Julian Sleigh

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Julian Sleigh, (6 October 1927 in Florence - 2 October 2013 in Cape Town) was a Christian Community priest, councillor, founding member of Camphill in South Africa and author. [1]

Florence Comune in Tuscany, Italy

Florence is the capital city of the Italian region of Tuscany. It is the most populous city in Tuscany, with 383,084 inhabitants in 2013, and over 1,520,000 in its metropolitan area.

Cape Town Capital city of the Western Cape province and legislative capital of South Africa

Cape Town is the oldest city in South Africa, colloquially named the Mother City. It is the legislative capital of South Africa and primate city of the Western Cape province. It forms part of the City of Cape Town metropolitan municipality.

South Africa Republic in the southernmost part of Africa

South Africa, officially the Republic of South Africa (RSA), is the southernmost country in Africa. It is bounded to the south by 2,798 kilometres (1,739 mi) of coastline of Southern Africa stretching along the South Atlantic and Indian Oceans; to the north by the neighbouring countries of Namibia, Botswana, and Zimbabwe; and to the east and northeast by Mozambique and Eswatini (Swaziland); and it surrounds the enclaved country of Lesotho. South Africa is the largest country in Southern Africa and the 25th-largest country in the world by land area and, with over 57 million people, is the world's 24th-most populous nation. It is the southernmost country on the mainland of the Old World or the Eastern Hemisphere. About 80 percent of South Africans are of Sub-Saharan African ancestry, divided among a variety of ethnic groups speaking different African languages, nine of which have official status. The remaining population consists of Africa's largest communities of European (White), Asian (Indian), and multiracial (Coloured) ancestry.


Early years

Julian Sleigh was born in Florence, Italy on October 6, 1927 where his father lectured at the British Institute, and was baptised in the Florence Baptistery in the Roman Catholic faith. He spent his early childhood and schooling there before the family moved to London just before the war. On completing school he studied at the London School of Economics. This was followed by two years of national service in which he was selected for officer training.

Florence Baptistery baptistery in Florence, Italy

The Florence Baptistery, also known as the Baptistery of Saint John, is a religious building in Florence, Italy, and has the status of a minor basilica. The octagonal baptistery stands in both the Piazza del Duomo and the Piazza San Giovanni, across from Florence Cathedral and the Campanile di Giotto.

London School of Economics public research university in London, United Kingdom

The London School of Economics is a public research university located in London, England, and a constituent college of the federal University of London. Founded in 1895 by Fabian Society members Sidney Webb, Beatrice Webb, Graham Wallas, and George Bernard Shaw for the betterment of society, LSE joined the University of London in 1900 and established its first degree courses under the auspices of the University in 1901. The LSE started awarding its own degrees in 2008, prior to which it awarded degrees of the University of London.

Having since his early years longed for a community of people within which to work, he sought out, then joined Camphill, Scotland before helping to found the Camphill School in Hermanus, South Africa in 1958. Peter Roth, a priest, flew to South Africa to conduct the service and inspired Sleigh in his endeavour to become a priest himself. [2]

Hermanus Place in Western Cape, South Africa

Hermanus, is a town on the southern coast of the Western Cape province of South Africa. It is famous for Southern Right whale watching during the southern winter to spring seasons, and is a popular retirement location, too. Although the Southern Right whale is the most prolific species in the bay, it is not the only one that visits these shores. The whales can be seen from the cliffs all along the coast from as early as June and usually depart in early-December. They were once hunted in the nearby town of Betty's Bay, but are now protected to ensure the survival of the species. The Old Harbour Museum contains several exhibitions that explain the whaling industry, and the De Wetshuis Photo Museum houses an exhibition of photos by T. D. Ravenscroft that depicts the history of Hermanus. The Whale Museum houses a skeleton of a whale and shows an audio-visual presentation of whales and dolphins twice daily.

The Christian Community

In 1963 Sleigh left Camphill to study for the priesthood in Germany and Britain, closely mentored and later accompanied in setting up the work in South Africa by Dr Alfred Heidenreich and Evelyn Francis Derry. After he was ordained in 1965, he returned to South Africa and together with Heinz Maurer, became the founding priest of the Christian Community in Southern Africa. Shortly after this, he and his family moved from Hermanus to set up the first Camphill village, Alpha, that is today the Camphill Village West Coast to the north of Cape Town. Here many of the children with Special Needs that had gone through the Camphill schools could find a home and place to work. At the same time, Sleigh was a priest in the Camphill communities, arranging for a chapel to be built at Alpha.

Public engagement, counseling and outreach

Through his long association with Professor Vera Grover from the early days in Hermanus, Sleigh joined forces with her in founding the Western Cape Forum for Mental Handicap (today the Western Cape Forum for Intellectual Disability) in an attempt to uplift the quality of life and the awareness of people with special needs more effectively throughout the country. He was the founding chairman from 1971-1985 and the first Honorary Life Member of the Forum. [3] [4] Besides this, he was on the Executive of the National Council's (SANC) division for Mental Health and succeeded Prof. Grover as chairperson (1980-1984).

Soon after its inception in 1968, through his friendship with Rosemary van Niekerk, Western Cape Secretary of Lifeline South Africa, the telephone counseling service, Sleigh took the training as counsellor with Rev. Peter Storey. Lifeline had been founded in Australia in 1963 by Sir Alan Walker, using the counseling psychology and techniques developed by Carl Rogers and there are now centres in many different countries. Sleigh worked there as a volunteer for many years and helped set up the training together with Alan Hardie after the transfer of Peter Storey to Johannesburg as a Methodist bishop and inspired his book Crisis Points. [2]

Lifeline (crisis support service) non-profit organisation that provides free, 24-hour Telephone Crisis Support service in Australia , 1963

Lifeline is a non-profit organisation that provides free, 24-hour Telephone Crisis Support service in Australia. Volunteer Crisis Supporters provide suicide prevention services, mental health support and emotional assistance, not only via telephone but face-to-face and online.

Alan Walker (theologian) Australian theologian

Sir Alan Edgar Walker was an Australian theologian, evangelist, social commentator, broadcaster and activist, and the Superintendent of Wesley Mission.

Carl Rogers American psychologist

Carl Ransom Rogers was an American psychologist and among the founders of the humanistic approach to psychology. Rogers is widely considered to be one of the founding fathers of psychotherapy research and was honored for his pioneering research with the Award for Distinguished Scientific Contributions by the American Psychological Association (APA) in 1956.

From 1968 onwards, beginning with the resettlement of former residents from District Six, the coloured township of Atlantis began to develop close to the Camphill village. Sleigh realised that facilities for the inevitable Special Needs requirements that are present in every community would have to be developed there. So he started the project that was, in time, to be taken over by Veronica Jackson and later by Mellville Segal, who wrote the book Turn Right At Magnolia Street to commemorate these experiences. Both had been long time co-workers of Camphill. They named the project Orion and it continues to function independently today under the name Orion Friendship Organisation. [2] [5] [6] [7] [8]

Published work

Further reading

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  1. Author Page, Floris Books
  2. 1 2 3 Julian Sleigh "A Walk Through My Life" The Visual Junction, Cape Town
  3. Death Notice Julian Sleigh - Annual Report 2013-2014 Archived 2015-05-18 at the Wayback Machine .
  4. Forty Years - 1971-2011 Western Cape Forum for Intellectual Disability Archived 2015-05-18 at the Wayback Machine .
  5. Orion in South Africa II Melville Segal in Camphill Correspndence May/June 2006
  6. Orion - Executive Annual Report: 2006
  7. Homepage Orion Friendship Organisation Archived 2015-05-18 at the Wayback Machine .
  8. Eulogy by the Rev. Peter van Breda 2013