Bosmoedertjie … Tannie Esme’

Remembering another South African national treasure and forces darling from the Bush War generation….. the late Esme’ Euvrard, affectionately adopted as their very own “Bosmoedertjie” (Bush Mum), the closest to a maternal link to home that they could find. 

Weekends on military bases during the 70’s and 80’s would focus around her “Springbok Radio Rendezvous” programme, with troops across South Africa and South West Africa (Namibia) waiting eagerly to hear a message from loved ones at home. Troopies would chuckle at all the soppy/funny/cheesy messages sent to others, make fun of those receiving them and feeling a bit disappointed (without showing it, of course) if they did not receive a special mention.

A great morale booster, the SABC ran a number of programs dedicated to the conscripts (and permanent force) members. Patt Kerr did ‘Forces Favourites’ on the SABC English Service (became Radio South Africa) and Marie van Zyl did ‘Stand at Ease’ on Radio 5. For more on Patt Kerr, follow this link: A soldier’s dedication to Pat Kerr

However it was “Tannie Esme’s” military marching music theme which brought in the start of her Springbok Radio Rendezvous program which resounded for many years, with her ‘golden voice’ announcing it was for ‘die manne en vrouens in uniform” (the men and women in uniform) and with her supreme grasp of Afrikaans, she made an impression on many, especially the Afrikaans speaking troops, her ‘warm’ voice which held a everlasting motherly comfort. 

Esmé Euvrard was a very popular media personality, in radio, she and Jan Conjé co-presented the long running Afrikaans serial ‘Liefdeslied’ (love song) and also presented the very popular, ‘Só Maak Mens’ (This is how you do it) a programme of household tips, recipes and interviews that ran from 1957 to 1985. She presented ‘Springbok Rendezvous’ for ‘the boys on the border’ with Paul Desmond. On Sunday nights she presented Esmé’s se Musiekalbum (Esmé’s Music Album). She also did children’s stories.

In film, she starred in minor parts in five films ‘Man in die Donker (1962), Majuba: Heuwel van Duiwe (1968), Vrolike Vrydag 13de (1969), Staadig for die Klippe (1969) and Wolhaarstories (1983). For TV, she acted in Net ń Bietjie Liefde (1977) and did some dubbing work. In advertising she was a notable brand spokesperson for Punch washing powder.

In music, she married the Portuguese-born flamenco guitarist Gilberto Bonegio and they both joined the Mercedes Molina Spanish Dance Company in 1958. She was, also a talented singer and she and her husband produced at least one fado record. In 1988 she produced a record of children’s stories entitled Diereverhaaltjies.

Gilberto died in 1964 after spending 20 months in a coma following a car accident and all of her devoted fans identified with her loss. Their two sons, Raúl and Fernando, followed in their father’s footsteps and became talented flamenco artists in their own right.

Tannie Esme’ passed away on the 11th September 1993. As recently as the 26th January 2020, Esmé Euvrard was inducted into the South African Legends Museum in Pretoria and her sons donated a painting of Esmé and her ‘Star of Africa’ State President’s award to the museum.

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Written and researched by Peter Dickens