George Square and beyond

Mandy Neeson tells of how Mandela’s visit to Glasgow encouraged her involvement in the anti-apartheid movement.

I was in George Square at the Rally. I went along myself, after working that morning I think, as I was curious and wanted to be part of the celebration. I don’t think I fully appreciated the historical significance of it all but I knew who he was and supported the “free Nelson Mandela” movement popular at the time.

I got my memorial poster or large leaflet and it was on display in my flat for years after. I’ve moved house a couple of times since then but it will still be in a box of mementoes somewhere. It was an overcast day and it rained if I remember correctly.

Subsequently I visited South Africa and was lucky enough to stay with a friend who was working at Addo Elephant Park in P.E. I used that as a base to drive in a hire car across what I know now to be roughly the “Garden Route” to Cape Town and back. What an amazing trip.

At Addo I could use the car to go shopping or into the local township where the “pub” was a semi derelict building where you could buy bottles of beer out of a crate and play pool with the locals. The men found it quite amusing that I was a decent pool player and could beat them. The women tried to teach me African dancing to the music blasting out. Just for balance though we would be told later into the night to go back to the park as it wasn’t so safe for me and my friend to be in the township as the night wore on.

I loved S.A. and thought about moving there as it seemed to have everything in one place; wildlife, beaches, fantastic people… I cried when I left the Elephant Park and I’ve never done that on any other trip.

I read Long Walk To Freedom while I was there – being on Mandela’s home turf it seemed fitting.

I got in touch with ACTSA in Glasgow ‘- can’t remember how I found them now – but I’ve helped load many many books into containers, danced at a few ceilidhs and met Denis Goldberg thanks to them. I was at the Civic Reception where one of my heroes Alex Ferguson was speaking, but was too shy to talk to him. The ACTSA crowd are lovely people.

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