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SA Cricketer, Ken Viljoen

TODAY IN KIMBERLEY’S HISTORY 14 MAY

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UPDATED: 14/05/2018

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 (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.

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.

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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).

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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

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