Video: Real estate agent with passion for history looks after cemetery

Henry

Three years ago, Quentin Meyer decided to live out his passion for history and the preservation of the Afrikaner heritage by applying to become the caretaker of the Heldeakker cemetery.

In this cemetery, just around the corner from the State Theater opposite Sammy Marks Square in Pretoria, several Afrikaner heroes, politicians and other famous figures are buried.

Quentin (42) says it was a long, protracted process to become the caretaker of this historic cemetery in the Pretoria city centre.

He had to go through the Tshwane City Council and only got the green light last year to take responsibility for the cemetery.

Paul Kruger and his entire family as well as his grandchildren, Jopie Fourie, Hendrik Verwoerd, the writers Eugène Marais and his wife, Jan FE Celliers and his wife, Susanna, the painter JH Pierneef and his wife, Anna, and their sons Gerrit and Cornelis are among others buried here.

Many other Afrikaner statesmen such as JG Strijdom and EG Jansen were also buried in this cemetery. The Heldeakker occupies a small section where some of these celebrities are buried together.

There are also hundreds of other graves dating as far back as the early 1800s – there is even a tiny grave of a three-month-old baby boy who died in 1907.

“It looked terrible in here before we got in and started cleaning,” says Quentin, who works as a real estate agent by day and is also involved in various political and community organizations.

He says his passion for the Afrikaner heritage is what compelled him to put his name in the hat to take on the massive role of caretaker of this cemetery.

He also recently appointed a right-hand man, Herman Grobler, who helps him daily with the maintenance of the site.

Quentin and Herman’s tasks include everything from cleaning the bathrooms and renovating the graves to cutting the grass and general maintenance.

“We just struggle to keep up with cutting the grass. It grows so fast and it’s a massive area that needs mowing. As soon as we get to the very back, the grass in front is long again,” jokes Quentin.

He is supported by groups such as AfriForum, the FAK, the Voortrekker Monument and other organizations to maintain the cemetery and Heldeakker.

“Pierneef Primary School visits the painter Pierneef’s grave once a month to make sure it stays nice and tidy. There are many other primary and high schools that also sometimes visit and make an effort to clean,” says Quentin.

He reveals that there are plans to build a museum at the Heldeakker and they are currently renovating the walls right around the site.

Quentin and his team are also developing QR codes for each grave in the Heldeakker so that visitors can use these codes to obtain more information about the person concerned.

“If you have a passion for something, it will automatically drive you. My passion and love for history drove me to apply to be the caretaker here. I like history, and I grew up with it,” he says.

“It is important that historic places like the Heldeakker are preserved, for our descendants to be able to experience their history first hand. If you don’t know where you came from, how are you going to know where you are going in the future?”

The cemetery is open to the public every first Saturday of the month. “You don’t have to come and clean, you can just walk through and it’s completely free.”

RNews visited the Heldeakker together with Meyer. Check here: