Former Echo reporter Garth King dies

Former Echo reporter Garth King.

Former reporter for the False Bay Echo, Garth King, died at his De Rust home on Saturday March 5 after a decades-long career in writing. He was 66 years old.

King left the Echo in September 2015 after covering the far south’s news for more than 12 years.

He settled on a smallholding with an orchard and chickens in the quaint village of De Rust in the Karoo.

Before that, King worked as the publications and productions co-ordinator for the Robben Island Museum from 1998 to 2002 and lived on the island for much of that time.

He worked as a journalist on newspapers in three South African cities and was the senior editor of the South African Reader’s Digest magazine for eight years.

He wrote the authorised biography of cricketer Hansie Cronje, The Hansie Cronje Story, and was the co-writer and script editor for the Faith Like Potatoes film, based on the life of the KwaZulu-Natal farmer-evangelist Angus Buchan.

He has authored and edited various English readers for South African high school pupils, including his mystical novella, High Dunes, which explores ancestor veneration, heritage, and simple living in an Eastern Cape landscape.

Former colleague Michelle Saffer said King had been a great workplace companion and colleague.

He had been an “old-school” journalist and wordsmith, sweeping in wearing curated second-hand, stylish clothes and hats.

“His tweed jacket, suitably patched at the elbow with leather, was always draped on his chair. This didn’t mean he necessarily wore it. It was a matter of identity. He didn’t just type but attacked the computer, pounding away. When he would stop punishing the keyboard, he would regale me with joyful tales of his reprobate past, laughing infectiously,” she said.

When work got tough, she said, his rallying cry would be: “Michelle! It’s time to move to the country.”

“As with all his other passions, he took it seriously, buying Farmer’s Weeklys, researching how to farm chickens, and reporting back on his various forays into the countryside. And then he finally did it – he gave up living in the city and moved to De Rust for some rural self-sufficiency.”

Another former colleague, Winnie Bain, said King had been a steady, quiet, gentlemanly presence in the Echo office.

“He was our ‘rose among the thorns’. Surrounded by a staff of women, he knew he was outnumbered and handled it with aplomb. Our sometimes relentless teasing never left a dent in his demeanour, and he’d laugh with good humour at our antics,” she said

Ms Bain said he would be remembered “with great fondness” for his love for his family, sense of humour, good-natured banter, quirky stylish dress sense, and long serious discussions.

“On processing his sudden death, I fetched a copy from my bookcase of his book, The Hansie Cronje Story. Inside the cover, he had written: ‘Thanks for buying my book! Your tjommie at the Echo.’ Thanks, Garth, for being our tjommie at the Echo.”

King leaves behind his ex-wife, Joy, and five children, Lyndall Robertson, Jude King, Rachel King, Eden King and Zara King and his two grandchildren, Arthur and Harriet Robertson.

Details for his memorial are yet to be confirmed.