October 2010
 
                                                                                                                                            
                                                                                                                                                                                                               Download pdf 296 kb
 
 
Dora Ogilvie
By Jean Wildman
 
 
 
Dora Ogilvie, a prominent South African weaver, joined the Pretoria Guild in the early fifties and taught herself to weave from books. Later she was a founder member of the Johannesburg Guild. The first meeting to discuss the formation of the Guild was held at her house. Later she was delighted to be one of their first Honorary Members.

Many weavers will remember her as a wonderful teacher, in the course of nurturing and promoting weaving in South Africa she enriched many people’s lives and was much loved by her large family and friends.
 
 
Dora Ogilvie’s Orchards, Johannesburg home, where Gandhi hid in the loft is still there, as are the pegs on the wall to hold the ladder that he climbed. When Dora owned the house a delegation came to ask for the ladder as it was sacred so she passed it on. Nancy Ball, an artist and weaver bought Dora's delightful thatched house in Orchards after she passed away in 1982. This was Nancy Bell’s drawing and lovely Christmas card.
 
Jean Wildman, her granddaughter, submitted the following article. The article, written by Viv Prince, was published in South African Panorama magazine in 1976. It was found in the "Down Your Way" section and titled "Gandhi prayed in her roof". Dora was 81 at the time.
 


One would never guess that Mahatma Gandhi prayed in Mrs. Dora Ogilvie's roof. There's little to show for it , just two pegs in the dining room wall. There was a ladder but that was taken away - sacred. But the facts remain. 15 Pine Road, Orchards, Johannesburg, was a sanctuary for the man the world called prophet of nonviolence.

Why 15 Pine Road? Because the house belonged in the early part of this century to a friend of Gandhi's and Gandhi chose to stay with him for two years or so during his South African spell. The great Indian leader was delighted no doubt at the house's rooftop room, deep into the thatch and invisible from the ground. He used it as a place for prayer and meditation. To reach it you needed a ladder - still do - and the pegs in the dining room wall held the ladder in place.Gandhi's meditation nook is just one of the many quaint things about the home of Mrs. Dora Ogilvie. But then she herself is an unusual person, the niece of "Mr. Triumph" the bike firm that grew into the huge motor manufacturers. That was in Coventry, England, Mrs. Ogilvie's birthplace in August 1895. She came to South Africa in 1914 to join her parents and went on to take a science degree at Pretoria University, then an English language university. She followed this with laboratory work at Roberts Heights, now Voortrekkerhoogte. She was testing the blood of soldiers returning from the First World War.
 
But romance crowded in. Mrs. Ogilvie met and married her husband, a doctor. And moved in 1918 to Lyndhurst and 18 acres and then, 22 years later, to Kosmos and finally to Orchards 13 years ago. Mrs. Ogilvie had three daughters before she was widowed in 1949. She now has 10 grandchildren and a son-in-law who's Mayor of Umtali, Rhodesia, the terrorist hot spot. The Ogilvie clan, you see, don't scare easy.

Mrs. Ogilvie started her driving career on a motorbike - in 1919 and only switched to cars in 1916. Now she is fuming because at 81 she's been asked to quit driving, her eyesight isn't quite up to scratch. She does however, still have her weaving. Mrs. Ogilvie owns eight looms and teaches weaving. She's even woven a tapestry depicting her husband's life. It hangs in her lounge. "So much better than those beastly tombstones," she said.
 
 


Mrs. Ogilvie's house breathes peace . . . which is perhaps why Gandhi chose it for his meditation. Then it was a house among farmland. Now it lies in the shadow of a synagogue. So there's still a lot of worshipping around 15 Pine Road.
 
Below are some examples of Dora’s fine work.
 
 
 
 
 
 Dora Ogilvie’s chameleon tapestry.

A fine Gobelin style tapestry designed by Dora in the Jacobean tradition she used to use when she embroidered when she was young. It now hangs in her great granddaughter's home in Calgary, Alberta.
 
 
 
 
 
 

 
 
 
 
 
Fish tapestry by Dora Ogilvie.
 
This design of hers was particularly successful. Her grandson Richard is the lucky chap to inherit it.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Dora Ogilvie's Mother's sampler.
 
Nellie did this when she was 9. It is a lovely sampler with a poem showing how homesick her family was for the "old country". She was born in Shifnal in England and emigrated to South Africa. Obviously Dora's forebears were keen on handwork and she learnt from them and inherited their love of sewing.