‘Witness’ gets bust of 1930s editor

2009-01-15 00:00

The grand-daughter of a former editor of The Witness yesterday handed over a bust of her grandfather, Sidney Barnett Potter, to the current editor, John Conyngham.

Potter served as editor of the then Natal Witness between 1931 and 1935.

Potter’s grand-daughter, Penny Stanford of Byrne Valley, said the bust by Doreen Shimwell was commissioned by her grandmother, Ursula.

Stanford said she remembers that Potter was “not a children person”.

“I remember that when going to visit him as a child, when the news came on, if you opened your mouth, you were dead.”

Potter came to South Africa from England for health reasons following gas damage to his lungs in World War 1.

“His doctor told him that my grandmother would be a young widow if they did not move to a drier climate.”

Passionate about aviation following his stint in the Royal Flying Corps, the Potters later flew from South Africa to the UK in their light aircraft accompanied by their young children, an adventurous journey that Stanford’s mother, Judith, remembered with startling clarity.

The flight was detailed in a book called I’ll Fly No More by Ursula Potter, who was the navigator.

According to Simon Haw’s book, Bearing Witness, which details the history of the Witness newspaper, Potter was renowned for his “incisive clarity” when writing on financial matters.

Politically astute, he was also acclaimed as the “best-read political writer of his day”. Haw writes that “seldom before in its long history had the paper commanded such respect nationally as it did under the editorship of Sidney Barnett Potter”.

Potter left The Witness to take up a position at the Star. He died at Umhlanga in 1971.

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