COPY OF ARTICLE IN "THE OUDTSHOORN COURANT, FARMERS' FRIEND AND S.W. CHRONICLER" DATED MONDAY, MAY 8TH 1922. OBITUARY
GERT CORNELIS OLIVIER 09.09.1837 - 06.05.1922
On Saturday morning last Gert Cornelis Olivier of the Towers, West Bank, Oudtshoorn, breathed his last. And although his death was not unexpected, yet the news of his demise made the public realise that Oudtshoorn's greatest son, for he was born and bred here, had gone to his rest after a long and bitter struggle with pain that he bore unflinchingly and with a courage that never faltered.
For the last two days before his soul departed, life was just flickering and he was unconscious, but happily before that, he had lucid periods when his mind was wonderfully clear and he was enabled to give numerous directions to his sons and foremen of his farms as to what they should do after his death, for he knew he had not long to live.
On a number of occasions during the last month, according to all medical evidence, the late Mr. Olivier's life was measured by hours, but he was built of far tougher fibre than the ordinary mortal, for not once but several times, he made an almost miraculous rally, and where his own family, it would seen, were actually about to take leave of his from this world, with that remarkable vitality, which seems to have dominated his whole career the spark of life grow brighter and he lingered yet. His family and friends took consolation that during the latter days of his life he suffered no pain.
The writer, on enquiring a couple of weeks ago, of a medical man, who was at the bedside until a few days before his death, whether the late gentleman was still suffering so greatly, replied in the negative, said that he had no pain and added that he was "in a beautiful dream", the provision of a merciful Providence, and so these who loved him most were spared the mental torture of seeing their dear one spend those fleeting days in suffering. His last words, uttered in a weak voice, were "God is good". Then onwards he gradually grew weaker and his courageous spirit fled from his body at 11.30 a.m. at the age of 84 years 8 months, in the presence of his beloved wife and all his children.
The sketch of his life in this notice deals fairly fully with certain details of it. They are more or less of an intimate kind but there are numbers of activities which are hardly touched upon. It would be impossible in a couple of newspaper columns to deal adequately with a life which was so full of incident and almost half of which was spent in the service of the two principal local governing bodies, the Municipal and Divisional Councils. It must suffice that in the respective Chambers of these two institutions he had the interest of the town and district at heart. His arguments always carried weight and his influence among constituents was also great. He was a man of strong physique and commanding personality, he was endowed with vision and took a long view of affairs.
Throughout his long life he was a leader and supporter of an enterprise and measure that meant advancement or any progressive Municipal, Divisional or National policy that he had sound reasons for adopting.
Having once put his hand to the plough, he saw it through in face of obstacles or organised opposition, invariably with success. Essentially a man of action he did not allow the grass to grow under his feet but was up and going and his example and persuasion moved slackers and laggards to support a good cause. These characteristics distinguished him among men and quite up to recent days, when failing health and growing infirmities would have deterred less spirited beings, his interest and personal service did not slacken.
As our representative in the old Cape Parliament to which he was elected together with Sir Henry Juta on 31st January, 1894, he was a most useful member in procuring for this, a then much neglected and unknown district, liberal grants for public needs. His great faith in the probabilities of the Oudtshoorn soil and its future development verified by what we see around us today, was the incentive that encouraged him to force recognition from the Legislative Chambers, which assembled annually under the shadow of old Table Mountain, that our crying needs were roads, bridges, railways and irrigation works. A saving of his was "Daar is maar een Oudtshoorn". There is much truth in the epigram. For with the help of capital in the development of its great resources, the forecast of men of vision of the same calibre as the late Mr. Olivier are not far from being realised, that this district in the near future will be able to maintain five times its present population in comparative comfort. In Parliament he had the ear of the Government and although when he spoke he did so forcefully and to the point yet his work was behind the scenes where his persuasive and magnetic personality carried the day.
Politically in the Oudtshoorn district he weelded a wide influence and even as recently as the last election there was no secret made of the fact that it was due to his influence that the party of which he was a most ardent worker and supporter won the day. His loss, to the party will be irreparable and difficult to fill.
There are three outstanding events of the latter years of the late Mr. Olivier's life which confirm the statement made earlier in this article, and that is his wonderfully tough physique. When he was over seventy it is recalled that in the Graaff Reinet district while crossing a swollen river the Cape cart in which he was travelling was swept away and with it he and his coloured driver, he drifted downstream until he managed to catch an overhanging branch of a tree and here he held on for a couple of hours until he was rescued - a remarkable tribute to his pluck and endurance. The immersion in cold water for so long a period would have caused almost certain death to a septuagenarian, but Mr. Olivier suffered no ill effects. The second incident was a terrible motor car accident only a few short years ago on this side of the Robinson's Pass, when owing to defective brakes his car turned turtle and he was pinned down for some time. Mrs. Olivier, who was also in the car, managed to scramble out and to get help. On this occasion he had four ribs broken and it was anticipated that the shock and the injuries that he had sustained would either have fatal consequences or invalid him for the remainder of his life, but his indomitable will and magnificent physique again triumphed and to the amazement of all, he returned to his home from the farm whither he was conveyed after the accident and not many days elapsed before he was as busily engaged in his rounds as ever notwithstanding that his injuries caused him much suffering.
Following this grave accident, a disease which had been causing considerable inconvenience seemed to assert itself, with the result that after months of intense pain it was found necessary to undergo an amputation of an arm. Again it was considered that at the age of over four score years the shock to the system would prove too great. But such was the constitution of this wonderfully strong man that not only did his general health improve but his outlook on life was rejuvenated. The disease however had got such a hold that it again became a matter of very grave concern to his wife and family and it caused him intense pain and for the last few months he suffered as few could have suffered.
Perhaps one of the two greatest events of his life, the one being his election to the House of Parliament , was his presentation to King Edward. He had several times been to Europe and on one of these occasions, he had the unique distinctions of being one of the few purely Dutch South Africans to be presented to the Court.
The funeral took place at the residence of the deceased yesterday afternoon. In the beautiful grounds of the "Towers", hundreds came from every quarter of the town and district, to pay their last respects to a man who in his lifetime had lived and worked for them for upwards of fifty years. There was a great throng of the public on the stoep and on the lawns in front of the house on the southern side, while the large tennis court was also packed with people and the vault which lies just outside the enclosed grounds was surrounded by several hundreds.
The beautiful solid teak coffin with brass mountings lay in the drawing room and through this hundreds of the visitors passed to pay their tribute.
Rev. C.V. Nel conducted the service at the house on the southern side, where in the course of a deeply impressive address after a psalm had been sung, the Salvation Army Band playing the tune, the speaker spoke of the wonderful fortitude of the deceased in his suffering. He bore it without a murmur and was more concerned about these who were attending at his bedside than of his own pain. The deceased was a strong personality and by his death passed away the greatest personality of the South Western Districts. The speaker also touched upon his indomitable will. If he set out to accomplish something his mind was unalterable and he did what he
set out to do. The reverend gentleman then feelingly spoke of his closing days and how his last words were, as stated above "God is good".
Rev. S. Hartsman of the Presbyterian Church also spoke of the great personality of the deceased and of his wonderful welcome to the stranger within the gates and on behalf of the section of the community he represented he extended to his widow and his family their sincerest sympathy.
Mr. Ingle in the absence of the Mayor in his capacity of Deputy Mayor, spoke on behalf of the town, and in the course of an eloquent address paid a tribute to the deceased greatness. He was a great South African and his example could well be followed. He did accomplished much. The speaker also said a few words on behalf of the Coloured community for who he was asked to speak and on behalf of the town expressed sincere sympathy to the family in their sorrow.
After the address Rev. C.V. Nel delivered the benediction and the coffin was tenderly and reverently borne from the precincts of the house to the hearse which proceeded slowly along the path to the vaulted graveside. Here after the Salvation had rendered the hymn "Abide with me", a psalm had been sung, the Rev. C.V. Nel delivered the burial oration, Rev. Dr. Vi1joen on behalf of the widow and family thanked the public for their presence.
A large number of beautiful wreaths were received.
The bearers were the old friends of the deceased and a number of old tried and faithful foremen and workmen who had been with the deceased for many years.
Messrs. J.H. Bailey, Dr. Jacobson, D.J. Kleinschmidt, Andries Greeff, Piet Keller (Steyldrift), Andries Mulder, Stephen le Roux, Max Rose and J. Bezuidenhout, Frik du Plessis, Koos Ehlers, Mans Lombard, T. Lombard, Hermanus Lombard, Frikkie Muller and Frik du Plessis.
The concourse of people at the graveside was well over 2000.
Dr. Raubenheimer, M.L.A., who travelled via Prince Albert Road was also present at the funeral, and one of the Ministry, Colonel Mantz, was also to have been present but was unable to get away.
A great number of letters and telegrams have been received by the bereaved family.
To the widow and sons and daughters and other relations.we must tender our sincere sympathy.
We can do no better today than to give fully a brief sketch of the life of the late Mr. Olivier which was written some five years ago. It is full of interest and will give the reader an insight into his own personal life, and we feel sure all who read it will find the sketch a modest outline of the life of a man who in his public career, more especially in the old Cape House, got more done than any of his predecessors.