Vic Clapham

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Vic Clapham 1913-1994

Vic Clapham.jpg

The death of Victor James Clapham on 20 July 1994, after a long illness, brought to an end a life devoted to Scouting. He was the holder of the Boy Scouts of South Africa's highest distinction, the Order of the Silver Springbok, and the holder of World Scouting's highest distinction, the Order of the Bronze Wolf.

Vic was born in Dundee, Natal, and was educated at Havelock Road & Merchiston (Pietermaritzburg), but the severe economic conditions forced him to leave school at Standard 6 and find work. He worked in Pietermaritzburg as a stockbroker's office boy, a sign writer's assistant, a learner display artist, and started freelancing as a newspaper cartoonist.

In the early 30s Vic cycled off to Durban seeing a better job, sold his bike to pay for food, and then walked to Johannesburg. Times were tough. He camped in a motorcar graveyard (scrapyard) for a while, drawing caricatures in pubs for three pence a time. Finally he got a job as a cartoonist and layout man on the staff of Ons Blad, the weekly paper of Tielman Roos' Central Party. In 1934 he became national Advertising Manager for the Electrolux company; he moved to Durban next year to Rexo Polish; and in 1936 he married Vivienne Schultze. They moved to Cape Town where they had two children.

At the outbreak of World War 2, he joined the Cape Town Highlanders, was transferred to the SA Tank Corps, and commissioned by Field Marshall Smuts to form the SA Army's Visual Instruction and Field Propaganda Unit. Already his artistic talents were being recognised. In 1946, Vic was appointed to the board of Dower Wahl advertising agency, and his subsequent career revolved around public relations (or PR). He was Creative Director and (in 1955) was put on the board of Lindsay Smithers, and was at one time Director of Information of the United Party. Probably few people noticed when Vic Clapham became an Assistant Scoutmaster in 1955, but they soon sat up when the first issue of Veld Lore appeared in May 1958. He was with the 5th Durban Rover Crew at the time. Designed to carry District information, Veld Lore was an instant success, and by its fifth issue (August 1959) it became the official publication of the Boy Scouts of South Africa. As a 'spare time' job, he became National Commissioner for Public Relations & Communications.

In 1962 Vic was invited to join the World Public Relations Committee, and later also the World Programme Committee. He was responsible (in part or in full) for numerous PR projects - one of which was the Join-in-Jamboree programme. In 1975 he gained for the World Scout Movement the Silver Anvil award for the best international PR programme of the year.

He 'retired' in 1969, which meant leaving Lindsay Smithers at the age of 55 to work even harder on his freelance cartooning, as well as his contributions to Scouting at National and International levels. Though he retired as a National Commissioner, Vic remained the creator and editor of Veld Lore until its final issue - the Peace Pledge edition, No. 132 of Autumn 1992. By then, he had also been the creator of the International Show and Do Conservation Kit (which has been published in something like 8 languages) and 101 Thrifty Ideas for Energy Conservation.

Though he was already suffering from ill health, Vic found time to write to Scouting About and offer his comments on this new publication as 'First Class' and 'Very readable'. He was never able to supply the items he hoped to contribute, but we have a lasting legacy of his artistic skill and inventive genius in the past issues of Veld Lore and in the many Veld Lore Scrapbooks put together from Vic's work. The world of Scouting literature is the richer for his love and the poorer for his passing. A memorial service for Vic Clapham was held in the tree-shaded chapel at Lexden Scout Camp, where his ashes were scattered and Vic's foot-print cast in cement was laid in the Pylon Pathway leading to the chapel. Vic's sketch signature is seen here… Right
Scouting About 1994