a superstitious fool, if you like, but I've gone straight
from the last diary page (Page 12) to page 14. The number
with a one and a three in it may not be unlucky but, as far
as I'm concerned, there's no sense in taking chances.
About Durban received a really nice review from Lindsay Slogrove
in the Natal Mercury yesterday. Thanks Lindsay.
<== Click to read the review.
I've put up a contribution from reader Gerald Buttigieg on
his memories of the 'sessions' which were held as fundraisers
in Durban during the early days of Rock 'n Roll. Check out
the story and other interesting stuff on Gerald's
I learnt that Facts About Durban had been reviewed on the
radio. I don't know much more than that it was probably on
SAFM on the book review program on a Sunday or two previously.
A great pity to have missed my moment of glory...
I have put up a very good article from local shipping correspondent
Terry Hutson. I already knew that Durban had the first
steam railway in South Africa in 1860, but what I didn't
realise is that Durban had an ox-powered one a couple of years
before that even. Terry's article has plenty on that and an
early attempt [for which the railway was built] to overcome
the sandbar blocking the harbour mouth. An appropriate story
to carry on what is more or less the 100th anniversary of
the occasion [26th June 1094] when the first large ship was
able to enter the harbour. See
Terry Hutson's the story here.
courtesy Terry Hutson.
previous diary page
I wrote that I had been in touch with a number of people from
around the world who had found this website and had something
of interest to contribute. One of these was Matt Powell from
Idaho, in the USA, who has become interested in the the sinking
of the ship Nova Scotia off Cape St Lucia in World War II.**
interested after seeing a newspaper article which said that
the survivors had been subject to the greatest shark attack
ever recorded. Matt was kind enough to send me the picture
of the Nova Scotia, below, and a copy of an extract from Wolfpacks
at War, which added to my knowlege of tragedy. I've written
up the info and put it on the new
Nova Scotia page here.
Nova Scotia. Picture courtesy Matt Powell.
is a fair amount of detail on the Nova Scotia in these
pages and, over the next couple of days I'm going to be
collecting it and moving it
to its own page.
is not really relevant to this site on Durban but is about
a sinking in Pacific which may rival the Noca Scotia's in
terms of the numbers of victims claimed by sharks. Matt sent
me a book about the USS Indianapolis which was sunk during
WWII by a Japanese submarine. The vessel had just delivered
components for the atomic bomb to the island of Tinian in
the Marianas when it was sunk on 30 July 1945. There was only
one [or a few??] lifeboat and most survivors spent more than
four days in the water supported by lifejackets, which were
steadily becoming more and more waterlogged, and being attacked
repeatedly by sharks. It is estimated that about 800 or 900
of the ship's 1196 crew were alive after the sinking. Only
316 of them were eventually picked-up, with an unknown number
of the rest having fallen victim to sharks. The incident was
the US Navy's worst ever maritime disaster. Coincidentally,
at about the time Matt and I were exchanging e-mails, there
was a news report that the wreck of the USS Indianapolis had
been found. See
here for more details on the tragedy.
recently lucky enough to be lent a packet of pictures and
papers on the Imperial Airways / BOAC flying boats which used
to call in Durban. I have started putting up some of the material
and you can view it [and read the story] by clicking
here to go the main flying boat page and then clicking
on Imperial Airways / BOAC Passenger and Mail Flights to Durban,
Page Two, when you get there.
courtesy Barbara le Grange
day I was loaned the book A Natal Family Looks Back, by Harry
Lugg, which reminded me of one of the most stirring episodes
in Durban's History. This was on the occasion when the British
Garrison was besieged by Boers in the Old Fort and Durban
resident Dick King and his black helper, Ndongeni, set out
on the 600-mile ride to Grahamstown to fetch help.
About Durban I wrote:
The British, alarmed by a Boer proposal to resettle Natals
surplus African population to the South of the Republic,
reoccupy Port Natal with 237 men of the 27th Regiment and
Royal Artillery under Captain Thomas Charlton Smith. The
British arrive on May 4th, set up a camp [on the site of
the present-day Old Fort], occupy Fort Victoria on the end
of the Point, and haul down the Republic of Natalia flag.
The Boers then seize 700 cattle belonging to the British
and Captain Smith decides to attack the Boers in their encampment
at Congella. The attack takes place in bright moonlight
on the night of May 23rd with the British advancing from
their camp down to the bay [along the line where Aliwal
Street is today] and then along the beach in the direction
of the Boer Camp at Congella. The Boer marksmen are hidden
in the mangroves fringing the bay and have no trouble inflicting
heavy casualties on the exposed British who retire to their
camp which is promptly besieged by the Boers. The British
suffer over 50 casualties, including 16 killed, while the
Boers have one killed and two injured, one of whom one dies
later. [A memorial to the Boer dead in Maydon Road (on the
corner of Methven Road) marks the area where the battle
The women and children are allowed by the Boers to leave
the camp on June 2nd and they take refuge on the ship Mazeppa
in the bay. On June 10th, under the leadership of Joseph
Cato, the Mazeppa manages to escape from the bay in the
face of Boer fire and sets sail for Delagoa Bay to seek
The Boers had captured an 18-pounder artillery piece from
Fort Victoria and they use it to shell the camp. On running
out of ammunition they retrieve the cannon balls fired at
them from an identical gun inside the camp and promptly
fire them back in. The garrison is reduced to living in
ditches shaded by horse hides and eating biscuit dust, horse
biltong [dried horsemeat], the occasional crow, and ground-up
mealie [corn] horse-feed. The schooner Conch and the frigate
HMS Southampton arrive on June 25th, carrying the Grenadier
Company of the 27th Regiment and five companies of the 25th
Foot under Colonel Cloete, and lift the siege the following
did not complete the epic trip to Grahamstown with Dick King
and there has been some controversy on just how far he managed
to get. Harry Lugg's book contains the translation of a 1905
Zulu pamphlet in which Ndongeni tells his story. Ndongeni
was apparently born in 1826 in Zululand but his father was
killed by Dingane, leaving his mother and he seek refuge on
Dick King's farm at Isipingo, outside Durban.
as a herd boy for Dick King and accompanied him on trips as
the voorloper leading the team of oxen which drew Dick's
wagon. Dick and Ndongeni met Captain Smith's column at the
Umzimkulu river and showed them the road to Durban. He witnessed
the Battle of Congella and saw one of the British officers
killed. He was later called by Dick and told that he was going
to accompany him back to the farm at Isipingo. After nightfall,
Dick and Ndongeni went down to the bay, where they found horses
and a small boat,and were rowed across the bay with the horses
swimming along behind.
saddle was without stirrups but Dick said it would not matter
as they were not going far. First stop was the kraal of Mnini
on the Bluff where the two stopped to ask Mnini to obscure
the tracks which they had made. They then moved southwards
crossing the rivers they encountered close to their mouths
and not at the drifts which the boers had barred. Dick swam
the 'Umlazi' river clad only in his shirt and Ndongeni, who
could not swim, rode across carrying Dick's clothes on his
head. He soon realised that they had bypassed Isipingo and
Dick told him that they were going south to the Umzimkulu
river. It was only when the pair reached that river was Ndongeni
told that the real destination was Grahamstown.
crossing the river, Ndongeni began to feel very tired because
he had been riding without stirrups. Dick lent him his stirrups
and he managed to get a new horse and a second pair of stirrups
from a military camp [at the mouth of the Mgazi River???].
They rode on but it soon became clear Ndongeni was not able
to continue; "..my legs from the hips felt as if they
had been severed ... powerless and unable to lift them."
Dick told him to go back to Mgazi and watch out on the fourth
day thereafter, for a ship passing on the way to relieve the
garrison at Durban. Ndongeni did see the ship pass dead on
schedule and later walked back to Durban, leaving his horse
behind at the camp.
the rumour to the effect that Ndongeni had only accompanied
Dick King as far as the Umkomaas River but he discounts it
totally saying that nobody involved in the events, including
Dick and his son, ever denied Ndongeni's contribution to that
stirring ride. He mentions that the Natal Government awarded
Ndongeni a farm in recognition of his service and that they
would not have done so unless the story, as given by him,
was substantially true. Ndongeni only received his farm in
1898, which is about as shameful as you can get. But, as I
discovered the other day when down at the Point, he has received
some further recognition since then.
Ndongeni (DNA 135) is one of Durban's smaller tugs and
is seen here in the harbour mouth on her way into the
bay.** I'll publish details of vessel as soon as I get
[?? I wonder... Is a ship with a guy's name still a
Click to view enlargement.
Family Looks Back [details
here] is a wonderful read and I would earnestly reccommend
it. Harry's father was present at Rorkes Drift and he grew
into a great lover of Natal and the Zulu people. He began
his career in the Department of Native Affrairs and served
until his retirement in 1941. The book is laced with humour
including the hilarious story of the visit of the Governor
of Natal to Port Shepstone to inspect the work being done
on the breakwater there. The governor had been warned by practical
jokers to give William Bazely, responsible for the work on
the harbour, a wide berth as he habitually carried dynamite
in his pocket, along with his pipe and tobacco, and was armed
with a boathook. Bazely, on the other hand, was told that
the Governor was deaf and that he'd have to stand very close
to him when explaining how the work had been done. The scene
with with Bazely trying to close in on the governor and the
governor trying to keep away from Bazely can be easily imagined.
marks the 150th anniversary of an important date in Durban's
history or at least, I think it was. Durban's first municipal
election was held on this day in 1854 about which, in Facts
About Durban, I wrote:
councillors are to be elected in each ward and are to choose
one of themselves to be mayor. All male residents over the
age of 21 are eligible to vote provided they own property
worth over £25 or if they rent property at over £5
per year. Residents can only stand for council election
providing they own property worth over £100, mortgage-free.
The first voters roll shows that there are 229 persons
eligible to vote out of a white population of 1204. An election
is held on August 2nd and among the elected councillors
is George Cato who later becomes the first mayor.
Russell's History of Old Durban [details
here], which I very much reccommend, gives an interesting
description of the election.
haven't heard that the city authorities are planning to celebrate
the anniversary of our becoming a borough, or of the first
election, and that's a great pity. It's true that the events
did place during the colonial era but that's no reason to
ignore the fact that they did happen. The elections were racially
exclusive, sure enough, but many whites, including George
himself, didn't get a vote either.
offline for a while but I plead that the trauma of having
to speak in public last week (and the work that went into
preparing the talk) kept me from adding anything. The talk
on, 5 August, was to the World Ship Society on Facts About
Durban and I think it went OK. I'm hoping that the members
of the society will soon be contributing to these pages.
on 5 August, Facts received a very nice mention on the Book
Shelf page in the Daily News. Reviewer Lindsay Ord said: "It's
a fascinating read for anyone, from the born-and-bred Durbanite
to the visitor. The bite-sized facts are very more-ish - you
plean to read a couple and end up engrossed!" Thanks
<== Click to read the review.
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