Holiday season is upon us! What an exciting time of year this is, as families head off to the bush, the mountains, and the seaside, the concerns of the year behind them. It’s time to refresh one’s mind and body. If you are at all recognisable, your vacation wiIl be infinitely more enjoyable if you can go incognito, to avoid waving at the crowds and signing autographs. For the Royal Family touring South Africa in 1947, this simply wasn’t a possibility. Their gruelling itinerary, devised by an ailing South African Party government intent on winning a popularity war with the Nationalists, took in such geographically distant places as Pretoriuskop camp in the Kruger National Park, the Northern Drakensberg and Lesotho, and the Fitzsimons Snake Park in Port Elizabeth. King George was awakened in the middle of the night to greet the curious public at obscure railway sidings.
The excellent documentary series The Royal House of Windsor, in its second episode ‘Love and Duty’, covers the 1947 Royal Visit in some detail, with amazingly clear colour footage. This month, we have an original photographic print of Princess Elizabeth touching the muzzle of a horse in Durban during this visit (item 73). My (Lindsay’s) mother sang in a massed choir at Greyville Racecourse on this occasion. Interestingly, the very next items in our ‘Southern African History & Politics’ section are The Native Policy of the National Party under Hertzog, Malan, Strijdom and Verwoerd and Aandskemering op Môrewag, which is about the final days of Dr D F Malan, who led South Africa’s National Party to victory in the 1948 General Election. As the historians featured in The Royal House of Windsor point out, the tour of South Africa by the royals failed as a publicity exercise for Jan Smuts, considering that Malan ousted him within a year, after which the Nationalists ruled the country continuously until the first democratic elections of 1994.
In the Windsor documentary, available on Netflix, are scenes of the king, queen and princesses at the famous snake park in Port Elizabeth. The park’s founder, and the most famous herpetologist of his day, was F W Fitzsimons. This month’s list also features works by Fitzsimons and his son Desmond, both of whom became authorities on snake venoms. It was following an incident involving a handler at the Port Elizabeth Snake Park that it was first discovered that the boomslang, formerly thought to be harmless, is in fact strongly haemotoxic.
Another highlight of this month’s list is a lavish work on Koos de la Rey, who fought alongside Generals Smuts and Hertzog in the Anglo-Boer War. Andries Raath’s De la Rey: ‘n Stryd vir Vryheid, especially in it special collector’s edition, is one of the most impressive military publications ever to come out of South Africa. The ‘Military History’ section is quite strong: study it. We also have several charming ephemeral items, including colourful Union Castle Line menus. A highlight in the ‘Antiques & Collecting’ section is Domestic Interiors at the Cape and in Batavia 1602-1795.
We hope we have found something for you. Whatever the case, enjoy the holidays, keep a low profile, and avoid the snakes! We look forward to joining you in the world of books again in 2018. Our latest list can be found here:
Lindsay and Wendy
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