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News > Archives & History > Brian Arton & Andy Selfe at the Smartt Dam project

Brian Arton & Andy Selfe at the Smartt Dam project

In 2010, on a visit to South Africa from Australia where he was living at the time, Brian Arton took Andy Selfe to visit the Smartt Dam project in the Northern Cape.
Brian (L) and Andy (R) visit the dame project of Brian's grandfather, Sir Thomas Smartt
Brian (L) and Andy (R) visit the dame project of Brian's grandfather, Sir Thomas Smartt
Brian Lansdell Arton was at Bishops from 1948 to 1956.  After leaving school he became a farmer at Stellenbosch on his family farm Glen Bawn in Ida's Valley where he grew up.  His mother had passed away when he was nineteen which then meant he had to take over the farming opertaions there.  He subsequently moved to Knysna and coupled with his love of aviation, he pursued a career in aerial crop spraying and fire fighting.  This in turn led to his business operations in Australia that sold and serviced sub-metre accurate satellite navigation systems for crop spraying. 

Earlier, the Museum/Archives published an account of Brian's fish-cart, turned Rolls Royce, which he built, which showed that from an early age Brian was gifted in engineering.  The idea behind the article was to demonstrate how a Bishops boy had engaged in such an almost unbelievable thing to do. The article is available on the OD dashboard.  This rather intriguing and unusual account and story was brought to us by ODs Ken Gibbs (at Bishops between 1954-58) and Andy Selfe (at Bishops from 1960-68) .  According to the obituary for Brian, written by his son Charles Arton (at Bishops between 1969-78) which appeared in the December 2011 edition of 'The Diocesan Magazine', Brian had a wonderful collection of classic cars; a '49 Chrysler, a '30 and a '31 Buick, and more recently a Rolls-Royce Silver Shadow.  These were all in concourse condition, and he could share his intimate knowledge of classic cars at the Heritage Car Club in Port Macquire in Australia where he lived for the last several years with his wife Ady.  Brian consistently came back to the school reunions at Bishops.  In this way he was dedicated to his school and classmates.  In August 2011 he made a courageous final trip to South Africa to bid farewell to family and friends.  It was on this occasion that he was able to make a last visit to the Smartt Syndicate Dam in Britstown about which he had just written a book detailing its history through the records and personal accounts of his grandfather Sir Thomas William Smartt the Minister of Agriculture in the early part of the C20, who played a significant role in its construction.  The title of the book is 'The Story of a large African farm - The Smartt Syndicate Ltd.'  Brian subsequently returned to his home in Australia where he soon after peacefully passed on.

Andy Selfe wrote the following about Brian: "Before Brian died in 2011 he completed the history of his grandfather and gave me a disc called 'The Story of a Large African Farm, The Smartt Syndicate, Britstown' and asked me to distribute it as widely as possible. I have in the past made copies and sent them to interested people but recently loaded the whole 450-page book on a blog which can be found by searching:  Brian wrote it in such a way that one can pick any chapter that is of interest, although it's useful to read the first chapter for the background".  The text and photographs contain a vista of the project and also the history that surrounded it when it was undertaken and the history of a place in time.  Our thanks, to Ken and Andy for their making us aware of these accounts of the significant involvement of ODs and their relatives. 

Go to pp 64 - 65 to read more about Smartt's project - in the book by Lani Van Vuuren entitled 'In the Footsteps of Giants'  The dam wall was destroyed by a massive flood in 1961 but because of the vital role it played in the agriculture of the region it was re-built in 1964 with government funds. 




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