Thursday, March 17, 2022


Dear Readers,


          This is an account of Storm Reilly’s life as given to me by his wife Patricia.

 “Storm was an outstanding lawyer and I can well remember saying to him one day, ‘You can bullshit your way out of anything’ to which he readily agreed,” his wife Patricia told me.

She very kindly agreed to give me a pen picture of Storm’s life in Cape Town after I had contacted his Advocate daughter Claire who passed my request onto her mother as her legal work was keeping her extremely busy. Unfortunately Storm was not in a position to do this himself as he was diagnosed with vascular dementia a few years ago. His short-term memory had gone but the long term remained.

Strangely Patricia and Storm have been married for 60 years but had spent the last 30 years living apart.  “He was gregarious,” she went on, “and joined many clubs – Royal Cape Golf Club, Royal Cape Yacht Club, Cape Flying Club, Olympic Sports Club (squash, soccer etc) and possibly others that I don’t remember. 

“He was Chairman of the Kelvin Grove Club for many years, Chairman of the Flying Club where we both learned to fly and where he graduated to flying twin engines.  He was also Chairman of the Body Corporate of the block of flats where he lived for some time and was President of the Cape Chamber of Commerce at the age of 39 years (the youngest to date I believe) in the seventies.”

Storm's wife Patricia

Possibly Storm’s best known case was when he represented the insurers of two 330 000 ton super oil tankers the Venpet and the Venoil that managed to collide off the South African coast near Port Elizabeth in December 1977. The US-owned ships were too large to go through the Suez Canal and that was why they came round the Cape on their way to Europe and the Americas. On this occasion the Venoil was full of oil while the other one was empty.

The Venoil’s bow sliced into the other ship resulting in a huge fire. In what port authorities described as a “miracle” 82 crewmen were saved by passing ships and a helicopter. Only two lost their lives.

The one tanker on fire

As sister ships that were heading in the opposite direction they may have been passing close to each other to allow the crews of the vessels to exchange greetings, a common maritime practice.

“It looks like the world’s most expensive handshake,” Captain Ian Simpson, the Assistant Harbour Master at Port Elizabeth was quoted as saying.

The damage revealed

The damage was in the region of $50-million.

Storm and Patricia have two children, Claire is their first born. She attended Herschel in Claremont and after qualifying as an attorney she worked in Storm’s office for 14 years. She then went on to become an advocate and is now running a very successful practice at the Cape Bar.

Their son Paul went to SACS, the Government school that is a lot cheaper than Bishops and this was how Patria explained their reasoning for this. 

“At the time Storm and I felt that sending him to SACS instead of to Bishops was the better option.  A number of our friends and colleagues had sent their sons to SACS and were very happy with their decision.  On his first day at school Paul was excited to find that a large number of his class mates were from Constantia, where we were living at the time, and that he knew them all.  He thrived academically and excelled at all sports.  In his final year at school he was appointed first prefect. 

“Near the end of prep school Storm did ask him if he wanted to go to Bishops to complete his senior school years.  Paul, however, would not budge as he loved SACS and did not want to leave his friends.  So that was that and we were all happy with the arrangement.

“He is working as a Network Engineer in Surrey, U.K. He married Nadine, a German girl and they have two sons, Aidan and Owen.”

 Storm is now in Murambi House in Wynberg in Cape Town. This is a frail care retirement home that specialises in dementia and Alzheimer’s care.

 “The facility is very well run and he is well looked after,” Patricia assured me. “He tells me that he is very happy living in his ‘Murambi House Club’.  He is 87 and will turn 88 on 2 September next.

“I was O’Sullivan before I married so I suppose both Storm and I have Irish roots.” 

Thanks Patrica for all your help.


Jon Abbott



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