Facts About Durban Diary - Page # 19

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22 March 2005

In the printed version of Facts About Durban, I have a section on ships which have been called Durban. I've been planning on putting up a page in honour of these noble vessels and will still get to that. In the meantime, however, I thought I'd share a postcard of the Durban Castle which came my way today

The Durban Castle.


<== Click to view wallpaper-sized picture of the postcard (1024x768px).

The reverse of the postcard is marked 'Posted At Sea' and is postmarked 'London, 8 March, 1951. The card is from an E. Galt and is addressed to a friend in London. He or she was aboard the Durban Castle on the way to South Africa and says that the weather was cold and foggy and that the sea in the Bay of Biscay was expected to be rough. Nothing's changed there, then.

5 April 2005

Over the past couple of weeks I've acquired a treasure trove of interesting new material and today I'll start with something I got as a result of my article on whaling in Durban which was published in last month's Metrobeat, our ratepayer's magazine. It turns out that my informant John Buchan's grandmother was Jacob J Egeland's daughter. Egeland, of course, was the founding father of whaling in Durban - see my article on this site.

Jacob J Egeland


<== Click to view an enlargement of the picture.

Jacob Egeland decided that Durban was the place for him, as so many did, after his ship was wrecked here on arrival. He was born in Lyngdal in Norway on 3 August 1864 and arrived in Durban August 1880, aboard the barque Surprise. The vessel was wrecked on Durban beach along with two other vessels on the night of 24 August. During the voyage he had become friendly with the ship's cobbler and made himself a pair of shoes but, fortunately, both he and they survived.

The crew were given the option of being paid-out in Durban or a passage back to Norway. He chose the former option and immediately proceeded to the test his newly made shoes by walking the 120-plus kilometers up to Eshowe to visit relatives. He pioneered commercial fishing in South Africa, when he started the Natal Fishing Company. He established a homestead on a 10 acre plot in South Ridge Road and he named it Solheim. The arch over the gateway was formed by the jawbones of a blue whale.

In 1908, he started the whaling industry in Durban with Johan Bryde. He was made a Knight of the Order of St Olav (First Class) in 1912 by King Haakon for services rendered as Norwegian Consul in Durban. He died in 1944.

On another topic
Would you believe this site had 2739 visitors during March. That's nearly 800 more than the previous best of 1968 in January. Another stat I'm really pleased with is that there are now 2900 copies of Facts About Durban in print. It will have been out for only two years in June, and I think that's pretty good for a self-published and distributed book.

Interesting website: I've recently had correspondence with Garry Schei in Glasgow, Scotland. Garry has a very nice collection of vintage postcards and photos of old Durban, which he has posted on his website here.

8 April 2005

In Facts About Durban I wrote the following about the gracious Marine Hotel:

Durban loses one of her most famous landmarks as the Marine Hotel on the corner of Gardiner Street and Victoria Embankment is demolished. The hotel had stood in the spot since the turn of the century and played host to, among many other eminent people, the Prince of Wales in 1923, Prince George in 1934 and Prince Bernhard of the Netherlands in 1954. The lift- ing of the siege of Mafekeng in 1901 was celebrated in the hotel and a framed copy of the dinner menu in the reception area reveals that the dishes on offer had included Kruger Marrow Bones on Toast [Paul Kruger being President of the Transvaal at the time].
A number of permanent residents have to seek other accommodation when the Marine is closed including Mrs Leslie Leuchards who had lived there in a suite for 50 years and had always dined at table number 13. Mrs Leuchards then moves to the Royal Hotel where my informant, Richard Rowland, lives a few years later. He later tells me he remembers her parking her Rolls Royce and Bentley motorcars on the ground floor in the Royal Parking Garage; both vehicles were black and grey and dated from the 1950s.

The other day I was sorting out my wardrobe preparing for my forthcoming move and came across the following historic relic:

I'd never seen it before, to the best of my knowledge.

23 April 2005

I have been neglecting you shamefully but I have been living through through the stress of a move out of the family home in Glenwood, where we have have based for more than 40 years. I'm still in the eThekwini metropolitan area but up the hill and, hopefully, out of the worst of the humidity.

Today, I have a postcard for you. It's a lovely view of West Street looking back towards the Berea and it shows a ricksha and electric trams. The card is undated and I'd welcome hearing from anyone who can help with a date based, perhaps, on the buildings shown.

Ricksha in West Street

<== Click to view an enlargement of the picture.

UPDATE - 17.5.2005: Rosemary Dixon-Smith thinks that the date could be about 1909.

The card was never posted but I was delighted to find that some comments had been written on the back after which, presumably, it was sent off in a letter or parcel. There is no hint who the writer or recipient might have been and also, as you will see, little hint of any punctutaion.

Warning: I should warn you that the passage does contain a racially hurtful word but I decided to include it for the reason that this is an historic document and should not be censored, and because it was penned in a time when the word was not seen as derogatory [note that it and the word 'Zulu' are the only capitalised words in the passage].

"on the card you will see a Zulu running with a ricksha they can run all the day long & always the same speed up & down hill just the same the[y] go about as fast as an ordinary pony but they can only stand that strain for about two years after that they go to pieces I was talking to one one night there was a chap with me who could speak a bit of Zulu & I can speak a bit of Kaffir so between us we got it out of him after two years they have to give it up & he settles down & with the money they buy cattle & with the cattle they buy wives this one had three wives & 6 children he said he wanted three more not bad he should get his share of good things don't you think so."

I did add a 'y' which the unknown author forgot but I resisted the temptation to add my own punctutation. Even after this length of time, I can easily imagine the ricksha puller's delight in pulling the wool over the eyes of his interrogators.

2 May 2005

Today, I'd like to introduce you to Rosemary Dixon-Smith who is very active in genealogical research in Durban & Kwazulu Natal. She is a member of the excellent free Genealogy World website where she maintains a number of pages crammed with interesting stories about Old Durban, in particular. She has compiled a page with links to stories with a nautical flavour and passenger lists of some of the ships which arrived in Durban in the early days. Among them, you will find a story called Keeper of the Bluff Light, which features Rosemary's Great Grandfather Thomas Gadsden, who was Durban's lighthouse keeper in the 1870s and 1880s.

There is a lot of general interest information to be found at Genealogy World and it is a great place to start looking for traces of your ancestors. In addition to Rosemary's stuff, you will find interesting articles by Graham Mason, who writes on the Anglo-Zulu War, mainly with an empasis on finding the descendants of those who fought in that conflict, and lists compiled by Robin Griffiths. I might just add that, if you can't get here for yourself, Rosemary will do research for you for at a very reasonable price; see here for details.

I'm delighted to say that Rosemary has sent us an article on early circuses in the region for publication on this site, and you can view it here. It will, I hope, be the first of many articles from her.

A Visit To The Circus


<== Click to view the article.

WOW !!! There were 3664 visits to the Facts About Durban website during April 2005. The visitors viewed 6603 pages on the site during the month.

9 May 2005

In my usual lackadasical fashion, I missed a very important anniversary which occurred last week, on 2 May, to be precise. One hundred and fourty five years ago, on that day, there occurred Durban's first cricket match of any note. I'm grateful to my informant Reg Sweet for the information, and for the article on the subject that he has contributed to the site. Reg, who was Sports Editor of The Daily News from 1953 until the 1980s, has apparently not been idle in his retirement years and has been delving lately into the pioneering days of cricket in Durban. You can read his story of that first match here.

17 May 2005

Picture Courtesy W Starrenberg

There was a time in the bad old days when the government actively encouraged white immigrants to South Africa. Durban received quite a number of these including many Europeans who knew little or no English. They were strangers in a strange land but, fortunately, there was an organisation called the Maatskapij vir Europese Immigrasie to help them cope.

Read my article on MEI here.

18 May 2005

I have just put up a new page with some requests I've received for information on this and that to do with Durban. The page is here and you are cordially asked to take a look and contact me if you can throw any light into previously dark corners.

22 May 2005

Today, I have a real treat in store for you. It's a wonderful article contributed by erstwhile Durbanite William Paterson and concerns his early years which were spent in Durban just prior to, and during WWII. William is a great hand with words and the article is strongly evocative of those bygone days.

While reading the article, I hope you'll be inspired to put pen to paper and send your own memories of Durban in to me for publication on this site. You may think that nobody would be interested but they will, now and, especially, in the future. The growing popularity of this website is proof enough that people do want to know what happened and what things were like. Your words and pictures will not only be of interest to current visitors to the site but will eventually help future historians plug gaps in their knowlege.

The ever-helpful Eurika Deminey of the Transnet Foundation Heritage Library recently sent me the bookmark, left, enclosed with an invoice, and I was struck by how true the the message on it is.




You've been very patient and read through the heavy stuff in the preceding paragraphs and now, on to William's article. ENJOY !!

2 June 2005

In May we had 3686 visitors to this site who viewed 6474 different pages while they were here. It seems that Facts About Durban is going from strength to strength and I hope things are going to get even better in the near future with the addition of a chat forum to the site. You will be able to use it to post messages sharing your memories of Durban, respond to messages posted by others, reconnect with old friends and, hopefully, make new ones. I currently have a protoype of the forum running and will let you know when it opens.

Today we've got another very interesting contribution from Rosemary Dixon-Smith. It concerns a tragic accident which took place at the lighthouse on the Bluff in 1898 and it includes much of interest and a wonderfully atmospheric picture of the lighthouse and signal station in the 1890s. See the article here.

Picture courtesy R Dixon-Smith

10 June 2005

It seems hard to believe but it is two whole years ago, today, that this website went live. In that time it has has gone from having only handfuls of visitors to the current level of more than 3000 every month. It has been a lot of work, but great fun, and I only hope that you've enjoyed it as much as I have.

One difficulty I had to tackle recently was deciding whether I was going to have a cake with two candles or two cakes with a candle each. Greed won when I decided that two cakes were better than one...

For the future, the site is going to go from strength to strength with a number of your fellow readers working on articles, even as we speak. I'll be writing up new material I've acquired lately, including a booklet put out by the Durban Publicity Association in 1927 to commemorate the visit of HMS Durban to Durban. Finally, I am still fiddling with configuring an online forum forum for the site, and once that's done, you'll be able to use it to share your memories of Durban with people all over the world.

Later this month is the second anniversary of the launch of the print edition of Facts and it now seems likely that I am going to hit my target of getting 3000 copies of Facts into print within two years. In other news, FAD Publishing, my tiny little print division, will shortly be publishing a new book on the Royal Air Force's 222 Squadron, which was called the Natal Squadron and was paid for by the people of Durban.

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