The Macks of Isipingo: A personal journey of discovery.

The History of the Macks of Isipingo is rather interesting and goes back to the time when Durban was just beginning to prosper round about 1850 when the Byrne Settlers started arriving.

To curtail repetitive entries I am abbreviating Gazley to G, Gazley is the maiden surname of Robert G Mack’s mother, Hannah Gazley and carried as the middle name of most of the boys in the Mack Family. Click on pictures to enlarge!

BES Byrne Emigration Scheme. It would be beneficial to first read the article on the BES scheme I wrote on Facts about Durban to give you an idea of what it was all about. Here is the link:

Commemorating the Arrival of the Byrne Settlers 1849.

When I started researching the Mack history I had come to realise that very little if any of the Mack history was preserved or recorded so I set out at least to document something. I am going to relate what I did unearth and I will come into the picture at the appropriate time. So here goes.

My late mother in law was Vera Black (born Mack), the youngest of 7 children born to Robert Henry (known as Harry) Mack and Charlotte Humphrey. Harry’s father was James G Mack who married Sarah Gordge, and they had 5 children, Harry being the youngest. James’s father was Robert G Mack who married Lucy Sophia Laxen and they had 6 children of which James was the fourth child. I will name all the offspring as some are the topic of this story; William G (b1825 d1912), Louisa (b1827 d1897), Mary (b1828 d?), James G (b1831 d1908), John G (b1834 d1874), Harriett Maria (b1837 d1917)

Robert G Mack (b1791 d1869) and his son, James G (b1831 d1908) emigrated to Natal as part of the BES. They arrived off the Bluff on the Henrietta on the evening of the 4th July 1850 leaving behind in England the rest of their family. On the 3rd July, another BES ship, the Minerva had dropped anchor off the Bluff. On board the ship amongst others were the Watson family. Already waiting in the roadstead, in the process of being unloaded was the Conquering Hero which had arrived on 28th June 1850.

So three sailing ships were lying off the Bluff. Round about midnight a storm arose, the Minerva lost its anchor and was driven onto the rocks on the seaward side of the Bluff where she was wrecked. The crew and passengers of the Henrietta and Conquering Hero gave assistance and all lives were saved bar one crewman. The Minerva passengers lost everything.

In terms of the BES, Robert G and his son were allocated a plot in the non-existent “village” of Byrne and land in the adjacent valley. Likewise the Watsons were allocated a plot and land in the same area today known as the Byrne Valley. Robert G abandoned his allocation in Byrne and he and James returned to Durban to start their new lives there. The Watsons however took up their allocation in the Byrne Valley and settled on the farmland allocated. They called the farm, Newborough Grange.

Dick King as reward for his historic ride to Grahamstown in 1842 was awarded Isipingo, a farm of approx. 6000 acres. He settled, built a house and farmed there. Isipingo had originally been the farm of Henry Francis Fynn, one of Durban’s 1824 founders but never utilised. Fynn left Natal in 1834 to take up a post in the Cape Colony. He abandoned Isipingo and eventually lost his right to it. Robert G had by then become interested in the new crop that was being bandied about namely sugar. He approached Dick King and bought a large strip of land off him. Robert G and James G then joined the group of farmers who started pioneering the sugar industry in Natal.

In October 1854, Robert G Mack’s wife Lucy and daughter Harriet arrived from England on board the ship Rydal. They left behind two married children, William and his wife Mary, and Louisa and her husband William Dennill. Also left behind was son John G and Mary a daughter, both of whom opted to remain in England.

In July 1858, William and Mary with 3 children and Louisa and William with 3 children arrived in Durban aboard the Phantom to join the Macks settled at Isipingo. John must have changed his mind and decided to come to Natal with them as well but Mary again opted to remain in England . What happened to her remains unknown. She never came out to Natal.

On the 25th June 1863, Harriett Mack marries William Watson; son of the Watson’s involved in the 1850 wreck of the Minerva. They are married at the St James Church Isipingo and make Newborough Grange their home. Reverend Walter Baugh conducted the service. I would say the Macks and the Watsons met over the Minerva’s misfortune.

In 1867 William G (the eldest son) and his wife Mary are expecting their 8th child. On the 18th July 1867, Mary goes into labour and as a result of complications, dies in giving birth to a son, Thomas. Mary aged 43 is buried in the Mack family grave at Isipingo. Thomas survives as on the 11th of August he is baptised. William is now a widower with three young children on his hands. The baby, Thomas, a three year old daughter, Mary Ann (b1864) and another four year old daughter, Lucy (b 1863).

Meanwhile William and Harriet Watson’s marriage proves childless. To fill the void in their lives, William G allows Harriet and William to “adopt” his daughter, Mary Ann and she is taken to Newborough Grange where she will grow up with her aunt and uncle.

To modern times. On the 28th July 1968, Robert Henry (Harry) Mack passed away in a Durban nursing home. I appear on the scene shortly thereafter and begin to court the Black’s daughter. In December 1968, I partake in the Black annual family ritual of visiting the Mack family graves at Isipingo. I have my camera with me and I photograph some of the old Mack graves. Because the inscriptions are so worn I write down the wording so that I can relate to the photos when they get developed. One is rather interesting. It states “In loving memory of William Gazley Mack who died at Byrne 1912 in his 87th year.” In 1968 I had no idea where Byrne was, so it meant nothing to me except, logically, he did not die in Isipingo.

In 1971, now newly married, my in laws are on holiday at the Oaks Hotel and invite us to join them for Sunday lunch. We drive there and I meet Doris Bennett who runs the Oaks and she relates to me some of the history of the Byrne Settlers and the Valley. So this was the Byrne Valley and click, I remember the tombstone inscription “who died at Byrne”. I still did not know what the connection was.

In the 1970s/80s, my family had become regular holiday visitors to the Oaks Hotel now being run by Mike and Rosemary Butt ex Hebron Haven. My interest though had now been kindled and I started trying to get information out of my mother in law. There was very little of the back ground history she could add bar that she was told Robert G had attended Dick King’s wedding, the Mack farm having been purchased off King, and that Harry, her father had died in a Durban nursing home just after celebrating his 100th birthday. When Harry died he left one portrait of two mystery men standing together but nothing indicating who they were. Even Vera did not know. There was very little to build on.

Move forward to 1987 and I go to Killie Campbell to get more information about the Macks. I was brought the original St James’s Church Isipingo Baptism / Wedding / Burial Register 1856 – 1868, to look at. It was so frail that I was not allowed to copy it but given permission to page through it. I wrote down all the entries relating to the Macks. It dated back to when the church was opened in 1856. Entries included amongst many others, Harriett’s marriage to William Watson in 1863, the death and burial of Mary Mack 19th July 1867 and the birth of Thomas born 18th July 1867 and his baptism on 11th August 1867. This proved Mary’s death in childbirth and that Thomas survived.

So what was the story of Mary Ann and her father’s gravestone inscription “Died at Byrne 1912”? William G Mack was 87 when he died. He had gone to Newborough Grange ostensibly to visit his sister Harriett and her husband William Watson now advanced in years, as well as to see his daughter Mary Ann now 48 years old. The cause of his death is unknown but it may have been sudden. The Mack family and his daughter must have felt it proper for him to be buried alongside his wife Mary who had died in childbirth 45 years earlier. So his body was transported from Byrne down to Isipingo, no mean feat for those days, and he was laid to rest alongside his beloved Mary.

Harriet, Mary Ann’s adopted mother died at Newborough Grange in 1917, two years after her husband, William Watson. In Harriett’s will she bequeathed £1000 to be used to build a new Anglican Church at Byrne, named St Mary Magdalene. Mary Ann now married as Mary Ann Dennill laid the foundation stone of the new church in 1923. Mary Ann actually married her cousin Robert, son of Louisa and William Dennill. They had no children.

The original church initially a wattle and daub building later corrugated iron, was never consecrated as it was used as a school as well and was not a proper structure. Church rules apparently did not allow a consecrated church to be used for any other purpose. Had it been consecrated it would have been the oldest Anglican Church in Natal but that honour fell to St Mary’s in Richmond KZN dating to 1853. Both churches are still in operation.

There were certain “discoveries” uncovered in researching the Macks. One was that Harry Mack was not 100 when he died but 99. He was born on 9th July 1869 and died on 28th July 1968. Vera grew up knowing her two aunts and an uncle, sisters and brother to Harry. I found another uncle, the first born of James G and Sarah Gordge. He was born in 1860 and died in 1902. He died 13 years before Vera was born and Vera was never told about him. It took a lot of convincing to relate this to her. In those times apparently such matters were never discussed with children.

This interest in the Mack family really started something as I started getting leads and queries from all over regarding the Macks. There were twists and turns along the way, which could be the subject matter for another post. I hope you enjoyed this chapter which will need another to tie up some of the loose ends. Here are some accompanying photos.

St Mary Magdalene Church at Byrne built 1922 from the bequest given by Harriett Maria (Mack) Watson following her death in 1917.

The foundation stone of St Mary Magdalene’s laid by Mary Ann (Mack) Dennill

who was the “adopted” daughter of William and Harriett Watson.

Robert Gazley Mack’s Headstone, Isipingo Graveyard.
Sacred to the Memory of Robert Gazley Mack Sugar Planter
who died at Isipingo 20th June 1860 aged 69 years.
“His end was peace.”

Three Mack Headstones at Isipingo Graveyard.
Left: “Albert H. Dennill died 1871 Aged 1 year and 10 moths.
Infant son of William and Louisa Sophia Dennill.”
Centre: “In Loving memory of William Gazley Mack who died at Byrne 1912 in his 87th year.”
Right: “In affectionate remembrance Mary beloved wife of William G Mack”.

Harriet Maria (nee Mack) Watson Headstone Byrne Graveyard.
“In Loving memory of Harriet Maria Watson. Died 27th April 1917.
Aged 80 years.

For our dear Saviour’s sake
our sins are all forgiven
and Christians only fall asleep
To wake again in Heaven.”

Mary Ann (nee Mack) Dennill Headstone Byrne Graveyard.
“In loving memory of Mary Ann Dennill
born 6th July 1864 died 12th February 1939.

“The toils of the day are ended.”

The graves of Robert Henry and Charlotte Emma Mack at St James’s Graveyard Isipingo.

Watson’s Headstone Byrne Graveyard.
These were the parents of William Watson who arrived in Natal on the ill-fated  Minerva.

William Watson’s Headstone Byrne Graveyard.
William Watson husband of Harriet (nee Mack) Watson.

Robert Henry (Harry) Mack’s Birth Certificate.

I would like to reveal where I got some of my info re the Macks. Apart from the invaluable information I got from the Killie Campbell Library visit in 1987, I was told about a Government Office in De Mazenod Road Greyville that dealt with records pertaining to wills that had passed through the Master of the Supreme Court. I visited the place and was asked what I was doing and what I wanted. They put Mack into the computer record and I was given a long print out of any record they had pertaining to any Macks. Though not comprehensive info it did give the name of the person, date of birth in some cases and date of death and surviving spouse and sometimes children. It did give me a lot of leads. My job was to put these Macks in the correct family tree. So this helped as well. I never went back to that office so have no idea if it is still operating there. I also visited the Archives in Pietermaritzburg which also was helpful. A big break came in early 2000 and the story is quite amazing. A lady from England is out here and visiting the Byrne Valley, staying at the Oaks. Her interest is in the Macks of Newborough Grange as her mother was a Mack. At that time my wife and I had just moved permanently to Byrne. Byrne was not new to us as I had purchased a plot in the Village in 1988 and had started building a retirement cottage. In the Village were two residents, Juliette and Pat who fully supported the Richmond Museum to the extent that on Sundays they would volunteer their time to be on duty at the Museum, two Sundays a month, so that the public could visit it. This particular Sunday, the lady from England decided that her last stop before returning to Durban and back to the UK was to call in at the Museum and have a look around. Luckily the museum was open that Sunday and at the end of her visit she spoke to Pat and handed her an envelope on which she had written her name, email address and added “Interested in any information regarding the Mack family”. Now Pat is indirectly related to my wife and knowing of my interest in the Village of Byrne, hands the envelope to me. I responded which resulted in a flurry of emails, to and fro, exchanging information. It worked out she and my wife were cousins seven times removed! To top this, the lady being in England could access the Official Records Office in London and so valuable information came my way. We found out that Robert G and his son came from Knapton, Norfolk and that his father was John Mack and his mother, Hannah Gazley. We kept in touch over the years and when she again visited SA, made a special trip to meet up with us in Byrne and we reciprocated seeing her and her husband in England. Somehow my name got around and I would get phone calls from unknown people asking about the Mack’s family tree. One I do recall was a South African lady that had emigrated to Australia. Also related to the Macks she contacted me via email and then sent her mother, still resident in Durban to visit me to show her around the Richmond Museum and Byrne Valley. From the outset, my intention was not to concentrate on growing the family tree ad infinitum but rather to record some of the early history that had been neglected and would be lost for ever. I think I achieved more than I envisaged.

So what happened to the Mack Farm? Harry Mack continued planting and harvesting his sugar crop well into his 90s. He lived with his daughter Vera then on the Bluff and would travel to the farm and back every day during planting and cutting seasons. Not bad for a 90 year old; catch a bus on Marine Drive going into town. Get off at Jacobs Station and wait for the Isipingo Rail train. At the Isipingo Station get off and walk to the farm. Back home the same way. He was the last farmer still planting and cutting cane at Isipingo. In 1961 everything changed. The Group Areas Act declared that Isipingo was to be solely for Indian occupation. The farm would have to be sold. Complications set in because in the will of James G Mack the farm had to be passed down to successive generations who could make use and reap the benefits thereof but were not allowed to sell it. This meant the will had to be broken, a complicated legal exercise. The farm was then surveyed, cut up into various plots, infrastructure put in roads etc. and then auctioned off. A very old Durban legal firm, Russell and Marriott which the Macks had used since its inception covered the legal side. Harry never lived to see the finality of the breakup of the farm.

When we last visited the graveyard in 1995, the old St James Church built in 1872 no longer existed. The original St James’s Church, built in 1856 was destroyed by fire. Here is a list of the first benefactors that donated towards building the first St James’s Church.

It was replaced by the second St James’s Church which was opened in 1872 and demolished in 1964. All that remained was the graveyard which was being neglected but as yet still intact. Newspaper cutting 1964 announcing the demolition of the second St Jame’s Church.

The Isipingo cemetery in 1995 showing the Mack Graves. The Cemetery was still intact then but badly overgrown.

Dick King’s grave and monument at Isipingo. 1968 Photo.

Then the rot set in and the area became a haven for vagrants. All the cast iron railings around graves disappeared and graves were desecrated. In later years I came across photos showing the destruction. Graves had been dug up probably with the intention of finding valuables with the bodies.

The gravestone of James Gazley Mack at St James’s Graveyard Isipingo.

The desecrated grave of James Gazley Mack. On the right is the headstone of his wife Sarah Ann (Gordge) Mack.

Today from what I see in photos, the old Isipingo Graveyard is now fenced off. It would seem that Dick King’s tomb and monument were left in situ and the rest of the graves cordoned off behind it. The salvageable gravestones appear to have been moved from the original graveyard and put in the cordoned off area which I suppose is part of the old graveyard. Many gravestones had been smashed and probably stolen to be recycled but the original layout seems to have been lost forever. It is very sad to see that James G Mack’s grave had been vandalised to the extent that it was dug up as well. Very fortunately I received a list drawn up in 1999 of the names of all the people who were buried in the Isipingo graveyard. A valuable record. For those interested there is a movement afoot to photograph all the cemeteries in South Africa. To access the site google eGGSA. Look for Gravestones in South Africa –eGGSA Library and click on it. You will get maps of SA divided into sections. Select the province and scroll through the pages and select the area you want to access. Another interesting site is Hugh Bland’s monumental photographic record. He has travelled around Natal taking numerous photographs. Google kznpr and look around. You will see in his photos some of the wanton destruction that has taken place in some cemeteries. By the way, some years ago I looked into the difference between a graveyard and a cemetery. A graveyard is a burial place within the grounds of a church. A cemetery is an open lot of ground for burial purposes.

The two mystery men photograph.

The only photograph found amongst the papers of Robert Henry (Harry) Mack after his death.

As I mentioned the only photograph that Harry Mack had is the one I show above. It would seem that no one in the family ever ventured to ask Harry who is shown in the photo and the mystery remained. When Vera died, the few Harry Mack papers were passed on to us and this photo came in to our possession. Looking at the photo, we knew it had to be two Macks as there was a resemblance in the facial features. So it remained an unsolved mystery till 2014 when my wife and I happened to go to the Open Day they had at Baynesfield Farm, the home of another Natal Pioneer, Joseph Baynes. At Baynesfield in what was the Dairy Building, a room was devoted to Joseph Baynes, displaying the numerous awards he had received, trophies won, medals, his desk etc. Around the walls are appropriate pictures. I was looking at the pictures and you would not believe, but there was a large picture made up of thumbnail pictures of numerous old men. These were colonists who were still alive in 1900 to celebrate 50 years residence in Natal. Below the pictures, all the photos were named and there at A16 (top right hand corner) was J G Mack. James Gazley Mack had arrived in 1850 as a young man with this father Robert G Mack. Unmistakably the face was identical to Harry’s photo we had, so who was the other person? Looking at the eyes it had to be a Mack son and there were only two other sons of Robert G namely William G (b 1825 d 1912), older than James G and John G (b 1834 d 1874) younger than James. John died at age 40 and the man in the picture was older than that which left it at William G. We have no empirical proof but logically Harry’s photo showed his father and with him his eldest brother, William. This was Harry’s uncle that allowed his young daughter, Mary Anne to be “adopted” by his youngest sister Harriett and who died in Byrne in 1912.

Marriage Certificate of James Gazley Mack of Isipingo and Sarah Ann Gordge of Congella.

Gordge Road in Umbilo is named after the family who lived in that area.

The clue found at Baynesfield Estate showing James Gazley Mack in the top right hand corner.

The accompanying reference on the photograph.

Finally I must acknowledge the use of Hugh Bland’s photos which are marked kznpr.

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36 Responses

  1. Frank Beeton
    | Reply

    Hello, Gerald. I don’t know if I have previously mentioned it, but the Beeton family lived at Isipingo Beach from 1948 to 1958. I attended Isipingo Beach Government School from 1952 until mid-1958 when we relocated to the Bluff. I remember that there was a pupil named Michael Mack at the school, I think he was a year ahead of me. I seem to recall that he lived at Isipingo Rail, and there may have been a connection to a garage or service station at the time. Have you come into contact with him at all? Regards, Frank.

  2. Gerald Buttigieg
    | Reply

    Hi Frank
    Graham (Billie) and Michael Mack were brothers and cousins of my wife. Graham has passed away but Michael is still alive. They were the sons of Arthur and Mary McCallum (Sissie) Mack. Arthur was my mother in law’s elder brother. Michael’s wife Nest responded to my Mack story and she and Michael live in Toti. Look for her name Nest Mack Lloyd on Durban Down Memory Lane to make contact as I have no contact details.

    • Debbie

      Billy was my dad passed away almost 3 years now . My uncle mike and Aunty nest still live in Toti

    • Gerald Buttigieg

      Hi Debbie
      These are your Mack family. Is your Mom, Denise till alive?

  3. Frank Beeton
    | Reply

    Many thanks, Gerald. I will pass that on to the “Old PingoItes” group in case someone wants to make contact. Kind Regards.

    • Douglas Cox

      I would love to be added to the ‘Old Pingoites’ group if that is possible.

  4. derek austin
    | Reply

    Hi Gerald I worked with Robert Bobby Mack at Umlazi Technical College from 1985. Bobby lived in Toti and must be related some how to the Mack family.

  5. Douglas Cox
    | Reply

    I was devastated to see the desecration of the graves as the driveway to our house ran adjacent to the cemetery. My father worked for Tongaat Sugar and we moved to Isipingo in 1945 or ’46 when I was 2 or 3 years old. We lived there until 1952. In around 1950 I think it was troops moved into the area – they bivouaced in the cemetery for a short while and when they left my father walked down to see if any damage had been done and was pleasantly surprised to see that in actual fact they’d left it in a better/cleaner state than before. I can recall the remnants of the old sugar mill adjacent to the old main road. Ronald Platt and I one day climbed up to the top of the chimney stack using the internal rungs and when my father found out had it demolished. I attended the local government school in 1950 – 1952 thereafter moving to Cowan House in Pietermaritzburg.

  6. Frank Beeton
    | Reply

    Hello Douglas, “Old PingoItes” is a Facebook Group and you can apply to join on the page – the administrator is Lynn McMaster. As an ex Isipingo resident there should not be any obstacle to your joining. Grave desecration is a huge problem in most cemeteries, even big ones like Stellawood.

  7. Gerald Buttigieg
    | Reply

    Hi Frank
    Thanks for informing Douglas as I am not familiar with “old Pingoites”. Yes unfortunately grave desecration is nationwide hence the drive to photograph what is remaining whilst it is still there. The group photographing cemeteries is associated with the site, eggSA. Google this and navigate your way to the various cemeteries in the various provinces.

    • Bronwyn Mack

      Thanks for the info very interesting read

  8. Gops Chetty
    | Reply


  9. Bea
    | Reply

    This is fascinating, thank you. Robert G. Mack is my 4th great grandfather via his daughter Mary Ann (b. 12 Feb 1829).

    You mentioned that you didn’t know what happened to Mary Ann back in England – Mary Ann married George Ward in 1856 in Leeds, Yorkshire and had several children. She died in March 1923 according to the notes in my great grandmother’s birthday book.

  10. Gerald Buttigieg
    | Reply

    Hi Bea
    Thanks for the info re Mary. I had heard that her married name was Ward but nothing else. That fills in a bit on the family tree. Could you expand the tree for Mary and George so that I could enter it on the family tree I have compiled. I did not know her second name was Ann. That goes with William Gazely Mack first child of Robert Gazely and Lucy Laxen naming their seventh child Mary Ann which I mention in my notes.

  11. Gareth Chisholm
    | Reply

    Hello Gerald,
    Thank you so much for this very informative document, which must have taken ages to complete. Robert Gazley Mack is my 3rd Great Grandfather from his daughter Louisa Sophia Mack and her marriage to William Dennill. Their son, Christopher Watson Dennill is my Great Grandfather.

    Is it in order for me to make a copy of this record, despite all the ads that appear through it?
    Kind regards.

  12. Gerald Buttigieg
    | Reply

    Hi Gareth
    Very interesting. I have a record that Louis and William Dennill had 10 children. No 6 was Christopher born 1860 died 1893. Louisa ,William and Christopher buried at Isipingo. I have quite a bit of the Mack’s family tree. You may copy my script on condition you acknowledge me as the author and that it was sourced from the Facts about Durban site.

  13. Gareth Chisholm
    | Reply

    Hi Gerald,
    Thank you, that’s interesting. My record is of 9 children but I did not have a birth date for Christopher Watson and in fact , have Louisa Selina as being born in 1860. Perhaps we could compare notes some time. I live in the UK now but on my next visit back to SA I would like to visit the Isipingo burial site as well as Byrne village. I have a vague recollection of my Grand Mother talking of visiting relatives in Byrne village which I would imagine would have been around the 1930s or 40s, before I was born.

  14. Gerald Buttigieg
    | Reply

    HI Gareth
    Good to compare notes. This is what I have: Children of William b 1826 d 1904 and Louisa Mack Dennill b 1827 d 1897.
    Robert b 1849 d 1921 Thomas b 1851 married Alice Hein 1878 d? Edwin b 1853 d 1917 unmarried buried at Byrne Harriet Sophie b 1855 d 1929 Alfred b 1857 d 1897 Unmarried Christopher B 1860 d 1893 buried at Isipingo Selina b 1865 married Arthur Orchard d 1945 Albert Henry b1869 d 1871 buried at Isipingo James b? d? Anne Maria b married Percy Tedder d?

    The Isipingo burial site (St James Graveyard) has more or less been totally destroyed. I have not been there but have seen photos. The Byrne Graveyard is intact.

    • Cathryn Kirkness

      Hi Gerald,
      Anne Maria Dennill was my great-grandmother. She was born in1872, and died in 1957. She is buried in the Eshowe Cemetery.

    • Candice

      Hi Gerald

      Thank you for this article

      Like Gareth, Robert Gazely Mack is my 3rd great grandfather, also through His daughter Louisa Mack and William Dennill. Their son Christopher Watson Dennill (1860-1926 – see citation to babptism 14 Feb 1960 bellow) married Henrietta Florence Brooks, and they had a son Edmund William Dennill (1891-1958) who married Minnie Mary Angelina Steel, and they had a daughter Mona Eileen Felicity Dennill (1917-1999) who was my grandmother (my mom’s mom).


      “South Africa, Church of the Province of South Africa, Parish Registers, 1801-2004,” database with images, FamilySearch ( : 18 October 2022), South Africa > Natal > Natal, Durban and Isipingo, St James > Baptisms 1856-1890, marriages 1853-1881, burials 1858-1879 > image 9 of 70; William Cullen Library, Wits University, Johannesburg.

  15. Gareth Chisholm
    | Reply

    Hi Gerald,
    Thank you for your notes. This is what I have;
    Robert – as per yours, died Newborough Grange, Byrne, Thomas b1851 d1933, Alberta Canada, Edwin b1853 d1916, Byrne, Harriet Sophie b1856 d 1916, my record says Richmond but I suspect it is Byrne, Alfred b 1858 d1898, unknown, Louisa Selina b 1860 d1945, also says Richmond, James William b 1867, d1947 Plymouth England, Anna Maria b 1873 d 1957, Natal. I have no birth or death date for Christopher Watson Dennill but when I enter your dates into my Family Tree I get a warning that he died more than 10 months before one of his children was born, so I need to investigate this further! By and large the two sets of dates are similar, a year or two out in places which is understandable. I will let you know if I make any further progress.

  16. Gareth Chisholm
    | Reply

    Hi Gerald,

    I am also trying to make progress with two “Maiden Aunts” my mother used to speak about who lived in Byrne. My mother used to take my grand mother to see them, which must have been in the 1940s or early 50s as I was born in 1950 and do not remember any visits to Byrne. One was referred to as Aunt Mary but I’m not sure of the other one. My mother told me a story of how Aunt Mary used to own a Rolls Royce and when she finished with it, it was turned upside down to become a chicken coup!!! What a waste!! The maiden aunts don’t appear to feature in either yours or my records so it will need more investigation!

    • Gerald Buttigieg

      Hi Gareth
      This should be of interest. One is a cutting announcing the death of Edwin Dennill in 1917. I am of the opinion he never married. Then another cutting reporting the death of Miss Harriet Sophie Dennill , Edwin’s sister in 1929. In Sophie’s cutting the Mrs M A Dennill is Mary Anne (Mack) Dennill. As a young child she was “adopted” by her aunt, Harriet Maria (Mack) Watson and William Watson. This followed the death of William Gazley Mack’s wife death in 1867, mother of Mary Ann. William and Louisa Mack (later Dennill mother of Harriet Sophie) were brother and sister. Mary Ann Mack came to live with her aunt at Newborough Grange in the Byrne Valley. Mary Ann later married her cousin Robert Dennill (first child of William and Louisa Dennill). They did not have children. I do not have a date when Mary Ann married Robert but I assume it was late in her life. She and Robert were childless. Therefore the two childless aunts could have been Mary Ann and Harriet Sophie. Mary Ann died in 1939 and Harriett Sophie in 1929. Mary Ann is buried at Byrne Harriet Sophie I have no record of where she is buried. Harriet Sophie Dennill

      Edwin Dennill

  17. Gareth Chisholm
    | Reply

    Hi Gerald,
    Thank you for the cuttings, They are indeed, very interesting. Thank you, too, for the information on the two maiden Aunts. I shall do more research over the next few weeks and if I make any progress, I shall let you know. I really appreciate all the effort you have gone to on my behalf.
    Kind regards.

  18. Roland Oliver Jones
    | Reply

    Hi Gerald, Congratulations on your research.
    I wonder if you may have any information on the Tedder’s and Ratcliff’s?
    My great grand mother was Mary Ann Tedder 1854-1924 who married my great grand father, Stephen Dungey Ratcliff 1848-1934. Mary Ann Tedder was a sister to Charles James Tedder 1851-1921
    I remember visiting the row of Ratcliff/ Tedder graves at St James Anglican Church cemetery in the19 eighties There were the Graves of Amy and Ethel Tedder as well as SD and Mary Ann Ratcliff.
    I went back last year and had to climb over the wall to get into the cemetery near the church, but could not locate the graves. Have you perhaps seen them ? How does one get the gate key to the cemetery?
    If you could email me, I will send you all my research on the Tedders and Ratcliff’s
    Kindest Regards,

    • Gerald Buttigieg

      HI Roland
      I have limited myself to the Macks and that has been more than enough. Regarding the St James Graveyard at Isipingo. I have not been there for years now but have been told that the desecrated portion behind the wall has now been abandoned. Looted graves have merely been covered over and that part of the graveyard bears no semblance to what you visited in the 1980s. A lot of the displaced headstones have merely been lined up against the boundary wall. I will email you a list of the graves at St James’s Graveyard which will be of interest. I do not know if you are aware of the eggSA website where many graveyards have been photographed including St James. There is a Teddy Tedder here in Richmond whose family goes back to Isipingo.

  19. Rob Dennill
    | Reply

    Hi Gerald,
    Thanks for sharing the newspaper clippings, not seen those before.

    I visited the beautiful Byrne Valley a few years ago, went to the church, as well as Newborough Grange. Thankfully, most of the graves remain in tact. Hopefully it remains that way!

    My dad & uncle managed to get a copy of family pictures of Dennill/Mack family. These were in possession of family member Annie Orchard, she ran Richmond museum.
    Pictures include:
    Robert Dennill, Mary Ann Mack, Edwin Dennill, Harriet Dennill, Alfred Dennill, Louisa Dennill, Christopher (my line) Dennill.
    I also have a picture of their dad, William Dennill (progenitor). This was found on a family members website, may have been the Mack side I can’t recall.

    Please feel free to email me if you are after more information or the pictures.
    Rob Dennill

    • Gareth Chisholm

      Hello Rob,
      I was reading another article by Gerald Buttigieg and saw your reply above. My maternal Grandmother was Eva Florence Aletha Dennill so we are related but I’m not sure which line you follow. Is it Christopher James Fred Dennill? I have done a fair bit of research on this line but I’m sure you could fill me in on some more of it. On the Mack side we come down from Robert Gazley Mack and then Louisa Sophia Mack who married my great great Grandfather, William Dennill. His son, Christopher Watson Dennill was my grandmother’s father, my great grandfather.I would be interested to hear of your line on our family tree, if you wish to respond to this. Also happy to share my tree with you, if interested. Regards, Gareth Chisholm.

    • Rob Dennill

      Hi Gareth,

      My line is through Eva’s brother Edmund William Dennill.
      I have also done a lot of research all way back to Leeds, UK! 😀

      Please let me know your email address, mine is rob [at]


    • Gerald Buttigieg

      Hi Rob If you would like to, please post what you have on the Mack / Dennill family as there is quite a lot of interest in this family.

    • Rob Dennill

      Hi Gerald,

      Hopefully I can find some free time to share info, am I allowed to create posts on this site?
      I sent (16/11/2021) you several photos (Dennill & Mack) that my father & uncle got from the Orchard museum.

      I was told by uncle that my great granduncle was the mayor of Durban. I have not found any information to prove this. His name was Theodore Osborn Warwick, would be grateful for any information / pictures if true.


    • Gerald Buttigieg

      Hi Rob Dennill
      You should be able to reply to a post or comment. As far as your Warwick relation being a Mayor of Durban I can find no reference to this. I looked up Warwick Ave thinking he was remembered in the naming of that street but the info says names after an old time family resident in the street.

    • Gareth Chisholm

      Hi Rob,
      Thanks for your reply. I seem to be unable to create a reply to your message below, so I have gone back to this one. My email address is Please make contact when you have a moment and we can compare notes on our ancestors.
      Regards, Gareth.

    • Rob Dennill

      Hi Gerald,
      Yeah, it’s very strange. I can’t find any information on him, only found his marriage certificate. I would be surprised if my uncle is incorrect, he is like a walking encyclopedia when it comes to information & dates. Maybe he only served a short term, guessing it would be around ~1940’s, he was born ~1900. Other family members held important roles, grandfather was a missionary in Durban and his uncle was captain of Warwick Scouts and gold mining commissioner in Rhodesia.

  20. Ruth Abboo
    | Reply

    Good day Gerald. I really enjoyed reading this piece especially the section about the Watson’s. My maternal grandmother was Mavis Hariet Watson. As a young girl I was told that I was related to the Watson’s of Byrne Valley Natal. I’m struggling to trace the family. Any information maybe?

  21. Gerald Buttigieg
    | Reply

    Hi Ruth
    The Watsons of Byrne were Byrne Settlers, the original settler family was William and his wife Sussanah children John, George, Mary, Hannah, William, Joseph and Thomas. They settled on the farm land they had been allocated and called the farm Newborough Grange which lies at the head of the Byrne Valley. The whole family arrived on the ill fated Minerva in 1850. William Watson married Harriet Maria Mack of Isipingo and settled on Newborough Grange, William purchasing the farm from his father. They remained in the valley all their lives but unfortunately were childless. They adopted Harriet’s brother’s child Mary Ann Mack as a baby and she grew up with them. William, Harriet and Mary Ann are all buried at the Mary Magdalene Churchyard in Byrne.
    You do not state where you are but a good book to get hold of is Natal Settler-Agent The career of John Moreland by the late Dr John Clark. Another good book is Beaulieu on Illovo Richmond Natal. Its people and history by Charmain Coulson. Both out of print now but they do surface. I have photographed the graveyard at Byrne and you can find it if you Google eggSA and follow the instructions.

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