Info please

posted in: InfoRequests 27

Arthur Gammage has a query about about the Oonagh Whitsitt swimming pool at Sutton Park in Stamford Hill. Does anyone know who this lady was?

William Paterson is in the midst of writing a novel set in Zululand in the period 1919-27 and he was wondering if anyone had any info on the extent to which aeroplanes might have been used in that area.

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27 Responses

  1. Gerald Buttigieg
    | Reply

    Hi Arthur
    Having lived in the Sutton Park area, the name Oonagh Whitsett immediately rang a bell as the name of the swimming pool which was built in one area of Sutton Park. This was in the mid 60s if I remember correctly. At the time I also seem to recall that the pool was designed with diving in mind and that one end was particularly deep to cater for diving training. I did not know at the time who Oonagh Whitsett was nor her link with aquatic sport but this was revealed years later in a book I bought at a school fete. The book is called “Springboks Past and Present 1888-1947” . In it is a picture of Oonagh as Winner : Womens’ Diving Empire Games 1930. She also represented South Africa at the 1934 Empire Games. I then contacted a friend of mine who is a mine of information and he informed me that Oonagh married Edward (Ted) Shaw who was to become Mayor of Durban. Ted was well known in horse racing circles. A daughter was born of this union, Clodagh.
    As an aside, I stand to be corrected but all the swimming pools in Durban were named after women. The Beach Baths were called Rachel Finlayson who was the 1928 Olympic Swimming Team Coach. The other municipal pools I knew of was one in Montclair, another in Glenwood , one on the Bluff(?) and the City Baths near the Post Office. Can anyone fill in the names?
    I hope this helps.

    • Allan Jackson

      Gerald, an interesting thought about the pools being named after women. I recall that our local pool, in Acton Road off Nicolson Road, was called Tesoriere. I wonder where that came from.

    • Gerald Buttigieg

      Hi Allan
      That’s the name I was racking my brains to remember. Mrs Tesoriere if I recall was a City Councillor for that area and I do not know if she was not the instigator to get the pool built in the area. I will work on the name of the Montclair Baths which were in Kenyon Howden Road. As for the Bluff I am not sure if there was a public swimming pool and where it was but there is a vague recollection with the name Jenkins. Someone knowing the Bluff will have to come to the party here.

    • derek austin

      The pool in Montclair was called Alex Bulley baths in Kenyon Howden Road and the pool on the Bluff is called LIEUTENANT KING PARK SWIMMING POOL 41 Smith Dve, Bluff, Durban, 4052.

  2. Arthur Gammage
    | Reply

    Thanks Gerald.

    The park was named after Sir George Sutton, Prime Minister of Natal from 1903. The Parks Department are working with Alliance Francais whose offices are opposite, on upgrading and introducing more community activity in the park.

    Tessoriere Garden, Deodar Ave, and the swimming bath were named after Mrs M Tessoriere, Councillor from 1946 (from “Street Names of Durban” by John McIntyre, 1956).

  3. Arthur Gammage
    | Reply

    Montclair is Alex Bulley, Springfield is Balkumar Singh. On the Bluff there is a pool at Lt King Park.

  4. Gerald Buttigieg
    | Reply

    Alex Bulley was into Swimming Administration and Coaching and in the same book I mentioned above, he is shown as A.R. Bulley, adviser to the 1938 South African Swimming Team at the British Empire Games. The Balkumar Singh Baths in Springfield were segregated as of the times. I have an idea they were in Tills Crescent off Brickfield Road Overport. They still exist. So there is a pool on the Bluff. Mrs. Jenkins was a City Councillor and it could be the pool is named in her honour. So we need to find out who Balkumar Singh was.

    • Peter

      Hi Gerald,

      The pool at Tills Crescent was used mainly by the coloured pupolation in that area. The Balkumar Singh Baths were about 2km away, in the Indian group area known as Asherville. BB Singh and his brothers lived on the banks of the
      Umgeni River and were regarded as extremely talented swimmers and divers,
      diving deep into the icy Umgeni River before it was de-canalised, to fish for prawns and shrimps. There were several brothers, and the Balkumar Singh baths
      were named after BB Singh whom I think was the eldest brother.
      As a young high school boy, we used to take the bus from Sastri College in Winterton Walk to Asherville on a Thursday afternoon to have our swimming lessons. Hope that this is of some use. Rgds

    • Peter

      Gerald, just to add that the Singh brothers, apart from being excellent swimmers, were also highly educated. One of them was a medical doctor, and his son is a world famous film producer, based in Durban. Another brother, produced 2 doctors as children and there would be several educators and businesspeople amongst the many cousins.

  5. John Taylor
    | Reply

    The swimming pool in Sutton Park was constructed and opened in either 1959 or 1960. I lived in nearby Gordon Road at the time and attended DPHS. We used to watch the pool’s construction with interest as a large area of the park was excavated. The pool was also the “home ground”of Cygnus Swimming Club of which I was a member – on Thursday evenings the pool was closed to the public so that the club swimmers could train – two of the coaches were Mrs. Rachel Finlayson after whom the Beach Baths was named, and Mrs. Barbara Dowell who would be well known in Durban Girls College circles.

  6. Mark Billingham
    | Reply

    Tesoriere swimming pool was the home of the Tech swimming club on a Friday afternoon/early evening. The head coach was Alex Bulley (late 60’s early 70’s) who was also coach of the springbok team at the time and Karen Muir’s coach. His wife was also a coach at the club and on a Wednesday used to come up to St. Henrys to coach/teach swimming in the school’s pool.

    • claudette

      Mark just read your story above and you menitoned Karen Muir ,I thought I would let you know that she later became a Dr,Karen Muir in Canada but have just heard she has cancer and does not have long to live thought you would like to know

    • Beverley Smith Martin

      After reading your info about Tech Swimming Club thought I would add that I and my sister were members of Tech Swimming Club during the 60’s and 70’s. We both participated in Synchronised Swimming and have Springbok Colours. Alex and his wife, Doods Bulley, were my Godparents and family friends of my parents who were both involved in coaching at Tech Swimming club as well. In those days it was a highly successful and busy club but, sadly, doesn’t exist anymore.

    • Gerald Buttigieg

      Hi Beverley
      Thanks for that titbit. Perhaps you can list the names of the swimming clubs that were in existence at that time. I was not into swimming but do recall Cygnus as one which has been mentioned and was there not another called Seals or something like that?
      I have read as well that Karen Muir has passed away in Canada.

    • Cheryl Rich

      Alex Bulley was an amazing coach! His wife, Doods, was lovely. Friday nights were club nights and then training was every morning at the Beach Baths before school and at the University pool after school! Fabulous memories 😍 🏊‍♀️

    • Cheryl Rich

      The other clubs that were hot at the time included Westville, Durban North (might’ve been called Northlands) Pietermaritzburg. I remember many galas at Pmb Club. And many big galas at the Rachel Finn Baths. Alex Bulley and his wife were at my 21st! ❣️

  7. Josephine Wallstrom
    | Reply

    Hi Allen, Recently I have been researcing my husband’s family. I found out that his great grandfather was buried at the West Street Cemetery. The only cemeteries in Durban that I knew were the Cathedral Cementery and Stellawood Road. However I have an idea that his mother’s family were Anglicans and I don’t think they would have been buried in a Catholic Cementery. Maybe Gerald can help. He is a fountain of knowledge. Thanks Jo.

    • Ian Jackson

      Hi Jo
      There is also one of the oldest cemetery around in Ridge Rd where Allan Gardeners daughter is buried.

    • Josephine Wallstrom

      Thanks Allan, However I found the west street cemetery on line
      It was partially demolished when they built the fly-over. You can see the Cathedral from the fly-over. I found a lovely photo of my husband’s maternal great-grandfather on this site and most of the old graves their have been put on line.
      However, the mystery deepens. He lived in Durban but was killed on 14 feb 1908 in Umbogintwini. I remember there used to be an ammunitions factory there. Now I’m wondering if he was killed in an accident.
      Kind regards Jo

    • Gerald Buttigieg

      Hi Jo,
      You mention Umbogintwini in your post. Another place that I have very tenuous links with in that my father when he arrived in Durban as an emigrant in 1947, found his first employment at the British Admiralty Naval Stores there. I do not know where the base was located exactly. However I seem to recall him telling me that AECI who made explosives had a big plant in Umbogintwini. AECI is/was African Explosives and Chemical Industries and there was another firm similarly associated with explosives called Kynochs. Kynochs later became well known as fertilizer manufacturers. So there are a couple of leads to follow up. As I said in my email, tracing family can become a slog.

  8. Josephine Wallstrom
    | Reply

    Hi Allen I wonder if anyone can remember the ss “” Unden”. She sailed from Gotenborg, Sweden on 15-6-1937 bound for Durban, South Africa, carrying a freight of timber. She caught alight of the coast of Mozambique and arrived in Durban on 18 October 1937. She was moored at the dry docks. Her crew were taken to Addington Hospital for smoke inhalation. My father-in-law Gunnar aka Sven Wallstrom was aboard this ship then. Well he stayed and married my mother-in-law. He used to frequent the Norwegian Club in Point Road. I have photos of this but don’t know how to put it on the website. Any remarks or help would be appreciated. Regards Jo Wallstrom

  9. Doug. Miller
    | Reply

    Mrs Tesoriere Lived with her Daughter and Son in law in Gray Park Road Brighton Beach where she passsed away approx. 30 years ago.

  10. derek austin
    | Reply

    Josephine Wallstrom you can now find Facts about Durban on Facebook where you can add your photos. The place you talking about in Point road was the Seamans Institute where my father showed movies twice a week on a Friday and Sunday evening. My memory is fading but I think the manager was Bruce Thorreson also a Norwegian.

  11. Clive Shaw
    | Reply


    Oonagh was my aunt and the swimming pool in Sutton Park was named after her. Clodagh was part of the opening ceremony and dived in to ‘open’ the pool.
    Clodagh later became involved in the horse show jumping and racing circles.

    Hope this helps.
    Clive Shaw

    • Bruce Shaw

      Oonagh was also my aunt. Clive Shaw is my brother. Clodagh is well known in the horse racing, jumping and dressage circles.
      Bruce Shaw

    • Shanna

      Hi Clive,

      I am wondering if you can help me. I am looking for info on a girl named Molly Briginshaw who joined the Cygnus Swimming Club in 1927, and was wondering if you may know how I can get information from that far back (considering Oonagh was part of the same club around the same era). I can’t find much just searching the internet so I think my best bet will be speaking to people who may have records, photos, etc, from the time.

      Any advice is welcome!


  12. dominique
    | Reply

    Oonagh won a gold medal at the empire games in 1930, Diving still has a trophy named after her

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