Harry Bruins-Lich

Harry Bruins-Lich

Harry (also called Henrie) Bruins-Lich was the director of public parks in Pretoria from 1942 until his retirement in 1967.

He was responsible for much: the introduction of white jacarandas to the city, the design of a number of Pretoria's most beautiful parks, South Africa's first overseas floral exhibition in Paris, 1964. His duties included everything, from the bouquets and floral adornments at city or even state banquets, to the upkeep of the city's sports grounds.

Much of the landscaping of Pretoria's central east was done in his time: the Fountains, Magnolia Dell, Jan FE Celliers or Proteapark, the Austin Roberts Bird Sanctuary, Venning Park, as well as the waterfall created in Wonderboompoort.

On 7 November 1960 the Pretoria News reported on the Jacaranda Ball of the previous Friday evening (‘Pink Champagne and Gin Fizz’) that ‘‘Mr. Bruins-Lich's men” had transformed the city hall into a leafy backdrop for ‘‘six most attractive dryads”. Four days later, he was again in the paper: he had personally discovered the theft of plants from Magnolia Dell (‘‘Mr. Bruins-Lich's Magnolia Dell”, as Dr LEW Codd of the National Herbarium in Pretoria called it). His son, Derrick, remembers how he and his father would wait in the park at night for thieves, and then his father would give the culprits a good dressing down.

He was the very public face of parks management in Pretoria. When the British Royal family visited in 1947, he attended the state banquet (for which he'd also done the flowers). When there, suddenly, were dagga (marijuana) seedlings appearing in gardens across Pretoria, he was the person everyone contacted for identification. (He transferred the dagga plant in his garden to a pot, took it to Lion's Bridge nursery as public exhibit, and received a visit from the police a few days later.)

He truly loved Pretoria, he loved his work, he loved people. Born in Pretoria to a Dutch father, a horticulturalist brought from Holland to beautify Transvaal railway lines, and Jewish mother (née Mansfeld), he came to this position via Holland, Kew Gardens and Trinidad. >>