Basil May was born and raised in Swellendam into an old established Swellendam family.
He describes his parents, Richard & Christine May, as champions of the poor,
who tried to make a difference and keep the people together.
At an early age he was sent to school at the NG Mission School and on to High School in Genadendal.
He went toHewitt College in Cape town and qualified as a teacher and on to the University of the Western Cape, he completed his studies with a bursary to Moray House college in Edinburgh taking his wife Josephine & his young family with him.
He had married Josephine in 1972 and they have shared life together for over 50 years
He taught in Swellendam and at Bonteheuwel where he became the principle.
He worked with student teachers becoming Rector of the Wesley College of Education and Executive Director of the Committee of Colleges of Education Rectors of SA.
He was quite sad when the teachers’ training colleges were finally abolished.
This was not an easy time for a small town in the Western Cape the “Group Areas Act” brought much unhappiness as people were moved to the other side of the railway line away from neighbours and friends but, following his parents’ example, Basil and Josephine worked hard for the betterment of their people.
Tragedy struck in 1975 when Desiree, Basil’s 13year old youngest sister, was one of those in the first Swellendam bus disaster,on their way to Genadendal the lorry they were travelling in plunged into the river near Riviersonderend. 21 of thel earners, 6 teachers & the bus driver all died in the incident. It was a great loss felt by the whole town.
42 years later on the anniversary of the tragedy Basil was instrumental in the formation of the Swellendam Bursary Fund formed to support the future of talented
Swellendam students, funds are raised most particularly at the famous annual breakfast.
For 7 years Basil also arranged courses for students from USA who wished for overseas experience.
Evercommunity minded Basi was active in the formation of the Railton Foundation and became the local coordinator, a community-based NGO providing facilities and opportunities for local people.
Although he says he has retired he is the chairman of the Pan SALB Western Cape Provincial Language Committee.
Much of his work was outside Swellendam But he does not forget his home town, he still plays an active part in the community where he is recognized as a wise,approachable, and generous man.
So- It gives Swellendam Heritage Association great pleasure to recognize Basil’s lifetime of devotion to the betterment of his people through his many achievements.
Carol PoddSHA AGM
Video of a special visit to the Bloukrans Cave on the 6th of February 2019.