A Rough Diamond in South Africa
Foreword by Patrick Leonard Symcox
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.
Patrick was a fully-fledged Springbok cricketer in the Test and One-Day sides. He and Mark Boucher still hold a Test record ninth-wicket partnership of 195 runs against Pakistan, during which he reached his first Test century on the way to an innings of 108.
A life-threatening accident in 1964 saw me move lock, stock and barrel with my wife and family thousands of miles to a country we knew little about and to a lifestyle we could only have dreamed of.
This book records my recollection of our family life, places, holidays and events both memorable and mundane. I worked at a gold mine and several diamond mines in South Africa and my aim has been to paint a picture of industrial and social life in that great country
The book is, first of all, dedicated to my children who will be able to reflect on the marvellous experiences they had in South Africa. Secondly, it is dedicated to four of our dear friends in South Africa who are no longer with us but their spirits will still be there.
Rear Cover Text
The book is dedicated to four of our dear friends in South Africa, shown above, who are no longer with us but their spirits will still be there.
It is primarily a compilation of memories of our stay in South Africa, from 1966, when we emigrated from the UK, to 1973, when we returned. The contributors are myself, my wife Iris, children Leon, Andrew and Julia plus a host of friends that we made during that period. It is backed up by information, obtained from the companies I worked for – Anglo American Corporation of South Africa and De Beers Consolidated Mines Limited, obtained during my research mostly by a visit to Johannesburg and Kimberley in March and April of this year, 2008.
It contains a brief history of South Africa at that time and most of the mines that I worked at and places we stayed and people we met during our stay in that great country.
The body of the book is made up of memories of my working for Anglo and for De Beers. It looks at such mining magnates as Cecil Rhodes, Ernest Oppenheimer and Harry Oppenheimer who helped to make those mining companies what they are today. The text is supported by a number of images, both photographic and line drawings.
It will no doubt cause more than a mist of nostalgia to rise in the eyes of many people who lived in South Africa during the sixties and early seventies, and should especially bring back memories of all those who enjoyed working at Welkom Gold Mine, Dutoitspan