How the Nel’s wove their way into the rich tapestry of Glencoe’s history

In some ways, Richard Nel could be the Winston Churchill of Glencoe. A seasoned politician who did not fear to make unpopular decisions for the greater good.
He was Glencoe Mayor eight times and also served as Deputy Mayor and for two years was Deputy Mayor of Endumeni that came into being in 2000 following amalgamation with Dundee and Wasbank.
Now 81, Richard says he is not slowing down and he and his wife of 58 years, Louisa, are always behind their desks at the Shell Garage at Glencoe Motors or out on the forecourt chatting to motorists. The couples recently marked their wedding anniversary and are still full of life and humour. Richard was born in Glencoe in 1937. His dad was with the railways and found himself being transferred around the province. He never schooled in the town as when he was two the family was transferred to Port Shepstone. The young Richard contracted diptheory and missed weeks of school. The railways eventually sent the Nels to Pietermaritzburg where Richard completed schooling at Voortrekker High School.

“There was also the issue of the Gandhi memorial … some did not want it erected in front of the municipality but I said why not? This is part of history and we should be proud of it.”
He met Louisa, who hails from the Cedarville area, while he was staying at the YMCA and she was participating in folk dancing. Richard was later at the apprentice school where he was a trainer and Louisa worked for the NPA. However, when they married she had to leave as in those days a husband and wife could not both work for the Government.
Later, an opportunity arose for Richard to join his cousin in Glencoe who ran a business installing, among other things, tanks and pumps. At first sceptical, Richard left what he says was a very good job in Pietermaritzburg to trek up north.

“Business was good and we could see the potential. But Louisa was not happy to leave Quite clearly, Richard and his gracious wife have written their lives into the tapestry of Glencoe.. But in the end the family do move and the rest is Glencoe history. Richard and cousin, Jan, started JanRic (Pty) Ltd which branched into trucking, the petrol station, construction and even ran the Nissan/Datsun dealership in Dundee where Right Price Hardware is now.
Richard was asked to join the Glencoe Town Council and served for 23 years. He and Ben Viljoen are the only two Alderman to be honoured as such by Glencoe in recognition of their loyal service. It was while he was Mayor in the early 1990s that the Glencoe Council took the historic decision to bring in the-then Indian Local Affairs Committee, LAC, to serve as full Councillors. This was ground breaking and Glencoe would could down in history as the first town to make such a progressive step.

Quite clearly, Richard and his gracious wife have written their lives into the tapestry of Glencoe.
As Mayor and working with Town Clerk Hennie Jacobs, they also offered the old Sithembile Council to sit in on all meetings as observers. “This helped ease our transition when the Glencoe Transitional Council was formed and Agnes Ndlovu became the first black Mayor and me Deputy Mayor,” he explained, adding that sometimes these decisions were sometimes seen to be ‘way ahead of their time’.
He remembers earning R8000 a month as a Mayor in the 90s with no bodyguards, Mayoral car or other benefits. “It was hard work but we did it for the town. Politics was not really a factor back then.” Glencoe was also one of the few towns not to vote to have their Councillors buy back their pensions (Dundee did) which ultimately cost the ratepayers ‘hundreds of thousands of Rands’.
“There was also the issue of the Gandhi memorial … some did not want it erected in front of the municipality but I said why not? This is part of history and we should be proud of it.”

The Nels remember fondly how busy Glencoe was ‘in the old days’ when the railways and mines kept the towns buzzing. They are both very loyal Glenconians and always happy to greet old friends who pop in for a chat or to fill up their cars. The Nels have two children – daughter who is a lawyer and a son involved in trucking.
Quite clearly, Richard and his gracious wife have written their lives into the tapestry of Glencoe.

  AUTHOR
Terry Worley
Editor

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