William John Munro Lightfoot



William John Munro Lightfoot, 15 February, 1942 – 9 June, 2017


John passed away in Constiaberg Hospital, after a short illness, and is survived by his wife Pam, daughter Helen and three grandchildren.


John was born in Lusaka, Northern Rhodesia, now Zambia, on 15th February 1942. He attended St Andrew's Prep travelling down by train with his mother.  He later went on to the college and became a boarder.

John’s grandmother owned the farm Slaai Kraal, 16 km outside Grahamstown. When she could no longer manage it, John’s family returned to run the farm in the early 1950s. Eventually they too became too old to run it, and they sold up and bought The Red House in Grahamstown where they spent the rest of their lives.


At St Andrew’s College John was involved with the shooting team and was in the Cadet Band where he played a side drum.


After matriculating, John went onto Rhodes University to do a B.Sc in 1959. He joined the small-bore rifle club, going on to get full colours, representing the 1st team, winning several regional and national competitions.


He also joined the “Tech Staff” where he and a friend were responsible for all the backstage and lighting for the numerous dramatic productions during the year. In addition they were heavily involved in the behind-the-scenes work to make sure everything ran smoothly, the rag procession, sports on the Great Field and the dramatic production and ball in the evening. Naturally a group like this would be involved in the annual Rag, and John also played drum in the Pipe Band.  Prior to the procession, band members had to get up at the crack of dawn to play for the “drummies” rehearsals. During his time at Rhodes he also took up Scottish Dancing; it’s hard to imagine the John that I knew doing Scottish Dancing!


After graduating he went to Bulawayo and worked as a chemical salesman for Dowson & Dobson, and also did his Military Service there in the Engineering Corps. But he did not enjoy the commercial world and went on to do a stint of teaching at Fletchers College outside Gwelo, now Gweru. From there he moved to Guinea Fowl School, 16 kms outside Gweru. It was during this time that John met his future wife Pam, who was working for the Town Clerk.


They were married in Gweru on 14 December, 1968 and moved to Cape Town where John had been appointed to the staff at Bishops to teach Science. This he did with passion and dedication, and I’m sure many will remember many anecdotes about John in the classroom. Like all of us in the Science Dept. we taught Physical Science to Stds 6 – 8 (Grs 8 – 10) after which John taught Chemistry to Stds. 9 & 10 (Grs 11 & 12 and Post Matric) and I would do the Physics. His nickname was “Nanosecond”; the time it took light to travel one foot!


But John was also deeply involved in the College life. He looked after the shooting Team most successfully and in the winter terms he coached hockey. He did the backstage and lighting for every House, School and Staff play and trained many boys to do lighting for their House play. He was an integral part of the staff timing team for all the heats and on Sports Day. In addition he was involved with the School Driving Scheme and started the Sailing Club.


John managed the College printing room most efficiently for many years. He was meticulous, and made sure that everything that left the print room was as good as it could get. His wife Pam often helped out with the typing and editing. Staff would bring in their exam, or whatever, and John made sure they got their pile of neatly printed and stapled exams in good order and time!


John’s hobby was building and flying radio controlled model gliders and this he did with his usual passion for getting things right. He started flying on Rondebosch Common and was soon joined by others. They formed a club and John, edited and published their journal, “The Southeaster”, for many years. He also flew his gliders off slopes and for this I think he still holds the SA record for keeping a glider in the air – about 14 hours as far as I remember. He was also a sought-after judge in other model airplane competitions.


John was one of life’s rarities; a good and generous man. He was a loyal friend and fine colleague. Ready to help whenever he could, and could fix or repair most things! Outspoken on issues and I remember well numerous discussion in the stairwell in the Science Dept.; some of which were what we now might call “robust”, but never with any animosity. Many will remember his explosive laughter, sometimes matched by his near volcanic eruptions! The latter were short lived and his smile would always return, he didn’t bear grudges; he wanted things done right. It was an honour to have known John.


Case Rijsdijk

Last Modified: Tue, 11 Jul 2017 14:18:35 SAST