Stella Blakemore

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Stella Blakemore (1906 – 1991) was a teacher, dramatist, novelist and singer.


Biography

Born near Lindley in the Free State, but went to school in Natal. Her mother, Emma Krogh, was a music teacher of Boer descent and her father was Captain Percy Blakemore, an officer in the British Army, who became a farmer after the war, but later deserted his wife and daughter Stella to return to England, reportedly to become a professional gambler (others sources claim that he was last known to be peddling Bibles in Australia).

After completing high school Stella studied piano and singing at the Royal Academy of Music in London, as well as opera in Germany. Afterwards she returned to South Africa where she became a teacher in Johannesburg and Pretoria, for a while at her mother's school in Pretoria, and getting involved in amateur theatre.

In 1933 she married the Welshman David Owen in London. Owen was a Welsh civil engineer, then in the British colonial service in Swaziland, and the marriage was the start of a period of worldwide travel for her. They lived, amongst other places, in Ghana, The Ivory Coast, Italy, England, Swaziland, Nigeria, Germany and Ireland. The couple had two children, Peter and Salene, both of whom were adopted. When Owen was transferred to the Gold Coast (today's Ghana), the couple's adopted children were sent to school in Wales, where their grandmother Emma joined them. In 1954 they all moved to Warrenpoint in Northern Ireland. Stella died there in 1991, aged 85.

Contribution to South African theatre and literature

Besides teaching music and drama, and being involved in amateur theatrical work, she began writing in the 1920s in Germany, eventually producing 66 books. Her first work was an Afrikaans play, Die Goue Sleutel ("The Golden Key"). Another play, Blind Birds, was the winner of the inaugural playwrighting competition by the Krugersdorp Municipal Dramatic and Operatic Society in 1932. This was published.

Her main contribution however was her novels for children and the youth, and the first of her popular Maasdorp series (Die Meisies van Maasdorp - "The Girls of Maasdorp")was also published in 1932. Fifteen other books in this series followed. Blakemore also wrote the twenty-book Keurboslaan series (under the male pseudonym Theunis Krogh, which was the name of her maternal grandfather). She also wrote books under the names Analize Biermann, Stella Owen and Diem Grimbeeck. Both the Maasdorp and Keurboslaan series made an important contribution to Afrikaans literature and are credited with instilling a love for reading in many South African children.


[JH, TH]

Sources

P.J. du Toit, 1988

Ludwig Binge, 1969

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stella_Blakemore

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