard, keen exposition, he was rather raw in the finer points of the game, and did not seem to know how to bestow his huge bulk in the scrum to the best advantage for himself and the team he was playing for. When he played at East London in 1904 for Griqualand West he showed great improvement, and during the last tournament he proved himself a finished player, and either in the open or in the scrums he proved himself one of the best forwards in the tournament.”


John William Edmund Raaff

Leaving the employment of De Beers, Klondyke became the owner of the Royal Oak Hotel on Warren Street, before leaving Kimberley to take up ownership of an hotel in Durban. During the 1930s he was on the executive of the Natal Rugby Union and his son Stanley played for Natal. He was married to the former Elizabeth Jackson from Manchester, England. She predeceased him in 1935.

He died in Durban on 13 July 1949.

From Kimberley Calls and Recalls on Facebook By Steve Lunderstedt

Aeon Computer Kimberley

About Steve Lunderstedt


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