Facts About Durban Diary - Page # 2

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3 July 2003

I see that Natal Mercury Idler Jon Penn was kind enough to mention Facts About Durban again in his column yesterday.

Click to view the column.

Last time I promised to track down some new facts about one of the many shipwrecks which have occurred on Durban beaches. I have made progress and have not only managed to get a picture of the ship aground but have got the contact details of an actual eyewitness to the event. Watch this space soon for more details.

In the meantime, however, there were a couple of stories included in Facts About Durban which I was unable to confirm by the time we went to press. Durbanite Mike Rochfort has been in touch to say that one of them, at least, is perfectly true in that sand from the Umgeni River was used in the construction of the foundations of the Empire State Building in New York. He writes that the appropriately-named Sandgate Castle was loaded with the sand in Durban as ballast and was to have dumped it at sea before arrival in New York.
The harbour authorities there apparently radioed the ship and asked it offload the sand at the quay from where the contractors took it for use in the building. Mike quotes the Perm Book of Test the Team (1994) as his source. Test the Team was one of the late and much lamented Springbok Radio's best quiz shows and, as I recall, one of the panel members was from Durban.


6 July 2003

One consequence of my having published Facts About Durban was that a very interesting old book has come my way courtesy of reader Ethel Rainbow. The book, Origin of Durban Street Names by John McIntyre, was published in 1956 and has plenty of good stuff in it.

Aliwal Street, for example, was named in the very early days of Durban in honour of Sir Harry Smith's victory in 1846 over a large force of Sikhs near the village of Aliwal in the Punjab, India. Sir Harry visited Durban in 1847 as Governor of the Cape Colony where he had arrived, as the book puts it, with the honours of Aliwal fresh upon him.

I'd be grateful if anyone reading this who knows what happened to John McIntyre would get in touch with me.


9 July 2003

Looking through Origin of Durban Street Names I was reminded about Captain John Rainnie who was port Captain of Durban in 1904 when the Armadale Castle became the first large ship to enter Durban Bay and tie up at the quay. Captain Rainnie had two links with my family in that he was friends with my great grandfather Samuel Popham Jackson in Grangemouth, Scotland, and having arrived in South Africa, lost his eldest daughter Nellie in marriage to my great uncle Edwie Miller from the other side of the family. Captain Rainnie was a Durban City Councillor between 1930 and 1944 and the road named after him is in Maydon Wharf off Methven Road.***

<<== Click image to enlarge.

Image: Rainnie_3.tif
Courtesy: J. Jackson

Captain Rainnie is the nattily dressed gent in the centre of the picture above. The picture was taken by my mum around 1936 during one of his frequent visits to her family's farm Collington in East Griqualand. The good Captain would apparently always arrive at the farm bearing a gift of great price; namely a box of Scottish Kippers which he obtained from his son who was the captain of a ship plying the route between Scotland and the east coast of Africa.

*** Methven Road, mentioned above, was named after Cathcart Methven who was harbour engineer in Durban from 1887 and is also credited with kick-starting Durban's municipal art gallery when he donated one of his paintings, Durban Bay from Clairmont, in the late 1890s.


11 July 2003

In Facts About Durban I mention the Bunny Chow which is possibly the only dish native to Durban. The piece I wrote on Bunnies proved to be too long to fit in the book and had to be cut but I have put the original version on a page of its own. Click here to view. I'm thinking that I should post a picture of a Bunny for the benefit of foreign readers and I promise to take a picture the very next time I have one for lunch.


12 July 2003

To say I'm pleased with life at the moment is a very mild understatement. One of the reasons is that Facts About Durban has received an excellent review in the monthly magazine Metrobeat which goes out to all ratepayers in the eThekwini Municipal area which incorporates the whole of Greater Durban.**
Facts was reviewed by editor Peter Bendheim who described it as "...Allan Jackson's little gem..", and said that it "should hold instant appeal for all who have an interest in the city".

Click to read the full review. THANKS PETER !!!!

**See Facts About Durban for some theories on the origin of the word eThekweni.


14 July 2003

What is believed to be the biggest South African flag ever made was unfurled before a large crowd at the Durban Wings Club Airshow at Virginia Airport in Durban on Sunday, 13 July 2003.

Local skydiver Mark Horning jumped from 6000 feet over the airfield with the 70Kg flag in a bag attached to him in a tandem parachute harness. Once he had sucessfully deployed his parachute he unpacked the flag and flew it sucessfully during the rest of the jump.


Mark Horning after his jump.
<== Click to view an enlargement

The flag was 5200 square feet in size and measured 18x27 metres. It was made by parachute manufacturer Aerodyne Systems from fabric supplied by Galvenor Textiles and would have cost Mark a cool R28000 if the companies hadn't sponsored him.


16 July 2003

In Facts I mention that eThekwini is the name now used to refer to the Greater Durban Area and especially to the Municipality that runs the show. I also revealed that nobody knows for certain what the word means. Grant McKenna sent me an email with a few thoughts on the matter:

There is much debate over the meaning of eThekwini, and neither the eThekwini Heritage Department nor the eThekwini Metropolitan Unicity Municipality will state as an absolute fact the derivation of the name.

Some argue that the name is derived from a joke made by the leader of the amaThuli, Chief Shadwa, when the amaThuli settled on the bay; the story is that Chief Shadwa or a jester looked down from the area of today's Berea and said that the bay was a one testicled thing. Certainly, as Adrian Koopman points out in his brilliant work, "Zulu Names"[UNP; Pietermaritzburg-2002] , Elizabeth Pooley's "Complete Field Guide to Trees of Natal, Zululand and the Transkei" has the Tonga-Kerrie recorded with the Zulu name umthekwini, referring to the single round fruit at the end of each stem. This shows that the term "itheku" is or has been used for a one-testicled animal or person, instead of today's "ithweka". It is the fact that the word "itheku" is not used today that leads many to believe that the legend of Shadwa's joke is a myth.

Janie Malherbe made the claim that Bishop Colenso advocated the meaning in his pioneering Zulu to English dictionary of an "open mouth or a bay" for iTeku because of modesty- clearly she did not read his dictionary, which unblushingly gives many explicit words and their definitions.

Commandant Sighurt Bourquin, the well-known authority on the Zulu, pointed out that the shape of the harbour would not be readily apparent when it was covered with mangroves viewed obliquely through the trees.

Probably eThekwini is probably the locative form of itheku- bay, lagoon. There is however a suggestion that it is derived from the Xhoza iteko- a meeting place, and brought to the area by the British Settlers in 1824, many of whom had learnt Xhoza whilst in the Cape. Grant McKenna

I was asked to state that the above does not necessarily reflect the opinion of Grant's employer.


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