Benriach, Graceland Gallery and Al Maktoum School
Benriach, Graceland Gallery and Al Maktoum School

“Triumphs, Tragedies and Good News”

Alec and Jeanette Hogg

Not everything in life is rosy, and sometimes fate has an uncanny knack of converting triumph into tragedy at a moment’s notice. On Friday morning, we woke to the news that our neighbours and great friends, Alec and Jeanette Hogg, had survived an aircraft collision at O.R.Tambo airport, when the front wheel of their Pietermaritzburg-bound jet failed to dislodge itself, and they were forced to make a belly landing at the airport of departure. They say that when you get the “brace” command in a descending aircraft, your chances of coming out on the credit side of life’s balance sheet, are slim. Alec tells us he was reminded of the statistics as they were going down. That both were there to celebrate the opening of South Africa’s first equine-dedicated art gallery at their Graceland Farm on the Giant’s Castle road overlooking Summerhill, tells us the gods were mercifully on side. Someone up there was looking after them, thank God, and that meant Jeanette was able to preside at Sunday’s inaugural proceedings at the gallery. A revelation it was, of some excellent work and many God-given gifts.

Those of us who live in this district can take pride in the work on show, just as we can in the singing talents of Cat Simone, who apparently outdid Whitney Houston at her own game, at impresario Alan Sutherland’s debut performance in our School Of Excellence. Sutherland may have been an All Black, and he may have bred Teal, but if this is what he’s capable of, he missed his vocation. A roaring success, from all accounts, and a heartening uncovering of the latent artistic capabilities in our home community. Let’s not forget, we live on the finest arts and crafts meander in Africa, and the unveiling of these artists in our midst was the good news in a the world which has not been very forthcoming in recent months.

The Bard of Summer

From this triumph, to the tragic news Monday morning of the passing of one of cricket’s finest ever writers. We’ve no idea of the cause, but Peter Roebuck, one-time captain of Somerset, England cricketer and newspaper correspondent supreme, passed away at his Cape Town hotel this weekend. Among those who knew his captaincy, were two knights of the realm, Sir Ian Botham and Sir Vivian Richards, as well as West Indian fast bowling terror, Joel Garner. They don’t come much bigger than that. Peter’s columns have always been a rich inspiration to readers across the world, as he was not only a freelance writer for our own beloved Witness, but also for the Sydney Morning Herald and The Melbourne Age.

Tributes have poured in from around the world, probably the most apt of which was Indian broadcaster, Harsha Bhogle’s posting: “Peter Roebuck was meant to write about cricket in the manner Sachin Tendulkar was born to play”.

In yesterday’s Herald, Greg Baum penned the piece which Roebuck should’ve written: “Roebuck was eccentric, he was a tall, spare man, who lived an austere, almost aesthetic life, not indulging in such fripperies as deodorant. His trademark was a tatty straw hat with a white brim, it was one of few possessions found in his hotel room. On anyone else, that would have been an absurd affectation. Roebuck was complex, intense, taught, edgy, opionated, a little manic, mostly cheerful, sometimes broody. He was a contrarian, not for the sake of it, but because he always had another view. He spoke quickly, in a clipped tone, needing to get the thoughts out so that more could follow; his broadcast voice was his street voice. He did not do small talk, ever.”

R.I.P. old pal.

And now for some Good News

At the Emperors Palace National Yearling Sale this year, a new player rolled up. Wayne Kieswetter alighted from his helicopter at Rand airport, came to the TBA complex, saw what he wanted, and conquered. In a matter of moments, Wayne signed for the Summerhill-consigned Utshani, at R850,000 promptly gave it to his son as an 18th birthday present, and climbed back on the plane.

This weekend, we discovered something else about Mr Kieswetter. His success in life is not confined to Cape Town, and he obviously has some cultural interests besides. He and his pal Geoff Bell are living every whisky-lovers dream, owning a prize distillery in Scotland.

For seven years Wayne Kietswetter and Geoff Bell have owned BenRiach in the Scottish Highlands. The two were in Johannesburg this week to attend a whisky festival. Kieswetter and Bell teamed up with Scottish whisky legend Billy Walker to buy the distillery near the town of Elgin, in the northeast of Scotland. Until they bought it, BenRiach was used to supply whisky for blends for other labels. Kieswetter said : “It wasn’t even sold as a single malt. They did a couple of hundred cases in duty free. We found some real good whisky.” The distillery, it turned out, had “stock from 1966 to 2002 and every year in-between. And it produced very good whisky.” The entrepreneurs set about turning BenRiach into a premium whisky brand with several ranges. It has won many awards, including Distillery of the Year in the Malt Advocate Whisky Awards in 2007 and Distiller of the Year in the 2009 Icons of Whisky Awards. The latter covers all the distilleries of the world.

“We were first to launch a Speyside peat. Now it’s one of the biggest-selling of our whiskies in America, Germany and Scandinavia,” Kieswetter said.

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