Don Maclennan

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Don Maclennan (9 December 1929 - 9 February 2009). Academic, poet, short-story writer, dramatist and actor.


Born in London but his parents immigrated to South Africa in 1938.


He was educated at St John's College in Johannesburg, at the University of the Witwatersrand and read Philosophy at Edinburgh University.


After travelling in Europe, North America and Africa, he lectured in Philosophy and English at Wits University and University of Cape Town. He started lecturing at Rhodes University in 1966, and was later Senior Lecturer in English there. He retired from Rhodes University in 1994, but continued to tutor first-year students on a voluntary basis until 2008.

Maclennan pioneered the inclusion of African and South African literature in South African university English syllabuses.

Maclennan was a prolific writer of poetry, with 20 collections published during this lifetime.

Contribution to SA theatre, film, media and/or performance

He has indicated that his close interest in theatre is a direct result of his association with Athol Fugard. In the late 1960s, Maclennan was instrumental in founding and fostering a township drama group in Grahamstown, the Ikhwezi Players. He also wrote several plays.

He directed and acted in The Mind Mirror staged i.a. at** and The Space, (1975)


Maclennan's plays include:

Celebration (one-act play, co-written with Ikhwezi Players, perf. Rhodes University 1966)

The Third Degree (one-act play, 1967, published together with Athol Fugard’s The Coat in 1973)

In Memoriam Oskar Wolberheim (libretto of the absurdist “cosmic oratorio,” music by Norbert Nowotny, published by Balkema in 1971, first performed 1968).

A Winter Vacation, directed by Francois Swart for PACT at the Arena in 1970

In the Dawn Wind (1970)

The Wake (performed in 1971)

Job Mava (one-act play, co-written with Ikhwezi Players, perf 1972/3, pub 1980/81)

An Enquiry into the Voyage of the Santiago, performed by the survivors, performed in 1974 (PACT).

My Childhood (stage adaptation of Maxim Gorky's work, performed in 1975 by the Ikhwezi Players

The Great Wall of China

Awards, etc


Gosher, 1988.

A Winter Vacation programme notes, 1970.

Tucker, 1997.

Obituary by Peter Vale, Sunday Times, 22 February 2009.

Gareth Cornwell. 2009. Don Maclennan (1929-2009). English in Africa 36 No. 1 (May 2009): 13-16

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