posted in: InfoRequests 1

Reader Ian Forbes sent a picture which he found among his grandparents’ effects and he believes  it was taken in Durban circa 1916. That does look like the Bluff in the background but apart from that I have no ideas. Anyone know anything about it?

Picture courtesy Ian W Forbes.
Picture courtesy Ian W Forbes.


Reader Karl Fischer has a query about Maydon Wharf. He wrote:

I am currently doing my masters in architecture, and my selected site for my dissertation design is between Canal Rd & Fish Wharf St, behind Wilson’s Wharf.

Where I need your input is to try and locate a photographic article that did the rounds on social media about six months to a year ago that highlighted the vacant buildings and forgotten industry along Maydon Wharf. Does this ring any bells for you? Or would you be able to direct me to something similar?

(My research is looking at the hard skills shortages in South Africa and the trend toward university education over technical/vocational education.)

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  1. Gerald Buttigieg
    | Reply

    Hi Karl,

    I did not see that article re the demise of Maydon Wharf but perhaps a lead would be the old Durban Directories that are housed at the Durban Reference Library. I have a 1938 edition and find it full of interesting information, for one it would give some idea of the firms that once did trade from that area. I know my late father-in-law started his working life round about early 1930s at a firm there that imported timber for the furniture trade.

    Your research topic interests me because when I matriculated I tried to get into university by applying for a bursary. I still recall that when I went to Student Administration the lady that assisted me said that because I was not born in South Africa nor born specifically in Natal, my chances of getting a bursary were virtually nil. However I was referred to apply to the Public Service Commission, who set me up for an Aptitude Test in Durban. No sooner than I did the test that I was approached by the then Dept Posts and Telegraphs and offered a career on the Telecommunications side doing a 4 year Diploma Course. I ended up with 36 years service in which time I saw the demise of the electromechanical switching era and the advent of the digital era in communications. It was in 1962 that I started and at that time university degrees though sought after were not the only avenue one could take. Apprenticeships in a trade were common with some of these requiring “night class” attendance at Technical College to cover certain subjects. Remember at that time one could leave school at Standard 8 (Grade 10) with a school leaving certificate and go into a trade. Hence there were ample electricians, fitters and turners, welders, plumbers, wood workers , mechanics etc. The Durban Corporation for instance took on apprentices every year in the various trades who then became the work force in a well functioning municipality. This all seemed to change round about the late 1980s when a good Matric Pass virtually implied you had to go to University and do a degree. Trades became relegated as “menial Blue Collar work” and so less and less individuals took up trades. I was astonished to read a few years ago that South Africa did not have specialized welders and these had to be got from Mexico and the Far East. For what its worth that was my experience. It really was a time when a University degree was not the be all and end all of a successful career in life.

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