African Journal for Physical Activity and Health Sciences

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Reshaping a hero: The real life and times of Archibald Richards

FJ Cleophas, FJG Van Der Merwe


Some time after 1964 the publication, Kampvegters was released by Nasou Publishers in Cape Town. Kampvegters (n.d.) is a collection of stories about Coloured individuals and organizations that the author, George Manuel, regarded as important figures in the history of Cape Town’s community affairs. Most of them are obscure in the annals of South African history writing and also do not feature in the popular consciousness of the broader public. One such character is Archibald Richards, a sportsman
who contributed to the areas of trade unionism, physical culture, athletics and medicine in Cape Town. The purpose of this study was to move Archibald Richards from a historical marginal figure to the epicentre of research. It was envisaged to present a more accurate image of Richards and to highlight his strengths and weaknesses. In order to achieve this, a scientific-historical enquiry was undertaken so as to contextualize Richard’s contribution towards society in his lifetime. This entailed a literature
survey of published and unpublished material dealing with the social history of Cape Town and interviewing persons who lived during the time of Richards. The research focused on specific local contexts as well as the diversity of human experience through the life of Archibald Richards. The study found that George Manuel presented a selected image of Archibald Richards to suit his particular view on leadership. All Manuel’s subjects in the collection were outside the leftist political groupings that
emerged in the 1940’s in Cape Town. Further historical investigation reveals that Manuel left out important data and manipulated historical detail in order to present Richards under the title: ‘Die onoorwinlike’ (the undefeated) (p.11). Manuel was a journalist and a public figure who unambiguously expressed his opposition to what he viewed as communist activity. He therefore brought Richards to the attention of the broader public in terms of the capitalist “sport creed”. This creed includes the displayed traits of character development, loyalty, altruism, social and self-control, fortitude, advancement, physical health, mental alertness, educational achievement, religiosity (Christianity), and nationalism
and patriotism (Hendricks, 1995:116).

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