At Katchakid we recently celebrated the 80th birthday of our Katchakid President Blair Esson – inventor and creator of the safety net for pools.
Born in Zimbabwe in 1936, Blair was the son of Scottish immigrants who had left rural Scotland at the turn of the last century to seek a new life in Africa. Settling in what is now Zimbabwe, life in Africa at this time was extremely hard, and unfortunately, Blair and his four brothers were orphaned in their early teen years. However, in his trademark way – always making the best of any situation – Blair credits losing his parents at a young age to him developing the useful and beneficial skills of resourcefulness and resilience.
Living at the YMCA, Blair at 15-yrs was given a start as a sheet metal worker, learning the tools of the trade Blair developed an aptitude for providing practical solutions to production and manufacturing problems. Blair was so talented in mechanical engineering he could just look at a production line and machinery and replicate it from just memory. This extraordinary talent and his love of sport eventually led to the creation and development of his company manufacturing and supplying the Southern African region with soccer balls, soccer nets, golf clubs and tennis rackets, and then eventually, after tragedy, the safety net for pools.
Throughout the decades of his life, Blair has always carried with him and shared expansively the South African spirit of ubuntu. Nelson Mandela described ubuntu as:
“A traveler through a country would stop at a village, and he didn’t have to ask for food or for water. Once he stops, the people give him food, entertain him. That is one aspect of ubuntu, but it will have various aspects. Ubuntu does not mean that people should not enrich themselves. The question, therefore, is: Are you going to do so in order to enable the community around you to be able to improve?”
Blair Esson embodies ubuntu with his beautiful, kind and generous spirit, as anyone who has ever met him will attest to, and recount a favorite anecdotal example. However, it is through his safety net for pools that Blair has made his greatest contribution – enabling the community around him to help keep their children safe from the very real dangers of open water.
From Africa To America: In the 50’s, Blair was responsible for helping to keep the outboard boat motors running during the wildlife rescue Operation Noah, when the great Zambezi River was dammed to construct the Kariba Hydroelectric Power Station – flooding the Kariba Gorge – home to many animals. In the 5-yrs of mostly volunteer rescue operation over 6000 animals were relocated to safety. Therefore, in designing his birthday cake we decided to combine all of his loves – Africa, it’s animals, and the safety net for pools.