20 June 2021
Greetings my fellow fathers, fathers-to-be, and non-fathers,
And others too…Happy Father’s Day!
There were two citizens of Kimberley who died on 19 June, one in 1932, and the other in 1992. Sixty years apart.
Both were extremely influential in their chosen fields, and both were fathers. One was a grandfather, the other died very young.
The grandfather was Sol Plaatje, and the young man was Charlie Weir,
Solomon Tshekisho Plaatje’s last public meeting in Kimberley was on 24 May 1932 when he spoke in the Abantu-Batho Hall in No 2 Location, Galeshewe.
Shortly thereafter he travelled to Johannesburg to make arrangements for the publication of some of his writings, but fell ill with a bout of influenza from which he would eventually succumb. He had not been strong since recovering from the Spanish Flu epidemic that swept South Africa and the world in 1918, and while staying with family in Pimville, caught the ‘flu yet again which soon turned, fatally, to pneumonia. His wife Elizabeth was urgently called from Kimberley to his bedside, arriving on a cold wintry Sunday morning and later that afternoon, on 19 June 1932, he passed away at the relatively young age of 55 years.
Plaatje’s death was noted in most newspapers, but was not headlines – that being reserved for the infamous Daisy de Melker who was on trial for her life having been arrested for the murder of her son and alleged murder of two husbands. Kimberley’s Diamond Fields Advertiser had more to say about his death and the man, because after all, he was a son of Kimberley and the editor of the local newspaper, George Simpson, was a personal friend.
Well over a thousand Blacks, plus many Coloureds, Indians and Whites attended the funeral of Sol Plaatje in Kimberley. The cortege left his Angel Street residence for the service at the German Lutheran Church in No 3 (Meyer’s) Location before the committal service at the West End cemetery.
Plaatje’s brother in law, Isaiah Bud M’Belle, spoke on behalf of the family. He said that Plaatje had died in Johannesburg and he had been urged to have him buried there, but he had refused, knowing that if he allowed that Griqualand West and Kimberley would have blamed him.
Reverend Zacharias Mahabane, who led the service, said that in his death, “…the African people had lost one of its ablest sons. A large gap had been created in the communal life of the Bantu community of Bechuanaland and Griqualand West. As a writer, he wielded a pen that was mightier than the sword; perhaps one of the ablest pens of all the sons of Africa. As a journalist he was as versatile as he was diplomatic, and shrewd in the selection, preparation and presentation of his matter for the public press. As a speaker he found a ready place in the ranks of the great orators and the country. He was gifted of all requisites for public speaking of a high order, a charming personality, a clear thinking, clear speaking and a clear voice: hence an orator of the order of Demosthenes. A great patriot, he devoted his great talents to the service of his people and country. He lived not for himself, but for others, and ultimately laid down his life on the altar of national interests.”
The Kimberley born and bred “Silver Assassin”, Charles (Charlie) Henry Hughwright Weir, died on Friday 19 June 1992, from cancer in Johannesburg in his 36th year.
He was one of a kind, this Kimberley son, one of the hardest hitters South Africa has ever seen with lethal power in both fists, was charismatic, and had “…the magical quality that would make the media sit up and take notice.” Coupled to this the distinctive patch of white hair (the result of a childhood accident when cut in the scalp) which earned him the “Silver Assassin” nickname, and he was a promoter’s dream come true. The people loved him, the media loved him, and because he filled the venue each time he fought, the promoters loved him too. A natural southpaw he fought from the orthodox stance.
Charlie was born in Kimberley on 26 November 1956, the youngest of five children, three girls and two boys, and was educated at Herlear Primary School and the Technical High School at secondary level. The family lived in Beaconsfield.
His father, Donald Weir, had taught both Charlie and his elder brother Donald (Donny), the basics of soccer, cricket and hockey when they were still young, and introduced them to boxing by getting them join an amateur club in Kimberley. Trained by Bushy Oliver, both Donald and Charlie won South African junior titles. Donald gave up boxing to concentrate on hockey, becoming a leading provincial player.
As an amateur, Charlie was still a junior when he fought in the South African championships and won the lightweight title, beating Hennie Jordaan in the final. In 1974 he won the welterweight title, knocking out Ronnie Cowley in the 3rd round, and then won the light-middleweight title in 1975 and 1976. In 1975, after beating Peter Mgojo in the final, he was voted “Champion of Champions” and in 1976 received the “Best Boxer” award.
After completing his military national service Charlie turned professional and went under the management of trainer Willie Toweel, a former winner of four South African titles (and a British Empire lightweight champion).
Bert Blewett, a leading boxing reporter, wrote that: “He always had the knack of getting people to turn their heads. The first time I saw him, in April 1977, he caused a whole row of hardened reporters to do just that. We were settling at ringside for the rematch between Gerrie Coetzee and Mike Schutte at Wembley Stadium when someone shouted, ‘There’s Charlie Weir!’ Without exception, every reporter in the row turned his head in an effort to spot the young boxer, who was sitting ten rows back among the crowd. At that stage Weir hadn’t even had his first professional fight…”
In his first year as a professional, Weir beat Zachariah Thabethe in the first round, then Sias Bosch, Bushy Bester, Coenie Bekker, Kevin White from England, Danny McAloon from the US and Eben Marais – and all inside the first rounds. Only the fight against Bekker went further – to the fifth round.
He was an overnight sensation and the media turned him into a star. Naturally there were critics, some saying that his defence was not up to scratch. Veteran boxer Joe Hali burst the bubble on 1 December 1977 when Toweel threw the towel in during the 5th round, but Charlie defeated him in a return match in April 1978. He won a further six matches that year including the SA Middleweight title and early in 1979 stopped the former European and British middleweight champion Kevin Finnegan in the 7th.
His loss by a knockout in the 8th round on 30 April 1979 to “Tap Tap” Makhatini in front of a 20 000 strong crowd in Durban saw him break with Willie Toweel as his trainer and he joined the stable of Billy Lotter who sent him to train under world-famous trainer Cus d’Amato in the USA.
In 1980 and 1981 it appeared that the “old” Charlie Weir was back as he beat twelve boxers, all within the distance.
A victory over Clement Tshiza from Zaire in 1982 saw Weir then fight World Champion Davey Moore for the title in April 1982, but despite being favoured by the local media, he lost to Moore by a knockout in the 5th round.
It was a huge disappointment. An understatement, as the word “depression” might be a better description.
Charlie would fight another two fights before retiring, his last fight being on 2 October 1982 when he knocked out the future WBO welterweight champion Manning Galloway of the USA.
He had been at his peak between 1977 and 1981, receiving the King Korn/Boxing World Prospect of the Year Award in 1977 and South African Boxer of the Year in 1978 and 1981. His professional record was 31 fights with three losses, the majority of his wins being by knockout.
Sadly, Charlie succumbed to cancer after a long battle, dying in Pretoria’s HF Verwoerd Hospital on 19 June 1992. He left his wife Linda, two sons Charles (Jnr) and Tyron, a daughter Melissa, his immediate family in Kimberley, and countless fans to mourn his passing.
Kimberley shall not see his like again.
His aggressive style and killer instinct coupled to his natural charisma made him one of the most popular and exciting boxers in South African history.
There have been many in the sporting history of Kimberley who have made it to the top in their chosen sport, but none more so than the great “Silver Assassin” – Charlie Weir.
Have a great Father’s Day. I thank you.