I have no doubt that the many emigrants to South Africa or those associated with mining will enjoy reading this book, which will bring back many memories as well as part of the history of Anglo American Corporation and De Beers. Those fortunate enough to have been in the De Beers Kimberley precinct were forever touched, shaped and scarred in some way. Somehow, it all seemed so right. The world beyond was a different place.
It says much for those such as Cecil Rhodes and the Oppenheimers who established and made De Beers what it is today that the precepts of the original charter permeate the company. The global giant that was born out of the dry dust of the Northern Cape, and whose Head Office still stands proudly in a quaint back street just a stone’s throw away from the biggest man-made hole on planet earth, was surely responsible for shaping the lives of millions.
The Kimberley mines no longer operate under the De Beers banner and others have been closed for some years. Therefore, it is perhaps timely to gather together the many thoughts and reminiscences of some of the characters who worked and played there in an era when the diamond meant so much to so many and loyalty to the De Beers brand was life itself.
The De Beers Country Club, as one would expect, served as a “second home” to the men of the mining brotherhood. Moreover, it afforded the characters of Kimberley the opportunity to express themselves in the “Pick ‘n Shovel Bar” or at any of the many grand sporting facilities provided.
Perhaps the first link between Len and me was made in 1968 when Len met my uncle, Weston, who worked in the drawing office at De Beers Head Office; this led, inevitably, to an introduction to my dad, Rodger.
My own memories are of his sons Leon, a similar age to me, and Andrew, who we always enjoyed playing with at the De Beers Country Club and our respective homes. Even though many years have passed since the time when De Beers seemed to be Kimberley itself, I still have, in my mind’s eye, the boyish-looking Len Thompson, playing bowls with my father, uncles and, even, me.
To Len, his wife Iris and his family, I hope the sparkle of Kimberley and De Beers remains as bright as that diamond found by a young lad on the De Beers’ farm all those years ago, and that your journey through this book is enjoyed as much by all those who choose to read it.