Eagle Building mural?

posted in: InfoRequests 8

Architect's drawing of Murchie's Passage

Regular contributor Arthur Gammage has a question about an elusive mural which may have been in Eagle Building at one stage. He wrote:

Hello Allan
I have completed an article on the work of John Churchill Simpson, architect and artist, which I have submitted to the KZN Architecture Journal, possibly for publication next year.
According to artefacts.co.za, Simpson while working for Geoffrey le Sueur, completed a decorative mural in 1968 for the SA Eagle building, which also contains Murchie’s Passage. This is said to have been a turning point in his career, whereafter he devoted himself to drawing and painting, becoming known especially for his paintings for the Adams Bookshop calendars.
However this mural remains elusive, no evidence thereof in or on the building, where G. le Sueur and partners had offices on the 23rd floor by 1972. A building plan search also found no reference to the feature.
So once again I look to your readers for any leads.
Arthur Gammage

Please contact me at the address on the contact page if you can help.

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8 Responses

  1. Graham de Kock
    | Reply

    Arthur – Graham here. I remember the mural and was one of the works that I used to marvel at as a child – and probably motivated me to study Architecture. I also R.E.M. we John comin to the Second Year Architecture student’s studio and giving us a awe-inspiring demonstration of his drawing ability by sketching from memory, the City Hall dome. Of course we all wanted the sketches he produced that afternoon.

  2. Arthur Gammage
    | Reply

    Peter Adams thinks it was inside the Barclays Bank, which according to the sketch drawings was to have been to the right side of Murchies Passage.Can you confirm?

    Barclays withdrew from SA for political reasons; came back later as First National Bank. FNB now occupies the left hand side of the West Street frontage on ground and first floor.

    Then Barclays returned and now owns ABSA Bank. I also wondered if there was any connection between the Barclays’ eagle logo and SA Eagle Insurance.

    Thanks for the personal note about JCS visiting the students. I now have two prints, of the Dick King statue and of Theatre Lane in PMBurg..

  3. Jason
    | Reply

    Hi Arthur, John Churchill Simpson was my maternal grandfather’s brother and strangely enough Eagle Building is where my father worked for CG Smith Sugar for many years. I am too young to remember the mural you mention, but i do remember a very large painting of the Eston sugar mill? in the entrance to the 23rd floor offices painted by him. I have a number of his paintings from one of his earliest in 1938 of a castle in Europe to one of his last, of my mothers house in natal. There was always an architectural or maritime theme to his drawings and he was a very talented and lived a simple life.
    In search of the mural, i can only suggest you try contacting Illovo (previously CG Smith) to see if something is hanging in one of their board rooms wherever their offices are currently. Its a long shot but they had quite a few floors in the 80’s and 90’s.

  4. Arthur Gammage
    | Reply

    I know the Eston Mill, having driven past over several years en route to church camps at Livng Waters Camp on the Mid-Illovo Road. It is certainly pictureseque, especially when in use, with smoke and steam. I will try Illovo as suggested.

    Eston is about the only Natal mill not covered in Osborn’s “Valiant Harvest”; propbably too recent as sugar farming spread inland.

    Some 1980s advertising signs photos have confirmed that barclays bank was to the left of Murchies Passage, where FNB is now.

  5. Gerald Buttigieg
    | Reply

    Hi Arthur
    My understanding is that when the Illovo MIll closed down, what was worth moving was taken up to Eston and incorporated in the new mill. The relic crusher mill from Illovo (I think) stands at the entrance to the Eston Mill as a memorial. Osborn’s book, “Valiant Harvest” was published in 1964 long before the Eston Mill was initiated so would not have been included. I do not have a date when the Eston Mill came on stream.

  6. Arthur Gammage
    | Reply

    Illovo Sugar have the Eston Mill painting and have sent me a copy! I wll add this to my article.

    Peter Adams remembers the mural, at the back wall of Barclays as a collage type. It is not there now unless hidden behind panelling or painted over.

    You may contact me at gammage@mweb.co.za.

  7. Rory Simpson
    | Reply

    Hi, My Dad painted the Murchies Passage mural in Barclays Bank. I can recall sitting on the scaffolding & watch him paint it. It was painted directly onto the wall so probably has been painted over. He was featured in the Mercury Newspaper so there might be something in their archives. He designed Eagle Buildings & Geof Le Sueur & partners ( Later Stauch Vorster) was on the top floor. He did a lot of murals for Unicorn Shipping, Duva Mine, HMS Albion Aircraft Carier etc . We used to have holidays at Drakensberg Gardens Hotel while dad painted murals in the Buttery & Dining room . In fact most of our holidays -Zanzibar, Cape Town etc – were funded from his paintings – used to joke about how many paintings we had got though. Fond memories. If anybody is interested in his paintings I have a few sitting in storage.

    • Anthony Starkey

      Dear Rory
      sorry your father won the award in 1934/5.regards

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