Van Lill’s South African Miscellany

Comprehensive compendium of little known facts about well-know topics focused on South Africa
van Lill, Dawid
In stock
€19.95 *

Author: Dawid van Lill
Publisher: Zebra Press
Cape Town, 2004
ISBN: 1868729214
Hard cover, 13x20 cm. 160 pages


We’ve all heard of the Big Five, but what is the Big Six? Or the Big Twelve? Which is the tallest building in the southern hemisphere, and where is it situated? Who was the first South African to climb Mount Everest, and when and where was the first rugby match played in South Africa?

The answers to all these questions, and many, many more, are to be found in Van Lill’s South African Miscellany. Categories such as nature, sport, politics and entertainment cover such diverse topics as South Africa’s lighthouses, our political leaders, past and present, the nicknames of rugby players, the Johannesburg Securities Exchange and world famous musicians born in South Africa.

This book will tell the reader about the biological diversity of South Africa, its wealth in gold, its mountains and conservation areas, its toll roads and cities, thus amply illustrating the richness and variety in this wonderful country. A treasure trove of trivia, this book will appeal to both young and old, and keep readers busy for hours on end as they discover the fascinating world of South Africa.

About the Author:

Dawid van Lill is a writer, journalist, translator and Internet consultant, specialising in the creation of quiz programmes for radio, television, magazines and the Internet. He has conceptualised, compiled and presented more than 2 000 quiz programmes for radio alone. He has contributed the sports section for the South African Encyclopaedia, for Web Learning, compiled questions for the previous South African version of Trivial Pursuit, and verified the questions and answers for the last two series of The Weakest Link. In 1984 and 1986 he was the winner of the popular TV quiz series Flinkdink and he is also the author of several quiz books. Dawid is currently the CEO of Think Media, a quiz and trivia company.

Media Reviews Roodepoort Rekord (Gien Elsas)
"Definitely a must-have for parents with curious children and for those who are interested in everything!"

Citizen Weekend Edition (Sheana Campbell)
"I can’t imagine any person more qualified to compile a comprehensive compendium of little known facts about well-know topics focused on South Africa."

Herald (Susan Stead)
"The local flavour of Van Lill’s book will guarantee it a market. And the next version, with more useful (and useless, but absorbing) information will be eagerly sought."


I like to know things. Not everything about everything, but as much as I can about anything. Who, what, where, when and why frequently enter my thoughts, and that’s why I jumped at the idea of compiling a South African miscellany.

True to my nature, I just had to know where the word miscellany comes from. According to my collection of dictionaries, a miscellany is a collection of many different things or kinds of things that do not necessarily have any connection whatsoever. The word miscellany comes from the late 16th century, via the French word miscellanees from the Latin miscellanea, and, ultimately, from miscere, which means to mix. It also has quite a number of synonyms: assortment, collection, selection, grouping, medley, pastiche, variety, diversity, hotchpotch, jumble, mixed bag, mishmash, mixture...

I am inquisitive by nature. Always have been, always will be — guess that’s just part of my nature. Facts, trivia and statistics have always fascinated me. Maybe it has something to do with the fact that I had to rely on books, magazines, newspapers and the radio to provide me with all the information I needed when I was growing up. There was no TV, PC, PS2 or WWW at the time - a fact that my own kids can’t comprehend at all! It forced me to read, read, read, and listen (in that order and ratio).

So there you have it. This book is a mixture of facts and trivia that I find interesting and fascinating. It is not an encyclopaedia or a comprehensive handbook of facts about South Africa, although I have tried to include as many of the relevant facts as I could find about any given subject in the book. Many of the subjects have been included because I wanted to know more about them, could not find an easily accessible source, and started to dig. An example: I wondered what the petrol price had been in 1990, and how it has increased over the past 14 years.

And what about the gold price? Or the rand—dollar exchange rate? Not to mention the repo rate. And what is the repo rate? We know the Big Five mammals, but what about the Big Six of the bird world? Or the Big Twelve of insects? Which South Africans have won gold medals at the Olympic Games? How do our earthquakes compare to the world’s large tremors? Which South Africans played test rugby for other countries? And so it goes on and on and on. That is why my motto is, ‘Insatiable curiosity is a thousand times better than terminal ignorance.’

One of the pitfalls in compiling collections of trivia and miscellaneous information is that mistakes are bound to creep in. We have done everything we could to eliminate the little ‘expletive deleteds’, but errors are very persistent beasts. I did my very best to keep to the fact, the whole fact, and nothing but the fact, but to err is, unfortunately, all too human. Any mistake is bound to be all mine! There won’t be a big prize for finding errors, so please don’t pull a brain muscle in an effort to find any...

The facts used in the book were collected (and checked) until the end of August 2004. Any changes that happened afterwards will, unfortunately, not be reflected in this edition.

As with all rather haphazard collections of trivia compiled by an individual with specific fields of interest, you might miss a number of your favourite categories and interesting facts in Van Lilt’s South African Miscellany. Please don’t feel aggrieved if your specific interest is not mentioned, even in passing — rather do something about it! Let me know what you would like to see in a next book (sequels are quite popular these days), give me a clue or two about the whereabouts of said info, and I will consider it. Regard this as an interactive work in progress, to which you are very welcome to contribute. My e-mail address is:

One question that I am asked very often is: ‘Where on earth did you get that information?’ The short answer is: ‘I dig for it!’ I have used thousands of sources to find, check and verify the facts in this book. If you want to know more about any subject, please have a look at the bibliography. I’ve used literally thousands of sources, and I have included the most important source for each category. The Internet plays a much bigger role in our lives than a few years ago, and you’ll notice quite a number of Internet addresses. If you go to the addresses listed there, you’ll find all the information that you are looking for.

Lastly, a word of thanks to the people who helped to keep me honest and the book as error-free as possible. First and foremost my wife, Marina, whose positive criticism always leads to better books. Marlene Fryer first approached me with the idea for the book, and Robert Plummer looked at the half-finished product, suggested all the necessary changes and additions, shuffled things around like a seasoned magician and had a big hand in polishing the final product. Ronel Richter-Herbert dotted the is and crossed the ts, and kept all the other letters of the alphabet in place. It is an authors dream to entrust a book like this to such a dedicated team.