95th Annual Report of the Chairman of the Van Riebeeck Society
by Professor Howard Phillips at the AGM of the VRS on 9 August 2014 at the
Our venerable society has been very active since our last AGM in September 2013, in ways which are not commonly found among 96-year olds. Indeed, in the last two months our activities have reached almost hyperactive levels, requiring many extra hours of input from Council members and staff. These activities included:
running a stall for all 3 days of the South African International Book Fair
at the Convention Centre in
having a table at the biennial
conference of the South African Historical Association in
· arranging a visit for our members to the PaarlMedia printing works on 17 June to see our 2014 volume, literally, rolling off the press. The visit left such an illuminating imprint on those who attended that perhaps we should make this an annual ‘book harvest’ outing;
organizing 4 launches of this year’s volume in locations as widespread as
Cradock, Grahamstown Port Elizabeth and (today)
I should point out that in doing this,
Tanya and Nick were following in the footsteps of another willing Council member,
Elizabeth van Heyningen, who did much the same, but
single-handedly, last year when our 2013 volume, the journal of Ensign Beutler’s 1752 expedition to the
What lies ahead for these 1178 members?
In the pipeline are rich and revealing volumes like:
· die briewe van president MT Steyn van die OVS
· the second volume of François le Vaillant’s Travels into the Interior of Africa
reports on the genocide of the San in the northern
· the papers of Samuel Eusebius Hudson, a pre-1820 British settler
· oral testimony recalling the great Spanish Influenza epidemic of 1918
· Richard Selope Thema’s autobiography, ‘Out of Darkness: From Cattle-Herding to Editor’s Chair’
We are also investigating the publication of our volumes as E-books as well as in the standard hardcopy format, but have found it necessary to proceed with great circumspection as we weigh up taking on responsibility for digitizing and selling the electronic books ourselves or rather handing this task entirely over to a commercial publisher who will pay us a share of its income from sales.
Looking even further ahead, we are aware that in 4 years’ time the VRS will turn 100. We need to think imaginatively about how best to mark this centennial milestone. One idea might be to use this occasion to launch a special VRS 2018 endowment fund to help sustain the Society for its next 100 years. We are very open to all suggestions from today onwards and will extend a similar invitation for ideas to all our members in our newsletter. The Council will consider these early next year.
The members of this Council have provided me with a reliable source
of support, bright ideas and commitment all through its first year in office
and for this I wish to thank each councillor very
sincerely; but in particular I wish to single out for my thanks Elizabeth van Heyningen (vice-chair) and Piet Westra
(treasurer) for shouldering with aplomb, skill and zeal the additional tasks I
have imposed on them. Those three characteristics – aplomb, skill and zeal –
are equally the hallmarks of the modus operandi of our indefatigable secretary,
Cora Ovens, who, with her assistants,
With this competent and deeply committed team in place, the VRS can look forward to a very robust year ahead.