AT first glance, it would be hard to think of a less likely corrupter of the country’s laws than Bartle Logie (82).
This veteran travel writer, adventurer and conservationist from St Francis Bay is sitting up straight on a rigid white chair, his dark red bag and brown traveller’s hat - sporting a blue material band, feather and several paper clips - lying jauntily on the table, when he suddenly confesses to his crime: trespassing on several farms.
He laughs, “When I see something of inte-rest, I just have to investigate.
“To date, everyone has welcomed us with open arms - that is apart from one person.”
And of course, pen it down once he is back home.
Was it not for his natural curiosity and somewhat brazen personality, Logie would not have written and published 12 books since his retirement at age 60. Some exceeding the 2 000 and 1 000 sold copy mark, but all well-received.
And he is not done yet.
With his latest offering, Toasted Marshmallows & Obies, released just last month, he is already busy with his 13th and 14th book - at the same time. The first is an update of one of his earlier books, while the latter is still a big secret. His books are a compilation of meticulous historical research and his personal experiences travelling through the Eastern Cape and surrounding areas with his botanist wife, Caryl.
Logie, a fifth generation South African of Scots descent, has also written countless articles for magazines and blogs on various aspects of the Eastern Cape.
A study of old farm buildings in the former Humansdorp Division of the old Cape Colony led to the compilation of an historical gazetteer for the area in 2010. In 2014, he completed a similar volume for the Uitenhage and Port Elizabeth Divisions on behalf of the Historical Society of Port Elizabeth.
Logie has contributed towards reports on localities, such as the Baviaanskloof Mega Reserve and the village of Hankey, for various central government and local authorities. His research and writings also feature on several tourism websites.
Love of writing
But where did his love for writing start? Guy Fawkes. Or more specifically: an essay competition about Guy Fawkes which he won when he was only nine years old.
“Seeing my name and what I have written in print for the first time . . . I was hooked ever since,” says Logie.
This, combined with a love of history and archaeology developed in his childhood, spending more than four decades in the Eastern Cape, and a family history in the province that dates back to the mid-nineteenth century, all inspired this retired teacher and former headmaster at Woodridge Preparatory School to begin to write about the region.
His first book, Governor’s Travels, was a diary by the Governor of the Cape, Sir Alfred Milner, about his trip in a horse-drawn spider from Uitenhage, through passes designed by Thomas Bain, to Cape Town in 1897 - one of the earliest recorded journeys by road.
Logie says, “I make use of this type of thing as a sort of string on which to hang the stories I discover all around the province.”
To date, his seventh book on the Eastern Cape, Boots in the Baviaans, proved to be the most popular. Inspired by Francis Galton’s book The Art of Travel or Shifts and Contrivances Available in Wild Countries, Logie and his wife started their journey at Nuwekoof Pass in the Baviaanskloof and travelled about 220km over a two-week period, making a number of detours before ending at the Gamtoos River Mouth.
Attention to detail
A unique characteristic of Logie’s books is that he does not only cover the ground, so to speak, through his research, but he and his wife climb into their trusted diesel bakkie to cover the ground - literally.
They spend months travelling the area chosen for the books, meeting and talking to people, and getting a first-hand feel for the places he describes.
When Logie talks about a battle, his description is not only based on what he has gleaned from the history books, but also from his first-hand knowledge of the terrain and circumstances.
“I am a very slow traveller,” says Logie who would rather walk than drive. “I am continuously stopping to take a closer look at something that catches my attention.”
Because of this punctiliousness and attention to detail, writing a book can take up to a year and even longer.
His best time to write? “Every morning after I ‘kick’ my wife out of the house to go to work.
His biggest critic
His wife is his biggest supporter, and his biggest critic.
“Although Caryl does not always say much about my writing, she can be very critical at times. She even corrects my grammar on occasion.
“When I first started writing, she used to read my work as I finished the chapter. But we argued to such an extent that we stopped doing that. Now she reads the finished product . . she still finds fault, but it is too late,” he says laughingly.
What does he enjoy most about writing? “Having the opportunity to relive our travels and experiences. And to put something on paper for future generations.
“I still get a kick out of every new book pu-blished . . . after all these years, it is still an awesome feeling to see what I have written published in book form.”