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Kimberley born writer, Lawrence Green

TODAY IN KIMBERLEY’S HISTORY 14 MAY

UPDATED: 14/05/2020

14 May 1878, Griquatown besieged by the Griqua people.
14 May 1902, Royal Munster Fusiliers Promenade concert in aid of Nazareth House.
14 May 1903, Three Black miners killed in a mud rush in the De Beers Mine.
14 May 1910, SA cricketer Ken Viljoen born.
14 May 1966, Market Square declared a National Monument.
14 May 1972, Kimberley born writer Lawrence Green (pictured) dies.
14 May 1980, Karen Muir inducted into the International Swimming Hall of Fame.

The death of Kimberley siege baby Lawrence Green

Well-known and popular Kimberley-born author Lawrence Green died on 14 May 1972.

Lawrence George Green (5 January 1900 – 14 May 1972) was born in Kimberley during the siege of that town, and was the only son of George Alfred Lawrence Green (a newspaper editor who went on to become a member of parliament in the first Union of South Africa and editor-in chief of the Cape Argus) and Katherine (née Bell). He was educated at private schools in Grahamstown and Cape Town, completing his secondary education at South African College Schools.

Against his father’s wishes, he did not gain any tertiary education. In 1917 he was accepted as an air cadet in the Royal Flying Corps at Denham, England. He however never graduated as a pilot, allegedly because of a poor grasp of mechanical aspects of aircraft operation. On his return to SA at the end of World War 1, while contemplating a life in the merchant navy, he settled on a career in journalism with the Cape Argus.

Although Green never married, he maintained a close and well documented platonic relationship with Luise (“Lulu”) Yates-Benyon, the mother of his biographer-to-be, John Yates-Benyon. On his death in 1972 from metastasized melanoma, he was survived by two sisters, Rita and Rosemary. The latter was a successful UK author of adolescent literature under her married name of Rosemary Weir.

Early signs of Green’s writing talents are evidenced by his winning of an international essay competition at the age of nine with a piece titled, “A Day in the Country”. Little is documented about Green’s subsequent literary ambitions until he drifted into journalism with the Cape Argus during his father’s tenure as editor. While showing talent as a journalist he declined offers of promotion or new postings to advance his newspaper career, being content to fulfil his duties as contributor to the Cape Argus’s daily “Wanderer’s” column, and other assignments, on the proviso he could remain in Cape Town. For a brief period he left the newspaper to try his hand in London as a Fleet Street reporter, but soon returned to the Argus.

In the formative phase of his writing career he experimented briefly with fiction writing but discarded this in favour of travelogues and other non-fiction, claiming to have little of value to offer the reader in the former genre even though an admirer of novelists such as Ernest Hemingway, Graham Greene and W. Somerset Maugham. Instead, he gained popular renown for his evocative tales on southern African travels, discovery and 18th, 19th and 20th century local history. His first success came with the publication of short stories in foreign magazines from 1929 onwards. His first book was published in 1933 in the UK, as was his next five books.

By virtue of restricting his writings to popular non-fiction, Green is seldom mentioned in either local or international references as an African writer of note. However, amongst cognoscenti of travelogues and cultural history and collectors of Africana, he remains highly regarded and is sometimes cited as belonging to a select group of English travel writers of the 20th century such as Eric Newby and Wilfred Thesiger, though he cannot be considered a writer in the heroic travel idiom. Even though an intrepid traveller in especially Europe and Africa, he had a predilection to travelling in style and declined any rough travel where he could so.

His writing more correctly typifies the mid-20th century colonial and post-colonial era non-fiction writing of Southern Africa, along with others of note such as F.C. Metrowich, T.V. Bulpin and Eric Rosenthal. In a number of respects his literary career ran concurrent with that of Laurens van der Post though there is no record of the two literary figures ever meeting. Inherently conservative and Eurocentric in style, Green’s work nevertheless encompasses all the cultural diversity of the sub-continent, often alluding to changes in the social and political milieu but rarely judgmental in regard to socio-political issues under debate at the time. Unlike many of his contemporaries of South African literature, his is however devoid of any political commentary or critique. He employed mainly first and third person narrative style in short story chapter form, usually contained within a book with particular thematic content.

Green ranks as one of the most prolific writers to come out of Africa. Sales of all his published books amount to more than 750,000 copies. In all, he produced 34 books (including a writer’s guide), at least 16 stories for foreign and local magazines and many newspaper articles and letters. Six of his best-selling books were subsequently reproduced and published under different titles in the UK and at least three translated into a foreign language. He had published on average a book a year between 1933 and 1972, other than the World War 2 years where his duties with the Royal and South African Air Force in north Africa impacted on his free time.

His publications in his earlier writing career ran concurrently with his duties as journalist for the Cape Argus. By 1954, earnings from his books were such that he was able to retire from journalism to pursue writing full-time and he continued to publish at the rate of a book a year thereafter up to his death.

All who knew Green characterised him as a retiring, solitary figure who studiously avoided publicity, other than through his published writing. He however was willing to grant time and advice to aspiring writers when called on to do so, as attested by private correspondence shunning of publicity.

(Mostly from Wikipedia).

UPDATED: 14/05/2019

14 May 1878, Griquatown besieged by the Griqua people.
14 May 1902, Royal Munster Fusiliers Promenade concert in aid of Nazareth House.
14 May 1903, Three Black miners killed in a mud rush in the De Beers Mine.
14 May 1910, SA cricketer Ken Viljoen (pictured) born.
14 May 1966, Market Square declared a National Monument.
14 May 1980, Karen Muir inducted into the International Swimming Hall of Fame.

DID YOU KNOW

Kenneth George Viljoen, who was born in Windsorton on Saturday 14 May 1910, was a gifted cricketer who played 27 Tests for South Africa between 1930 and 1949.

PT-Ken_Viljoen-1910

SA Cricketer, Ken Viljoen

Educated at Kimberley Boys High School where he matriculated in 1929, Ken played for the school 1st XI from the 1925-26 season at the same time and years as another gifted cricketer Xenophon Balaskas (1910-1994).

His schoolboy career, especially his final season 1928-29, was phenomenal, and has probably never been bettered. A right handed batsman and exceptional fielder, his style was based on the KHS coach at the time, Charlie Hallows, a former England representative. In that season KHS won the Kimberley first league having been runners-up the previous two.

PT-Ken_Viljoen-2-1910

Ken Viljoen pulls past Bill Edrich at short leg on his way to scoring 74 runs for South Africa against England in the 5th Test at Durban in March 1939 – the famed “Timeless Test”.

In the eight league matches (where KHS were undefeated) Viljoen scored four centuries: 114 against CBCOB; 168 not out against Eclectic; 235 not out against Pirates; and 107 against Kimberley. In the game against Pirates, Viljoen and Dougie Helfrich scored 223 runs for the third wicket.

Add to this another century in the “friendly” match against the KHS Old Boys where he scored 106 runs. His average for the season was 193 runs, with total runs scored being 772 runs. The school annual wrote that “He is the finest all-round cricketer the High School has turned out.”

Viljoen (and Balaskas) played for Griqualand West in the Currie Cup from the 1926-27 season onwards until they left Kimberley during the years of world economic depression. In 1928 Viljoen played for the SA Schools XI against the touring England team, this in Grahamstown where he scored 1 run and took one wicket. Not quite the auspicious match he would have liked.

In the Currie Cup he represented Griqualand West, Orange Free State and the Transvaal. How Griqualand West never won the Cup in the 1929-30 season no-one will ever know – the province boasted six Springboks in their eleven throughout the season – Viljoen, Balaskas, Frank Nicholson, Mick Commaille, Henry Promnitz and Neville Quinn.

Ken’s first class career was outstanding. In 133 matches he scored 7964 runs with 23 centuries and 30 half centuries for an average of 43.28 runs, his highest score being 215 for Griqualand West against Western Province in the 1929-30 season. For some years he also held the SA fourth wicket partnership of 254 runs with JC Newton, scored in the 1933-34 season for OFS against the Transvaal.

In the 27 Test matches he played for South Africa between 1930 and 1949, Viljoen hit two centuries and nine half centuries, his top score being 124 against England in 1935. Total runs scored were 1365 at an average of 28.43. Sadly, like so many others, his career was cut short by the world war years 1939 to 1945.

After retiring from first class cricket in 1949 he managed the South African team on their tours to Australia in 1952-53 (drawn 2-2) and 1963-64 (drawn 1-1) , and to England in 1955 (lost 2-3).

In John Arlott’s obituary in The Cricketer (May, 1974), he considered Viljoen a brilliant manager:

“The prospects of the South African team which went to Australia in 1952 could not have been gloomier from every point of view. Many in both countries felt that the tour should be cancelled to avoid such inevitable and crushing defeats as to do irreparable harm to the immediate future of the game in South Africa. In the event, and thanks largely to the remarkable leadership combination of the captain, Jack Cheetham, and the manager a wonderful team spirit was created. Ken Viljoen’s quiet determination, an insistence on the right sort of discipline, and their combined appreciation of the value of fielding laid the foundations of a success beyond anyone’s wildest dreams. The Australian tour wisely led to the same combination bringing the team to England in 1955. Again, understanding and discipline of the same kind brought success.”

Arlott also wrote: “As a batsman, Ken Viljoen reflected his characteristics as a man-full of courage and quiet, yet fierce, determination. A good onside player and cutter with a sound defensive technique and, unlike many batsmen today, he played well off the back foot.”

After the war ended in 1945 Ken was employed by Rand Consolidated Mines (Johannesburg) as their sports manager and chief paymaster.

He died in Krugersdorp on 21 January 1974 leaving his wife, and at least one daughter, Carol, to mourn his passing.

14 May 1878, Griquatown besieged by the Griqua people.
14 May 1902, Royal Munster Fusiliers Promenade concert in aid of Nazareth House.
14 May 1903, Three African miners killed in a mud rush in the De Beers Mine.
14 May 1910, SA cricketer Ken Viljoen born.
14 May 1966, Market Square declared a National Monument.
14 May 1980, Karen Muir inducted into the International Swimming Hall of Fame.

(Pictured is an 1870 era map of Griqualand West, and a house in Griquatown of the same era).

PT-Griqualand_West-1870

Griqualand West

DID YOU KNOW

The Griqua Uprising of May 1878 (coinciding with the Gaika-Gcaleka (Xhosa) revolt in the Eastern Cape) was mainly caused by the loss of Griqua land through the Stockenstroom report and Griqua dissatisfaction with the Colonial Government, coupled to a perceived lack of military manpower in Kimberley.

Reverend A.J. Wookey of Kuruman, visiting Griquatown at the time of the siege, recalled that he heard from the Griqua that “the uneasiness of the people, was the unfair way in which their lands and property were got out of them for drink, etc, by the traders and others residing in and near Griqua Town. And also at the Magistrate’s office there was very little chance of their obtaining justice or redress.”

The Xhosa uprising in the Eastern Cape had just been brought to a close, and the Diamond Fields Horse, all colonial volunteers under Charles Warren, were preparing to return home from the Eastern Cape , while in Kimberley town there were few armed men as at least 450 men were with Warren.

Recorder Jacob Dirk Barry (later Judge President of the Cape Colony), was the Acting Administrator of Griqualand West in the absence of Colonel Lanyon, Lanyon having taken a small group of Frontier Armed Mounted Police to Koegas, 249 kilometres from Kimberley and 100 kilometres from Griquatown, to investigate rumours of a local uprising of the Batlaping under Botlasitse. In fact, Lanyon’s force had been attacked at Langeberg – a veritable natural fortress utilised by the locals in both 1878 and 1896 uprisings – on 5 May when Burgher Walton, the owner of the pont at Prieska, was killed and five other men were wounded. Ten ‘rebels’ were reportedly killed in the action. This military setback for the colonial forces saw a general Griqua uprising in the region and Griquatown went into siege on Tuesday 14 May with all the white settlers in the region coming into town in fear of their lives.

From Kimberley Calls and Recalls on Facebook By Steve Lunderstedt

Aeon Computer Kimberley

About Steve Lunderstedt

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