a picture and some extra details to the page about the Bunny
Chow, Durban's sole contribution to International Cuisine.
to view the 'Bunny' page
have also discovered an error on the Natal Locomotive page
where a picture I said was of the locomotive, turned out not
to be. It is, instead, of a locomotive called Perseverance
which was also used in Durban. See here
for some details on Perseverance and here
for some other details I picked-up on the Natal Locomotive.
Click image to view the Natal page
last couple of weeks I have heard from number of people from
around the world who have found this site and who had something
of interest to share. The first of these was was Derek John
Butler-Briggs, now resident in the UK, who lived in Durban
and attended Addington Primary School during WWII. He and
his mother had been in Cairo when it came under threat from
the Germans, and they were evacuated to Durban. On 25 April
2004, he wrote:
was delighted to find your site on the web. I could not
believe that you were giving details of the Ovington
Court shipwreck. I was a pupil at Addington school and
could see the wreck from the upstairs corridor window. I
was a Pongo (the name given by Afrikaner kids to us English
kids who were evacuated from Egypt to Durban as a safe haven
in case the Nazis had reached Cairo). I was also hooked
on surfing and despite [its] being dangerous, I was amongst
one of the first to swim out to the wreck along with local
lads Brian and Raymond Biljoen and Jimmy Naude (other names
elude me--I hate old age!) I was 11 coming up 12 at the
was also on the beach the day of a severe storm with huge
swells that stove in the seaward side of the ship, then
lifted the rear deck over and caused the bridge to disintegrate-an
awesome sight and sound as the ship was torn apart. I lived
at The Sea Breeze Hotel in Gillespie Street until I had
to return (very reluctantly) to the UK in November 1944.
5 May 2004, he wrote
you for your reply to my recent email to you re the wreck
of the Ovington
Court. I regret that I am unable to send you any photographs
of my time in Durban as my Mum did not have a camera, so
I really just have to go on my memories. I have read the
by Leon Nicholson and thoroughly enjoyed it - I cannot
recall knowing him, but his story is factual as I remember
you for phoning Brian Biljoen it was very good of you to
ask if he remembered me - I was disappointed that he didn't
- we were in the same class at Addington - had the same
exercise in the metalwork class (making a steel try-square)
and were in the fire-fighting team (as described by Leon)
and did some demonstrations of our skills to several groups
of visitors from firms/offices in the town. He and his brother
Raymond were the guys I tried to emulate at surfing at which
I became quite good. Another lad I remember from Addington
was red haired and had the nickname of Kipper--one morning
when entering the schoolgrounds he grabbed me and said that
I was to stop calling him Kipper or he would bash me up.
I was taken aback and without thinking (silly boy) I said
'OK Kipper' - it took quite a while before my nose stopped
bleeding! DJ Butler-Briggs
a look at the statistics generated by this website and it
seem that it is averaging over 800 separate visits a month,
with April 2004 being the high point, so far, with 1052 and
May, down a trifle, at 884. Facts About Durban is on track
to becoming the most complete, and interesting, Internet-based
source of information on Durban.
a query from reader Annette van Maurik who wonders if anyone
has any information on a dog who used live in Port Elizabeth
but who would climb on a train every so often to visit Durban.
great grandfather was Ernest Ebert (1858-1928). He spent
his early working life in South Africa living in Port Elizabeth.
In 1899 he was one of Cecil Rhodes candidates in the elections
in Port Elizabeth. My father used to tell a story about
a dog his grandfather had which loved to roam freely. The
dog became a familiar sight on the railways and would travel
on the trains running up from Port Elizabeth to Durban.
He would visit the town and then make the return trip to
Port Elizabeth. When he arrived in Durban he was always
given a welcome at the British naval base. My father always
referred to the dog as "Railway Jack". AJ van
who can cast some light onto the subject of Railway Jack is
welcome to contact me by e-mail
or at the address on the Contact
previous diary page
I mentioned that Durban was declared a borough 150 years ago
and regretted that the present establishment has not, so far,
seen fit to celebrate the fact. I said that the city's own
Metro Police is also 150 years old but that a spokesman had
said that the force was not going to celebrate its anniversary
on account of its wanting to dissociate itself from its colonial
past. I thought that things would rest there but there has
since been a development which caused a few ironic grins around
May, and here I aplogise for being tardy, a parade was held
through the center of Durban to celebrate the 150th anniversary
of the founding of the Durban Light Infantry and the Natal
Mounted Rifles, which are two of the most senior volunteer
regiments in the South African Army. The two regiments marched
past the City Hall where Mayor Obed Mlaba took the salute
and later said some kind things about them. Also on parade
were a number of military vehicles and a mounted detachment
from the Metro Police.
picture on the left is of the Colour Parties from the
Durban Light Infantry, on the left of the picture, and
the Natal Mounted Rifles leading the parade. In the centre
is a smart mounted detachment from the Metro Police and,
on the right, a wallpaper-sized composite (1024x768px)
I made of pictures I took at the parade. Click on the
pictures to view enlargements.
sure what brought the city hierarchy and the Metro Police
out to celebrate the anniversary of the two regiments while
they are so steadfast in ignoring their own. I think that
they probably felt compelled to participate when they realised
the importance attached to the event by both the SADF and,
even, by the British Army, who sent a number of observers.
the reasons, however, I'm pleased that the parade happened
and that it received official recognition. I'm just sad that
the city's anniversary is still unrecognised. I'm as alive
as anyone to the evils of the colonial era but not everything
the white settlers did was bad, and they did play a big role
in the building of the city that we have today. Past evils
should certainly not be forgotten but it doesn't seem right
that the good should be ignored.
person who found this website on the Internet and has since
been in touch is Dennis Warren, who is a resident of California
in the USA. He had noticed a passing reference on Diary Page
# 9 to American stunt motorcyclist Putt Mossman. It turns
out that Putt was his father and Dennis sent me a packet of
information on him including a copy of an article which appeared
in Motorcyclist Magazine in October 1972.
does mention the incident, on 31 May 1942, during Putt's visit
to Durban, when he dived into the sea off the top of the mast
of the Ovington Court. The ship had run aground aground off
Addington Hospital and Putt apparently dived headfirst from
100 feet up and the concussion on hitting the water flattened
the helmet on his head and caused him to black out. He was
hauled aboard the wreck by lifesavers but not before getting
"badly chewed up by barnacles". He seemed to be
absolutely fearless and performed all sorts of crazy stunts.
He never practiced his stunts in private because he thought
that, if he was going to have an accident, he might as well
have paying customers watching.
incident, which may have taken place in Durban, was when he
drove his Indian mototcycle at full speed into the Indian
Ocean and was nearly sucked out to sea by the rip tide. He
staged shows in 45 countries during two world tours and was
also an excellent boxer and a champion horseshoe pitcher.
In 1939 he drove through Africa on a motorcycle with his friend
Ewald Schnitzer who had a German accent; "when the South
Africans got a load of that accent they promptly threw him
into a concentration camp".
year ago, today, I put up the first
entry in this diary. In the twelve pages since then
I've then I've recorded my search for more Facts About
Durban which, to me at least, has been an absolutely
fascinating journey. I uncovered enough interesting
stuff, in the first six months after the publication
of the book, to be able to produce another edition of
hope that you've enjoyed this 'factual' journey as much
as I have and now, if you don't mind, I'll award myself
a birthday cake and retire back to my sickbed.
the last entry in the diary I've been battling with flu and
catching with up with work I've missed. I even missed the
anniversary, on 20 June, when the first printed copies of
Facts were delivered to Adams Book Shop. It's been a great
year with 2400 copies of the book having been distributed
already and 200 more on order from the printers.
second edition, as in the first, I included a couple of stories
that I was unable to confirm in the hope that readers could
help with information. I also appealed for information about
Mr Hollis who, together with William Cornelius, built Durban's
after the new editions of Facts hit the streets, I got a postcard
from Richard Hollis who is the grandson of Jack George Hollis.
Richard doesn't know too much about his grandfather but it
seems he was born in Scotland and arrived in Durban in the
late 19th century from Australia. He and Cornelius were awarded
the contract to build the City Hall and work began in 1905.
At much the same time Hollis built a home for his family [which
still exists] at 174 Florida Road. He was very keen on horseracing
and was the founder of Clairwood Racecourse in 1921.
Jack Hollis outside his home in Florida Road, right.
Picture courtesy Richard Hollis.
house that Jack built. Picture taken on 27.6.2004.
Hollis is the solid-looking citizen at the front of the
picture. He is pictured at the 'Durban Races' sometime
in the 1930s. We know the picture was taken on 4 July
and may, therefore, have been while he was attending the
July Handicap at Greyville Racecourse. The pic may also
have been taken at Clairwood Racecourse, which he founded.
Picture courtesy Richard Hollis.
Richard Hollis about the truth behind the story that Jack
Hollis had used his son George Joseph Hollis as the model
for the cherubs on the City Hall. George later became mayor
of Durban and, if the story is true, he would have been the
first mayor anywhere to take office in a city hall adorned
with nude representations of himself. Richard told me that
he believes his father, George Hollis, and his uncle Jack
Alexander Hollis, were the models for the cherubs.
marks the 100th anniversary of the day when the first
large ship was able to sail into Durban Bay. The event
was commemorated by the Natal Mercury which yesterday
published the special supplement, left. (25 June 2004).
vessel was the Armadale Castle and she docked at E Shed
on 26 June 1904. She was the new flagship of the Union
Castle Line and was 174 meters long and weighed 12976
tons. She was piloted into the harbour by Pilot Jones
and escorted by the harbour tugs Harry Escombe and St
John and a private tug,the Titan, which was owned by
the African Shipping Company.
the docking caused considerable interest with 20000
people visiting the harbour to see the vessel over the
next few days. Her master, Captain JC Robinson, even
gave a party for schoolchildren in the town.
painting used by the Mercury on the front of the supplement
was painted in 1994 by Durban artist Benjamin Barnett.
1904 , the entrance to the bay had been blocked by a sandbar
which had severely limited the size of ship which could enter
it. The sandbar had been a danger and hindrance to shipping
ever since vessels first started calling here. Sporadic efforts
were made from the early 1850s to beat the sandbar. At that
time, Scottish Engineer John Milne proposed a solution very
similar to that which eventually worked fifty years later.
of Durban's Harbour Board in 1887, Harry Escombe probably
played the major role in initiating efforts to defeat the
sandbar. Harbour Engineers Edward Innes, and later Cathcart
Methven, oversaw the dredging of the harbour mouth and the
building of piers on either side of it.
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