Lawrie’s Durban Directory

I sense that over the past few months, some of the topics raised on FAD have generated quite a bit of interest. I do not know how many people actually access the site merely to read the comments but I gather that the readership is world wide. Again I would just like to reiterate that Allan Jackson is the overall Editor and has the final say regarding what does and does not appear on FAD. I merely act as a facilitator and aid to Allan in that if I can respond to queries and questions I do so, using what I know of the question or else refer to the small library of books I have concerning Durban.

To this end I have for some time attempted to get hold of an “old” Durban Braby’s Directory roughly of the period 1960 to 1970. I have searched fleamarket book sales, put Wanted Ads on Gumtree, and looked up select booksellers to see what they had in stock. All to no avail. However about two weeks ago I received an email from an ex-Durbanite living in Canada who was being “tormented” by the fact that she could not remember the name of a hotel that existed in upper West Street.

To put her mind at rest I contacted an old school friend who I know had an old Durban Directory and he merely looked up the name of the hotel in the directory. As luck would have it, he then told me that someone had just given him a rather tatty 1968 version of Lawrie’s Durban Directory and he offered it to me.

ell I am very happy to say that I now do have that excellent reference book and that using it is going to make it possible to answer your odd queries relating to that period. Personally I cannot recall Lawrie’s Directory as I was under the impression that Braby’s were the only company to issue Directories. The Lawrie’s is virtually identical in content to the Braby’s in that it lists all the streets, all the buildings, all the arcades, and of course Durban Alphabetical. I would venture to say that up to about 1970, Durban central and surrounds did not change that much so this book, dated 1968 is a good one to have.

Looking up the records, I was reminded that in 1968 I was Secretary of the Marist Old Boy’s Association, with a PO Box in Mayville. Recently there have been some comments regards an unknown dairy that was in Durban North, another called Swales on the Bluff, what was in Musgrave Centre round about this time, what hotel stood on a particular site on the Beachfront, etc. What I aim to do is to go through the posts on FAD and try and answer some of the outstanding queries which have been lying unanswered. It may remove a bit of the mystique but at least it will provide the answers.

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20 Responses

  1. John Taylor
    | Reply

    Hi Gerald,
    Of interest is a 1938 version of Lawrie’s Durban Directory being advertised for sale on Bid or Buy, so Lawrie’s has been around for some time. I have some images of it which I don’t know how to post, so I will forward them to Allan. The cover states “Published by the proprietor Allan R. Lawrie, 142 & 143 National Mutual Building, Smith Street”.

    • Gerald Buttigieg
      |

      Hi John
      Yes I saw that and am tempted but of course cannot relate to that period whatsoever. I am also looking for John McIntyre’s “Origin of Durban Street Names” and there is one of those on offer as well. Yes posting pictures is quite a process and though I am able to do it on my posts I think let’s keep it that Allan controls that area. Its great having a copy now. I did go to the Durban Reference Library and all the Braby’s are there in the Don Collection. One can access them quite easily.
      I have managed to post a picture of the 1938 Lawrie’s Directory. Interesting cover when you look at the detail.
      1938 Lawrie's Durban Directory

  2. Gerald Buttigieg
    | Reply

    I hope I am not stealing AllanJ’s thunder but I am presently the custodian of the 1938 Lawrie’s Durban Directory above. AllanJ won the bid on the local internet auction and Allan arranged that it be sent to me whilst we worked out a method of getting it to him in Australia. A fascinating book to go through and though I was not around then gives an insight as to what Durban must have been like. I hope to put up some pages directly from the directory as they are of the time. Incredibly within two years of the directory being issued, the Second World War broke out which was to have a dramatic effect on Durban as well as the rest of the world. The directory is smaller than I anticipated and strangely enough areas such as Bellair, Briardene, Kenville Clairwood, Montclair, Durban North, Grenwood Park, Hillary, Jacobs, Wentworth, Mount Vernon, Merebank, Mayville, Rossburgh, Sea View, Salisbury Island, Sydenham, Umgeni are listed separately as suburbs and districts. The directory has for me, cleared up the Dairies question which I will post in the appropriate place. It also throws light on the telephone exchanges that were in existence and that to me is of interest. Not surprising some areas had very few telephone subscribers. It also lists the “Bioscopes and Theatres” so this will also be posted.

  3. Ron Whalen
    | Reply

    I’m trying to identify the name of a hotel in Durban that held a beauty pageant in 1968. The hotel was on or near the beach. I remember the name as The Lepold or something like that. Ultimately I’m looking for information on that pagaent (1968)

    • Allan Jackson
      |

      Hi Ron
      I’m pretty sure it was the Lonsdale but I am in touch with Bob Gooderson who managed it and will ask him.
      Cheers
      Allan

    • BoB Gooderson
      |

      Hi Allan
      To my knowledge the Lonsdale was the only hotel holding regular ‘beauty contests’. They were held every month, the winner was called ‘Miss Lonsdale’ and she won a number of local prizes.
      I’m not sure which year we started the competition, I think it was 1964. It went on for a number of years and on at least one occasion all of the years 12 winners were invited back to compete for an annual prize. The prize one year was a trip around the world. The winner was accompanied on her trip by Zena Gevisser, a well known Durban person who ran a charm & beauty school and who was a consultant to the hotel. I will see if I have any pictures and I will post them to the site.

    • Ron Whalen
      |

      Hey Bob…Wow,

      I never got back to the Facts about Durban website after making my post in July. 5 months later I read the comments you posted. I think you identified the correct hotel and the beauty pageant “Miss Lonsdale”. Even your comment about one year there being a prize for winner of a world tour. All this sounds familiar. Any idea how I could get more information on the pageant, photos, names of contestants, or the person you mention named Zena Gevisser? Any info would be most appreciated. I think you’ve provided me with the 1st bit of info to a mystery I’ve had for 46 years. Thanks much…Ron

    • Gerald Buttigieg
      |

      Hi Ron,
      I checked the 1968 Durban Directory and there is no Lepold (or Leopold) Hotel in Durban at that time. I checked Leopold St. which is in the Indian business district. There was no hotel in that street. I would go with the Lonsdale which though not on the beach front was very close by. I also checked my late father-in-law’s scrapbook of 1968 cuttings and he did not include any beauty pageant.

  4. Gerald Buttigieg
    | Reply

    Hi Ron,
    Some guys are sharp around here on FAD so it pays to return to it. Zena Gevisser was well known in the 60s here in Durban, where she ran a modelling agency and a charm school. Modelling was quite a thing for young girls then and I see there were 4 “modelling schools” in operation in the late 60s. Hazel Bennett, Zena Gevisser, Lesley Schroen, and Madeline Usher who was Miss South Africa in 1963. The modelling schools and their proteges would get quite a bit of newspaper space in those days. Zena operated out of Amsterdam House in West Street. Gevisser was her first married surname and in later years she remarried and became Zulman. There is quite a bit on her life on Google and if she is still alive she would be 85.

    • Ron Whalen
      |

      There’s quite a bit on Zena online. I’m pursuing that avenue now. Any ideas on who might have some history on those “Miss Lonsdale” pageants?

  5. MADELEINE DAVIDSON
    | Reply

    HI I AM MADELEINE USHER, AND I REALLY WANT TO CORRECT YOU GUYS , I WAS NOT EVER A MISS SOUTH AFRICA…..I DID WIN A BEAUTY CONTEST THAT GOT AN ENORMOUS AMOUNT OF PUBLICITY, AND THAT MIGHT HAVE CAUSED SOME CONFUSION.

    • Graham Campbell
      |

      Hi Madeleine,
      I do recall that you were quite a film celebrity and also that you lived close to me, in Old Main RoadCowies Hill at one stage

  6. Ellen duncan
    | Reply

    What was the name of the hotel in west st facing the bullring,was it the federal? Also the owner of the Baldwin hotel his name was jack da silva? Not sure of the spelling. Can you confirm this?

  7. Gerald
    | Reply

    Hi Ellen,
    Yes the hotel was the Federal. I cannot confirm whether Jack da Silva was the owner of the Baldwin. Click on the link below for a picture of the Federal.
    https://www.fad.co.za/Resources/memoirs/Dodo.htm

  8. Elizabeth How
    | Reply

    I have a question going back to 1898. My Great Aunt died while staying at the Clarendon Hotel in Grey Street, Where in Grey Street would this hotel have been situated? I hope someone can answer this question.

  9. Terri Martin Dunn
    | Reply

    My mother, Pat Dunn, attended Zena Gevisser’s school in the 1950’s. They remained friends throughout my mother’s life. My mother ran a secretarial school in Mbabane, Swaziland from the 70’s to 90’s, before retiring to KwaZulu-Natal. I have just one digital image of my mother winning a competition in the 1950’s. I also have a photo of Zena Gevisser and my mother when they met again, after many years, in the late 90’s in South Africa. The story of my mother’s beauty school days were often told throughout my childhood and my mother was always the epitome of graciousness, poise and etiquette.

  10. Nicolaas Loubser
    | Reply

    Someone just gave me Braby’s 1968 commercial directory for free. Is there any value to it?

    • Allan Jackson
      |

      I guess there would be some value as a research resource but I the postage would be pretty steep.

  11. David Gurney
    | Reply

    Alan Lawrie was my Grandfather. I would Love to obtain a copy (any year) of one of his “Lawrie’s Durban Directories” He had three children, Betty, Kathleen (Kay) and James (Jimmy). They lived in a lovely big house on the Berea. Kay married Mack Gurney who was a Captain with Imperial Airways and who flew the Flying Boats from Durban Harbour. Betty married a farmer in Port Shepstone (Shuttleworth). Jimmy went to Michaelhouse and was a pilot and was killed in the war up in Africa.

  12. Gerald Buttigieg
    | Reply

    Hi David
    That is very interesting. My memory of Lawrie’s Directories goes back to 1955. We lived in a block of flats then and these big hard covered volumes would be left on the doorstep for each tenant. And absolutely free! My late Mother kept them as they were good doorstops. I have managed to collect four of them.

    1938 No edition number given. This is one of my prize acquisitions bought on auction for R80. The foreword to this edition is written by Allan R Lawrie and signed by him. Note Allan not Alan. The foreword was written in Durban 31st December 1937 and Lawrie ends it with this comment.
    ” In the horoscope of 1938 then, it can be read that —–
    (a) Peace and War in the world are uncertain.
    (b) Death and Taxes are certainties.
    (c) Most certain of all is that the LAWRIE’S DURBAN DIRECTORY for 1938 is the completest and most
    accurate work of its kind that Durban and District have ever known.
    Allan R Lawrie.

    The District that he refers to are the areas outside what was then known as the Townlands bordered by the Ocean, Ridge Road, the Umgeni River and the Umbilo River. Areas such as Durban North, the Bluff, Rossburgh etc. Falling apart a bit the book was well used but complete.

    1957 which happens to be a Natal Directory covering Durban and environs as well as the whole of Natal. This is a big volume and the Preface is written by A Cyril Braby. The Preface starts with the statement that this is the 55th issue of the Natal Directory. I acquired this by chance that the previous owner offered it for free on the internet as long as it was collected. I responded immediately and drove 100kms to retrieve it.

    1965 40th edition. No foreword but a page length essay ….Durban — Modern City of Contrasts.
    This volume was saved from being discarded by a friend whose brother had died and his flat was being cleared. The friend’s wife knew I was interested in Durban and saved it for me. In good condition..

    1968 43rd Edition No foreword and a repeat of the 1965 essay. This book was acquired from a school friend who had two copies 1968 and 1971. I tried to wrest both of them from him but he only relented halfway giving me this one. This one is in a bad state, lots of loose pages but all there. Paper used not as good as in previous editions and I had to do quite a bit of reparations.

    What is interesting is that between 1938 and 1968 you can see that Durban more or less was stagnant. Premises occupied in 1938 were still being being used in 1968. The big change came in the 70s.

    I have not gone into the history of the Braby Directories at all but apparently the complete collection is housed at Durban’s Reference Library and are part of the Don Collection.

    I still keep a beady eye for them but today they are like hen’s teeth.

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