Durban’s House Boat.

Hi There

I have recently received three delightful photos of an old Durban House Boat from Sue Wessels.

Sue answered a request from Derek Austin regarding his paternal grandmother’s family and in her note indicated she had a photo of the houseboat with Jim Meredith Miller standing nearby.

I contacted Sue and have received her photos. Because this is so interesting, rather than allowing it to get hidden in the topic on the Bluff, I am extracting the relevant postings from Derek Austin and Sue Wessels and starting a new thread with the hope that more people will read this article and perhaps add to it.

Personally I know nothing of this house boat called Pumula but pictures don’t lie so it existed and from what I gather it was anchored off Fynnlands.   I do know that at some stage in the early 1950s there was a Floating Tearoom on the Bay and that at Fynnlands there was a beach and picnic area amongst the trees and the mangroves which was accessible to cars. I have photos of my family picnicking there in 1948/49.

So this is the thread started by Derek Austin

” I have been doing some research on my paternal grandmothers family whose surname was Groom. Her sisters name was Mabel and here is what I found out about her so far. Jim Meredith Miller married Mabel Elizabeth Groom. Mabel and Jim were married in St Cyprians Church in Durban after coming via Transvaal back to Natal. At that time he was in the Natal Colonials and served under Baden-Powel in the Siege of Ladysmith as a Sapper /hunter and Tracker (Boer War). Mabel Elizabeth Groom born 1877 London England. Died 1937, buried West Street cemetery. Married Jim Meredith Miller who was a house porter at Durban Hospital earning £84 in 1897 according to the Natal Almanac. Mabel and Jim Meredith, who was christened so according to his Birth certificate parted company and did not divorce, she remained in Pretoria and Jim came to Durban on pension. He had a house boat built and called it Pamula and lived in it in Durban floating behind Kings Rest Station in Fynnland. He could speak 3 dialects of Indian, having served in India before WW 1 and he got along with the Shrimping community living there. Mabel refused to do this and stayed back in Pretoria.

Would anyone know anything about the houseboat at Fynnlands? ”

To which Sue Wessels replied

“Jim Meredith’s daughter was married to a great uncle of mine, Laurence Murrell. We’ve got a photo of the houseboat somewhere that I could dig up, with Mr Miller standing on the wharf next to it. ”

And here are Sue Wessels interesting photos with her comments:

Miller Boathouse 3

Miller Boathouse 2Photos of Jim Meredith Miller with his houseboat, Pumula (not Pamula).

Miller Boathouse 1

The first  and third photos show Jim Meredith Miller with his grandson, Laurence Meredith Murrell and a relative on the Murrell side of the family, Olive Nellie Murrell, and the second is a lovely photo showing Mr Miller and his grandson, Laurence Meredith Murrell, standing in the background.

Click on pictures to enlarge.

I have looked up the various people mentioned in the thread in the 1938 Directory and came up with some possible connections.

L. B. Murrell lived at 364 Stamford Hill Road. The only entry.

There are two Grooms:   E.A. Groom 464 Manning Road and

G. F. Groom  65 Grandborough Court, Marine Parade

There are four J Miller’s but none refer to Fynnlands or a house boat.

Looking at the pictures they do look pre-war.   If anyone can add to this interesting topic please do so.

PS P(h)umula means to rest.

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29 Responses

  1. derek austin
    | Reply

    Thank you Sue for those photographs. Doug Miller contacted me some time back and gave me some info on the Miller family. He did say that he had a book somewhere called Pumula written by Jim Miller on his exploits as a youngster. I have been talking with Neville Murrell and as soon as we have finished checking the info will add to this story. Gerald thank you for making this a separate post and looking up those names. The LB Murrell was Laurence Bringle Murrell father of Laurence M Murrell shown in the picture with his grandfather. Laurence Meredith MURRELL (29) b: 7 Mar 1916, bp: 14 May 1916, St Alban the Martyr, Pretoria, married Grace Winifred Iris TESORIERE (33) after banns at St Cyprian’s, Durban, on 10 Nov 1945. Now Gerald you may remember this comment of yours from a previous post. Mrs Tesoriere if I recall was a City Councillor for that area. Is this Grace who was a councillor?

    • Mrs Moira Badstubner

      Barbara Groom was a well known musician in Edward Dunn’s classical orchestra. She played the viola, which has notes lower than the violin. from Moira Badstubner (nee Williams)

  2. Gerald Buttigieg
    | Reply

    Hi Derek,
    The Durban City Councillor was Mrs M Tesoriere. I have a picture of the Durban City Council when Durban celebrated its centenary in 1954 and she was a member of that council. The mayor was Percy Osborn. In my book, the Origin of Durban Street Names, Tesoriere Gardens in Deodar Ave and the Tesoriere Swimming Bath in Congella were named after Mrs M. Tesoriere. She was first elected as City Councillor in 1946. Grace could be a relative.
    I have only only Tesoriere in the 1938 Directory : J Tesoriere 185 Bartle Road which was the area Mrs M. Tesoriere later represented.
    In 1968 I have Mrs M. Tesoriere living at Gray Park Road on the Bluff. There is also a Mrs G.H. Tesoriere living at Westville.

  3. Moira Badstubner (nee Williams)
    | Reply

    1. Barbara Groom played the viola in the Durban Civic orchestra under the baton of Edward Dunn. Her married name was Aitcheson.

    • Moira Badstubner (nee Williams)

      She passed on her violin to Jitske Brien (nee Meinstma) who also was a dedicated violinist in the same orchestra. Barbara Groom also had lived in some apartment on the Beachfront in the early days.

  4. Moira Badstubner (nee Williams)
    | Reply

    I love this Durban connection.

  5. Lynette Stokes Weber
    | Reply

    My parents, George and Sally Stokes, lived in Polkinghorne Rd (between Marine Drive and Lighthouse Road) from about 1942 until they sold the house in the 1980’s. We spent a lot of time at Fynnland Beach. There was a wooden T-Jetty and 2 house boats were moored to it. Not the one in your photos. I have never heard of that one. My grandparents lived below us otherwise the nearest neighbour was quite a way rom us.

  6. Gerald Buttigieg
    | Reply

    Hi Lynette,
    Polkinghorne Road a new one to me so I checked where it was on the Bluff. Given as King’s Rest. 1968 Directory gives WC Stokes at No 30 and VL Stokes at No. 52.

  7. Lynette Stokes Weber
    | Reply

    My father was W.G. Stokes and on the original house plans – which I still have, the area was called Shortlands, which was very close to the entrance to the army camp. Definitely not King’s Rest, which was a fair distance away. There were another unrelated Stokes family at the other end of the road next to Bushlands School.

    • Margart Hurter

      Very far from Kings Rest. Lynn and I walked from Kings Rest to her house and back many times.

  8. Margart Hurter
    | Reply

    When I at Kings Rest one station from Fynnland. My uncle and Aunt lived in one one of the three railway houses from about 1951. I spent many hours and days at Fynnlands beach. Jumping off the jetty etc.
    The Councillor in the late 40’s and early 50’s was Sydney Smith. He used to host a party for children on Easter Monday. There would be running races for all ages.
    One had to get to Fynnland beach early to ‘claim’ a picnic spoke under the low growing trees. Memories are made of things like this.

  9. Gerald Buttigieg
    | Reply

    Hi Lynette,
    Again I am not familiar with the name Shortlands as an area of the Bluff. So I looked at the 1938 Durban Directory and quite right there is Shortlands as a separate area to King’s Rest. The other areas listed are Brighton Beach , Wests, Island View and Fynnlands. Perhaps the area was incorporated in to King’s Rest. The WC may have been a typo instead of WG. I looked at the Stokes listed in 1938.
    AE Stokes 58 Regent Chambers, corner Field and Commercial Road.
    FW Stokes 48 Chelmsford Road.
    H Stokes 15 Dunraven Court, Prince Alfred Street.
    I knew Tom Stokes a teacher at Westville and for some reason recall a Stokes at St Henry’s (Marist Brothers). George?

    • Lynette Stokes Weber

      Hi. I am busy with a very comprehensive family tree of the Stokes and van der Westhuizen families. The South African archives and other records are being digitised but will only be indexed sometime in the future. I would really appreciate having access to the directories you refer to. What sort of directories are they? Any other help you can give me would be greatly appreciated. Thanks.

    • Gerald Buttigieg

      Hi Lynette,
      The two Durban Directories I have are 1938 and 1968. These were publications I think issued free originally and were published by Lawrie’s and later I think by Braby’s . They contained a mine of information gathered I think on Durban Corporation information gathered from electricity and telephone accounts which they administered. The Post Office telephone information was also included. I know they were distributed in the early 70s but then stopped. All the early directories are available at the Durban Reference Library and are part of the Don Collection. You can have access to them in the reading room but cannot loan them. If you are in Durban it is worth having a look at them.

    • Lynette Stokes Weber

      I am in Cape Town but thanks for the info.

    • Lynette Stokes Weber

      Hello. I know you have access to some very old directories etc. Would you please try and help someone from Scotland who is trying to trace family who used to live in Durban? If so can you let me have your contact details so she can contact you? She is on a facebook genealogy group. Thank you.

    • Allan Jackson

      Hi Lynette
      Why don’t you send me the family details at the address on the contact page and I’ll post them. I’m sure Gerald won’t mind looking them up in the directories as well. You could also try posting on our Facebook page at as that is a slightly different audience.

  10. Michael Dexter
    | Reply

    Hi All, I knew a Neville Groom in Port Shestone from 1949/52.We both went to Port Shestone Gov’t School .If this helps in any way.

  11. Heather Podbielski
    | Reply

    Found this all very interesting. Someone who has been on the Bluff for very many years and who could throw light on your many subjects is Roger Whitely, a former city councillor. He is still living on the Bluff in Marlborough Park and I think he is in his 80’s so his memories go back a long way. I myself come from a family of old Bluffites going back to the Fynnland Beach days. My Dad’s family lived down in Fynnlands overlooking Fynnland station. The family name was Simpson and they were a family of 5 girls and my Dad being the only son. All started their school career (I think) at Fynnland School all those many years ago. This may not be 100% correct. Thank you again for interesting input.

  12. Lynette Stokes Weber
    | Reply

    The Easter Sports Day at Fynnland Beach was very popular. Always had a great picnic. My cousins, the Tomich family, who lived in an old wood and iron house next to Fynnland Railway Station were good runners and often won races and an ice cream eating race. Wonderful Memories. My Grandfather, Alfred Henry Stokes was Station Master at West’s Station for a long time. He was well known for the HUGE pawpaws he grew, and someone drew a cartoon of him sitting on top of a huge pawpaw smoking his pipe with the caption “Mr Stokes the Pawpaw King” and published it in a newspaper.

  13. Douglas Meredith Miller
    | Reply

    Jim (”Pim”)Meredith Miller my grandfather married my Grandmother whom he met while on patrol she was the daughter of H.E Groom who managed the Tugela ferry hotel and was the ferryman around 1900 had daughters and sons I was young when Pim passed away but remember him on holidays when we camped under the large tree just past Kings rest station to the left of the bend going Northwards,,
    My 2 elder brothers Jim Meredith Miller and Wallace Charles Meredith Miller spent school holidays with him ( they were 20 and 10 years senior to me) on the houseboat and related their stories to me as did my father James Meredith Miller who was with him in Pretoria ( Pim was also a hostler and accomplished rider and his father was a ”Wholesale Brewer in Warwickshire and Pim would steer the Clydesdales by jumping horse to horse to the leader whilst they delivered beer and in India served as Hostler in the Army) In Pretoria He and my father “:broke in horses ” at Fountains and sold them to the Army at auctions held at Church Square (Pretoria)
    He spent time in India and was brought to German East Africa to fight the Germans He joined the “ZAAPS” ???? and patrolled Zululand and met Mabel Elizabeth while “overnighting” at the ferry.
    His daughter Constance Millicent Stevens(nee Miller) and her son Bert who lived on the houseboat with him Albert Meredith Stevens later joined the navy and was presented with a commendation from the Queen Mother for some reason I don’t know,
    Incidentally the dog in the photo was named ” Puddy” could not bark due to a snake bite in the neck on a patrol in Zululand but was adept at stealing chickens on the command “go catch a kip kip” thereby providing Sunday lunch.
    Constance remarried H,Moore who was a Gunnery Officer who owned land at Fynnland area he built houses and cut roads to them and named them Crowsnest and Kingsclere avenue respectively
    Doug. M Miller

  14. Doug Miller
    | Reply

    Hi. Derek.
    I have a few pictures of Jim Meredith Miller and his houseboat
    Douglas Meredith Miller (his Grandson)

    • Derek Austin

      Hi Doug I have not been on this site for some time and only saw your reply now. Please post the pictures here that you have. Regards Derek.

  15. Gerald Buttigieg
    | Reply

    Hi Doug
    If you want to have the pictures put up on this site to add to the story, then use the CONTACT US facility on the leader page.

  16. Mrs Moira Badstubner
    | Reply

    I am quite excited to hear news specially old news about the Bluff. My husband was the mechanic and I was the office girl at the Marine Drive garage (Total Garage) for several years before Total pulled out from the Bluff.

  17. Douglas Meredith Miller
    | Reply

    My aunt Connie (Pim’s daughter} was widowed then remarried Harry Moore who told me that he was retired as a Gunnery Officer off the HMS Venus he had on the lounge/dining room wall an ancient photo/painting on the wall of himself and his gun crew him sitting in the front of the two rows standing behind him with a cat of 9 or ten tails draped over his lap {he had the iciest pale blue eyes i have ever seen).
    I once asked him for some cotton to trap birds and he opened his sea chest to get some in his search he removed a cloth wrapped parsal and opened it he told me that they were Japanese ears which they cut off the pirates who were robbing merchant ships, the HMS Venus was disguised as a merchant ship to lure them where they were met by marines and dealt with, their ears were dried and sold in England as good luck charms.
    Doug. Miller

  18. Graham Moss
    | Reply

    Those pictures of houseboats reminded me of us being taken to Fynnland beach when we were small kids. It was protected, so probably good for small kids and a change from the paddling pools at Durban Beaches. At that time, if my memory is correct, there were quite a number of houseboats at Fynnlands. In the end, we stopped going there because the water was polluted. Maybe as a result of the houseboats!

  19. phillip wheeler
    | Reply

    Hi Everyone, I am the great grandson of William Henry Miller, the brother of Jim Meredith Miller (Pim). I had been in contact with Doug Miller some eight years ago now, who kindly filled in the gaps and unlocked a few mysteries.
    I came across this website by accident. Wm Hy Miller had children in England before he joined the army with Jim, and ending up in SA. He went gold prospecting or so the story my mother briefly passed on to me. But that masked what really happened and ‘the name that shall not be mentioned’.
    His children were, to confuse the descendants another:-James Meredith and William Henry (aka Jack). This Wm Hy married Louise (Lou) Newman (her brother emigrated to Australia in 1922 and whose descendants we are now in contact with).
    I have some photos of family in army uniform, but we don’t know who they are. They may be William Henry Pim’s brother as we have none that we know of.

    • Derek Austin

      Hi Phillip my grandmother was the daughter of HE Groom who operated the pont and ran the hotel at Tugela Ferry. Please post the pictures of the family in uniform. Regards Derek

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