Storytellers weave magic worlds for all ages. Their words and images whisk us away instantly from our reality to share someone else’s experiences. Intrigued, we explore further and wander endlessly on a quest for more. We are forever and happily caught in the storyteller’s web.

Ethelmay Gillard was a storyteller of note in our Scenic South community. She was the Fish Hoek Librarian from 1954 until she retired in 1990. Twenty-one years later, she still figures in most of the library clientele’s memory and conversation. Very few weeks go by without someone telling us how well they remember her story times and how her storytelling influenced them or their children or their grandchildren. The memories are bright and alive, and their faces reflect the pleasure and love felt in that moment and still coursing through their lives today.

I particularly enjoyed one reminiscence –

Miss Gillard had a special “story chair” from which she entertained the groups of children. A new mother arrived early and sat down in this chair, only to find an anxious little boy tugging at her skirt – “Get up! Get up! You can’t sit there’” he hissed urgently, “that’s Mrs God’s chair”. He certainly had his priorities and no one was going to derail his story time by usurping the most important seat in the room!

Her direct influence has reached many generations throughout her career. Indirectly, as role model to colleagues and through mentoring those of us fortunate to work with her, Miss G will continue to touch future generations in our community. It is an enduring legacy and a fitting memorial to an indefatigable spirit.


Ethelmay passed away on the 18 July at Peers Village in Fish Hoek.