Tomb­stone Travel

South African Country Life - - Your Letters - Louis Rood, via email

Chris Marais’ ar­ti­cle Tomb­stone Travel in the Ka­roo is a bit­ter-sweet re­minder of the unique her­itage of these of­ten re­mote, windswept and crum­bling farm, vil­lage and church­yard ceme­ter­ies. Ev­ery grave­stone tells the story of some­one’s life. In the Van Rhyns­dorp ceme­tery also rests the re­mains of Dr Peter de Bruyn, the beloved blind doc­tor of the district who died in 1928. Hav­ing lost the sight of one eye as a child, he later qual­i­fied as a med­i­cal doc­tor, but trag­i­cally lost the sight of the other eye while mix­ing chem­i­cals for pre­scrip­tions. Un­de­terred, he con­tin­ued in prac­tice as district sur­geon for many years, ably as­sisted by his de­voted wife Susie, de­liv­er­ing ba­bies, per­form­ing gen­eral surgery and serv­ing the needs of a far-flung com­mu­nity. Dr De Bruyn used to tell the story of a train trip un­der­taken by him in his ca­pac­ity as Rail­ways Med­i­cal Of­fi­cer (RMO), which of­fice en­ti­tled him to free rail travel. He was joined in his com­part­ment by a fel­low trav­eller, who chat­ted away, quite un­aware that Dr De Bruyn was blind. Even­tu­ally the con­duc­tor rat­tled open the door and asked Dr De Bruyn for his ticket. The doc­tor sim­ply smiled and replied “RMO”. Sat­is­fied, the con­duc­tor turned to his talk­a­tive com­pan­ion – “Kaartjie as­se­blief, me­neer.” Tak­ing the ap­par­ent gap, the pas­sen­ger grinned

(or so Dr De Bruyn imag­ined) and replied “Ek is ook ’n arme ou.”

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