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Mary-Ann Van Rensburg

Mary-Ann Van Rensburg
Click for full photo with husband

Musician and author of children's books

Mary-Ann, née Adler, was born in Pretoria as the third daughter of a minister of the NG (Dutch Reformed) Church. She also has a brother ten years her junior. They were a musical family. Under the tuition of Stella Blakemore, writer of the popular Maasdorp series for children, the three girls learned to play the piano, sing and act and won many prizes at eisteddfods in Pretoria and Johannesburg.
Their mother wrote novels and a few children's plays. She published 17 books under the pseudonym Annemarie Wessels.
Mary-Ann's first story appeared when she was 10 years old in the children's section of Die Stille Boodskapper, a magazine for the deaf. At the age of 12 she made her own school magazine, written by hand, and distributed it among her class mates.
The family moved to Durban where ds. Adler served at the Berea Congregation. As they needed someone to play the organ in church, Mary-Ann, just 13 years old, stepped in and remained the organist there for four years. (Later in Stellenbosch she studied the organ properly and worked as an organist in different congregations for the next twenty years.)
She matriculated from Die Port Natalse Hoërskool where she was the head prefect. While at high school she often took part in radio plays which were broadcasted from the Durban studio's of the SABC under the direction of Monica Breed, Verna Vels, Daan Retief etc.
At Stellenbosch University Mary-Ann obtained a BA degree majoring in Afrikaans and Psychology, with Music at the Old Conservatorium of Music as an extra subject. Pieter de Villiers was her piano lecturer and the legendary Margaret Wandelt her singing teacher.
Miss Wandelt was also the matchmaker who brought Mary-Ann and her future husband together, teaching the engineering student with the lovely tenor voice, Louis van Rensburg, to sing duets with Mary-Ann, soprano. They sang the solo parts with the University Choir, touring and giving concerts at many places in the country.They were both chosen, together with 24 students from all over South Africa, to give 16 concerts in several European countries and London, and to sing duets for radio broadcasts and four TV-shows in England and Western Europe. Louis and Mary-Ann were engaged during this tour in Amsterdam.
After completing her secondary teaching diploma, Mary-Ann taught Music at her old Alma Mater in Durban where she trained choirs and soloists for taking part in eisteddfods and concerts.
Mary-Ann married Louis in Durban where he started to work as a civil engineer. They often gave broadcast recitals and performed with the symphony orchestra in Durban.
Their three children, a girl and two boys, were born in Durban.
For many years, Mary-Ann worked in different parts of the country as a free lance journalist, writing short stories for magazines, music critiques, sketches and articles for Beeld,. She als had a radio play broadcasted. When the family moved to Cape Town, Mary-Ann became for 2 years the editor of a women's magazine, Die Huisvrou
She wrote her two first children's books, Sonder Om Te Praat, and Tienie Se Geluk, and went back teaching music at the Jan van Riebeeck Hoërskool for a year, after which the family once again moved. This time to Pretoria where another 2 books saw the light, Die Wit Duif, inspired by her youngest son caring for his pidgeons, and Die Geur Van Jasmyn, a book for older teenagers. Mary-Ann also gave private singing tuition to students. (One of them, Sally du Randt, soprano, went on to become an opera singer in Regensburg and presently in München.)
In 1984 Mary-Ann and Louis moved back to the Cape, this time to beautiful St James, where the Kalkbaai mountains inspired her to write a book, Ontdekkings, about children who discovered a cave in those mountains.Yet another move brought the couple to Bloubergstrand where they built a house with a beautiful view over Kleinbaai and Big Bay, and once again, inspired by boys running with their surfboards under their arms to the beach, a book, 'n Reënboog Oor Grootbaai, saw the light.
At the age of 30 the Van Rensburg's youngest son, married for only 21 months at the time, was killed in Pretoria, while jogging on a sidewalk, by a drunken driver. The young couple did not have children yet. The Van Rensburg's two other adult children live in Australia, and both have two children, making Mary-Ann the proud grandmother of four teenage grandchildren, 2 boys and 2 girls.
With no children or grandchildren left in South Africa anymore, Mary-Ann and Louis sold their big house and decided to move to a smaller, safer one. Mary-Ann loves going to the symphony concerts and chamber music recitals and still writes music critiques for Die Burger. Who knows? As she wrote a book every time they moved to another house, maybe the inspiration for a new book awaits her at her new retirement house in Oude Westhof, Welgemoed.

Third prize in SANLAM children's book competition for Die Wit Duif (1981)


Sonder Om Te Praat, HAUM, l98O
Tienie Se Geluk, HAUM, l98l
Die Wit Duif, Tafelberg, l98l
Die Geur Van Jasmyn, Tafelberg, l983
Ontdekkings, Tafelberg, l988
'n Reënboog Oor Grootbaai, Human en Rousseau, l995

Text by Mary-Ann van Rensburg, March 2002

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