Dr Alastair Carnegie


"I have sad news about Alastair Carnegie who died last week after a nasty fall . He slipped in the bedroom , crashed to the floor and gashed his head .His injury resulted in a massive, fatal brain haemorrhage and he passed away in the early hours of the morning  on Saturday , the 7th June .

Alastair came to Rhodes University in 1950  , having studied for a year at the Charing Cross Medical School in London .  He had been schooled at Plumtree (in the then Rhodesia) where he had so enjoyed participating in their annual productions of the Gilbert and Sullivan operas that he was keen to continue his love of  acting and singing.  To this end he became the Deputy Director of a musical comedy called " 60 Glorious Jeers" and together with its Director, Richard Gaylord, the show toured the country as a fund raiser for the young university .  It proved to be very popular with audiences in many of the major cities : Johannesburg, East London , Durban , Kimberly and Port Elizabeth where I saw it as a schoolgirl at Collegiate Girls High! 

Alastair also formed a group of four who sang and played their guitars during the intervals at some public performances at His Majesty's Theatre. They would perform  during the interval when reels were being changed for a film show and again when sets were being changed between the scenes of a theatrical production . 

At Rhodes he met Neville  Courtenay Smithers under whose influence he decided to study Entomology ; Neville was to become his greatest mentor and life long friend .   Alastair studied under my father , Professor Omer -Cooper and  acquired a first class Masters degree based on his work examining the relationship between scale insects and ants . His field work was carried out on Ross Purdon's citrus orchards outside Grahamstown .

Alastair worked in many places throughout Africa . In Southern Tanganika ( now Tanzania ) in the Rukwa valley on Locust Control , In Zimbabwe ( then Rhodesia ) in Research and Specialist Services as a scientific officer in the Eastern Districts for apple orchards and deciduous fruit ; finally in South Africa , at the research station in Mt. Edgecombe at the centre of the sugar industry .  Here , as Head of Department , he created a biocontrol laboratory  and then travelled extensively to learn more about this innovative form of insect control . 

Alastair went on to become a very well known and respected entomologist ; he was elected  President of The Entomological Society  and later , in his retirement , he was made an Honorary Life Member of the same.  As a retiree , he continued to consult world wide;  he also volunteered his expert services to Sea World in Durban and helped restore the Hawaan Forest in Umlanga .

Rhodes University can be very proud of Alastair Carnegie ; he was a leading entomologist who worked tirelessly to promote Biocontrol of insect pests and so reduce the amount of insecticides being used in today's Agricultural Industry ....... his work is of universal importance .

Throughout the years , he maintained his links with Rhodes together  with the many friends he had made there during his student days.  At the time of his death he was planning to attend the College House Centenary Celebrations  together with close friend , Peter Duminy ; these two men being the oldest to accept this historic invitation ! Alastair will be greatly missed by many , among them his fun loving fellow Rhodeans . "
Peter Duminiy writes "as Sub-Wardens of College House in the 1952-54 Academic Years, or parts thereof. 
Alastair (and I) sat at Hight Table and had been appointed to assist the
Warden of  Founders Hall in small ongoing ways – or as and when required.

That was congenial and in no way taxing – or worth mentioning – but for one spate of
thefts of money from student rooms. The Sub-Wardens decided to address this rare
problem by setting a trap; and subsequently by calling a House meeting at which it
could be announced that the culprit had been identified; but also that no action would
be taken were the missing banknotes to be speedily returned.

The stolen money was indeed recovered;  thefts  ceased; the culprit's identity has not
been revealed (and never will be).
The following  was written by Peter Kolbe who also stayed at College House.

Al was my dearest and longest-standing friend and we had a hell of a lot of good times together, and with others like Smithers, Trump, Carstens and Duminy. We did an overseas trip together, I was a regular September visitor to the Rukwa while he was in IRLCS and together we fled for our lives from a herd of elephants. The last time I saw Al was when Al and Phoebe left Jabulani to return home: I knew then that Al and I would not meet again which accounts for my sudden show of emotion by giving him a hug, much to our mutual embarrassment. He was a great and multi-talented man who got a real belt out of life: an authority on citrus and sugar who consulted all over the world; a gifted musical performer, especially on the guitar, who shared his love of singing with many appreciative friends; no mean artist who drew beautifully; a courageous adventurer--who else would have joined IRLCS and and gone shooting elephants?; a caring, considerate and intensely loyal friend, with a great sense of humour, always ready to see the ridiculous side of things, who kept in touch with many and was loved by all of them for his wry smile, sharp but kindly wit and unassuming manner; and last but not least,a great drinking companion and an excellent man on a party.  Although he may have "shuffled off this mortal coil" he will live on in the hearts and minds of the many who loved him well and admired him greatly. .

These lines from a poem by Robert Service called "The Grey Gull" may well serve as an epitaph for Al. "Oh I have lived enormously 

And I shall have prodigious peace."


Last Modified: Mon, 08 Aug 2016 14:57:35 SAST