Facts About Durban Diary - Page # 21

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30 October 2005

You never know when you're going to pick up somthing interesting, as I did recently when I overheard a conversation between two friends. They were discussing a job they were doing for a local Durban shipping company, which had once owned the first vessel to carry a radio into the South Atlantic. Check out the details on the SS Inkosi here.

1 November 2005

I learnt quite by chance over the weekend that Durban will soon be host to the competitors in a major round the world yacht race. There are 10 competitors in the Clipper 05/06 Round the World Yacht Race and are expected to arrive in Durban on 17 November, for a 10-day stopover. You might wonder why I'm telling you all this but one of the yachts is called Durban, and that's reason enough in my book. Regular readers will know about my collection of ships called Durban which I've put up here.

Picture courtesy Clipper Ventures

The yacht Durban which is due in Durban around 17 November 2005.


<== Click to view enlargement.

The other competitors in the race are Western Australia, Jersey, New York, Singapore, Qingdao, Victoria, Liverpool, Cardiff and Glasgow. The latest race report has the Durban lying in 6th place but I'm sure that will improve; especially after the stopover, once we've had a chance to dose our opponents with real Durban curry!

Full info on the race is available on the race website.

There is also an unofficial Durban Clipper site here

4 November 2005

A long time ago (a year or so) I visited the whaling station on the Bluff escorted by my informant John McDonald and, because it's a restricted military area at the moment, by the SA Navy's local PRO. The tour around the station was fascinating, what with the whaling stories John told me, the scenic nature of the spot, and the photographically interesting dilapidated old buildings.

The site has been used as a firing range for South African special forces for years and is showing many signs of this rough treatment. I'm no expert but I should think that a lot of the buildings are beyond saving but I believe that some could be saved and form the basis of a cracking attraction for the city. There are moves afoot to open the Bluff to the public again, but the process is moving infuriatingly slowly.

Check out some pictures I took during my visit.

I see that the yacht Durban, mentioned above, has surged into 5th place in the Round the World Race.

17 November 2005

I may have mentioned that I had an article on Flying Boats in Durban in our ratepayers' magazine Metrobeat. In it I made an appeal for people who had experienced them to come forward and the response was overwhelming. I have made a start at writing everything down and today I have a new page describing the experiences of sea cadet George Haskins and air cadet Des Manning who were among many Durban youngsters who had rides on the Sunderlands of 35 Squadron. Read all about it under the Eyewitnesses section here.

Another snippet I've got for you is an addition to the postcards page which shows an early view from the City Hall of the Town Gardens and Post Office. See the Postcards page here.

27 November 2005

Today the yachts in the Clipper 05/06 Round the World Yacht Race set sail from Durban on the next leg of the race to Freemantle in Western Australia. The fleet sailed out of the harbour mouth just after midday led by our boat, Durban. It was one of the most incredible sights I've ever seen in the harbour. Literally hundreds of vessels of all descriptions joined an armada to see the yachts off.

There was even a nod to history when local actress Caroline Smart donned a white dress and floppy red hat to sing goobye to the yachts, just as Perla Siedle Gibson, the Lady in White, used to do for the troopships during WWII. The noise and commotion were such that I didn't know about it until it was all over and missed getting a picture, unfortunately.

Durban leads the way out of the harbour, far left, and just part of the armada which saw the yachts off.

<== Click images to view enlargements

I got fried to a crisp watching the whole thing but it was worth it.

11 December 2005

It's true that I have been neglecting these pages shamefully but I'm faced with the regrettable necessity of having to earn a living. I have been lucky enough to pick up the part-time editorship of an industrial newspaper but that has cut into my time more than somewhat. I have still been collecting new material in the interim, however, and its just a matter of writing it all up.

I have made a start today and collected snippets together from an ongoing correspondence I've been having on the sailing ship Modwena, which (who??) operated out of Durban for a time before being scuttled somewhere outside the harbour mouth in about 1935. Click to visit my main page on the Romantic Age of Sail, as it pertained to Durban, and for Modwena's own page.

19 December 2005

Today I've got quite a bit of stuff for you, starting with the news that the yacht Durban has won the the Durban-Freemantle leg of the Clipper 05/06 Round the World Yacht Race. She arrived at 22h15 on 16 December 2005, an hour ahead of Victoria, her closest rival. Perhaps the curry I referred to in the diary on 1 November, above, did play its role in slowing down the opposition. The alternative, which is almost too horrible to contemplate, is that it increased the wind on our boat!!

I have now added two more pages to the section on Flying Boats in Durban. One page contains the remiscences of Bob Fraser, who made the trip from Egypt to Durban on a Sunderland on the shuttle service which 35 Squadron SAAF ran just after WWII. The other page concerns Joyce Mitchell's memories of her trip from Southampton to Durban aboard a BOAC Flying Boat in 1946.

Both the pages can be accessed from the Eyewitness Section on the main Flying Boat page.

2 January 2006

I trust that you'e all had a wonderful time over Christmas and that you're well embarked on the New Year. Today I 've got quite a lot of stuff for you including another eyewitness account of the passenger flying boats which used to use Durban as their Southern African terminus. This time its the reminiscences of John Field who worked in the BOAC offices in Durban in 1943/44. See the Eyewitnesses section on the main Flying Boat page here.

I recently acquired a printed souvenir booklet on Durban, which was produced during WWII. One of the interesting things it has in it is a map showing the locations of the servicemen's clubs which flourished here during the war. I've put up a page with the map, some photographs, and other details for you to look at.

04 February 2006

Today I had a look at the site statistics for Facts About Durban and I see that the site seems to be going from strength to strength. I'm very pleased because the site has been averaging over 3000 visitors a month and, in January, there were 5148 visitors who viewed 9718 pages. Here's the graph:


05 February 2006

After that pleasant little surprise yesterday, I've been energised and I've got a couple of things for you today. The first is a very nice addition to my postcards page in the shape of a postcard of the Durban's original lighthouse, before its partial demolition at the beginning of WWII. Click here for the page and scroll down to the bottom.

We've also got a very interesting article written by Johny Vassilaros, who is the chairman of the Durban Paddle Ski Club. His story is about the history of paddle skis in Durban and of the Paddle Ski club itself. Please note that there are bound to have been people who were paddle ski pioneers in Durban and who haven't been mentioned. We'd be grateful if you could get in touch with me with the details and, hopefully, with some pictures.

Click here to go to the story.

05 February 2006

Today I've got an interesting little leaflet put out by the Corporate Policy Unit of the eThekwini Municipality. It is titled eThekwini Municipality Business Card and it measures about 9cm wide x 11cm high, folded, and it contains some interesting current statistics on the City.

The total population of the metropolitan area is given as 3090125 broken up into African 2110583 (68%), Coloured 87282 (3%), Indian 614836 (20%) and White 277428 (9%). Pensioners make up 3% of the total, the disabled 1% and females 52%. Fourty percent of the population are aged between 15 and 35, 37% are employed and 28% are unemployed.

In the metro area there are 90 libraries, 252 clinics, 63 police stations, 30 hospitals, 20 fire stations, 992 schools, 144 community halls and 38 post offices. There are 823700 households in the area including 572700 (70%) in formal settlements, 153810 (19%) in informal settlements with traditional and other making up the balance.

I see the population figures are still broken down by race and I fully appreciatate the need for this. What I don't quite quite understand is the use of the word African to describe the black members of the population. I notice this happening more and more and it is a bit of a worry because it would tend to imply that we whiteys have been wrong in believing ourselves to be Africans as well. Perhaps we'll have to invent a new term for ourselves; something like Afro-Honkies, for example.

13 March 2006

First item on the agenda today is a vintage addition to my postcard page in the form of a nice view down West Street from Field Street. Click here to go to the page and then scroll down to the bottom.

The next item is an addition to the list of eyewitness accounts of the days when Durban was the South African terminus for the flying boat passenger and mail service. A lady called Edith Sherry travelled out from the UK to Durban aboard the flying boat Castor in 1937 and kept a diary of her trip. Through my informant Joan Armstrong, I was able to get a copy of the diary and various other Bits and pieces, including a CD with a recording of a radio programme on the flying boats and an interview with Edith, herself, in her later years.

Click here to got to the main flying boat page and click on the link under Eyewitnesses to read the diary. In due course, I'll write up the content of the CD which has a lot of interest in it including some reminiscences from South Africa aviation pioneer and flying boat captain, Caspar Caspareuthus.

21 March 2006

In an article on Durban's Transport History on this site and in the printed version of Facts About Durban, I wrote:

"In terms of the size of its bus fleet Durban Transport was the largest municipal operator in South Africa. On 1 August 2003 it would have been 104 years old had it not been sold to the Remant (Pty) Ltd and Alton Coach Africa Consortium on 1 June 2003 for R70-million. Those in favour of privatisation say that the ratepayer will save approximately R40-million a year but I'm sure I'm not alone in believing that a mistake was made. I don't think much good ever came from privatising public transport because it's a service and not the sort of thing that can be run really well and still make enough profit to satisfy its investors."

In the couple of years since then I have noticed that Durban's (sorry, Remant Alton's) busses have been looking seedier and seedier. In an article in today's Natal Mercury, which is reproduced online here, the paper reported that the Kwazulu-Natal Deprtment of Transport had launched a blitz on unroadworthy busses in the province. One hundred and twenty nine Remant Alton busses were examined by the department yesterday and, of these, 63 were found to unroadworthy and suspended; I suspect the Mercury meant impounded.

I hate to say 'I told you so' again, but I will:

".... and not the sort of thing that can be run really well and still make enough profit to satisfy its investors."


22 March 2006

Material in this location on war graves in Hillary has been moved to a new location on this site. Click here to view.

26 March 2006

After quite a slow start to the year, I have been quite prolific this month, it seems. The trend doesn't stop here because, in the few next days, I'm going to be putting up a couple of articles I've been sent by a reader. In the meantime, I've got something for you on the visit to Durban by Prince George in 1934. The details come from an electronic copy of the official programme which I was sent by my informant Chris Allen. Read full details here.

09 April 2006

What with one thing and another, flying boats have been attracting a lot of my attention lately. My article on flying boats, which was published in our ratepayer's magazine Metrobeat last year, brought me a lot of feedback and readers' letters are still arriving at the magazine from people keen to share their memories.

This time I have two articles for you which were written by Jeff Gaisford who is the Media Officer of Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife. They concern the Catalina and Sunderland aircraft which, although based in Durban, often used to operate from Lakes St Lucia and Umsingazi in Zululand. The articles can be viewed by going to the main flying boat page and clicking the links to the articles.

In the next weeks and months I am going to have a lot of scanning to do because I have been loaned photographs by two members of the flying boat squadron which was based here in Durban during and after WWII. I'll get that done and put the pictures up on the site as soon as I can

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