Born in Jacobs

Reader Ken Rigney recently sent in some memories of his early life in in Jacobs and hopes we could help with photos and other information to add to his stock of information.

My name is Ken RIGNEY. I was born in the Jacobs area of Durban in 1930. I left South Africa in 1956 to live in Southampton, Hampshire in the UK. I’m now in the process of writing my life story for my great grandchildren to read one day.

Can anyone help me obtain photos of the Jacobs area during the 1930’s. I’ve tried all avenues including Durban’s newspapers libraries, factories and developers to no avail.

When we lived in Salisbury Road, later renamed Paisley Road there were no houses, roads or factories. My granddad Albert STOFFLES built the first five houses where we lived. He also built roads and sold properties for the big business owners in Durban. Sadly I don’t possess any photos of the area before firms such as Ropes & Mattings and another firm called Malcomess arrived.

I would love to see any photographs or newspapers cuttings from the motor cycle grand Prix races which took place in the 1930’s to 1939. I recall that after the Grand Prix’s finished the big Naval base was built across the old race track on the hill. During the war I recall many British and Australian military personnel being stationed in the area. After the war the area was re-developed again into private homes. I remember names such as Chick HARRIS, Dave WARE amongst others. We would go down to the start of the race at the Bitumen factory, run up the hill , then watch them descend down to where the oil refinery is now and then up to the Bluff.

Then there was the Voortrekker Celebrations with the Afrikaner ladies in their long dresses and bonnets and the ox wagons, and that’s when the Voortrekker Street was named. I’ve seen on google earth where my old home once stood, it’s now all factories. The Voortrekker cemetery is just a waste land except for the names of those that were buried there. The place is now surrounded by wrought iron fencing.

During that time and an Entrepreneur brought a group of bushmen to Durban and with nowhere suitable to house them, he asked my grandfather if he’d have them at Sunningdale where he had his work headquarters. People from all over the Durban area came to see them. Any photos of them would be much appreciated.

Sunningdale was between the old oil refinery (before it was built) and Isipingo. Guava trees grew wild there and during the riots in 1949 the only Indian who wouldn’t leave his cattle to go for protection was called Punchum. He looked and dressed like Ghandi. As children we’d go to him for the milk which was boiled before being used. At milking we’d get under the cow, pull its udders and milk would squirt straight down our throats, what good memories, and I’m writing it all down.

Please leave a comment below if you can help Ken. 


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42 Responses

  1. Gerald Buttigieg
    | Reply

    Hi Ken
    You do back in years for some of us younger ones so there will be a vast difference in Durban’s history from your memory to ours. However a small bit of luck and I have a lttle information on Albert Stoffels. I would check the spelling of STOFFLES as it is not spelt that way in Afrikaner circles but STOFFELS. In the 1938 Durban Directory I have, Jacobs and Wentworth were still regarded as Durban Districts that is outside the boundaries of Durban. There is a post on this subject on Facts about Durban which you can find by doing a SEARCH. Mr. A. Stoffels lived at 26 Chamberlain Road Jacobs. I see no mention of Paisley Road but do see Salisbury Road so your memory is correct. From my book on the naming of Durban Streets, Goschen Street was renamed Voortrekker Street in 1938 to commemorate the Voortrekker Centenary in 1938. I knew Ropes and Mattings which was in Voortrekker Street.

    re Salisbury Road. There is a Salisbury Road and a Salisbury Avenue in Durban so perhaps when the outer districts like Jacobs were incorporated to form the greater Durban area, duplicate road names would have been changed and hence Salisbury became Paisley.

    Regarding photos of your time, only archives such as the Killie Campbell Museum would have what you are looking for.
    Good luck in your endeavours.

    • Danny Moodley

      Hi Ken Am sure someone will find some photos and stories.. Like in your time. They had Defy. Called Durban Falkirk Industry. In Teakwood Rd. It was near the Boom Gate.Jacobs Rd Corner.. In Lansdowne Rd was the Radio Tower. called Wireless.. Then the Frame Group.. Durban Leather.. Motor Assemblies. ABE..African Bitumen Emulusion…
      James North.. Ropes and Mattings..
      Will let you know more. As I come across.

    • Danny Moodley

      Am sure that Someone will have old photos and Old newspaper… There are people of Wentworth.nearby..might have something..Motor Assemblies has moved out and called Toyota.. Collingwood Road is now change to Bluff Road..The Clairwood Race Course is no more..All the best.

  2. Ken Rigney
    | Reply

    Hi Gerald,
    Thank you for your information regarding my queries. You are right about my Grandads surname. I realised after i’d sent off my request that i’d misspelled his surname. I don’t recall him living at 26 Chamberlain Rd but I think he owned the eating house ( tea room) next to it. He also owned the eating house at the other end of Chamberlain Rd next to the Bitumen Factory.(later Motor Assemblies). That is how I knew all about the Motorcycle Grand Prix. That is where the race started.
    At the time of the Voortrekker Centenary Celebrations the Gunter family, who were involved, were looking .for a home in the area. My Grandad sold them his and he moved in next door with his daughter. I think the house number was 214 Paisley Rd. They were our neighbours for about sixteen years. Learned to speak English fluently but in all that time my Afrikaans never improved. Where my home used to be, there is now a factory called Corsair Logistics. I did make contact but they were unable to help.I did think that the events I mentioned might have been written about by the newspapers at the time, and who knows sometime in the future something might come up. Thanks again.

    • Bridgette

      Hi Ken
      Would like to speak to you regarding Jacobs in the 30s. Please could you drop me your email address.


    • Danny Moodley

      Hi Ken. I. also Want to add on Acme Timbers..opp Gopals Shop.. Not far from the.Dumping Site..Then past the Boom Gate. Was Bluff Road. I use to take the Trolley Bus. to Fynland…also in Jacobs was a Stationery Factory.

  3. Gerald Buttigieg
    | Reply

    Hi Ken,
    I ran through the 1938 directory entries to see what was around No. 26. Strangely enough also listed at No 26 Chamberlain Rd is just the name Meyiwa. No initial nor any description ?? A firm, Spicers were at No 22. Spicers if I recall were into paper. Malcolmess is listed but only as Chamberlain Road as an address. Associated with Malcolmess is Buffalo Factory and Foundry. My knowledge of Malcolmess was they were British tractor manufacturers. I came across C.F. Gunter address given as 56 Railway Cottages. So not much around No. 26.
    Looking through this small section of the directory, the Jacobs/ Wentworth area, some interesting firm names appear. For instance Durban Falkirk Iron Company. In later years DFI became DEFY the electrical appliance factory. Euzol Manufacturing also in Chamberlain Road which I think made minerals spirits and lacquer thinners. And wasn’t there Euzol vinegar? Mr J. C. Kinghorn lived at 99 Chamberlain Road and at No. 103 was JC Kinghorn Brush and Broom Manufacturers. I remember the name as my mother liked their brooms and scrubbing brushes. Natal Oil Products another long time name in Natal industry. They made oils, soap and detergents. J. Wrights and Co. Concrete pipe and product manufacturers. I used to maintain most of the PABXs (Private Automatic Branch Exchanges) in the area in the mid 1960s and most of these firms were by then well established. The area is still industrial but by and large never expanded dramatically as new industrial areas with more space available in other parts of Durban took over.

    • koot barnard

      Hello Gerald,,

      My name is Koot Barnard and I am doing a project on the history Of Defy
      I came across your response while doing research. I worked for the Company for 37 years and would appreciate if you could assist with absolutely anything that you have on the early history or any entries in Newspapers , directories etc regarding the Company or for that matter the early days at Jacobs . I have some images of the early days that I am prepared to share as well.

      Best Regards

      Koot Barnard

    • Danny Moodley

      Good Day —about Jacobs,I remember the Frame Group…..Acme Timbers…..Slippers Shoe Factiry…….Quality Product,…….The Hotel at the cnr of Quality Street and Hime Street…..not far was the Clairwood Racecourse………….opp Spicers was a Shop,workers used to wait their,and go to work when the gates open……,also don’t forget the BOOM GATE……J.Wright & Sons…producing Concret Pipes…….and more

  4. Keith Titmuss
    | Reply

    Re born in Jacobs.Hello Gerald, I have a photo of my dad in the 1930’s taking part in one of the Bluff motorcycle races.I’m not sure how to attach the photo with a comment.

  5. Rod
    | Reply

    Hello Ken. My Grandmother was born in Jacobs into a massive family. She was a Irene Murray, I think there were 21 children in the Murray family in Jacobs. One of the Murray siblings was the infamous Rosie Dry.
    My mum was then also born in 1928 in Jacobs. She had the surname of Canning after Grandma married a Scotsman Tom Canning.
    I’d love to know if you have any memories of Claire Canning growing up, or perhaps if the forum can locate the family street address of the Murrays or the Cannings. Sadly all of the Canning siblings have passed on and my mother never spoke much about her past, apart from Jacobs being a great place to grow up, but very poor.

  6. Gerald Buttigieg
    | Reply

    Hi Ken
    I looked up Canning and Murray in my 1938 Durban Directory. No Canning but M. Murray appears as 307 Goschen St. Jacobs. Goschen Street was renamed Voortrekker Street in 1938 when the Voortrekker Centenary was being celebrated. Quite a few Murrays and Cannings appear in the Durban section.

    • Ken Rigney

      Hello Rod,
      I’ve just read your article and frankly, I don’t know where to begin, as there are quite a lot of answers I could help you with regarding the Murray family. Rose Dry happened to be in the room when I was born. And even though I knew the Canning family my friend Dennis who now lives in Leicester knew your family better than I. I do remember Mrs Canning coming to visit my mum with a couple of children in to, and i’ll always remember thinking what blue eyes they had. Were you one of them?
      I’m now writing my life story from when I was a kid in Jacobs and there are one or two lines about Mrs Edwards and her sister Rose.
      If you would like to know more and would like to contact me and Dennis i’d be quite happy to help. I’m here in Southampton UK.

    • Allan Jackson

      Hi Ken, thanks for this. I have sent Rod your email and I’m sure he’ll be in touch.

    • Ken Rigney

      Hi Allan, Rod has been in touch by email and we’ve also had a long chat by phone. There’ll probably be a lot more to talk about.
      Thank you for enabling it to happen.

  7. Rod
    | Reply

    Hello Gerald – thanks so much for the reply. That’s fantastic. Yes I am sure all of the Murray’s will have been related. If I were to look on google earth do you think that the street numbers would be simply translated to the new street name of Voortrekker?
    I’d love to take a drive there if the house still existed.

    I wonder if you know if, along with your directory there might be old street maps showing the old street names? If yes, how might I obtain one.

    Sorry to hijack the post for my benefit, and I hope that Ken can remember the family as well and comment on them too.

    • derek austin

      STARTING 19510000 ENDING 19510000.
      Regards Derek

    • Rod

      Hello Derek – Sadly those names are not a part of my family. (well – so far as I can trace back into the 1800’s in SA) thanks anyway for taking the time to have a look.

  8. Gerald Buttigieg
    | Reply

    Hi Rod,
    You must remember that Jacobs was still considered one of Durban’s districts in those days although some outlying areas were incorporated round about 1932. There are are small street maps in the directory but none for Jacobs. Voortrekker Street still exists in Jacobs but that area is industrialised now. Unless you go to the Reference Library and do some research you will not come across any old Durban Directories to get at the info you need. From the earliest days most of Durban’s street names remained as is until the recent wholesale change.

  9. Rod
    | Reply

    Hello Gerald, thanks again – I appreciate your in-depth knowledge. Actually I’ve never been to South Africa, my family having left there in 1960. But I intend one day to visit the old family stomping grounds and this would have been one of them. Clearly if the area has undergone a facelift then it would not bear any resemblance to the older days.
    I take your note about the reference library, and if I get to Durban, I will plan to spend some time there.
    I may start a separate thread about Rosie Dry.

  10. Peter Samuel Aston
    | Reply

    Hi Hello Ken
    Gee while reading the Comments i got very Interested i have Great memories of when i lived in
    27 Voortrekker st My Parents lived in number 27 from around 1937 up until around 1958 We were about two houses away from the Corner of Brighton st meeting with Voortrekker st
    I was Born in 1952 the house we lived in was Basicly opposite G C Shaves paint Factory Ill never forget the time we had to Evacuate the house and go stand two roads up Because the paint factory was on Fire
    Lucky my Parents were home Mom And Dad were Commercial Fisherman they Caught fish out deep sea using Hand Line
    Then once the filled the Hatch they would then come back into the Habour and all there fish was Weighed then put into Irvin and Johnson walk in Freezers
    I played a lot of Soccer with The Indian Sons of the Jhazbah family They owned the corner Tea Room The one son become a Doctor and has has Surgery in Chamberlain rd Jacobs
    Remember Voortrekker St has a lot of houses back then I would love to see Photos of The Houses
    I have a Side Photo of one Where my Late Dad is Posing With His Fishing rod and Two Daga Salmon hanging on the side of the House
    back in those years Fish were plentiful When i asked my Late Dad [[born 1915 + 1978 ]] Who had taken the photo
    he replied the People next door had asked him if he could give them some fish and these were the fish they got Yes the Jacobs area has changed unlike the 1930 s 1960 s Even Clairwood had Many houses i used to go to a Barber shop in Clairwood as a Child
    lovely Memories

  11. Peter Samuel Aston
    | Reply

    Hi All
    has there been any more Updates on Voortrekker St

  12. Gerald Buttigieg
    | Reply

    Hi Peter
    Not that I know of. Do a SEARCH as it may come up in another post.

  13. Joyce Johnson
    | Reply

    I happened by chance on this interesting thread of comments n Jacobs. I was born in 1944 the first grandchild of Natalie & Henri Gregoire. My grand father worked at Ropes & Mattings and they lived in a house not far from the factory. As a little girl I went to visit and stay with my grandparents often. Remember the house like yesterday, the big garden and fruit trees and, the outhouse! Happy times, happy memories with and of my Grandparents in Jacob.

    • Tabitha Penman

      Hi Joyce I’m your cousin from Australia through natalia… can you find me on fb or messenger

  14. Peter Samuel Aston
    | Reply

    Hi Hello

    Joyce yes u so right houses in Voortrekker st back in those years had lovely gardens and plenty fruit trees

  15. Koot Barnard
    | Reply

    Hi , what about the industries in Jacobs i.e the Defy Factory.?
    Do you perhaps have any infirmation about the – photos perhaps?

  16. Paulo
    | Reply

    Hi all.
    Regarding 26 Chamberlain rd, my parents owned the tearoom since the mid 70s and sold up in 95.
    It wad called Angola Take Away, as the previous owner (also portuguese) had some kind of connection to Angola.
    The area was very heavily industrialised by that time but I do recall there was an indian family living in a wood and iron house with a chicken run on Hidcote Lane, about 100metres off Chamberlain amongst all the factories. Also nearby on the corner of Hidcote and Bluff rd was a small Trek petrol station. These have been replaced by factories/warehouses.
    Chamberlain road had a train line running in the centre of it and branching off directly into the big factories.

    • Peter Aston

      Lot s of things Changed over the years We stayed in Leicester Rd between
      1963 and about 1964
      Going south the second block of flats we lived there i used to walk to Ramblers Football club for Soccer training during those years Times i would walk Leicester Rd then Times i went upwards Via Nagel Square
      The factories were just starting to Develop back then
      Would love to see Photos of the Houses in Voortrekker st
      We lived there from 1952 to 1957
      My Dad lived in Voortrekker st from 1937

  17. Jenny Donaldson
    | Reply

    Hi Barnard Koot. My dad worked at Defy in Jacobs from about 1938 onwards for more than 40 years. After his retirement he was asked to set up the museum displaying the old Defy appliances. His name was Phillip Wright. Can recall those Jacobs factories clearly as we fetched my dad every evening. Mom always raced to avoid getting caught by the booms coming down for the trains to shunt up and down.

  18. Joyce Johnson
    | Reply

    Can’t remember where Defy was because I was a little girl. But I remember holding my Granny’s hand and walking through Ropes & Mattings to catch the train.

  19. Koot Barnard
    | Reply

    Hi Jenny ,
    Thank you very much for your message . Could you kindly share some photos if you have any. Also any news about your Father and what he did at Defy . It is such s pity that I did not have contact with you earlier . The Thirties were the period that the least amount of detail were available. I have just finished a book on the history of the company . Any additional information that you have could always be added in later additions.

    Warm Regards Koot

  20. Gerald Buttigieg
    | Reply

    Hi Joyce
    Strangely the directories do not give a physical address of the factory just a PO Box number in Jacobs. The company was actually called Durban Falkirk Iron and where the name DEFY is derived from. Ropes and Matting was another large Jacobs based firm. I used to do maintenance on their PABX telephone system. I was shown around once and recall a huge plaiting machine which made up the large ropes for shipping uses.
    Ropes and Matting business emblem was a Ram’s head derived from Ropes And Matting. I am not sure if the company still exists today.

    • joyce

      Hello Gerald,
      I doubt it exists now. I was the first grandchild so spent many a time at the home of my grandparents
      there which must’ve been on the premises (outhouse and all) and not too far from the factory. This
      must have been ’44 – ’50 maybe. I was born ’44 so I was only a little girl but those memories there
      are vivid. I remember the noise when walking on road through the factory when going with my grandmother to catch the train or wherever. I held her hand tight! Didn’t know the emblem was a Rams head, interesting.
      I can’t remember how many years my grandfather worked there. I just know that he must have retired from there and then they moved to a flat Palm Bay on Russell St.(?) near Albert Park. By then I was older and boarding at Oakford Priory.

    • Gerald Buttigieg

      Hi Joyce
      I assume it is Joyce Johnson. Checked 1965 Durban Directory : H.M. Johnson 18 Palm Bay 46 St Georges St Durban . Ring a bell?

  21. Jenny Donaldson
    | Reply

    Defy address was 135 Teakwood Road Jacobs.

    Koot, I made a typo with the date my dad was employed at DEFY it was from 1949 to 1992. I have contacted my sisters and we are getting together what info we have which I will forward to you. Regards Jenny

  22. joyce
    | Reply

    Hello Gerald, Trying again I don’t think my previous reply went through.
    My married name now is JOHNSON, my maiden name is DUPONT.
    My grandparents who lived in Jacobs were maternal and their names were:
    Henri & Natalie Gregoire.

  23. Gerald Buttigieg
    | Reply

    Hi Joyce
    Sorry about the mix up. I did look up Gregoire in the 4 Durban Directories I have and there is mention of a Gregoire in all of them. Here they are:
    1938 Mrs Z Gregoire 56 Drake Road (which runs off Bartle Road in Umbilo.)
    1957 A. H. Gregoire 95 Palm Bay 46 St. George’s Street.
    1957 Miss O. Gregoire 255 Sarnia Road Rossburgh
    1965 Miss O. Gregoire 255 Sarnia Rd Rossburgh
    1968 H Gregoire 5 Natal Settlers Memorial Home. Umbilo
    Hope this is of interest.

  24. Joyce Johnson
    | Reply

    There they are! 1957 at 95 Palm Bay and then in 68 they went to a cottage at Natal Settlers.
    Miss O Gregoire was Olga, my Grandfather’s sister who lived in Rossburgh. Also remember
    visiting her there as a little girl. We don’t forget those special people in our lives no matter
    how young we were, however, those dates so easily become fuzzy.
    Thank you Gerald.

  25. Cara Muir
    | Reply

    Hi there
    I am very interested in finding out as much as possible about the Ropes and Matting company. Does anyone have any information about a C. F. Smith and his family? I believe he was the Electrical Engineer there from the mid 1930’s onwards.
    Also, I see that a number of children are mentioned in these various posts. Where did they go to school?
    Cara Muir

  26. Ted Kellaway
    | Reply

    Hullo to all of you, My name is Edward Kellaway and I was born in Durban in 1927!
    My Father was the Works Manager of the Shell Company and we lived on the Bluff above Fynnlands Beach, where the oil sites were, and the tankers moored. Salisbury Island could be waded to at low tide and there was a large flock of Flamingoes nested on it. The whaling station at the end of the Bluff was active and i was often taken there to see the whales pulled up the causeway and butchered.
    If this is of interest, please contact me, for I can tell you a lot more about the Bluff of that period!

    | Reply

    Hi All,
    Ted Kellaway, I must confess that I have not read every comment yet as I have just found this site. I was born on the Bluff in Hove Avenue – then called Wentworth. My grandfather bought land in 2 areas of the Bluff – one site near the Army Hospital and the other in Atholl Crescent (now called Gatwick Close). His name was Harold/Mick poulton. My grandmother used to take me with her to visit Miss Jacob. Her father had owned the land all round that area. She was in her 80’s when I was small. |No doubt your knowledge would be wonderful to share and to hear the stories that I am sure would tie up with my memories and tales told to me. I too am looking for old photos of the area in the 1940-1960 era for a book I have written. I am specifically looking for old photos of Opwaarts SAR houses of that time.

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