Award-winning writer, cobbler and dear friend remembered by Auckland community

Handwritten messages fill the walls of Cobble, remembering the kind man who worked there for 20 years.
LAINE MOGER/STUFF

Handwritten messages fill the walls of Cobble, remembering the kind man who worked there for 20 years.

An acclaimed South African playwright, author and journalist has died in Auckland just 10 days after being awarded his "greatest triumph".

Ryk Hattingh died on October 10, from a heart attack, aged 60. He was the author of five acclaimed novels but to the people of Auckland's Browns Bay, he was their beloved cobbler and dear friend of 20 years.

There has been of outpour of public grief, with handwritten condolences filling the wall of his small shop: Cobble, and warm messages flooding the Facebook page in their hundreds.

Remembering the beloved cobbler who lived in Browns Bay.
Supplied

Remembering the beloved cobbler who lived in Browns Bay.

"You fixed our soles, you mended our souls," is one of the messages sellotaped to the shop window.

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For such a brilliant mind, many may have thought it strange to start a business fixing shoes and engraving keys, but close friend Zirk van den Berg said he suspected that cobbling had a "romantic allure" for Hattingh.

Award-winning South African writer Ryk Hattingh dies Auckland home of Browns Bay, aged 60.
Adam Bryce

Award-winning South African writer Ryk Hattingh dies Auckland home of Browns Bay, aged 60.

"It was helping people and being a part of the community."

Not only with his job but a lot of "lost souls" would seek him out and he could often be seen sitting on a bench offering advice and support to someone, he said.

Hattingh was born in Benoni, near Johannesburg on July 26, 1957. Before immigrating to New Zealand in 1997, Hattingh was a busy writer in Johannesburg.

Award-winning South African writer Ryk Hattingh dies Auckland home of Browns Bay, aged 60.
LAINE MOGER/STUFF

Award-winning South African writer Ryk Hattingh dies Auckland home of Browns Bay, aged 60.

He is well known for his five, avant-garde five novels, several plays and his journalism work at an anti-apartheid newspaper during the 90s.

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At the time in South Africa, the Afrikaans media was very pro-apartheid, so to be writing for the opposing view was quite rebellious and anti-establishment. 

With all of that going on, immigrating to Browns Bay to be a full-time family man must have been the blissful quiet life he was after.

However, now with his children grown van den Berg said the author was looking forward to 10 "really good years" of producing work.

"This recent award in South Africa was the impetus for that."

After a 19-year silence his latest novel, Huilboek won him South Africa's largest literary award: the KykNet-Rapport Prize, for which he was flown to Cape Town to receive on September 30. 

"Painfully, his greatest triumph was awarded to him just 10 days before his death," van den Berg said.

Hattingh is survived by his wife and three children.

Customers and friends are welcome to write a message in the condolence book at the shop.

 - Stuff

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