Table Mountain from Blouberg

Bookshelf: Lawrence G. Green

I grew up loaning dusty hardcover Lawrence G. Green books from Vredehoek library, where the librarians must have thought I was either faking it or had no hobbies whatsoever apart from reading, given how frequently I visited them. The truth was, in fact, the latter.

Table Mountain from Blouberg
Table Mountain from Blouberg

Green was a journalist and author, who lived from 1900 to 1972. He was a prolific author and wrote in an anecdotal, entertaining manner without any pretensions. He recounted legends, ghost stories, and the sort of tantalising local stories that your grandfather might tell you over and over, lending great colour to the South African historical landscape. His books don’t contain any bibliography or sources, but as folk histories serve an important purpose in keeping alive much of the oral history that has existed in South Africa during the past couple of centuries.

I loved his books on the Skeleton Coast and the shipwrecks of the Cape. I wouldn’t be surprised if wreck hunters still reference his books for clues as to where treasure can be found in the waters of the Cape. Many of his books recount sea battles and tales of daring rescues through storm-tossed waters – this is one of the things I loved about them as a child.

He is sometimes alarmingly racist and misogynist, in that casual way of colonialists of the last century. I choose to laugh uproariously at this and dismiss it as ignorance; others may choose to take offence.

Only one of his books is still in print (Cape Town: Tavern of the Seas, from Galago Publishing). The others can be found by lucky people who browse secondhand book stores!

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Clare

Lapsed mathematician, creator of order, formulator of hypotheses. Lover of the ocean, being outdoors, the bush, reading, photography, travelling (especially in Africa) and road trips.

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