Facts About Durban Diary - Page # 28

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26 July 2009

Today is the 100th anniversary of the sailing the ocean liner Waratah from Durban. A hundred years and about 85 minutes before this was written, the Waratah left Durban at 8pm en route to Cape Town, and then the UK. She was sighted at sea by another vessel on 27 July 1909, but then disappeared. No trace of her has ever been found, despite several thorough searches.

I do occasional work for the Turner Group, whose founder David Turner, was lost on the Waratah along with his entire family. The following is a story I wrote for the Turner Group staff magazine:

A model of the Waratah, which was built in 2009, and stands in the Turner Group boardroom. The picture propped up behind the vessel is of David Turner.

<== Click picture to view enlargement,

July 2009 sees the centenary of one of the most enduring mysteries of the sea.
The SS Waratah left Durban on 26 July 1909 bound for Cape Town and, after being sighted by a another vessel on 27 July, disappeared without a trace.
The tragic loss of the vessel has a link to the Turner Group. Among the 211 passengers and crew aboard were Turners Shipping’s founder David Turner, his wife, and their five children.

The Waratah was a vessel of 16,000 tons and one-and-a-half rugby fields in length. She had been launched on 12 September 1908. She was the flagship of the Blue Anchor Line and should have been able to withstand all the sea could throw at her.

Claude Sawyer, one of the passengers who had boarded in Australia, did feel uneasy and disembarked in Durban when the ship arrived. He sent a telegram to his wife in the UK saying that he felt Waratah was top-heavy and that he had decided to cut his voyage short.

A search was launched immediately the ship went missing, but no trace
of the vessel has ever been found. Turners Shipping was devastated by the loss of its founder. Turner’s business partner John Cochrane-Murray took over, and the  business remains in the family to the current day.

MD Conrad Cochrane-Murray recently commissioned a model of the Waratah
to mark the centenary and keep the memory of the 113-year-old Group’s
origins alive.

More information on the Waratah is available on the Genealogy World website [My picture is on a page here]. Rosemary Dixon-Smith tells me that they will shortly be adding new pictures and information, which have come light as a result of the centenary, to the site.

27 July 2009

I have been meaning to put up a page with information about the ongoing Western Aqueduct Project which is designed to address the increased demand for water in the eThekwini Municipal Area. The whole thing is very interesting and you can read about it here.

My regular informant Gerald Buttigieg writes:

There has been talk in the local press of late that the Sunken Gardens and the Amphitheatre on the beachfront are due for demolition. I was looking through some postcards and came across this one.

Picture Courtesy Gerald Buttigieg

I would date this early 1950s. My late father in law who was with the Works Dept. of the Durban Corporation told me the gardens were built by Italian prisoners of war. I do not know where they were interred in Durban but I seem to remember there is a memorial to them in the Hillary cemetery. [Gerald's right. See here. Allan]. The Durban beachfront skyline looked quite different in those days...

ps I was intrigued by that early photo of the harbour entrance with the Hotel out in the water [See Here]. The line of the South Pier even looks different and I wonder if that was the early development of it. If you look at the North Pier as well I get the impression that it is curved. Could that be the old Vetch's Pier which was the forerunner of the North Pier? Has any one commented on that postcard?  Very interesting that.

To answer Gerald's question about the North Pier, it certainly does look curved and probably echoed the shape of Vetch's Pier. I think it is too far south to be Vetch's, however. The pic below is one I took last weekend from the pier opposite Ushaka Marine World and it shows the remains of Vetch's. It's still quite some way north of the new North Pier which, in turn, is further north than the old one, the width of the harbour mouth having doubled.

By Allan Jackson
Pic in black and white to reduce download time
Click to view enlargement (139Kb)

28 July 2009

I have been very remiss but have finally finally put up a page with the memories of musician Brian Milner-Smyth on Cookie Look and the Rock and Roll scene in Durban. The main Cookie page is here and Brian's page links off from that.

Picture courtesy Rolfe Matthews.

I appealed for information about a picture of the sailing ship Pommern on the previous diary page and have received a reply from my informant John Taylor. You can read it on the sailing page here.

I also added some of John's reminiscences to the Cookie Look page.

29 July 2009

Here's a curiosity and I hope someone might be able to help with some information. The following e-mail arrived from Patricia Reynolds. She wrote:

Hello, I am hoping you can provide me some information regarding the following item. I looked on the web, but could not find anything matching my inquiry. About 20 years ago, I was on the island of San Salvador, Bahamas and my brother and I were hiking on the eastern side of the island through a bush trail. We got off the trail to get a better look at a tree we were talking about, and there under the dirt, leaves, etc, I could barely see a piece of a bottle sticking out of the ground. When I dug it up, it was a very old bottle and written across the front of it is as follows:


The bottle has been stuck in a cabinet for all these years and I recently "unearthed" it again. I became interested in it and am wondering what the history is behind it and even more curious as to how it ended up on the island of San Salvador, my guess is most likely from a passing ship years ago or a storm washed it up, although it was fairly far from the shore. Any help you could give me would be greatly appreciated. Do you know if there is or ever has been a Westy's Pickle Factory?

David Tilley was in touch recently to say that his father and grandfather built the Mermaid Lido in the early 1950s. They apparently also were behind the game Jokari, which the SA Cricket team played on the mail boat, while on the way to play test matches in the UK.

The photo is of Ronald Albert Tilley, left, and Jacob George Tilley. It was taken at South Beach just prior to the Mermaid Lido being built.

3 August 2009

I was at the beachfront the other day and discovered that work is going on at a furious pace on getting it ready for the expected flood visitors around the world cup next year. The beach complex just South of Addington Hospital, which included the 101 Cafe and a club for paddleskiers, has gone. Addington Beach is closed.

I was standing with my back to Ushaka Marine World when I took the
picture. The earthmoving equipment is parked more or
less where 101 was.

Addington Beach,
itself, is closed.

8 October 2009

Material on the The International Arts League of Youth was removed from this location and placed on its own page here.


12 October 2009

A couple of things today:

  • I've added another page here, with a press release with more details of the ongoing Western Aqueduct Project. The original page is here.
  • The ongoing fight between the Durban Paddleski Club (mentioned in these pages here), the city authorities and the developers of the Point Waterfront has now enetered the courts. The city and the developers would very much like the paddleski club to move out of its premises so that the area can be given over to development.

Click image to enlarge.

The club members vote to take legal action.

Club chairman Johnn Vassilarios wrote:

"The latest development is that we had two options open to us. One is that we stop our fishing and disappear off the face of the earth and disband the only paddle Ski club in the world, or take the Developers and the Department of Environmental Affairs to court.

"This EIA process has been so flawed and biased towards the developers that we have had no option but to take them to court. We have created a public interest body (Save Vetch's Association) who at present consist of 11 of the 14 bodies that appealed against the develoment of the small craft harbour. We shall now appeal to the public at large for funds to pay for the long and costly court battle that lies ahead."

  • I have to thank my informant Peter van Oers for information about a website with plenty of information about the history of the Bluff. The site belongs to the Durbans Bluff Accomodation Association and publicises tourist accomodation available there. It also has a strong history section whose main page is here. One very interesting section is on the two hotels that have been located on the Bluff shore of the Bay.

One was West's, named after Samuel West, and the other, The Bluff Hotel, was actually perched on stilts in the harbour entrance. West's was apparently a den of drinking while the Bluff, orginated by the The Durban Public House Trust, was a teetotal establishment. As fate would have it, however, it was the Bluff Hotel which caught fire and was burnt down to the waterline. This postcard of the Bluff Hotel was first published on the previous diary page.

Picture courtesy Nicole Couto-Leite
Click to view enlargement

21 October 2009

Today I've got an article written by Highway historian Robin Lamplough. In it, he goes into the question of just who Durban's first harbour master was. It seems there is a difference of opinion and he explains all.

One of the mooted possibilities was William Bell, and Robin is very interested to learn if any reader knows where Bell is buried. Contact me me here if you know, or can shed any light on his other question below:

He writes:

Hi Allan,
Do you have any information on a furniture company known at Eagle Cabinet Works in Durban in the 1930s. Family tradition says the factory was destroyed in a fire in the 1930s and my grandfather, Edward Lamplough, then of Malvern, is thought to have been a partner.

Robin, incidentally, has been a newspaper and magazine correspondent on the history of the Highway area for many years and is in what are, hopefully, the final stages of a book on the subject. He was also my matric history teacher at Kearsney College and, as such, is probably more than somewhat responsible for my interest in history and for this site, in particular.

22 October 2009

Today there are some entertaining memories from Dave Phillips, who grew up in Montclair in the 1950s and 1960s. I've put up a page here.

I have also received notice about a website of Durban pictures and meorabilia collected by Chris Charlesworth. You can view it here.

22 October 2009

In an unexpected extra posting today, I have added some stuff from John Taylor and John Friedland to the bottom of the Cookie Look / Rock n Roll page.

4 November 2009

I've added a picture and a few comments to the bottom of the Cookie Look page.

3 December 2009

A couple of requests for information today. In the first place, my informant Richard Lewis writes:

"I keep looking for references to the miniature train which ran somewhere between the snake park and Sunkist beach in the early 1950s. The station was on the southern end with turntable, and workshop/sheds near the northern end, where the line had a large reversing curve.There were steam locos and open and closed carriages on a gauge of about 12". I often cycled there from Durban North on saturdays and did odd jobs for the man who ran it.

Later, about 1960, it moved to the foot of West street and became petrol operated and other big changes. There were a lot of other rides there and the old Kenilworth with its amusements had gone about this time."

I wonder if anyone remembers that train or has a picture.

There are a couple of requests from Arthur Gammage of what we used to call 'The Coporation'. Arthur writes:

"Do you have any information of the Waxworks Museum which was at the old Dolphinarium site? There are photos which show the building where it was housed."

and then he wrote:

"As discussed, I am looking for any additional photos of the Chapel in West Street Cemetery, near the corner of West and Russell Streets. We have a budget to repair the fire damaged roof and windows but would greatly appreciate any close-up details. From the two photos attached, it is clear that the building was substantially altered at some time."

Click to enlarge.
Picture courtesy Arthur Gammage

Picture courtesy Arthur Gammage


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