It’s hard to believe that Basil Bey is no longer with us. However, it is not that difficult to believe that the spirit of the man will live on in those of us who had the privilege of knowing him. His influence as a teacher, coach and mentor is immeasurable.
My first encounter with Basil Bey was in 1961. He was a student and a legendary captain of the UCT first XV. I was in my matric year at Rondebosch Boys High School. He had come to watch a rugby match in which I happened to be playing. After the match, he asked some of us if we were coming to UCT when our schooling was over. I took his question as an instruction. There was no doubt where my compass was pointed.
It was in our coaching years that I discovered Basil’s interest in astrology. Being a little sceptical but nonetheless, interested, I came to the conclusion that his interest in this ancient science had less to do with charts and predictions than with his deep conviction – that every man and woman comes into the world with a unique worth. He looked for that individual value, worth, talent, flare and spontaneity in others.
In short, he looked for the poet in all of us. And he loved poetry. Here are a couple of verses from one of his favourite poets, Lawrence Ferlinghetti (read it slowly and read it as if Basil was reciting it … you will hear him):
Finally, for me, Basil Bey was a yard stick for human decency. He was just one of those rare individuals who you could turn to in person or in thought. Whatever you needed to do or say, hinged on the answer to a simple question: Would Basil Bey approve? He was one of Nature’s giants.