Verwoerd shooter’s gift turns up in antique shop

2012-09-22 00:00

A REPLICA of the figurehead of an 18th century ship with links to David Pratt, who attempted to assassinate Hendrik Verwoerd, has gone up on display in Port Shepstone.

It was discovered at an auction and bought by the Spiller family, who later sold it along with the old Crayfish Inn in Ramsgate.

It had been lying in the corner of a local antique shop for years.

This week, the concrete structure found a new home mounted on a wall at Spiller’s Wharf, ahead of the complex’s heritage weekend events.

Film-maker Guy Spiller, whose grandmother had owned the Crayfish Inn, said her friend and business partner Pratt had sent her the original figurehead from Britain.

While the figurehead was coming by ship, Pratt told critics of Verwoerd, the then-prime minister and architect of apartheid, that he should be the man to shoot Verwoerd. He did so on April 9, 1960 at the Rand Easter Show in Johannesburg, using a .22 rifle.

Verwoerd survived, but was assassinated six years later, in 1966.

“When she went to collect it at Customs in Durban and the officer realised who it was from, he reacted with horror. Everybody knew his name,” said Spiller.

The original figurehead, which was once on board a tea clipper, The White Swan, which plied between England and the East in the 1700s, was also sold and is believed to be in Cape Town.

Spiller’s grandmother had the replica made from concrete to display outside the Crayfish Inn, fearing that the original would have been ruined by the weather.

Spiller’s father, John, was Pratt’s friend and saw him the day before he killed himself in the mental hospital where he was incarcerated in Bloemfontein on October 1, 1961.

He had been sent there having said at his trial that he had been sent by God to save South Africa from “the stinking monster of apartheid”.

Spiller, who made the documentary about Pratt entitled The Liberal and the Pirate, will be showing clips from the film during the weekend festival ahead of Heritage Day.

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