Willie Londt’s impressive feats stand tall

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BY CLEMENT DU PLESSIS

THE sporting achievements of Basil D’Oliveira, Papwa Sewgolum, David Samaai, and others are often raised for the wrong reasons as sportsmen of “colour” who had caused a stir in apartheid South Africa.

Contrast their stories with Bevil Rudd, Barry Richards, Gary Player, Frew McMillan, and Johan Kriek – they are sure to be mentioned for their stellar sporting achievements. Richards scoring a hundred before lunch, Player’s part of the Big Three (Arnold Palmer, and Jack Nicklaus) and Kriek and McMillan for their grand slam achievements in tennis.

William Londt seen competing in his favourite event, the long jump.
William Londt is seen competing in his favourite event, the long jump. The official is Harry Hendricks (with stick in left hand).

Rudd is referred to as the first South African to have won the men’s 400m in 1920 at the Antwerp Olympic Games.

D’Oliveira, on the other hand, is remembered for inadvertently plunging South Africa into sporting isolation after a political blunder by Prime Minister John Vorster in 1968. Vorster had banned D’Oliveira, who had been picked for the England cricket team, from playing in South Africa.  Sewgolum is remembered for accepting his prize in the rain after being banned from entering the Durban Country Club after he had beaten Harold Henning in 1963 and Player in 1965.

Apartheid system

Samaai was referred to as the first coloured chap to have a won a match at Wimbledon in 1949, one year after the National Party under white and apartheid Prime Minister Danie Malan had come to political power.

While the apartheid system denied, stymied and stultified the progress of non-white players, the resilience of many shone through in those dark days of apartheid.

One such player was the multi-talented sportsman William Londt, 81, a retired Inspector of Education.

Londt’s story is not part of the unity history. His story is not recognised anywhere in the annals of South African sports history.

Insert W 5
One of Willie Londt’s many diplomas earned while still at school.

Willie Londt was known by his peers to have had a feared left boot in rugby. He was an aggressive batsman, a fast bowler who took wickets more often than not and an athlete of note.

Like all of the non-white players, his achievements lie in a scrapbook in a filing cabinet with none of it ever mentioned or acknowledged in a museum, or repeated in the same breath as Richards, Player, Rudd, and Kriek.

‘Chucked out’

Born at 23 Hugo Street, Elsie’s River in 1935, Londt and his parents and siblings lost their two houses because of the 1950 Group Areas Act.

“We got chucked out because of the Group Areas Act. I have no time for the Afrikaner regime for what they did to us. I can’t forget,” he said.

His family was compensated to an amount of R2000 for the houses, one of which ironically was being let to white tenants – this after being given only three months to find alternative accommodation.

“The evil of apartheid destroyed everything we had worked for. Our (the community) life was turned upside down because of the Group Areas Act. Our cultural and sports activity were completely broken up,” recalls Londt.

Insert W 6
This is the original cover of an athletics programme of 1959.

The Group areas Act was passed in 1950 by the white National Party government of Danie Malan. The Act assigned racial groups to different residential and business sections in urban areas in a system of urban apartheid.

Where he had lived in Elsie’s River, the government of the day changed the name Elsie’s River to Vrijzee – (bordering Goodwood).

Londt’s scrapbook and other information pieces such as athletics programmes and diplomas attest to his ability as a top-notch sportsman.

Cecil Blows

He has in his possession some of his 1946 Northern Schools’ Sports Union diplomas, a 1959 souvenir athletics programme in which he points out the names of Aljy Winn, Leslie Titus, Kenny de Bruyn, Nicholas January, Georgie Capito, Norman Stoffberg, Sam de Wet, Peter Forbes and Kenny Maggott.

In the juniors you had Willy Pick, Cecil Blows, Gerald Marshall and John Webb. Elsewhere on the website, you can read about Stoffberg, Blows, Marshall and Webb.

Londt also refers to Rosie Schaffers, Rosie Oliphant, Katherine Diedericks and Marilyn Welch as being exceptional 100-yard athletes of their time.

Insert W 8
The newspaper article captures Willie Londt’s magical bowling figures.

Londt himself excelled in the long jump, high jump and 100 yards events.

The 1959 souvenir athletics programme indicates that the meeting was held over three days at the Kings Park Stadium in Durban, culminating in the marathon. The quality of the programme also suggests that the organisation of the meeting was first class.

Whirlwind innings

There are too many achievements to mention from the versatile sportsman Londt.

Londt, who played cricket for Ridgeville (based in the Walmer Estate and Woodstock area) once took six wickets for 16 runs and blasted a whirlwind 69, including seven sixes. He also took five wickets in one over, including a hat trick in a match played against Albions at Cape District in Wynberg far removed from where he had played cricket before in Elsie’s River! (newspaper cutting December 4, 1965).

He played flyhalf for the rugby club Richmond Rangers based in Elsie’s River (now called Vrijzee) and remembers Winston Kloppers (the retired head of sport at UWC) having played lock forward for the club.

“We had a family of rugby. Our family was rugby fanatics, my dad of course, and my brothers, I was the baby.  We were five brothers and three sisters”, he says.

Dressing room tents

“In 1960, I got an offer to play rugby for Wigan. The scout called me to Sea Point. I turned it down and told him I am alone with my mother, dammit.

Louis Newman, Goolam Abed and another rugby player by the surname of Schroeder were recruited to Wigan by the scout Ronnie Collins.

Admittedly, he has more rugby cuttings than athletics. In one such rugby cutting, the story reports about his magnificent game for the Parow and District Rugby Union in which he starred against South Western Districts in winning the South African Federation Gold Cup in 1960.  The article points out his 40-metre kick for touch and the fact that he twice broke the line to put Willy Pick and himself over for a try and a conversion. Pick is the father of the former Spes Bona flyer Walton Pick (1978). Pick senior is a medical doctor and an honorary professor. A young Cecil Blows had to beat Pick in the senior men’s 100 yards to become the new sprint champion in the 1960s.

The rugby field used to be where the Ajax Cape Town Football Club headquarters are in Parow.

“I also played rugby against City and Suburban at the Old City Park Stadium. There were no change rooms and stand at the time. Tents had been used as dressings rooms,” says Londt.

*You can read part two here http://bit.ly/2wjKxAi

The old City Park sports ground in Crawford. Tents had been used as dressing rooms, and in the background is the building of the only stand at City Park. The team is from the Parow and District Rugby Football Union contesting the Van Riebeeck Trophy against City and Suburban in 1961. Standing: W Londt, E de Beer, J Miller, C Muller, E Petersen, L Carelse and F Fortune (manager). Second row: J Julies, L Petersen, V Williams, W Pick, N Leaner and M Meyer. Front row: J Abrahams, J Gelderbloem and P Julies. Final score. 0-0.

One thought on “Willie Londt’s impressive feats stand tall

  • September 4, 2016 at 12:06 pm
    Permalink

    Hi Clement. Firstly, I follow your stories very closely and salute you for the sterling work you do to acknowledge the contributions of these forgotten heroes.
    My comment is regarding your latest article about Willy Londt. When I saw the name, it immediately triggered many emotions inside of me, mostly because of my late father.
    Leslie Edmund Petersen is the one kneeling in the second row of the rugby team picture. He also happened to be the captain of that winning team that won the trophy that year.
    I recall his tales vividly of his all-conquering team that won the main trophy that year. He spoke very highly of Mr Willy Londt, in particular, his feared left boot.
    He relayed the story of one particular match where Willy Londt dropped kick a ball from within his own half.
    So having read this article brought back a flood of memories and as I’m typing this makes me very emotional.
    Thank you so much for all that you’ve done for recognizing the immense sporting contributions of these forgotten heroes.

    P.S. My late father was an avid amateur photographer and as such have a huge collection of pictures of his rugby playing days. There is even an original ticket to the ballroom award ceremony for the end of season. I will be happy to share these with you.

    Reply

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