Gavin Foster- 23 September 2008
young woman who built a business empire, an adventurous fellow-
German who tried to get his motorcycle to fly, and a half-scale
replica of the first locomotive to run in South Africa. These
all make up the rich heritage of the Drummond area. GAVIN
FOSTER does the digging.
halfway between Durban and Pietermaritzburg on the old 1000
Hills Road lies the sleepy little village of Drummond. The
valley that sprawls to the east of the hamlet has been noted
in various historical documents, mainly for its beauty, but
also for the fact that it was, 180 years ago, home to Chief
Mndava and his voracious tribe of cannibals.
Kingham arrived at Drummond with her husband, Captain Percy
James Kingham, in 1902, she was just 22 and the cannibals
were no more. The striking young German woman came to South
Africa to join her sweetheart, a lawyer from her homeland.
Julius Schultz met up with her in Durban, but soon departed
for the goldfields, leaving Elise to scratch out a living
in the appropriately named Grubbs Hotel. There she met her
handsome British army officer, and married him on the rebound.
Click to view enlargement
Kingham left the army, and the young newlyweds bought the
Traffic Hotel at Drummond, on the site of the present-day
1000 Hills Hotel. Their marriage was a bleak and barren affair,
and Elise poured all her energy into work. She and her husband
established a trading store alongside the hotel, landed a
contract to grow wattle at Inchanga, and helped a rich businessman
built a timber factory in the village. Percy also built a
reservoir and pipeline that supplied water to the hotel and
brought in an additional income from local residents, while
Elise lived a life of drudgery keeping everything on track.
time went by Elise's strong personality and hard-working nature
shone through. After her husband sold the hotel in 1911, they
bought three piglets and a cow, and she began farming livestock.
She learned to cure hams and bacon, and sold these, with cream
cheese, in Durban. As the new road and railway line brought
labourers into the area she saw an opportunity to supply them
with meat, so she opened a butchery opposite the sawmill run
by her husband.
Click to view enlargement
the Kinghams owned thousands of acres of land, stretching
from Drummond down to Peacevale alongside the present N3,
and when Percy died in the late 1930s, she took over his sawmill,
in addition to all her other business interests. She later
sold off the land and retired to Durban, where she died at
86, in 1967.
a pity I didn't write down everything my mother, Vera, told
me before she died last year," says Veronica "Cica"
Damm. "Mrs Kingham was a very, very hard German woman.
She'd get up at 3am to milk the cows and open the butchery,
and then work all day. She was a hard taskmaster - my father,
Siegfried Wortmann, worked for her as a youngster in the 1930s,
managing her wattle plantations."
he married my mother, just before the war, he wanted to buy
a piece of land from Mrs Kingham, but she wouldn't sell -
she didn't want to lose him as a farm manager. He got an Indian
to front for him, and bought 1 000 acres from her, but when
she found out she refused to speak to him again until just
before he died in 1957. Then she came to see him and asked
for forgiveness." Cica and her family now live on scattered
smallholdings just below Drummond, on the land bought by her
father and given the name "Peacevale" by him.
was himself an adventurous soul. Sometime in the 1930s he
decided to see if he could get airborne on his Ariel motorcycle,
by strapping a massive wing to his back. "My mom told
me he left the ground, but I don't think the bike went with
him," Cica remembers. "All I know is that he crashed!"
incredible man in his flying machine.
Click to view enlargement
children enjoyed a marvellous childhood in the 1940s. "We
went to a German boarding school at Wartburg," remembers
Cica. "My dad would fetch us in his bakkie, and we'd
travel along a dreadful dirt road. The vehicle wanted to fall
apart, it was so bad. We'd arrive with our eyes full of dust,
but we loved it."
village hasn't changed much in the past half century. The
old Halfway Supply Store - exactly midway between Durban and
Pietermaritzburg - is now owned by Sue Cameron and her husband,
Ashley. They bought their house and the adjoining store, as
well as the Station Master's house next door, in 1999. In
front of the store, that now serves as a self-catering weekend
getaway, stands a half-scale model of the earliest steam train
in South Africa - the original first ran between Durban Point
and the city centre in June 1860.
Mervyn Humphries built the replica in 1966, and for years
it was used to give children joyrides at Blue Lagoon in Durban,
powered by a VW Beetle engine. Humphries, a previous owner
of the Cameron's home, Ravenscroft, wrote a history of Drummond,
entitled "Drummond -the beautiful valley", that
was sadly published only after his death.
far end of the road stands Elise Kingham's butchery, beside
the old Mill Cottage, once home to her driver and his family.
Originally built in the first decade of the 20th Century,
the cottage is now owned by retired social anthropologist
Kathleen Mack, who inherited it from the well-known artist
came here as a tenant in 1972 and wanted to buy the house
some years later. Mrs Hamilton, who painted under her maiden
name, Clara Ritter, said that her star sign was Cancer, and
Cancerians didn't part with possessions easily, but one day
she arrived here and told me she'd left me the cottage in
renowned artist, Dinty Moore, also once occupied Mill Cottage.
A couple of hundred metres up the road the 1000 Hills Hotel,
built in 1936 on the site of the Traffic Hotel, stands guard
over the valley below.
are other remnants of the Kingham era in Drummond, if you
know where to look. Beside the main road a few metres from
the village street can be seen the raised foundations of the
sawmill, and next to the replica locomotive stand the remains
of a water pump that delivered water from a spring to the
railway locomotives at the station, in 1877.
you close your eyes early in the morning and listen hard,
you may hear the old sawmill working hard, the roar of the
motorcycles that sped through the village during the DJ Rally
until 1936, and the slapping of thousands of feet as the ghosts
of countless Comrades Marathon runners shuffle through the
halfway point of their long-forgotten races.
to Hazel England of the Pinetown Museum for her assistance,
and Kathleen Mack and Cica Damm for their time and photographs.