'They cursed him and tried to swat him away, but he persisted': Raymond Louw laid to rest

14 June 2019 - 17:47 By Nico Gous

Dictators and autocrats are breathing a little easier today.

"The intolerant, the narrow-minded, the scared, the defensive, the haters of freedom, and in particular freedom of speech, are watching us lay to rest the man who never left them alone."

That is what journalist Anton Harber said on Friday during his eulogy at the funeral of veteran journalist Raymond Louw, 92, and his wife Jean, 87, at St Columba's Presbyterian Church in Parkview, Johannesburg.

"Like a mosquito on a hot summer's night on the savannah, he buzzed around the heads of those who challenged our right to speak our minds. They cursed him and tried to swat him away, but he persisted," Harber said.

"Today they hope they can rest a little easier, because Ray is gone."

Raymond died on June 5 after undergoing surgery, barely a day after the death of Jean who failed to recover after a fall.

Raymond was the former editor of the Rand Daily Mail (RDM) and Sunday Times. He also chaired the South African chapter of the Media Institute of Southern Africa and was the vice-president of PEN SA.

Harber praised the RDM's standout critical coverage of apartheid SA and believes "it was at its best and its strongest under Ray's editorship".   

"Ray was first and foremost a hard news man who placed the highest value on getting the story, getting it out and, above all, getting it right - something we don't see so much of anymore," Harber said.

"Every now and then there is a passing, a death, which gives us pause, which makes us stop, re-evaluate our own lives and values … That makes us stop and ponder and wonder if we can possibly match up to it. Ray's life was one of those."

The Louws' son, Derek, spoke about his childhood in England and before returning to SA in 1956, and the love for travel and exploration his parents cultivated.

"The quest to find out was never sated and we never got to lay around on the beach."

The couple's daughter, actress Fiona Ramsay, said it would have been her parents' 70th wedding anniversary this year. She recently saw a performance of William Shakespeare's King Lear in New York, and said Glenda Jackson's androgynous performance as King Lear reminded her of her mother and father. She then quoted from the play: "So we’ll live, and pray, and sing, and tell old tales, and laugh at gilded butterflies … And take upon's the mystery of things, as if we were God’s spies."

Their wake was held at The Rainbow Room at the Johannesburg Country Club in Auckland Park.