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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Ricksha request

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Picture courtesy Nicole White.

 

Reader Rowan Gatfield is a lecturer in Anthropology and is doing research on photos taken of Richshas from the 1880s to date. He says he is working on an academic paper and would welcome any personal recollections from people who have ridden in them and photos he could use in it. Please mail me at the address on the Contact page if you’re able to help.

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Fire guts old Durban Building

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A fire gutted an old Durban building on Saturday night, 14th April 2018. Buchanan’s Building on the corner of West Street and Russell Street was completely gutted. Those who know Durban will remember the two storey building had a gable facing West Street. The building’s location was roughly diagonally opposite West Street Cemetery and Cathedral Road. I checked my 1938 Durban Directory and the building is listed so it was an old building. I recall in the 60s on the ground floor was a furniture shop and I had to check on the name. It was was Hayden Furnishers. Sadly another oldie reduced to rubble.

I know nothing of the fire in the Lonsdale Hotel mentioned in the cutting. Maybe someone who reads this and knows can comment.

Click on picture to enlarge.

I found a picture of the Buchanan’s Building showing the building as it was. Click on picture to enlarge.

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Musgrave

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Reader Josephine Andersen has written in with some reminiscences of the Musgrave area:

I remember the Musgrave Centre when it was only a ground level floor. I used go shopping there. There used to be a shop with antique furniture where we bought four Georgian chairs for our dining room. We still have them. Nearby was Sir Lowry’s Tea room that sold almost anything in the way of groceries. They would deliver to your home if you were not able to collect your order. I did not have my own car at the time we lived in a flat about two kilometres away and my husband called me to say he was bringing some colleagues home for supper. I called Sir Lowry’s Tearoom and they delivered a chicken to my flat for roasting.

Further up Musgrave Road there was a grocery shop called Gwilts run by the Gwilt family. At that time a tin of sardines cost about 5 pennies I think.

I used to walk our small children up to Mitchell Park which I had known since we came to South Africa as evacuees. There was an elephant called Nellie in the park and this elephant used to give children rides on a seat on her back . I was always too afraid to go for a ride.

 

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Terra Cotta Brickworks.

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Sometime ago I was asked to comment in an email on a subject relating to early Durban. I responded and thereafter was included in a list of several people who are very connected with the study and research of early Durban. A recent email sent to me concerned a certain brick which had particular markings. This subject reminded me of a brick I found here on my plot in the Byrne Valley some years ago. I kept the brick as a memento. The markings indicated Terra Cotta Brickworks of which I had no knowledge so I took the opportunity to post a picture of my brick asking if anyone had any information as to its origins. As far as I knew there were no brickworks in the Byrne Valley nor in Richmond KZN and the only early brickworks I had heard of were based in Durban.

I subsequently did get a reply to my query from Arthur Gammage which I post below. I always find it fascinating that such a mundane item as a brick can lead to an interesting background story. Here is the story.

“According to Hazel England, retired Pinetown Museum Curator, the Terra Cotta bricks were those made by Frank Stevens at Pinetown. The following from Frank Stevens Papers, on the Campbell Collections websitecampbell.ukzn.ac.za.

I have several old bricks – Pyramid were made at Rossburgh, R Till & Sons, Mayville at Brickfield (Joseph Cato’s farm).

There was also an early version of Coronation bricks with the name all in block capitals rather than script. Coronation absorbed all or most of their competitors.

Frank Stevens was born at Kea, near Truro, Cornwall, England, on 25 March 1850. After working in Australia, he arrived in Natal in 1880 or 1881 and started a boot and shoe business in Pietermaritzburg. The business flourished and other branches were opened throughout the country. Stevens purchased the farm ‘Sarnia’, near Pinetown, from the original owner, a Captain Drake, who named the farm ‘Sarnia’ after his birthplace in England. Stevens did some prospecting for gold on this farm. There were good clay deposits and he opened up a brickmaking business which he closed down at the start of the South African War in 1899. (This business was subsequently purchased by the Storm family which later started the Coronation Brick and Tile Co.) Having a large stockpile of bricks Stevens planned the erection of a hotel on the property but before it was completed, the British Government approached Stevens and he permitted them to take over the new building for use as a much-needed hospital. It was named the Princess Christian Hospital and was run as such for the duration of the War. The building was ‘returned’ to Stevens after the war and later became well-known as the Fairydene Hotel, at Sarnia. Stevens built a home in Ridge Road, Durban, and named it ‘Intabene’ (Entabeni meaning the place on the hill). This home was sold in 1929 to a consortium of doctors and in 1930 opened as Entabeni Hospital.”

There is some information on Coronation Brickworks on this site.

Rear of the brick showing no frog was pressed into the clay.

Front of the brick. Note two impressions of screw heads.

Click on pictures to enlarge.

There is only one “old” brick building in Byrne Village that still exists and that is the Etterby farmhouse built in 1928. Whether the Terra Cotta Brickworks supplied the bricks is unknown which leaves the question of how this brick came to Byrne.

Further examples of old bricks made in Durban. Photo courtesy of Hazel England.

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Basil Harvey ‘Bunny’ Austin

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I’ve had a request from Hubert Kuberski for information about Lt Basil Harvey ‘Bunny’ Austin and, in particular, about who now owns the rights to a book he wrote with the title Urszula. Bunny apparently flew with 31 Squadron SAAF during WWII and ended up in Durban.
 
He must have had quite an eventful time of it during the war because his aircraft was shot down during a mission to drop supplies to support the Warsaw uprising. He evaded capture after a Polish girl called Urszula hid him under her bed and he later repaid the debt by getting her out of Poland after the war.
 
Hubert tells me that a Polish publisher is very keep to publish a Polish language edition of the book but has not been able to trace the rights holder to get approval. He also says he is hoping to get a new English edition published. Please contact me if you know anything about Bunny Austin or who might now own the rights to the book.
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History of the Durban Municipal Broadcasting Station

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The building housing the African Broadcasting Company studios in Aliwal Street – Picture courtesy Kevan Mardon.

 

Compiled and Researched by Kevan N J Mardon

The first radio broadcast in South Africa was undertaken in Johannesburg on 18 December 1923 by the Western Electric Company … “Good Morning this is JB Calling …. “, Cape Town followed next on 15 September 1924, Cape Peninsula Broadcasting Association … “Good Morning, this is Cape Town Calling …” and finally Durban on 10 December 1924. Durban Corporation holds the record in the world of opening the very first and only municipal broadcasting service … “Good Morning, this is Durban Calling …”

The Durban City Council sponsored the establishment of broadcasting in Durban. They were urged to this step by John Roberts, Borough Electrical Engineer and Lyell Tayler, Borough Musical Director, each strongly supported by their respective chairmen, Tom Shearer and Tom Burman, as well as the Mayor of the time, Mr Tom Wadley. The Marconi company was nominated to supply the broadcasting plant, a Marconi “Q” transmitter, which had a broadcasting radius of 100 miles. Read More

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CJ Offord – Educationist and Father Of School Cricket.

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Cricket was never my game at School but I was Scorer for the Second XI! Back then in the late 1950s/early 1960s there were some star studded High School cricket teams in Durban, Pietermaritzburg and surrounds. There was quite a bit of rivalry on the go between DHS, Glenwood, Michaelhouse, Kearsney, College and even St Henry’s (Marist) who put up a cricket side to test the best. I used to hear that at the end of the school year a cricket week had been organised where schools competed for the honour of playing in Offord Week. Offord was a name one heard about and the daily papers used to report on the cricket week. That is about all I knew of it and never knew who Offord was. 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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