The writer suggests two minutes of silence to coincide with the firing of the Noon Gun: one minute to mourn the victims of Covid-19 and one minute to pray for essential services people helping us battle the virus. Picture: David Ritchie/African News Agency (ANA)
The writer suggests two minutes of silence to coincide with the firing of the Noon Gun: one minute to mourn the victims of Covid-19 and one minute to pray for essential services people helping us battle the virus. Picture: David Ritchie/African News Agency (ANA)

LETTER: Observing two minutes of silence after noon gun to honour our health workers

By Stuart Diamond Time of article published May 28, 2020

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Throughout the UK and the Commonwealth, two minutes of silence is observed at 11am on the 11th day of the 11th month - Armistice Day - one minute to remember the people who died in the wars and one minute in gratitude to the survivors. This international tradition was started in Cape Town on May 14, 1918, by the mayor, Sir Harry Hands, and timed to start with the firing of the Noon Gun.

We are now fighting an international and invisible enemy that no guns or bombs can kill.

Would it not be appropriate for Cape Town once again to institute a two-minute silence to coincide with the firing of the Noon Gun? One minute to mourn those who have fallen victim to Covid-19, and one minute to pray for the welfare of those brave nursing staff and other essential service people who are fighting the virus for the safety of all.

Since 1806 the Noon Gun has been fired on Signal Hill by the navy every day except Sundays and public holidays from a gun made in 1794 - the oldest gun in daily use in the world.

It allowed the ships in the bay to set their timepieces and was fired when the lookout spotted incoming ships to let farmers know they could bring their fruit and vegetables into town to sell to the sailors as soon as the ships landed.

The Noon Gun even has its own Twitter account that sends a message daily (except Sundays and public holidays) saying “BANG!”.

At a recruiting meeting during World War I, city councillor Robert Brydone was confronted by someone who said: “You will forget us as soon as we are gone.”

Brydone promised that the city would not forget them and arranged monthly meetings to remember the soldiers fighting in Europe.

When the mayor lost his son, Brydone suggested that the firing of the Noon Gun could mark a “pause” in activity during which people could pray for the men fighting in the war, and the suggestion was readily taken up.

The newspapers described how trams, taxis and private vehicles stopped, pedestrians came to a halt and most men bared their heads to observe the two minutes silence, many in tears.

Sir Percy Fitzpatrick, a local member of parliament, visited England and told King George V about the firing of the gun.

The king issued a proclamation that at the hour when the armistice came into force, there should be a complete suspension of all our normal activities for the brief space of two minutes “so that in perfect stillness, the thoughts of everyone may be concentrated on reverent remembrance of the glorious dead”.

This would fulfil a debt of honour to the fallen and demonstrate to those who survived that the sacrifice of the dead did not go unnoticed or unappreciated.

The Dutch Reformed Church has suggested that we should revive this practice as a time to stop everything we are doing and take two minutes to be quiet, reflect and pray for our city, country and world in these extraordinary times.

Would it not be a good idea if our city council once again sets an example and reintroduces two minutes of silence at noon every day so we can honour those who have lost lives in the struggle against Covid-19 and to pray for the safety of everyone else?

Stuart Diamond, Executive director: Cape South African Jewish Board of Deputies

** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Media.

Cape Argus


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