The visit of Prince George to Durban


By Allan Jackson

My informant Chris Allen some years ago inherited a copy of the official programme, put out by the Borough of Durban in 1934, to mark the visit of HRH Prince George** to the Town. He was kind enough to scan the original and send it to me via e-mail.

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The programme is a very neatly produced booklet containing all the information that Durbanites and visitors to the town might possibly have wanted to know about the visit. It was apparently sold for sixpence a copy and included a section outlining Durban's history and extolling it's many virtues.

A poem is included which, however turgid, leaves you in no doubt about Durban's sentiments towards its Royal Visitor:

A Prince of Peace

Sailor Son of a Sailor King,
Prince of a sea-girt land,
A loyal Port of the Southern Seas
Greets you with heart and hand.

Son of a race renowned in war,
Whose dearest wish is Peace,
Our marts shall close, Our shops and shows,
While we acclaim you, cheer you, name you,
George, our Prince of Peace

According to the programme, the Prince's train was due to arrive at Berea Road Station at 4pm on 5 May 1934. He was to be received on the platform by the Mayor, Councillor P. Osborne, the Town Clerk, Mr A.O. Jones, and the Chief Magistrate.

From that moment on, he can't have had a minute's peace until he left for Ladysmith on Thursday morning. His first duty would have been to inspect a Guard of Honour mounted by the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve, under Commander W.B. Collier, and before proceding to Church Street, in front of the Town Hall, for the official welcome.

The streets between the station and the Town Hall were to be lined by what probably amounted to everyone in Durban who owned some sort of uniform. To be represented were the RNVR, Durban Light Infantry, Natal Mounted Rifles, S.A. Engineer Corps, S.A. Signal Corps, S.A. Medical Corps, S.A. Service Corps and the Boy Scouts and Girl Guides. Members of St John's Ambulance were to be on hand in case they were needed and, I imagine, although the programme doesn't mention it, that the Borough Police would have been in charge of traffic arrangements. No fewer than three bands, including the Municipal Military Band, were to play at the welcome ceremony.

The programme noted that, by courtesy of Messrs. African Broadcasting Co. Ltd., all the proceedings were to be broadcast by the firm's Durban station.

Later on in the evening the Prince was to be a guest at a civic banquet at the Marine Hotel. At the same time, there were to be various events at Ocean Beach including a Grand Fancy Dress Dance at the Pavilion and a 'humorous' swimming gala. It was hoped that the Prince would put in an appearance at the dance.

Other events were to include:

  • Lunch at the Marine Hotel with the Rotary Club
  • A Rally of Scouts and Guides
  • An event at the Track Grounds, Old Fort, which had been organised for the 'Native' (for native, read black) residents of Durban
  • A visit to Kingsmead where a Currie Cup cricket match between Natal and Western Province would be in progress
  • An Indian Community Banquet at the DLI Hall
  • A Grand Ball in the City Hall
  • Another Grand Fancy Dress Dance in the Pavilion
  • Indian Celebrations in Albert Park
  • A School's Demonstration at Kingsmead
  • Lunch with the Durban Turf Club and a special race meeting at which the Prince George's Cup, over a mile and a quarter, was to be the main race and the Prince was to present the winner's trophy
  • An ex-servicemen's concert
  • Another dance at the Pavilion, this time a Grand Bal Masque

The prince was due to leave Durban from the Central Railway station at 8 am on Thursday, 8 March, 1934.

As I have noted, the rest of the programme is given over to singing Durban's praises and, as I liked the language so much, I have included two excerpts.

"It is interesting to view an old print of Durban as it was in the middle of last century and then to turn to a panoramic view of the Durban of to-day. The power of commerce is apparent, and, in place of a small settlement comprising a few wood and iron buildings set among sand dunes, the picture now portrays a magnificent land-locked bay through which the great ships and many nations come and go, while in the background the outlines of lofty commercial houses, the pinnacled towers of public buildings, and the green slopes of the Berea - the beautiful residential quarter of the town - complete the landscape. So much change can human and wise enterprise bnd the lapse of a few swift years bring about. The charm of Durban is its versatility. First and foremost, it is acknowledged to be the finest harbour on our Eastern shores - the link that brings us into direct contact with the East; it is one of the chief commercial pivots of the Union; it is a quickly growing industrial centre; it is the perfect seaside resort for the South African winter months and also greatly favoured during the summer season when, in spite of a slight humidity occasionally, it is always blessed with delightfully cool and ozone-laden breezes; and, lastly, it is the most healthy and cleanly place of residence in the land, worthily upholding its appellation as the 'Brighton of South Africa.'"

And there's also

Durban is a beautiful resort in every way, and its citizens may perhaps be pardoned for taking such a pride in their town which combines such a sparkling medley of life, commerce and gaiety. To-day this varied combination is more apparent than ever with the visit to our town of that charming "Ambassador of Empire," His Royal Highness the Prince George."

The booklet is very similar in tone and content to one I have in my possession, which was put out by the Town Council in 1927 to mark the visit of HMS Durban to Durban. I can only assume that the Council did this sort of thing regularly to promote their Town and I think it's a very good idea.

**Prince George later became King George VI after the abdication of his brother, Kind Edward VIII, in 1936. As King, he was to visit Durban again in 1948.

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