FAD back in print

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Yay!! Facts About Durban is available again at only AUD22.00 per copy plus postage from on-demand printer Lulu.com.

It took a while but I finally got my A into G and uploaded the book’s files to Lulu. Ordering is as simple as going to my page on Lulu and adding one copy or 500 to the shopping cart. Lulu will then print and bind the copies you ordered and mail them to you. Read More

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Big Bob, the Indian Elephant.

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With the rather inclement weather we are having in the Midlands, and my youngest granddaughter staying with us for a short while, we decided to go and visit the kwaZuluNatal Museum in Pietermaritzburg. She has never been to a museum. It is housed in a wonderful old building and dates back to 1904. I am certain some of the exhibits are from that era as well. But interesting it is and I learnt a new fact about Durban there. One often thinks that Nellie the elephant that lived at the Mitchell Gardens Zoo was the first elephant to reside in Durban. Well she wasn’t; Big Bob was her predecessor and Big Bob now resides in the Museum in Pietermaritzburg. The information card did not copy well but here is the narrative:

” This Indian Elephant known as Big Bob (sometimes called Tommy) was one of the drawcards at Durban’s Mitchell Park Zoo in Morningside early last century. In 1918 he was shot after trampling his trainer and the carcass was donated to the Kwa Zulu Natal Museum. He was prepared for exhibition by the museum’s taxidermist, Mr Fred Tescher.

People often confused Bob with his successor, Nellie a gift from the Maharajah of Mysore India in 1928. Nellie was retired in 1948 and donated to the Taronga Zoo in Sydney Australia.”

Photos of Big Bob in the Museum. Click on pictures to enlarge.

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The Snake in the Signal Box

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Longtime friend of FAD William Paterson has written a book. The Snake in the Signal Box is now available in electronic format from Amazon and is the first of a trilogy about the adventures of Zululand settler Donald Kirkwood who arrives in the area in 1919 to start a cotton farm.

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Durban Pictures

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Arthur Gammage has sent me some Durban pictures which are interesting and add to the collection. I have added to Arthur’s notes. The pictures are from a book celebrating Durban’s Silver Jubilee in 1960 marking 25 years of City Status.

CLICK on all pictures to enlarge


The Robertson’s Spice Company’s factory corner Pickering and Creek Streets. Pyagra was as an insect insecticide, Rose’s Lime Juice and Marmalade and Jeyes a disinfectant. The large brick building in the background is McCarthy Rodway distributors of Morris, Wolseley, MG, Dodge, Valiant, and Simca cars and Dennis, Magirus, Leyland Albion trucks. McCarthy’s was located at 150 Smith Street. Read More

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Captain Allen Francis Gardiner R.N. : A few notes.

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A recent visit to a holiday retreat called Castleburn at the foot of the southern Drakensberg brought up the name of Capt. Allen Gardiner. His name is mentioned in the brochure produced by the Management and brought to light something regarding Capt. Gardiner I was not aware of. I thought a few additional notes on Captain Allen Gardiner would be of interest.

I quote from the resort brochure:

“History of Garden Castle”.

The first mission station in what was then Natal was set up by a Captain Allen Francis Gardiner after his retirement from the British Royal Navy. In 1835 Gardiner explored the southern Drakensberg and during his journeys came upon a very striking and rugged mountain. It is recorded in his diary that he likened it to Edinburgh Castle in Scotland. This feature he named Giant’s Castle. In 1865, the Surveyor General of Natal, Dr. Peter Sutherland undertook the task of mapping the Natal Drakensberg and he renamed the striking sandstone mountain “Garden Castle” in memory of his mother whose maiden name was Garden and he transferred the name Giant’s Castle to the feature in the Central Drakensberg that is known by this name today. The turreted summit of Garden Castle is a landmark that can be seen and recognised from many kilometres away, even though it stands amidst a great profusion of hills that form what is known as the Little Berg as distinct geologically from the High Berg, which constitutes the great basalt bastions that form the spine of the Dragon himself.

That the mountain should first have been named by a man called Gardiner and years later renamed Garden Castle by a by a surveyor who had no connection of any kind with Gardiner is a curious coincidence that has, over the years, led to speculation on numerous other versions of the manner in which Garden Castle got its name. It is believed however, based on factual research, that the version related above is correct.”

Garden Castle Mountain
Garden Castle seen from a distance.

Click on pictures to enlarge.

Most are all too familiar with Gardiner Street in Durban, running from the station past the Post Office, across West Street, past the Cenotaph and City Hall frontage, across Smith Street and running down to the Esplanade. That this prominent street in Durban should be named after Capt. Allen Gardiner was in recognition of the man who in only a relatively short stay at Port Natal left his mark on the small settlement that was to become Durban.

Click on picture to enlarge.

In January 1835 retired British naval captain, Allen Gardiner (born 1794 died Patagonia 1851) arrived at the fledging settlement of Port Natal following the death of his beloved wife. In 1834 at the age of 40, he pledged at his dying wife’s bedside that he would devote the rest of his life to the service of his Saviour. His intention of coming to Natal was to establish a missionary station, particularly at Dingane’s kraal, and to bring the Gospel to the Zulus.

From what is read, Gardiner on his arrival, was appalled at the lack of order at the Port Natal settlement. There appeared to be no control and so he took it upon himself to get some civic activity going and initiate some organisation.

When his request to establish himself at Dingane’s kraal was refused, he returned to Port Natal. Here the settlers requested Gardiner whether he would not consider establishing a mission amongst them instead. He agreed to this and located his mission on a chosen spot on the ridge overlooking the bay of Port Natal.

The site Gardiner chose is today flanked by Ridge Road, Julia Road and Jesmond Grove and is the site of the original St Thomas’s Church. He named the mission, Berea (see Acts of the Apostles, Chapter XVll Verses 10 & 11). On Sunday, March 24th 1835, Gardiner held his first service for the Port Natal settlers. He established a small school for African children at the mission and started teaching in thatched beehive huts. At the time there were no European women and children at the Port Natal settlement.

Capt. Allen Gardiner’s Mission “Berea”.

Click on picture to enlarge

On June 23rd 1835, Gardiner called and presided over a meeting to discuss the development of the settlement. The meeting held at the residence of Mr F. Berkin was attended by 15 settlers and it was decided that the settlement should be named D’Urban in honour of the then Governor of the Cape Colony, Sir Benjamin D’Urban. The area as a whole was to be named Victoria in honour of Princess Victoria who was to accede to the British throne two years later in 1837. One reads of Victoria County. Matters discussed at the meeting included rules as to how business was conducted and as to the standards the settlement was to uphold. No longer were grass and reed huts to be used as accommodation except for servants and a fund was set up towards the clearing of the bush and town improvements. A fund towards building a church was also set up as well for a school. A Town Committee was put together consisting of Capt. Gardiner and Messrs. Cane, Ogle, Collis and Berkin. Although some of the ideals were rather lofty, Sir Benjamin D’Urban supported the cause albeit at this stage he held no jurisdiction over the settlement except that the settlers were British subjects. An attempt by Sir Benjamin D’Urban to Lord Glenelg, Secretary of State for the Colonies in England, to seek annexation of the settlement by Britain was turned down.

Gardiner must have been disappointed with this decision as in 1836 he returned to England and presented the case giving evidence before the House of Commons Select Committee on Aborigines.
Again matters did not go his way and in 1837, he returned to Natal only with a commission to exercise magisterial control over the British subjects at the settlement. His powers only related to the British subjects and he had no powers over the African population.

It was on this return journey that his 12 year old daughter, Julia accompanied him. Sadly en route Julia fell ill and died just as the ship was approaching the harbour. Her body was taken and buried in the grounds of the mission station. Julia became the first white child to be buried in Durban. Her grave still exists in the small cemetery on the mission site in Ridge Road.

The grave stone of Julia Gardiner in the Old St Thomas Church Cemetery, Ridge Road Durban.

In Memory of Julia, daughter of Capt. Allen Gardener (sic) R.N.
First English Missionary to the Zulus. He resided near this spot in 1835 and named it Berea. His daughter was buried here May 12th 1837 . He went on to found a mission in Patagonia where he died in the service of his Saviour.

The inscription at the bottom of the tombstone reads :

“ But soon the living stream she found
Redeemed in love allayed her fears
And bore her safe to Canaan’s ground.
And now she hymns the angelic strain,
Worthy for us the lamb was slain. ”

It appears that the bottom inscription became detached from Julia’s tombstone and was found by William Hartley in George Christopher Cato’s home acting as a doorstop. In 1864 Christopher George Cato donated the land to the St Thomas’s Church and restored the inscription back to its rightful place on the tombstone.

Gardiner on his return brought with him, a Yorkshire clergyman, Rev. Francis Owen who was tasked by the Church Missionary Society to inaugurate a mission at Dingane’s kraal. In the same year on the 19th October, Piet Retief and the Voortrekkers arrived in D’Urban and they were welcomed by the settlers. In November of the same year, Piet Retief was received by Dingane for the first time in connection with the request for a grant of land. It can be assumed that Gardiner and Retief would have met in person.

The mission established by Owen was not a success and ended with the murder of Piet Retief and his party on their second visit to Dingane on 8th February 1838 . Owen witnessed the massacre from a distance. Thereafter Owen returned to D’Urban a few days later and left Natal in 1838 never to return again.

Early in 1838, Capt. Allen Gardiner’s influence over the settlers began to wane as he was being superceded by one, Alexander Biggar. In the same year, he left Natal for good. It is written that Gardiner continued his missionary work in the Far East but eventually ended up at Tierra del Fuego (Patagonia) where he attempted to found a mission. He died there of starvation in 1851.

Notes taken from the following books:

Port Natal A Pioneer Story by Janie Malherbe
Origin of Durban Street Names by John McIntyre
A History of Natal by E.H. Brookes and Colin de B Webb.

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Rachel Finlayson Pool

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Mike Kamionka wrote in with the following:

Don’t know where to post this rather sad story, but here goes!: (article dated May 2017). I was there last week and saw it for myself.

A two-year upgrade to restore one of Durban’s iconic beachfront swimming pools to its former glory has ground to a halt and now it is just an eyesore.

The Rachel Finlayson pool — once a major beachfront attraction – now stands empty‚ surrounded by overgrown grass and shrubs. Stagnating water from recent rains is pooled at the bottom.

An upgrade worth more than R4-million began in 2015 and was‚ according to reports‚ supposed to be completed within a year.

Municipal spokesman Tozi Mthethwa said: “The work on the Rachel Finlayson swimming pool was halted in order to allow the City the appropriate time to procure a finishing contract within this financial year.”

Democratic Alliance councillor Peter Graham‚ who sits on the city’s security and emergency services sub-committee‚ described the state of public pool as “shocking”.

“When you have a budget allocated‚ it’s for the entire project. I want to know where are the pubic funds that have been spent on this…? It’s so far from finished. It hasn’t changed in about three years. There are two security guards sitting there. This is another example of complete wastage of ratepayer’s money‚” he said.

“It looks as if any attempt to restore this icon of the Durban beachfront where so many of us did 1000’s of lengths in the 70’s and 80’s has been abandoned. When grass and shrubbery can be seen growing through the building material it is plain for the world to see the city has lost interest.”

Graham said the city’s treatment of the public asset was “completely unacceptable”.

Link to see the photos.

http://www.sowetanlive.co.za/news/2017/05/03/once-iconic-durban-beachfront-pool-now-an-eyesore

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Traffic signs

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Kevan Mardon has sent in a great drawing he did on the evolution of traffic signs and signals in Durban. How many do you remember?

Graphic showing traffic signs in Durban since 1930.

 

 

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Hotel Cecil

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Arthur Gammage wrote in with a query about the Hotel Cecil:

 

G’day Allan

Hotel Cecil image

Please will you publish this photo on fad and see if Bob Gooderson or anyone else can date this celebratory illumination of the Hotel Cecil complete with Union Jacks, or has another image of the hotel. It was at 14 West Street, adjacent to the Beach Hotel in its second manifestation.

On the right is the Electric Theatre, an early cinema. Behind at first floor or roof level is a Union period gable, which closely matched those on the Beach Hotel before it was replaced by the present multi-storey building.

Both Gerald Buttigieg and I remember a ZUT Boutique towards the end of West Street. Our family also used to watch 8mm films at home, rented from a shop in this location.

In the 1970s the old Cecil building was altered for the Mykonos Restaurant.

Regards
Arthur Gammage

Arthur also wonders if anyone has a picture of a church designed by Philip Dudgeon

I am researching some buildings shown along the Addington portion of Point Road on the Durban 1892 map. On the corner of Point and Hospital Road was a Presbyterian church, designed by Philip Dudgeon, who designed the first Town Hall through a competition entry. Maria Helena Martin in her thesis on Dudgeon, speaks of a prolonged and fruitless search for a photograph of the building, other than a few remnants after it had been replaced by the existing little Presbyterian Church, on the narrow part of Smith Street leading one-way onto Point Road. A three storey hotel was built on the street corner, masking the Gothic style church, which by 1931 was being used for Zulu services.

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Blasts from the past

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I recently realised that Facts About Durban has been going for 14 years (it feels more like a lifetime) and I had a happy morning trawling through the older parts of the site. There was no WordPress in those days and I manually created diary pages using Dreamweaver and posted links to new pictures and articles as I added them to the site. The old diary pages cover the period from June 10, 2003, to January 2011, when I added WordPress to the site, and are linked from here:

http://www.fad.co.za/diaryold.htm

I then decided to see what was happening 10 years ago on FAD so I called up the diary page covering that period and I found, among other things that:

  • Neil Gould contributed reminiscences about Durban nightlife.
  • A storm surge struck Durban.
  • Wade Kidwell contributed a number of postcards.
  • I wrote a story about a troopship revolt in in Durban in 1942.
  • There was a large fire at the Seaboard Hotel.
  • We heard from Hans Hallen — the designer of the Little Top.

AND

  • The third edition of my book Facts About Durban finally hit bookshop shelves.

I’d encourage everyone to have a browse through the early diary pages because it’s an excellent way of discovering stuff on the site that you might otherwise not see.

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Union Castle II

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Following on from the previous post on Tim Gallwey’s Union Castle memories, Trevor Friend sent in scans of his Union Castle memorabilia including a map of Africa and the schedule of sailings for 1955.

Union Castle map of Africa
Union Castle schedule of sailings – 1955

 

By the way, I have just updated Trevor’s page of memories growing up in Durban. It’s a substantial read but very nostalgia-provoking.

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Union Castle Memories

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Durban Castle. Click to see our page other ships called Durban.

 

By Tim Gallwey – August 2017

An integral part of the old Durban scene were the lavender coloured mail ships of Union-Castle. They would leave Southampton at 4 pm every Thursday and, if my memory is correct, they would arrive in Durban on Wednesday three weeks later.  As a consequence the latest issues of weekly magazines from the UK would be on sale in Durban on Thursday. The return trip to the UK left every Thursday afternoon around 4 pm. Because of the mail contract they were able to charge passengers less than their competitors such as the “City” ships of Ellerman & Bucknall, which made them popular with the travelling public until their demise in 1977. Separate from the mail service they also had a round Africa service which was more orientated towards cargo. Read More

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