David Craighead: Political activist against apartheid

David Craighead achieved eminence in Britain as an actuary, after his mistreatment by an authoritarian, anti-democratic government in his home country had forced him to leave South Africa in his late forties and start again in a new and far larger field.

Born in Benoni, in the old Transvaal, where both his parents' families had been pioneers, Craighead suffered the death of his father when only 11 and was sent to a distant Catholic boarding school and on to the University of the Witwatersrand to a BSc degree and a Rhodes Scholarship (for the Transvaal) in 1938. He visited Germany, en route to Oxford, and hearing Hitler speak, was set on a political course that made him an implacable opponent of the racist, anti-democratic policies that lay ahead for South Africa.

The Second World War broke out in his time at Queen's College, Oxford, and he went down with a BA in Mathematics in 1941, returning home to join the South African Air Force and serve until 1946 as a lieutenant, instructing in navigation and engineering, with service in the war zone in North Africa.

He also served as an actuarial adviser and statistician to the Governor General's National War Fund until 1949 when, having qualified as an actuary, he joined the African Life Assurance Co.

The government of Field Marshal Jan Smuts – segregationist but with prospects of change – had fallen the year before, when Smut's United Party narrowly lost its first post-war general election to the Afrikaner Nationalists. The latter, many of whom had supported the Nazis throughout the war, immediately introduced the apartheid policy which was to do infinite damage to the African people and ethnic minorities and their relationship with the white population.

Many, like Craighead, lost faith in the United Party when it failed to win the 1953 election and to oppose "Nat" policies on firm, liberal principles. He joined the Liberal Party of South Africa, founded a few months later, and became a close friend of its later leaders, Alan Paton and Peter Brown.

He served on the Transvaal provincial committee and became its chairman, campaigning not only in comfortable northern Johannesburg suburbs but also among "blue-collar" Afrikaners and in African townships, where the Liberals' "non-racial democracy" (which they brought into the South African political phrasebook) received short shrift from the former and limited support from the latter.

In the post-Sharpeville state of emergency, the Liberals had a new, greater role to keep up the fight against apartheid, with the black congresses banned. At the 1960 party congress in Cape Town, held in defiance of the emergency, he chaired a commission to devise strategies for the new circumstances and in 1961 became National Deputy Chairman (for the Transvaal). H.F. Verwoerd's government did not ban the Liberal Party, but destroyed it by picking off its leaders, some of them strongly anti-Communist, with "banning orders" under the Suppression of Communism Act, and finally by making non-racial party membership illegal.

Political trials and jailings among the former black Congress members multiplied and Craighead took on the chairmanship of the Defence and Aid Fund which, with mainly British financing, organised and paid for legal defence, and supported, the families, of those on trial or jailed for political offences. During this period, Craighead travelled throughout South Africa investigating and processing cases until April 1965 when the blow fell, and he too was "banned". The South African Institute of Race Relations Survey commented drily: "In letters to the press, party members pointed out that Mr Craighead is a practising Catholic and highly unlikely to be a Communist."

Banned from work and social life, confined to Johannesburg, silenced, and reporting regularly to the police, Craighead had become a non-person. His company moved him to England, on a one-way "exit permit", to set up and manage the Southampton Insurance Co in 1966.

He moved on in 1970 to become a consulting actuary and in the Eighties made his mark in the profession, pioneering new computer software development for Lloyd's syndicates, showing the way to many with his book Financial Analysis in a Re-insurance Office (1989). He founded and chaired the London Market Actuaries Group in the 1980s, and in 1997 the Institute of Actuaries awarded him the Finlaison Medal in recognition of his service to his profession.

In 1969 he married, as his second wife, Kathleen Scales. The home in which the Craigheads lived, in St John's Wood in north London, became a welcoming centre for friends and colleagues.

In the 1990s they moved to Totnes in Devon but David, in his seventies, retained a few clients who brought him to London, to meetings with friends, to meetings of Lomans Trust, the South African educational charity founded by Sir Robert Birley after his Visiting Professorship of Education at Wits University (David was Treasurer for many years), and to the Catholic organisations he supported.

Randolph Vigne

David Hepburn Craighead, actuary and political activist: born Benoni, South Africa 28 December 1918; National Vice-Chairman, Liberal Party of South Africa 1961-65; chairman, South African Defence and Aid Fund 1964-65; married 1947 Thelma Joyce Vine (two daughters; marriage dissolved 1964), 1969 Kathleen Scales (two stepsons, one foster-daughter); died Totnes, Devon 2 August 2008.

Sport
world cup 2014A history of the third-place play-offs
News
Tommy Ramone performing at The Old Waldorf Nightclub in 1978 in San Francisco, California.
peopleDrummer Tommy was last surviving member of seminal band
Life and Style
Swimsuit, £245, by Agent Provocateur
fashion

Diving in at the deep end is no excuse for shirking the style stakes

Sport
The Mexico chief finally lets rip as his emotions get the better of him
world cup 2014
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Voices
Spectators photograph the Tour de France riders as they make their way through the Yorkshire countryside
voicesHoward Jacobson: Line the streets for a cycling race? You might just as well watch a swarm of wasps
Life and Style
lifeHere's one answer to an inquisitive Reddit user's question
Life and Style
Several male celebrities have confessed to being on a diet, including, from left to right, Hugh Grant, Benedict Cumberbatch and Ryan Reynolds
...and the weight loss industry is rubbing its hands in glee
News
peopleDave Legeno, the actor who played werewolf Fenrir Greyback in the Harry Potter films, has died
Sport
Mario Balotelli, Divock Origi, Loic Remy, Wilfried Bony and Karim Benzema
transfersBony, Benzema and the other transfer targets
Sport
Yaya Touré has defended his posturing over his future at Manchester City
News
Detail of the dress made entirely of loom bands
news
Life and Style
beauty
Sport
There were mass celebrations across Argentina as the country's national team reached their first World Cup final for 24 years
transfersOne of the men to suffer cardiac arrest was 16 years old
Arts and Entertainment
Armando Iannucci, the creator of 'The Thick of It' says he has
tvArmando Iannucci to concentrate on US show Veep
News
A mugshot of Ian Watkins released by South Wales Police following his guilty pleas
peopleBandmates open up about abuse
Sport
Basketball superstar LeBron James gets into his stride for the Cleveland Cavaliers
sportNBA superstar announces decision to return to Cleveland Cavaliers
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Information Security Manager (ISO 27001, Accreditation, ITIL)

£70000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Information Security Manager (ISO 27001, A...

C# Developer (HTML5, JavaScript, ASP.NET, Mathematics, Entity)

£30000 - £45000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Developer (...

C# Integration Developer (.NET, Tibco EMS, SQL 2008/2012, XML)

£60000 - £80000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Integration...

Biztalk - outstanding opportunity

£75000 - £85000 per annum + ex bens: Deerfoot IT Resources Limited: Biztalk Te...

Day In a Page

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

A writer spends a night on the streets

Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

UK's railways are entering a new golden age

New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
Conchita Wurst becomes a 'bride' on the Paris catwalk - and proves there is life after Eurovision

Conchita becomes a 'bride' on Paris catwalk

Alexander Fury salutes the Eurovision Song Contest winner's latest triumph
Pétanque World Championship in Marseilles hit by

Pétanque 'world cup' hit by death threats

This year's most acrimonious sporting event took place in France, not Brazil. How did pétanque get so passionate?
Whelks are healthy, versatile and sustainable - so why did we stop eating them in the UK?

Why did we stop eating whelks?

Whelks were the Victorian equivalent of the donor kebab and our stocks are abundant. So why do we now export them all to the Far East?
10 best women's sunglasses

In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

From luxury bespoke eyewear to fun festival sunnies, we round up the shades to be seen in this summer
Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi? Javier Mascherano is key for Argentina...

World Cup final: Messi? Mascherano is key for Argentina...

No 10 is always centre of attention but Barça team-mate is just as crucial to finalists’ hopes
Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

18-year-old says this month’s Commonwealth Games are a key staging post in her career before time slips away
The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

The German people demand an end to the fighting
New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
Can scientists save the world's sea life from

Can scientists save our sea life?

By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

Richard III review

Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice