What happened in Durban 50 / 40 years ago? 1961 / 1971.

My late father in law, Arch Black was born in Durban in 1914. He went to Redhill Primary followed by DHS, then with the noted A.S. Langley as Head. He worked for the City Engineers Dept. till he retired having joined after being demobbed in 1945. He died in Durban in 1982.  Arch was always very fond of his “home town” often remarking of the changes he had seen in Durban in his lifetime. Between 1960 and 1975, Arch started a collection of scrap books filled with cuttings from the Durban newspapers. I am in possession of these books today and they recall many incidents pertaining to Durban probably now long forgotten.  Being a young adult then, they are also of my time and probably most of you  Durbanites now in your mid sixties. So let’s recall the past and see if you recall what happened or was happening in 1961, 50 long years ago.

I will be brief in my notes so here goes. Arch did not paste dates so these may not be in date order but knowing him, they would have been in some sequential order. He posted pictures of people he knew so where personalities are indicated he would have had some contact with them. Italics are my remarks.

Arch opened 1961 with part of the page below. I post it to remind ourselves of the late Jock Leyden’s skill as a cartoonist. Oh that he could record today’s history, he would have had a field day.  Who remembers Wilbur, Jock’s daily commentator? Wilbur appeared in the Daily News every evening with some quip or remark on the day’s highlight. I have an idea in this cartoon it is Jock’s family celebrating, the young boy in front being his son, who in later years was depicted now and then in a Marist Brothers striped blazer.  Click on picture to enlarge.

Part of opening page 1961

The snippets:

Gordon Rowe and Harry Fisher won the 1961 Maritzburg Durban Canoe Marathon.

A fire destroyed a building in Gardiner Street which housed if I remember correctly Fletcher’s Mart, an auction house.

Mr Ken MacArthur was appointed Director of the Durban Publicity Association in succession to Mr Pat Sullivan. Later the same year Pat Sullivan was reappointed as Director of Durban Publicity.

Bruce Johnstone of Durban won the Fairfield 100 Motor race at Roy Hesketh Circuit in Pietermaritzburg.

The Springboks were on tour in the British Isles, Keith Oxlee of Natal, part of the touring team.

Sean Pitt-Kennedy of Durban, a member of the Durban Undersea Club, set a SA endurance record of remaining submerged in a water tank for 8 hours.

Mr Justice Williamson was appointed Judge President of Natal.

Councillor JC Bolton proposes to Council the building of a tunnel under the bay linking the City to the Bluff. The tunnel at the Bluff end would Y serving both ends of the Bluff.  It probably will be built one day.

Michael Murphy a 15 year old Marist school boy was attacked by a shark at Amanzimtoti. He lost a leg in the attack.

Keith Oxlee was named Natal Sportsman of the year. Others considered were Tim MacLaclan (Swimming), Les Salton (Soccer),  Renee Schuurman (Tennis) and Jackie McGlew (Cricket).

35 families, approximately 100 people returned to South Africa from Australia. The cutting quotes “ After spending some time in Australia – several of them stayed less than 5 months – they decided that South Africa was not such a bad place after all.”

The Durban Harbour tug “ Ludwig Weiner” one of the last pre World War 1 harbour vessels will be withdrawn in 1961.

A new Nederduitse Gereformerde Kerk with many striking architectural features is nearing completion in Hillary.

Work began on the new Convent High School site in Glenmore Durban. This would replace the old Convent School  in St Andrew’s Street.

Decimalisation came to South Africa in 1961. Remember the jingle “Decimal Dan”?

“Zoot shirts, flamboyant beach shirts and jeans for women”  have been banned from lecture rooms and libraries at the University of Natal Campuses.

Mr Lionel Bevis retires from the Durban Art Gallery and Museum after 50 years service. If I recall a plaque in his honour was mounted in the Medwood Gardens. He was also a long standing member of the Natal Philatelic Association now known as The Philatelic Association of Kwa Zulu Natal.  

Chris Klopper a Natal Rugby great calls it a day as front ranker. Chris owned a butchery in Akals Building, Stamford Hill Road.

Yuri Gagarin, the Russian astronaut became the first man in space. He encircled the world and returned safely after 108 minutes.

The Natal golfer, Sewsunker “Papwa” Sewgolum given special permission to play in the SA Open Golf Champs in East London.

“M.O.T.H. O” , Mr.  C. A. “Evo” Evenden  founder and head of the Memorable Order of Tin Hats , the ex servicemen movement died in Durban.

South Africa withdrew from the British Commonwealth; South Africa opting to become a republic on 31st May 1961.

The new Durban Ocean Terminal is proceeding well. The R6 million project would transform the T Jetty and provide the harbour with a modern marine passenger terminal. Sadly today a white elephant.

A Polio immunisation drive was launched in Natal. A million plus people was the target. I recall this was an oral vaccine (Salk) and was given out at all schools.  

The 1961 Aqua Follies took place at the old Durban Beach Baths (Rachel Finlayson ).

Leicester City Football Club on tour in SA played Durban City Football Club. Remember the Silver Fox, Norman Elliott?

Commander Alan Shepard (USA)  rides in space to answer Russia’s lead and to start the space race. Shepard’s flight only lasts 16 minutes.

All school children receive a commemorative badge to mark the declaration of the Republic.  The Union Jack will no longer be flown alongside the South African flag.

“Tiger” Wright, Natal and South African champion jockey leaves to ride in England.

George Claasen a 44 year old Transvaal schoolmaster won the Comrades Marathon in 6 hours 7 mins 7 secs.

Trevor Goddard, the Natal cricketing great, decided to settle in England and leave South Africa.

The site on which the old St Joseph’s Convent School was built, corner Smith and Broad street is auctioned for a mere R240 000.  The school was opened in 1875. The Durdoc Medical Centre was later built on this site.

The 10 000 ton  U.S.S. Spiegel Grove, flagship of a US Naval Task Force docks in Durban on a visit.

The Norwegian tanker Skaukar runs aground on a sandbank north of Durban’s North Pier. Three tugs pull it free.

The newly built Queensburgh Civic Centre is opened.

A microwave antenna is mounted on the radio tower at Overport Ridge.  This antenna points to Scottburgh on the South Coast enabling direct dialling to take place between Durban and the South Coast.

Kerason, a 40-1 outsider wins the 1961 July Handicap. Second was Hengist followed by Lucky Coin and Hyacinth, the favourite.

The Durban Gold Cup winner was Cairn Feast followed by Hengist, Hyacinth and Kerason.

Malcolm Atkinson wins the Ice Skating Marathon at the Durban Ice Rink.  He remained on the ice 73.5 hours.

Constable Benedict Ntuli wins “Mr. Durban 1961” body building contest.

A team of English school boys called the Swifts arrive in Durban by ship for their South African tour. I was chosen to represent  Durban Schools which played them at Queensmead Hockey Ground.

A cenotaph at the Royal Durban’s Light Infantry headquarters was dedicated to those of the regiment that died during both World Wars. A drum head service was also held marking the Regiment’s 107th year of founding.  Major Rev. H.F. Yule conducted the service.

The City Librarian Mr J. C. Eyre retires after 42 years service with the Durban Municipality.

The National Ballroom and Latin American Dancing Championships  are held at the Durban City Hall. Mr. M. Myklebust and his partner Miss Jenny Prior are amongst the winners.  Myklebust Dance Studios were one of several that were in Durban. Kinrade Potter, Arthur Murray, and Dudley Andrews were the others I recall.  I did my time at Kinrade Potter then based in Kings Mansions Building in Aliwal Street.

H. Webber of Natal wins the “Champion of Champions” title at the national weight lifting championships held in Durban.

“Dance Time” a programme of song and dance is presented by Iris Manning at the St. John’s Theatre Old Fort Road. Amongst the cast is Iris’s pupil Margeret Barbieri of Durban who later joined the Royal Ballet in London achieving major acclaim.

The first ever Natal Grand Prix was held at the Westmead Track on December 17th 1961. The winner was the legendary Jim Clark driving a works Lotus Climax.  Westmead Circuit eventually folded in the early 1970s the track being converted into an industrial estate, some of the present road names still alluding to the track and race drivers.  

What happened in Durban 1971

The van der Riet brothers, Willem and Roelof won the Dusi Canoe Marathon in 11 hours, six minutes and 8 seconds. They win for the 3rd consecutive time and break their own record for the race by 5 minutes.   Second was Jimmy Potgieter and Andre Collins both from Transvaal followed by Graham Pope-Ellis and Eric Clark.

The first mayor of Amanzimtoti, Mr Olaf Edward Bjorseth elected in 1952 dies at his home in Umbogintwini.  He was Chairman of both the Isipingo and Amanzimtoti Town Boards.

The old Athlone Bridge, a steel girder construction which was made redundant by the new opened Ellis Brown Viaduct is in the process of being demolished. However problems arise when cutting of the steel at one end, gives away and one end of the bridge falls into the Umgeni River. With the old steel structure lying adjacent to the new bridge, fears are expressed that if the Umgeni comes down in flood, the new bridge may be in jeopardy. Amazingly I recall that during the Demoina floods, the Athlone  bridge foundations remained intact .

Plans are revealed for Durban New Station covering 60 acres between Umgeni and Argyle Roads. Plans show Gardiner Street to be extended as far as the new station. In a proposed picture, the Umgeni side is shown with a multi-storey headquarters building, gardens and access roads to the entrance. Total cost estimated at R 117 million.  Although built the planned outcome did not really materialise with the Umgeni Road side becoming a virtual squatter camp and the station never really fulfilling its purpose. Today a major clothing company has premises there, the Post Office utilises a large area and I am not sure with the state the railways are in,  how much the station is used.

A six kilometre square oil slick threatens Durban and the South Coast, when the off shore pipeline breaks at a manifold whilst the tanker Jacobs Malmos is discharging. The BP-Shell service vessel ms Reunion tries valiantly to limit damage by spraying detergents on the huge slick.

Barry Richards playing for South Australia in the Sheffield Shield breaks Sir Donald Bradman’s record of 1448 runs in a first class season bettering the total by 2 runs.

Durban Boys’ High School celebrates 105 years of existence. To mark the occasion the unveiling of the Bullimore Bell Tower takes place. Lt. D.J. Bullimore, an Old Boy,  was killed during WW2 and a bell was donated to the school in his memory by his father in 1950.  A commemorative plaque in this regard was included.

The narrow bridge over Bridgevale Park in Durban North is demolished to be replaced by a new 4 lane bridge. The old bridge, the source of many complaints because of its narrowness, is  demolished using explosives.

Durban’s Lady in White, Perla Siedle Gibson passes away. In the article is said “ Her career as a wartime “morale booster” began during World War 1 when she sang at the Durban City Hall to some passing troops. But it was not until World War 2 that the “Lady in White” became an international figure. It happened when she was helping to feed some 500 troops in the mv Katanga. “ I was dressed in a white dress and a white apron. When the ship pulled out,  the boys asked me to sing something. So I cupped my hands to my mouth and sang”.  She sang to thousands after that.

Mike Proctor playing for Rhodesia scores his sixth successive century in first class cricket  to join greats Sir Donald Bradman and C. B. Fry as the only ones to accomplish this feat.

Natal’s Neil Adcock (who recently passed away)  is appointed manager of the South African Team to tour Australia.  Those of us who followed cricket in the sixties remember Neil Adcock and Peter Heine as South Africa’s opening bowling attack.

The Cape to Rio Yacht race starts on Jan 16 1973 with several Durban yachts involved. The Daily News erects a giant map on its first floor balcony plotting the positions of the contestants.

Elaine Fontbin, a former Convent High School pupil, graduates from the University of Natal with a degree in Electrical Engineering. She is the first girl of Chinese origin to qualify as an electrical engineer in South Africa. Her father, Mr Albert Fontbin owner of the well known Durban eatery, the Phoenix Restaurant in Point Road comments regarding Elaine’s culinary skills,  “Improving, but it’s not really her forte”.

Natal University Rag Queen for the year is Wanda Hennig, her princesses, Jill Moffat and Sue Clarence.

The 17 year old Ellerman Lines passenger liner, City Of Durban visits Durban for the last time on her voyage back to Britain were she will be sold or broken up. The other 3 Ellerman liners withdrawn from service due to economic reasons and the effects of air travel are the City of York, City of Port Elizabeth,  City of Exeter.  The 4 vessels are sold to the Greek shipping company Karageorgis.

Durban is battered by a severe storm resulting in one of the worst floods in Durban’s history. A bus crashes during the storm near Kwa Mashu killing many occupants. The death toll in the city rises to 60 and hundreds of thousands of rands damage. Hunter and Alice Streets are completely flooded,  the waters rising to the cars’ headlamps. The Umhlanga River bursts its banks after 132 mm of rain falls.

The 1971 Comrades is won by Dave Bagshaw completing his hatrick of wins.  A record of 1089 runners set off from Pietermaritzburg. The race length was increased by 5 kms this year making it the longest ever.  During the year changes are made to Comrades Rules. To qualify for a Green Number previously a runner had to win the race 5 times or win a finishing medal n 10 occasions. This is now changed to 3 wins, 5 gold medals or 10 finishes. Golds are now awarded to the first 10 runners, previously 6, coming in. Silver medals are awarded to those coming in within 7 and a half hours. The rest finishing within 11 hours get bronze medals. Three women ran the Comrades unofficially,  the race still restricted to white males.

The Little Top at the South Beach has a striking new look in the shape of a big ball with a cutaway stage area.

Durban’s entry, Miss Monica Fairall wins the Miss South Africa title. Monica is a B.A. student at  the University of Natal at the time.

Mazarin wins the Durban July followed by Home Truth, Coast Guard and Applause.  Mazarin wins as 9-4 favourite.

A big city blaze guts Woolfson’s men’s outfitters,  corner West St and Alexandra Street opposite the West Street cemetery. The double storey building is badly damaged.

The Gold Cup is won by Rainstorm after the winner Desert Fox is placed second after an objection. Finish First runs third followed by Moondrift. The objection was based on “alleged crossing and boring”.

The Lipton Cup, South  Africa’s premier yachting event is held off Durban. The contest is won by Sunrose, skippered by Durban yachtsman, Jimmy Whittle and his crew of Arne Kode, Cyril Warne, Ronnie Kode and Joe Harris.

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55 Responses

  1. Charles Smith
    | Reply

    As a Durban born-and-bred, your article was very interesting to me. Especially in the first paragraph: “He worked for the City Engineers Dept. till he retired having joined after being demobbed in 1945.” My father, H.A.Smith was city engineer of Durban from about 1940 until he retired in 1954, so Arch must have known him quite well.
    Secondly, I can’t forget 1961 since I got married in that year!!

  2. Alexia Chamberlin
    | Reply

    My father, Ken Varner also worked at the City Engineers Dept from around 1945 to 1980. He was a musician and left me copious newspaper cuttings, photos etc.

    • Allan Jackson

      Hi Alexia
      I’m always interested in old Durban photos and cuttings and would welcome it if you felt like contributing to this website.
      Allan Jackson

    • Tracy (Varner) Van Der Merwe

      Hi Alexia. My grandfather is Arthur Varner, Ken’s brother. So, I guess that makes us third cousins of something!! I was recently in Paris where Arthur and Ken’s father came from and was keen to find out more about our French heritage. Do you have any information that might be useful, such as his full names and/or date of birth, etc. I look forward to connecting with you further. Regards

    • Bianca Torre

      Hi Alexia

      I am distantly related to Ken Varner through marriage. My grandmother was Dawn Linda (maiden surname Pierpoint). Her half sister was Thelma Van Hall, and Thelma married Kenneth Raymond Varner. I have been doing years of research into my gran’s family history. I would love to get in touch with you to find out what you know about the family.

  3. Sheila McFarlane (nee Paton)
    | Reply

    What fabulous news from 50 years ago. I was in the 1961 Aqua Follies, it was amazing. Any photos available?
    Thanks for taking me back in time. Sheila

    • Gerald Buttigieg

      Hi Sheila
      I looked at the 1961 file and yes there is a picture of the event. Maybe you remember it. I personally do not recall the Aqua Follies so [perhaps you could fill us in as to who organised them and for how many years they were produced. All I do remember is the division of the Beach Baths by means of a large wooden platform which stretched across the baths. I think it was used to create a water polo playing area. It was up the deep end near the diving boards.

  4. Vic Prisley
    | Reply

    Hi Fad Diary
    Thanks for the facts about Durban, a good read and well done.
    The Durban Ice Rink Marathon was a shared win. Paddy Hawkes the Manager decided that the Ice Rink had good returns over the marathon period, and offered to share the first prize (a scooter valued at R99. R33 each) with the last remaining 3/skarters on Monday evening (started on Friday). I have 2/names, Vic Prisley and Malcom Atkinson if any one can recall the third shared winners name please submit.

  5. Gerald Buttigieg
    | Reply

    Hi Vic
    What year was the Skating Marathon?

  6. Gerald Buttigieg
    | Reply

    Hi Vic
    I looked up my late father in law’s news clips and there is a picture of Malcolm Atkinson the winner with 73.5 hours, next was Vic Presley with 73.25 hours and third was Barry Ford with 73 hours. There you go.

  7. Sharon Bell
    | Reply

    Hi, I skated in an Ice Show called “Babes in the Wood”, at the Durban Ice Rink. I think it was in 1970 but I wondered if you have the approximate/correct date(s) the show was held? I want to go to Independent Newspapers Library to retrieve a photo of myself which I know was published in either the Mercury or the Daily News.

  8. Pat Moodley
    | Reply

    Very interesting facts, more especially for the older generation. Do you perhaps know if Norman Elliott is still living?

    • Danny Moodley

      I am sure you remember Topper Brown—the Durban United Manager.
      He too was very popular.When Durban City and Durban United Played.Durban was Buzzing.Those were
      the Good Old Day

    • Danny Moodley


  9. Gerald Buttigieg
    | Reply

    Hi Pat,
    Norman “The Silver Fox” Elliott passed away in 2007 aged 79. Liked by some, disliked by some, always there were the action was.

    • Danny Moodley

      Yes the Silver Fox made Durban City most famous,and always went overseas to get more Top players.
      A great man.who commanded crowds during Soccer with Durban City

  10. Sheila McFarlane
    | Reply

    Anyone know what happened to the John Drake band? They were amazing. Thanks for the pic of the Aqua Follies, although I cannot identify myself, I was one of those young ladies.

    • Steve Gavin

      Just came across this site while researching a school in Kloof for my aunt visiting from the UK. I happen to know John Drake’s son Mike who is a drum teacher at the Dallas University and plays in many music productions in the USA (mainly jazz). John Drake passed away a number of years ago

    • sheila Mcfarlane

      Thanks Steve. John was a super musician. His brother and I were regulars

  11. Buddy Govender
    | Reply

    Hi there, I read your website with great interest. I also commend you on your efforts to pull this together. I too, am born and bred in Durban as were both my parents and their parents before that. A partner and I have also engaged, many years ago in a similar project recording the ‘other side’ of Durban which is sorely lacking in terms of previous research done. It seems that much effort and work has gone into documenting the Durban but sadly leaves out people of colour and is not holistic enough. There was indeed an extremely ‘colourful’ side to Durban that must be added to research of ‘old’ Durban. If not then unfortunately ALL works in that respect will be incomplete and subjective. We have tons of materiel (photos never been seen before) of Durban per se’. Our FaceBook Page, ‘Grey Street Casbah and Surrounds’ is followed by people of ALL races that have their roots in Durban. Our eNewspaper, ‘The Casbah’ is read by over 45 000 people world-wide. I must admit though that our endevours could also be seen to be ‘one-sided’ but I assure you that our intention is not that way inclined, however we are trying to tell the ‘other side’ of the story…..regards and good wishes ….Buddy

    • John Corlett

      Hi Buddy. My parents and I moved to Durban North when I was about 10 years old in 1954 and I lived there until I got married in 1974. The area from where the Japanese Gardens are situated right past the Connaught bridge and quarries, was populated by people of colour and was called Riverside. I remember as a 14 year old collecting old newspapers and mineral bottles and going with a friend of mine along the dirt road (where the Japanese Gardens were later built) and selling them at an Indian shop further up the road. We were paid a tickey per lb (two and a half cents) for the papers and 2c per bottle. My friend purchased his first moped from money earned in this way. Then in later years when we graduated to cars I had a 1957 Ford Consul which I damaged while trying to make a spectacular pull-off on the verge of my friend’s house, hoping to impress his sister who was talking to someone nearby. I had not noticed there was a fire hydrant right near the driver’s door and wound up very embarrassed as I had to reverse off it. (fortunately she did not even notice me). However, I couldn’t afford a panel beater and was advised to visit a coloured guy by the name of Dawood who lived in Riverside at 33 Rustomjee Rd. (now non-existant). This man and his wife lived in the garage of their house, while renting the main house to a Scotsman and his Indian wife. Dawood made a living from backyard panelbeating and used the rent money from his tenant to spend at the racetrack each week betting on horses. Anyway, Dawood taught us how to panelbeat and respray cars, which my friend and I eventually started doing ourselves to boost our meager incomes at the time. In those days our community associated and did business quite freely with all races and weren’t conscious of any hostilities between us. The main hostility in my personal experience was between the English and Afrikaans communities. We supported many Indian owned businesses, such as Dominions in Grey St, where I had my suits tailor made, and Kathrees Radio in Beatrice Rd, the fish market in the Warwick triangle, to name a few, and I had some very good friends among the Indian community. Unfortunately the politicians of the world have a knack of creating problems which the public then have to endure! ….. Best regards, John

  12. Roy Hamilton
    | Reply

    Who cannot forget the wonders of Durban through the 60’s and 70’s. Who can remember the bid local derby football matches at New Kingsmead Durban United playing Durban City in front of 32.000 packed into the stadium . The newspapers the morning Natal Mercury and the evening Daily News had huge page coverage pre and post match. As kids we were so excited about the game and the rivalry. And the July was such a big event to all. Who remembers Sea Cottage the public darling and red hot favourite to win the July getting shot on the Blue Lagoon bridge. Who remembers going into OK bazaars on a Saturday morning with your folks and having the best milk shakes ever. The in wondering around the department stores like Payne Bros Greenacres and Stuttafords. Remember like yesterday the day man landed on the moon my primary school made a big thing of it and all of us in std 5 being the seniors could listen to it on the radio. Who did not enjoy a Rickshaw ride on the beach front, the big Coca Cola sign that could be seen from our house in Durban North on the Fairhaven Hotel. A ferry ride from the end of Point Road across the the South Pier then a stroll along the pier watching all the fisherman catching Shad. All in the warm sunshine – crime free – decay free happy and wonderful and will always have a special place in my heart and proud to say that is where I was raised.

  13. Henry Spencer
    | Reply

    It is a pity that so much of our history is lost. I am 72, and after living near the SAR offices for the first 4 war years, grew up in Redhill. I have recently been trying to decipher myth from fact.
    I can recall …
    – As a child going to town every saturday morning either to the Roxy or Oxford T room bioscopes with my mother.
    – On the way to town, in a bus, along Umgeni Road, we would always pass a squadron of Harvards, at the Stamford Hill aerodrome. that was the time when men still stood up to let girls and women sit, and even opened doors for them.
    – Occassionaly viewing a commemorative plaque at the base of the Tollgate bridge, which recorded servicemen killed at the 1st World War battle of Delville Wood. My mother’s one brother died at the battle and we used to occassionaly go there as a sort of pilgrammage (I can today find no trace of the plaque).
    – Hearing my dad say how in his youth, they would attend shows at the Theatre Royal (Afterwards known as the Alhambra). After the show, they would catch a tram down West Street and along Umgeni Road to Queens Bridge (I think) .. It was a railway bridge, thereafter they would walk through the sugar cane to Red Hill, where they lived I dont think that there were any road bridges across the umgeni then (But am not sure? – I wonder when the first Athlone Bridge was built (steel)).
    – I was told that my grandfather had one of the first houses in Redhill, at the top of Blackburn Road … I think that it is still standing? I wonder where one could find details of early redhill?
    – I recall a tree ouside the central Post Office in Durban called the hanging tree?
    – at about 14 years of age we used to walk down Beachwood Drive to hunt monkeys near the Beachwood Golf course … never successfully – but it did sometimes seem to annoy the golfers. They really had very little sense of humour – after all we were only using .22’s and weren’t actually aiming at them!
    – There used to be a circular pier on the beach front, with steel bars hung down to keep sharks out.
    – There were only 5 hotels at Umhlanga and I seem to remember hat as an amatuer lifesaver, our raucous behaviour normally got us banned from all 5 pubs at least once each year … and riding my motorcycle to Umhlanga through the sugar cane we often used to come across extremely large pythons either crossing the road, or those which had been killed in the attempt – weighed down by too many cane rats.

    … Oh yes … and an APP was an apprentice

    The trouble with History is that our recognition of its importance always comes a little too late … for example my mother was very Afrikaans. She came from voortrekker stock who eventually settled in the Northern Cape. Once when I was (at least 60 years of age) an aunt in Vryburg said to me … Henry you do know that your mother was married before she met your dad (I had no idea!!!) She informed me that my mother had run away from the farm with a Portuguese man. They had come to Durban and he had then left her and returned to Portugal. My Aunt died shortly afterwards – and that intriguing bit of history died with her.
    Todays discarded knowledge is tomorrow’s treasured memories, much the same as Todays worthless and unwanted rubbish is often tomorrows valuable antiques
    Thank you

    Henry Spencer

    • Anthony Krijger

      Hello Henry,
      I have many memories of the Roxy. They used to show Elvis movies in the 60’s especially during school holidays. 2 movies and a free coke for R0.40c if I remember? Occasionally we’d meet up with a girl that we’d fancy and a 10 am followed by a 12 pm movie gave us a lot of time to become acquainted! As my parents would have had a fit of note had they known I was “wasting time” being in a movie house at 10 am rather than being out in the sunshine, we always had to pretend we were somewhere other than the Roxy!

  14. John Murphy
    | Reply

    Does anyone out there have any pictures or history of the old Stamford Hill Hotel that used to be in Umgeni Road. Some old friends ands myself would like to see these.
    Cant find any info on Google.

    • Danny Moodley


  15. Gerald Buttigieg
    | Reply

    Hi Henry,
    We are of the same vintage so I can relate to your memories. Quite a bit about Durban of that time is written up here on FAD so if you use the SEARCH facility which you will find just below the FAD Banner on the home page, click on it and a little empty block will appear. In the block write what you would like to read about such as Gardiner Street or Roxy Tearoom bioscope or Oxford. Wait a few seconds and below you will get links to topics that people have written about those subjects. There is a tremendous amount of script on this website sometimes it is hard to find.
    Just a couple of things in your post. The Theatre Royal was a theatre originally not too far away from the West St. cemetery heading towards the Berea. It was a theatre originally for live shows, plays and musical performances . In the late 50s and 60s it became a cinema called the Royal Theatre. It closed I think in the 70s and was turned into a furniture outlet / offices for the Beares Group. There is a record of this on FAD.
    The Royal did not become the Alhambra as that was a cinema in its own right at the corner of West St.and Warrick Ave. Also an old theatre which was remodelled into the building it is now. I am not too sure when the Alhambra closed down as a cinema but it lives on as a revival church venue.
    The Queen’s Bridge was apparently a rail bridge built over the Umgeni in 1865. It was a wooden structure and was washed away in the floods of August 1868. The Athlone Bridge of steel girder construction was built in 1927 and demolished I think in 1968.
    These notes from the book, Durban a Pictorial History by Ian Morrison.
    The Hanging Tree you mention was actually called the Dead Man’s Tree. So called because in the 1920/30s funeral notices were nailed to the trunk for public information. The tree remained in situ well into the 70s if I recall and was then eventually cut down. I well remember in the 60s that late afternoons thousands of mynahs roosted in the tree and the noise they made was amazing. They also soiled the pavement and I think this was the reason the tree was eventually taken out.
    The circular swimming enclosure in the sea was built by the Corporation in 1907. It also had a promenade one could walk round. Again I do not know when it was dismantled safe to say that when I arrived in Durban in 1948 it was no longer there.

    You mention in your day an APP was an apprentice. I recall them being called Appies.
    One particular Durban Corporation memory is that the Engineers Dept. had some trucks with a hydraulically raised work platform in the shape of a big bucket. (aka a cherry picker). Anyway the make of this machine was ABBEY and this appeared on the side of the “bucket” in large letters. Every one of these had the lower portions of the “B” s painted white to match the bucket so all one saw was “APPEY.” Appies always seemed to get the short end of the stick.

  16. Hein Mielmann
    | Reply

    Distorting the signal from parlement in Cape Town during 2015 also appear to happen in Durban 1960/ 1961. During 1960 a referendum on becoming a republic or was it during 1961 South African general election period. I was 6 years old but both events were in October. The results came through on medium-wave radio from time to time. The annoucers requested that a telephone number be phoned should there be a “flash” on the radio. The next morning the headlines of the Natal Mercury stated that a flash occured. A flash as I understood at the time was a break in communication. I would love to obtain a copy of the Natal Mercury as I cannot recall more detail of the incedent.

  17. Gerald Buttigieg
    | Reply

    Hi Hein
    If you are really interested the Killie Campbell Museum has microfiche records of the Mercury. You could try there to see the actual paper.

    • Hein Mielmann

      Hi Gerald,
      I appreciate your reply, I was not aware of the library. I visited the library website and was surprised at the documents held. My only problem now is distance, but I will try and arrange a memory lane tour of Durban later this year. Thanking you for the information.

  18. Steele Ord
    | Reply

    Magic memories of old Durbs, does anyone remember “The Gongs Baseball Club” I was the ballboy, the manager was George Kershaw, the players I remember were Max Gibbons, Charlie Hook, and I think, Waverley Penn. They were wonderful chaps and really looked after me, I moved to PMB in the 60s and lost contact with them.

  19. michelle taylor
    | Reply

    hi does any one have any news paper reports of a man (my grandad ) mr anderson been crushed in durban harbour in the late 1960 between his fishing boat and the morings .thanks

  20. michelle taylor
    | Reply

    hi also if anyone has something on a train crash 8/9 march 1994 from durdan to cato ridge thanks.

  21. Gerda
    | Reply

    Hi, can anyone tell me anything about the history of Hillary and the Garden of Remembrance in Bankhead road?

    • Carol

      I lived at 89 Bankhead Road from about 1946 to 1955. When I was at Hillary Govt School, our maid and I used to walk home through the Garden of Remembrance. All I can now remember is a lot of stonework and plants called Crown of Thorns. There must have been lots of trees as it seemed shady and cool.

  22. Travis
    | Reply


    “Amazingly I recall that during the Demoina floods, the Athlone bridge foundations remained intact.”

    rings very true.

    I grew up fishing in the Umgeni, under Athlone Bridge, and at Blue Lagoon. I used to fish regularly where the old Athlone bridge foundations are: they’re still there, as far as I know, and I used to see them often at low tide – and it’s completely true that they survived Demoina. When I was 14, I had German measles and was off school, but could get around on my bike, and went down to see the flood. It was the most powerful natural force I had – and have – ever experienced. Once the flood subsided, I was amazed to see that the bridge foundations were still there – and the flood had stripped about 20m off the river bank on the Windsor Golf Course side, exposing even more of them. The Mississippi river boat and miniature train that rode through the mangroves, both along the bank below Athlone Bridge, I suspect, were also wiped out (though I could stand corrected).

    There were people who lived on the island in the middle of the Umgeni, before Demoina. At that time, it was a substantial piece of land, with many trees (casuarina and mangrove). Only a few people, and they were coloured folk, but that is where they lived, and I know this as I used to fish with them. They survived by pumping and selling Cracker shrimp. Along the bank at that point under the bridge there was a deep bank of tall reeds, and I recall seeing warthogs come out of the reeds once, around 1975.

    It’s encouraging to see the mangroves growing again, after so long, along the north bank.

    I have wonderful memories of that river, and Demoina: I found one of the missing rolls of blank Standard Bank cheques, on the bank of the river, just above Athlone Bridge.

    It was too heavy to lift on account of being waterlogged, and by the time I came back with help the next day, it was gone. I had better luck finding antique bottles, under the old gums and figs that keeled over during Demoina, on the golf course, along the drainage stream that runs paralell to (i’m not sure if it’s still called) NMR Avenue.

  23. Diedre Campbell
    | Reply

    Hi can anyone tell me anything about the garden of remembrance in Hillary. My daughter had a school project about here area (Hillary). We went to the Garden of Remembrance in Hillary to take some photos and was shocked by the poor state of it. Any info on it or photos what it used to look like will be greatly appreciated. Thank you. The Campbell Family.

    • Allan Jackson

      Hi Deidre
      We have a page about the Garden of Remembrance here on the website: https://www.fad.co.za/Resources/hillary/hillary.htm
      The cemetery was also home to the Italian Military Cemetery which is mentioned in the entry for 20 April 2004 on this page: https://www.fad.co.za/Diary/diary011/diary011.htm. The Italian graves have since been moved to Pietermaritzburg. Lastly, there is a monument to sixteen Indochinese soldiers who died while interned in POW camps in Clairwood and Pietermaritzburg. They had been sent to assist the French war effort but were sent home by Vichy government and captured by Allied warships off the Natal Coast. They were considered to be enemy combatants and interned in Natal.

  24. Wayne
    | Reply

    The first mayor of Amanzimtoti, Mr Olaf Edward Bjorseth, is my great grand father. How do I go about finding more info on him?

  25. Gerald Buttigieg
    | Reply

    HI Wayne,
    Yes Bjorseth very associated with Toti and with Isipingo. There is a very hard to find book called Village in the Sun, the story of Isipingo. The author escapes me now but I am sure you will find it on the internet. In there it mentions your great grandfather. Another source maybe the Killie Campbell Library in Marriott Road where a lot of old Durban records are archived. That is of course if you are in Durban.

  26. Frank Beeton
    | Reply

    You can download the book “Isipingo Beach – Village in the Sun” chapter by chapter
    by going to the website http://www.isipingobeach.site11.com/

  27. Gerald Buttigieg
    | Reply

    Thanks Frank
    Did not try that avenue at all.

    PS I went to the link and have just looked at the pictures. From what I gather, the concrete panel wall behind Dick King’s grave is the old St James Church cemetery which has been terribly plundered if that is the word and beyond restoration. Very sad.

  28. Brian Milner-Smyth
    | Reply

    Does anyone have clippings or clear memories of the great day when Natal drew 6-6 with what seemed to be a full-strength All Blacks team.

    Its a long time ago so it is hard to remember who played for Natal that day. So far I can recall:
    Percy Hall (the wrestler who was brought in specifically for that match as an “enforcer”).
    Flyhalf: Keith Oxlee
    No 8 or flanker: Peter Taylor
    Fullback: either Roy Dryburgh or Kobus van Noordwyk
    Other players who could have been in the team that day include Chris Klopper, Ormond Taylor, Boet Bruwer and flankers Bedford and Suter.
    Would be grateful for any facts and confirmations.

  29. Richard Holmes
    | Reply


    Try contacting Hymie Sibul of Kloof – leading private SA rugby historian

  30. Brian Milner-Smyth
    | Reply

    Thanks to Richard Holmes for that advice. I will try to contact Hymie

  31. Mike
    | Reply

    A link to you tube showing a bit of the match in question. Mainly photos of the match The 2 teams are also shown on the first few pages ( but not so easy to read). Also on the video, the 1960 Natal rugby team, in different matches. Hope this helps a bit.


  32. Brian Milner-Smyth
    | Reply

    MANY THANKS MIKE. what a find!

  33. alan mills
    | Reply

    Many thanks for the memories. Hope you don’t mind but I have posted to my Facebook for all my Durban North friends to enjoy.

  34. Nate
    | Reply

    Hello there.

    I found an old article of my dad, he used to sing in the royal blue hotel, Nat king Cole songs. He was born in Durban.
    I was wondering if there’s a way I could find out more?

    • Allan Jackson

      Hi Nate. What was your dad’s name?

  35. vino govender
    | Reply

    Hi people
    am researching parts of Durban from the casbah to Mayville
    am looking for info on ‘Killroy’ whom I knew slightly.
    Please help!
    Thanks Vee

    • Danny Moodley


  36. Ian Robertson
    | Reply

    I was interested in the reference to the Bullimore Bell Tower at DHS:
    “Durban Boys’ High School celebrates 105 years of existence. To mark the occasion the unveiling of the Bullimore Bell Tower takes place. Lt. D.J. Bullimore, an Old Boy, was killed during WW2 and a bell was donated to the school in his memory by his father in 1950. A commemorative plaque in this regard was included.”

    This was a replacement bell for the original, which had cracked and no longer resonated. According to Hubert Jennings’ book, “The DHS Story 1866-1966”, “Three Old Boys were in the cruiser Neptune when she was struck by no less than four mines while she and the rest of Force K were pursuing an enemy convoy off Tripoli. They were Lt D J Bullimore, Able Seaman R M Campbell and Signillar B N Kemack. The bell from H M S Bermuda which stands by the School War Memorial was donated by K H Bullimore and his father in memory of their brother and son Lt D J Bullimore”

    The original bell from HMS Bermuda was in use when I attended DHS 1958-61. The current bell is from SS Rhineland, a British cargo vessel that was sunk by a U boat in 1941. (The ship had been built in Germany and later sold to a British owner, hence the Germanic name).

    The sinking of the cruiser Neptune was a dreadful event — 737 seamen died and only one survived.
    The father of Lt Bullimore, J H W Bullimore, was a legendary headmaster of DPHS, where one of the school houses is named after him.

  37. Yvonne Moollen
    | Reply

    Greetings. Not a comment but seeking advice. Looking for information on deaths in detention in Durban 1955-65. In particular, one Alfred De Lange, jailed under the Immorality Act.
    Appreciate any comment.

  38. Daphne Smithard⁰
    | Reply

    Does anyone remember dancing with iris manning in durban early 70s? We, dance trained moms, did a Mothers group high kicking troupe, wearing pink sequined leotard, fishnet tights and pink feathers as a headdress? I’m looking for photos of us in that troupe. You may remember me as daphne Lewis

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