Tributes to
J. Desmond Clark


In 1985 Cedric Poggenpoel and I were excavating the VOC outpost at Oudepost, I with a team of students from the University of Cape Town. They had been press-ganged into service to fulfil compulsory fieldwork obligations. By day they reluctantly sorted tangled masses of fish bones. At night they ambled back to their squalid quarters. Morale was not high. Suddenly a message came through that John Parkington was bringing Professor Clark to see the site. A frisson of excitement shot through the ranks. Conversation turned from food to shampoos and manicures. Cedric frowned. Finally the day came when we spotted Desmond and Johnny P. trudging along the beach towards the site. Cedric slipped in a last warning to the students to show the greatest of respect to the Great Man. Desmond burst in, impatient to see everything. We walked him around the ruins explaining all we knew. Suddenly a voice called out from the line of sieves:
"Hello Des! Come and sit here!" The caller looked transformed. She would later become a top-notch paleoclimatologist, but for now, her hair shone in ringlets and she had shucked off her old sweatshirt to reveal an alluringly brief vest. Scarlet nails glowed as she patted the sand beside her sieve. "Here!" Desmond's eyes gleamed. "Hello m'dear" he replied, with the same joyful inflection one might hear on finding a perfect handaxe. He sank down beside her and began sorting fish bones. Cedric hovered anxiously. Desmond beamed. "Jolly good show!"