Covid claims engineer who helped shape Bfn

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1958
John Torrance was a member of Ramblers Club as well as part of Caledonion Society, which celebrates Scottish heritage.

At 92 John Torrance still played tennis three times a week and enjoyed a full social life. Before that he helped to shape Bloemfontein from a sleepy town to a city in central South Africa. Although he died last week as a result of Covid-19, he is remembered most for his deep interest in others.

Torrance was an engineer from Limpopo who started life in Bloemfontein in the 1950s while having a hand in creating monumental buildings around the city over the years, including the Free State Rugby Stadium, Lebohang Building, and Bram Fischer Building also known as the Glass Palace.

“He began as an engineer at a local cooling plant before he engineered
the largest overhanging rugby stadium without any support. He did all the glass work at the Glass Palace and the grafting at the old Vervoerd Building with all the coloured glass,” said his 62-year-old daughter, Jenny Groenewald.

The Free State Rugby Stadium in the 1950s, before it was engineered by John Torrance to be the largest overhanging rugby stadium without any support.

She explained that her father was in the middle of building a terrace at his home when he contracted Covid-19. “He went to hospital because he was struggling to breathe. He had to have oxygen on Monday and Tuesday and then on Wednesday he said he felt a lot better, so he switched it off, but he died in his sleep the next morning,” said Groenewald. “He was still so active that he was busy building a terrace at his house. He was doing all the contours and the plans were all drawn up but then he got sick.”

Torrance is remembered fondly by the people whose lives he touched throughout the years. He was a member of Ramblers Club and part of the Caledonion Society as well as a tennis player in the Sugar Circuit, which involved Wimbledon players visiting Bloemfontein for friendly matches.

“We still have old pictures that show when they imploded the cooling towers in town before rebuilding them but that was many years ago.When I was a little girl Bloemfontein wasn’t very big but he was around to see many changes throughout the years,” she concluded.

Nomaqhawe Mtebele

nomaqhawe@mahareng.co.za