On Friday, the Wild Coast bids eternal farewell to John Costello, who passed away last week at the age of 77, following a brief battle with cancer.
Costello was a beloved Port St Johns and then East London resident, who was a great repository of knowledge about the Wild Coast and its people. He was born on June 21 1946, and passed away on September 30 2023.
His ashes will be spread in a private ceremony from the cliffs known as the Gates of Port St Johns.
He holds international records for saltwater flyfishing including catching the first milkfish (Chanos chanos) on fly and the first successful expedition to catch a broadbill swordfish in Kenya.
He was an astute businessman who pioneered eco-tourism in Port St Johns and challenged the known history of the Wild Coast in its numerous facets unearthing discoveries about the area.
He was actively involved in rescue missions for the NSRI Station 28 and saved countless lives.
His children, Liam and Slaine Costello said his passing has brought sorrow, but there is solace in knowing that he lived life to the fullest.
Slaine Costello said: “He was always so proud of us and would do anything for us. He rode his bike from Port St Johns to East London in the hail once to see my concert.
“He always wanted us to go out and do what we loved, and he gave us the bravery and heart to do it.”
Liam said: “Dad believed in good ol’ fashioned hard work. He took pride in every task no matter how small, even fixing sewerage lines in Port St Johns.
“May we be fortunate to one day find him again waiting patiently with an extra whiskey in hand and a welcoming smile.”
He is described by old friends, including journalist Mike Loewe, as an unassuming man with great comedic timing who took life in his stride.
In 2006, Costello and conservationist Dr Div de Villiers, published their book, Mkambati and the Wild Coast, which chronicles Pondoland’s unique heritage and reflects the deep love and awe Costello had for the rare biodiversity, scenery, and rich history of the region.
At the time of his passing, Costello and de Villiers were working on releasing a third edition of the book, which will be released in Costello’s honour in 2024 with another book the pair was working on to be followed closely on its heels. The second book will cover East London to the border of KwaZulu-Natal.
De Villiers said: “We were like brothers and if I had a problem or needed some advice about something I could just give him a call and likewise.
“His passing has been a massive shock to me. He was small in stature but larger than life.
“His photography recorded a great deal of our Eastern Cape history specifically the former Transkei and these photographs will live on forever because they record the past in a special way,” De Villiers said.