In Memory of Black Sash Stalwarts

In memory of Julia Seeger

It was with great sadness that the Grahamstown former Sashers learned of the death of Julia Seegar of cancer in Manchester England. 

Julia was an active Sash member in a time when the Eastern Cape was beset with detentions and multiple problems stemming from Apartheid. She was an able leader and had a very fine mind. Grahamstown was fortunate in that the Sash had as members, several Academics from Rhodes University who brought new and challenging ideas.

Julia, who taught in the Anthropology Department, was one such Academic and she introduced new thinking on Women's issues to the Grahamstown Sash members. She was the prime mover in a piece of research conducted about women who were left behind while so many men were being detained. Apart from presenting a paper on this at a woman's conference Sashers were able to incorporate some of the findings in their work with detainees and their families.

We remember her as diminutive in stature, courageous and articulate and we all mourn her passing at a relatively young age. We send love and strength to her family.

Diana Bingham Davis -- 1921 - 2017

Diana Davis, one of the very earliest members of the Black Sash, has passed away in Cape Town after a long and energetic, as well as fun-filled life. She hosted the first Port Elizabeth meeting of the Black Sash in 1955, and remained active and interested in it there and in other places where she lived. She was among those who travelled in the Black Sash convoy to Cape Town in 1956, sleeping outside parliament to protest against the National Party’s decision to change the Constitution in order to remove the coloured voters from the common voters roll.

Her friends and colleagues remember her, in Judy Chalmers' words, for her deep wisdom and humanity, her loyalty to her family and friends, her wonderful and unquenchable curiosity about people and the whole of life, her marvellous intelligence and her courage in adversity. Bobby Melunsky recounts Di's varied activities, including the establishment of a crèche in Walmer Township, named for her by residents and still going strong; her work for Kupugani and School Feeding Fund; her involvement in making parcels for detainees and banished person, and visiting them; and helping to establish the ABC book fund to provide school books for African schools.

When the Port Elizabeth Region of the Black Sash took a decision to close under severe repression and declining membership in the 1980s, she was one of those who sustained it as a P.E. branch of the Albany Region based in Grahamstown.

Every tribute to her is characterised by mention of her energy and positive outlook and inexhaustible zest. She was loved and admired, and will be greatly missed.

Tribute to Di Andrews

I am Wendy, Di’s younger sister, but not the youngest, as that honour falls on Judy, our baby sister living in the UK. Our enlarged family was made up of Di, brother John, Wendy, Lorna, Romy and Judy. We have said goodbye to John and Romy, and now to Di.

When our Mother died in 1938, I was just five years old.  Di, eight years older, was at boarding school in Grahamstown. 

 For me, in that instant of my mother’s death, Di became not just a big sister, but a substitute, a surrogate mother, and an embedded friend.  There was, about Di, a quality that shone like a bright light, a glowing beacon.  She had the ability to transcend, to lift herself above the sad, sometimes tragic, circumstances that were so much part of her journey, and always to find joy.

Gifted, highly intelligent, profoundly wise, generous, with the most wonderful sense of humour, creative, artistic, beautiful herself, she loved beauty, colour.  She loved people, and was an extraordinary listener.    It was perhaps this, coupled with her natural warmth, that made her a light to so many.   It is that radiance, that most epitomises the person she was, who loved deeply, and who, in turn was surrounded by love.

Much of that love was expressed in her dedication to family, one of the most important aspects of her life. Surrounded by one or all of her five girls, Bev, Sally and Caro, Jean and Di. They were the mainstream of her life. She was the true matriarch of her family, whose lives and happenings so intermingled with her own.  I may add that I am blessed to have four such wonderful nieces.   (Jean, sadly, has long not been with us), who have lovingly nursed and cared for Di through her long illness, each contributing in her own unique way.  

We should never forget three important links in the chain of Di’s life, Olga, also one of Di’s loyal nurses, Thandi, now living far away, but also having Di on her visiting list when she was at home, and dear Sabu. Today, this Church is filled with family and friends, all of us here to honour, and also to grieve.

Di loved music, and my memory bank recalls my sister, reacting as always to the pulse of music, from classical to jazz, and even to the soulful keening of the bagpipes. She embraced that Scots sound as she embraced our mingled heritage, with an English mother and a Scots father, and an upbringing that made us children of Africa. She loved justice, fairness, integrity.  Perhaps it is these qualities that led her to the Black Sash in the apartheid era, and to becoming an anti-apartheid activist of that time.

 It is no co-incidence that Di loved angels.  She gave them away, people gave them to her. To many, as to me, she was herself an angel. Strongly spiritual, my sister was a person of much goodness and light.

Today we honour the amalgam of those qualities that made up a person forever unforgettable, our Di. We mourn.  We celebrate. We hold our memories dear.

I thank God for the life of my sister.

Wendy Jackson (past member and active in the East London Advice Office and in the organisation in KZN).


 

Diana Margaret Andrews, known to her friends and Black Sashers as Di, died on 22nd August 2016 at the  wonderful age of 92.  Her funeral was at Christ Church, Constantia just around the corner from her daughter, Caro’s home where Di spent the last couple of years of her life.

Every Thursday morning Di and I worked in the Black Sash Advice Office in Mowbray.  She was a deeply committed worker and loved by our staff.  Theo Mokomele and her daughter, Pelisa together with David Viti and his son were at Di’s funeral together with some ten of our “elders” to pay our last respects to this very fine member of our organization.  Sue Townsend, coordinator of our Advice Office paid tribute to Di’s commitment to justice, her dedication to her work for the organization and commented on the splendid human being Di was to all who crossed her path.  I had the special privilege of watching Di work in the Advice Office with patience, grace, kindness, empathy and deep respect for all who sought her help. 

The church was filled with beautiful flowers arranged by Jinny Mullins and Sally Cristini (one of Di’s four daughters), both Black Sash members.  The soft lines, deep colours and the white of lilies and Arums combined to reflect the gentle splendor of who Di was.  The deep fragrance of Jasmine trailed over the altar rails filled the air as did the Narcissus we were all invited to place on the coffin.    At Di’s request the congregation joined in singing John Lennon’s Imagine and the moving poem, Beannacht was read to us, also chosen by Di.

A stirring rendition of Amazing Grace on the bagpipes accompanied Di and her family on her way as we emptied the church and enjoyed the company of friends and family over a splendid tea.

We salute you and will never forget you and what you meant to us, Di.

Di Oliver

27th August 2016

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