Facts About Durban Diary - Page # 31

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25 November 2010

Marielle Woods, a Los Angeles documentary producer, has been in touch to ask if any readers remember Black December in 1957 when Natal beaches, including Durban's, were practically closed due to a number of shark attacks. Please contact me if you can shed any light on the events.

Reader Peter Wilkins noticed the entry for 29 June 2010 on the previous diary page, concerning a story (reported by Eric Rosenthal) about a stash of sovereigns hidden on the Bluff. Peter wrote:

"Concerning the write up about the theft of gold sovereigns buried on the bluff. In the early fifties my dad Mr E.R. Wilkins was planting grass in his yard in Fynnlands on the Bluff when he found some sovereigns. At the time he searched all over but could not find anymore. There was a write-up in the newspaper and he had the clipping but I cannot find it.

"In the 90’s he was walking through the yard and noticed something glinting and found another one. He had it made into a broach and gave to my Mom, who has since passed away, and my sister now has it."

Anyone knowing more about the story is asked to contact me.

12 December 2010

Reader Tim Pullen has been in touch with some memories of growing up in the Addington area in the 1960s. I've put them up on a page here.

18 December 2010

Regular contributor Arthur Gammage has dug up some great aerial pictures of the beachfront. The first is undated and the second, from 1949, was taken quite a few years later, judging by the new buildings it shows.

Both pictures show the long-vanished Arundel Tearoom which was right next to the current Durban Lifesaving Club building. The building is the smallish regtangular one with the hipped roof and squared-off top.

Arthur wonders if anyone can remember the Arundel and if there are any close-up pictures of it.

Pictures courtesy Arthur Gammage. Click to view enlargements.

18 December 2010

Things have calmed down a little around here, so I have been busy consolidating various contribution I received during the year on prominent Durban businessman TB Davis.

I have put up a page on Davis here and included another page of memoirs from Vincent Large, who once commanded Davis's sailing ship Modwena. Those two new pages join the existing Modewena page.

TB Davis - Picture courtesy Doug Forde.

6 January 2011

I have done the yearly housekeeping on the site and noted down the numbers of visitors and the pages they viewed.The monthly average is still something over 8000 visitors viewing something near 20000 pages. According to my records (excluding four missing months) there have been a total 342428 visitors to the site since the beginning of 2007.

That's comfortably more than 10000 a year but, of all those who have derived information and entertainment from the site, only five or six generous souls have valued it enough to make a donation to support the effort.

I'm tired.

16 January 2011

Author Patrick Coyne is writing a history of Gordon Road Girls' School and is appealing for anyone who has pictures of Florida Road after 1912 and Gordon Road after 1917, to contact him.

He is also interested in knowing if anyone knows where the Glamis Hotel was in Florida Road. The site is apparently where the Florida Road Govt. School was located between1912 and 1916. He can be contacted at enquiries@grgs.co.za.

My informant Patricia Speed has been in touch with a news clipping about her father, Lance Henry Harbour, who rescued three of the crew members of the vessel Ovington Court, after she aground aground at Addington Beach on 26 November 1940.

I have added the text of the clipping and a picture to the bottom of the Ovington Court page.

My informant Derek Austin contributed this nice undated picture of the Kinfauns Castle steaming out of Durban harbour. I have it on the authority of a Union Castle listing page, that the vessel was built in 1900 and scrapped in 1927.

Picture courtesy Derek Austin

My informant David Vickery has written in with information missing from John Taylor's article on popular Durban watering holes. John wrote:

The Edward Hotel had a men's bar that was a pricey, but very festive at times. I can't recall its name**, but I remember that they had a waiter / general assistant called Tiger. Tiger was a huge Zulu, who often demonstrated his ability to carry a tray loaded with draught beers in one hand, which was a tremendous feat of strength.

David recalls that the pub was called the El Gaucho.

My regular correspondent, Gerald Buttigieg has dug up a news clipping which evokes the rash of shark attacks which took place along the Natal coast in the late 1950s. The picture shows three of the young victims of the attacks in Addington Hospital who, extraordinarily enough, were all called Michael. Gerald recalls that Michael Murphy (right) as was a standard or so below him at St. Henry's (Marist Brothers) and that the loss of his leg came as a great shock to the school. Michael was a promising cricketer and an all-round sportsman.

Clipping courtesy Gerald Buttigieg
Click to view enlargement

Gerald wrote that this picture dates from 1961 which means that the episodes of shark attack must have recurred for a good while. Black December, when Natal's tourist industry virtually shut down due to a number of attacks, apparently occurred in 1957. I know that there were attacks in 1959 (Margate was virtually closed at the height of the Winter season, when my parents honeymooned there) and there must have been other attacks in 1961.

Reader Kevin Watson has contributed a couple of pictures of himself at the miniature railway which used to run on Durban's beachfront. I've added them to the bottom of the railway page.

My informant Fred Wilkinson has contributed a couple of interesting bits and pieces including 1946 petrol ration coupons found among his granfather's papers. The coupons would have allowed the owner to buy 4 gallons of petrol for the vehicle ND 10966.

Courtesy Fred Wikinson - click for enlargement.

Fred also sent a picture of the Imperial Airways flying boat Capella, which I have put on the passenger flying boat page. I don't know for sure if the picture was taken in Durban, but the aircraft is almost certain to have visited here.

23 January 2011

I have added some comments by my informant Max Stange to the Cookie Look / Rock 'n' Roll page. His cousin Solly Nankin was the owner of Claridges at the time. I have put them up here, at the bottom of the page.

Reader Tim Conroy had the following to say about a bus he remembers going to Blue Lagoon. He wrote:

Dear Allan,

Reading about the Blue Lagoon, I am surprised there has been no mention of the "Toast Rack" as it was known: an open-sided single-decker bus that ran to the lagoon in the holiday season, from some point on the Snell/Marine Parade.

I am pretty sure my memory is not playing me tricks. We used to come down from Jhb to the Cumberland in July and we always used to frequent North Beach and not the South beach! I was a very young boy then.

Congratulations on a fascinating site. Best wishes - Tim Conroy

Cheryl Watson-Tebbut would like to know if anyone knows anything about a certain 'English Jock'. She wrote:

A Great great great grandfather took a fishing vessel from Scotland or Berwick on the east coast of the UK and delivered itto Irvine and Johnstone fisheries in Durban. It was historic as no one had been on a fishing vessel crossing big waters. He was John Watson known as "English Jock" and this was around 1898-1906??.

Godfrey Mocke has contributed a page of Cookie Look memories and I put them up on a page linked from here.

I see the need for a big page on the story of aviation in Durban and I have made a beginning here. It is going to be a timeline of events and concentrate particularly on airstrips, aerodromes and airports. A lot of stuff is already up on the site and linked from the main aviation page, but the new page will eventually help organise it all. As a start, there's only one picture and caption up, but I look on the page as an empoty filing cabinet because, at least there's now a place to put things.

Hey, it's a start !!

Likewise, I can see I need a big page on music in Durban which will eventually link to all the music stuff already on the site and serve as a home for new material. The page is here and I've kicked it off with a couple of items including a picture of local singing sensation Rhona Burne entertaining troops during World War II.

ve added a press release from 18 February 2010 about King Shaka Airport to the airstrips page. It's got a lot of interesting stuff, giving a great idea of the scale of the thing.


In the previous diary entry, I mentioned that reader Tim Conroy had written in about a Durban bus known as the 'Toast Rack'. I have since heard from regular correspondent John Taylor who confirmed its existence. He wrote

I saw in the diary Tim Conroy talking about the “Toast Rack”. This converted single decker bus was certainly a reality. My late father was employed for many years by the then Durban Municipal Transport Department as a sheet metal worker, and I recall him telling me about the construction of the “Toast Rack” and the work that he carried out on it. I also recall going for a ride on it with my mother. It was essentially for tourism / novelty purposes, and only ran during holiday season. I wonder if any photographs of it exist?

Talking of John Taylor, he recently sent in some reminiscences about strolling about the CBD. I have put them up on their page here. I also remember the ritual vists to town on Saturday mornings when the family dressed itself up and went to do the shopping and see the sights. The most important thing, as far we kids were concerned, were the tearooms at Greenacres and Payne Bros department stores. There was often entertainment on offer and I once blotted my copybook at Payne's when we got up to leave and the crowd noticed (with some amusement) that I was toddling along behind Mum with the organist's shoes tucked firmly under one arm.

John mentions grocery shopping and that many stores would deliver your purchases for you. I can't remember going grocery shopping in town but I do remember calling in at Gwilts in Musgrave Road, where I was fascinated by the fact that they would slice your bacon off of a side they would fetch out of the fridge.

John doesn't mention it, but the CBD was also very popular with families going window shopping at night. We would often walk from Gardiner Street, down Smith Street, turn right into Field Street, right into West and back to Gardiner Street. Add a milkshake and you had a whole evening's amusement.

Ah, those days before TV when we had to make our own entertainment... [Talking of TV, I can remember going to a United Party in the City Hall in 1975 or 76, when we youngsters were issued with tee-shirts saying UP for TV. Difficult to believe that TV came to us so recently.]

John also remembers the days when milk was delivered by cart each morning. I don't remember them but I do remember the electric milk floats which delivered in our area. You could hear the whirring of their motors and the chinking of bottles, if you happened to be awake at that hour of the morning.


Reader Derek recently visited Christ Church (an Anglican church) in Mayfair, Johannesburg, and found a plaque commemorating Harry Metcalfe who died after the torpedoing of the Nova Scotia in WWII. I have added the picture to the Nova Scotia page, here.


I have heard from David Harrison who has written a book of his experiences in Durban during the 1990s, when he worked for the fire brigade. The book can be viewed and ordered from here.

30 January 2011

I have received a request for information from John Smith about a friend's family who lived in the Seacow Lake area. He wrote:

I have a friend Cecil Smith (not related but we started school together, and so are very  old friends) and I’m seeking some help re the history of his family and early Durban.

It all started with an article in the Northglen news recently asking for information about the whereabouts of the ‘pioneer’ Smith who lived and owned a nursery named “The Rosary” (+/- 50 acres) in the Sea Cow Lake/Kenville area in the late 1800s.

It seems this family of Smiths ( There may have been two brothers from York I believe) also possibly ran the first florist shop in Smith Street. It seems that both Smithfield Road and Rosary Roads in Sea Cow Lake were named after this/these industrious fellow/s and their businesses.

I read this article and knew immediately that this was my pal Cecil’s family because as young boys I often heard his dad refer to the Rosary in Durban. The Rosary was a Nursery.

This ‘pioneer’ Smith it seems, also had the dubious reputation of being the man that shot the last Hippo at Sea Cow Lake ( It was trampling his plants in the nursery.)

I got hold of the author of the article, an Indian gentleman of the Hindu faith, who says his father had bought a part of the Rosary and related the tale of the Hippo which he said had been stuffed and kept in the Natural History Museum in Durban but was later moved to NCP Yeast in Sea Cow Lake road.

It seems they (Kenville/ Sea Cow lake Ratepayers) are trying to compile a book on the first people who settled in that area to commemorate the arrival of the Indians in Natal, and also want to honour this chap Smith who, it seems, was a good fellow and pioneer.

The rumour has it that at some stage the Smiths were moved off that land or forced to sell when the then Nationalist Government declared it as an Indian area.

The other thing I found interesting was that that area had whites and Indians living side by side and that only changed when the Nat Government declared it an Indian-only area. What really intrigues me is why anyone would start a 'Rosary' in Durban. Not a sympathetic climate for Roses. I am also curious to know when they arrived and why and if they were farmers or nurserymen back in York where they are purported to have originated from.

It also seems the original Smith house built in the 1800 still stands in Smithfield Road Sea Cow Lake. Do you have any knowledge of this bit of history? If not, can you direct me as to how to find this information?

My involvement was casual at first  but I’ve become quite interested, and it has motivated me to have a closer look at Durban history and the saga that has made it the place it is. We could have done without the Sutcliffe bit at the end, I feel.


My informant David Vickery has chipped in with some of his memories of the times in the early 1960s, when Rock n Roll came to Durban. I have added them to the Cookie Look page here.


I am now getting to the bottom of my email inbox and discovered a note from Josephine Wallstrom. It reached me a shamefully long time ago but here, at last, it is:

Hi, I read your article about the Union Whaling Company and the factory ship the "Abraham Larsen. My farther in law Johan Axel Gunnar Wallstrom (Gunnar) was the engineer on board the Abraham Larsen in 1949 and, together with his friend Dr. Sven Larsen, the medical doctor on board the factory ship, went down to the ice in 1949 and stayed there about 6 months.

We have a few photos of the Abraham Larsen and of the crew at that time. Also we have a working drawing of a harpoon that my father-in-law made. I myself lived on the Bluff in the '50s and remember the stink of the whales.

My father in law used to bring pickled herrings and a milk drink called dutch baby (a thick milk used in coffee). Also he brought whale oil which was mixed with orange juice which the boys used to have a tablespoon of every morning, yuk.
Regards, Jo Wallstrom-Walda

FAD Newsflash – 30 January 2011

I am headed for a new life in Brisbane at the end of February and I’m appalled at how much I have to do before then. I will therefore be going off the air and will not be adding much, if anything to the site, until I get settled over there My various e-mail addresses (including the one on the contact page) will still be good and I’ll store incoming mail for attention later.

Edition 3 of Facts About Durban will remain available on the Order page of this website.

I also thought I would take this opportunity to remind you all that I have been appealing for donations to support the site and to, to be perfectly honest, to help feed me. Click the Donate button below:

FAD will be back and hopefully bigger and better than ever! So see you then.

Allan Jackson

P.S. There are half-formed plans to offer Durban memorabilia and maybe even another edition of the printed book.



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