Baumann…. the Durban Bakers.

Recently I happened to read a post on the internet submitted by Judy Banks concerning a Baumann family record / family tree that she has. Judy is a direct descendant of the Baumann family.

I contacted Judy and asked permission to post the contents of the book on Facts about Durban.  She agreed to this and I acknowledge her as the source.  I thought as an addendum I would add a bit more to the history with notes and pictures that I have managed to source.

Here are the pages of Judy Banks’ book.  The personal notes are here and the family tree notes are at the end of this posting.

Click on pictures to enlarge.

Read More

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Durban Hotels

Sheldene Crawford, whom I acknowledge here, forwarded me extracts from a book she has concerning some of Durban’s better hotels at the time. The book dates to 1958 and was published by Victor de la Hurst. Sadly some of the hotels do not exist today and have passed into history. I have added my own comments below the pictures. where applicable.  Click on Pictures  to Enlarge. Read More

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Allan Jackson Rest In Peace.

It is with the deepest sadness that I have just learnt that Allan Jackson passed away in Australia. This was posted on the FaceBook Facts about Durban site by Andrew Shemmeld .


“It is with great sadness that I have to announce that the founder of this group, Allan Jackson , passed away peacefully last night after a lengthy battle with pancreatic cancer. Allan was not only the founder of this group but also of the FAD website and author of the book “Facts About Durban”, which was published in 3 editions. He was a “Durbanite” through and through and was passionate about the history of Durban and surrounds as is evident in his books and websites. Other than his books, Allan was also worked for, and wrote many articles for Natal Newspapers and various other magazines. His computer column in the Sunday Tribune was very popular and ran for many years. His true passion though was in his photography. I was privileged to have him often photograph my family occasions. His artistic flair for photography shines through in his photos of landscape and city scenes. To me he was a good friend and confidant of 30plus years and one time business partner. Rest in harmony Allan . Your legacy will live on.”


Though we never met in person you became a personal friend and we shared many a topic on this site.

Rest in eternal Peace Allan. Your friend Gerald Buttigieg

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School Dances.

There seems to be an interest on social media regarding school dances held at various schools in the distant past. These were the days when the hype around school dances was not what it has become today. But as many things have,  even school dances have been commercialized and today’s school dance is no comparison to what took place in the past. Read More

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The Macks of Isipingo: A personal journey of discovery.

The History of the Macks of Isipingo is rather interesting and goes back to the time when Durban was just beginning to prosper round about 1850 when the Byrne Settlers started arriving.

To curtail repetitive entries I am abbreviating Gazley to G, Gazley is the maiden surname of Robert G Mack’s mother, Hannah Gazley and carried as the middle name of most of the boys in the Mack Family. Click on pictures to enlarge!

BES Byrne Emigration Scheme. It would be beneficial to first read the article on the BES scheme I wrote on Facts about Durban to give you an idea of what it was all about. Here is the link:

Commemorating the Arrival of the Byrne Settlers 1849.

When I started researching the Mack history I had come to realise that very little if any of the Mack history was preserved or recorded so I set out at least to document something. I am going to relate what I did unearth and I will come into the picture at the appropriate time. So here goes. Read More

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Durban Railway Station.

I came across this wonderful site which covers the Durban Railway Network from its earliest days. The site is called Soul of a Railway and covers the whole South African Railway saga. I looked at the Natal Durban system and the author has collated some of the finest pictures of Durban Station I have seen. Please note that all the pictures and text are copyright.

Try this link: or else put Soul of A Railway into Google. Look for the Natal System.

Gerald Buttigieg

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Distant Memories

posted in: Mini Memories 18

Reader Gordon Forrester left a comment on an earlier post about the 1950s but I thought I would give it its own diary entry because it covers quite a bit of ground and may provoke some discussion. He wrote:

My memories go back to earlier times. I remember the King and Queen of England visiting Durban. I remember an aircraft crash on the golf course near the Durban Club. I remember the Pat Fairfield motor race in 1948. Dennis Cotterall and Basil Beall. It was a handicap. Also the Bluff Motor Cycle races.
The riots in Durban when the blacks beat up the indians, and having our car searched in Clairwood. The Sunday evening movies at Wanderers in Montclair showing hired movies from African Consolidated Theatres using a 16mm projector borrowed from Coca Cola. Even watching African Mirror in the Princes bioscope where i saw myself winning the Durban Centenary Soapbox Derby Championship. I still have my minature replica.
The Oxford, Roxy, and the other continuous bio-cafe that burnt down with Henwoods in West Street, where they served you a green cooldrink or icecream, as you watched the show. I saw ‘To Please a Lady’ with Clark Gable about 5 times one day. It was about the Indy 500.
Nathan Smith’s panelbeaters in Brickhill Road and meetings of the Motor Racing Marshals Association at a brewery hotel on the Esplanade, Riviera, i think. There was even a floating tea-room out in the Bay. You took a ferry from the Gardiner Street Jetty. The trams that did the Berea circuit and trolley buses that had to be connected again when a trolley came off the wires. The Cavalcade War Effort Show in Albert Park, and the Torch Commando with flickering torches outside the City Hall.
Also the visit of Pat Boone to Durban and his shows at the big Icedrome. Hoy Park Speedway with Buddy Fuller, and Stirling Moss at the Westmead Circuit near Pinetown. We even had Skid Kids and a league.
My granny drove a truck for the Ex-Service Woman’s Cartage Company with WW2 salvage vehicles, and Durban had a telephone exchange in Pine Street near the old Mercury newspaper. Grey Street had a delicious curry take-away, and Shimwells had fancy new bicycles. Hercules, Phillips and then the best Raleigh models. The Nursing home near Greyville racecourse and the San on the Berea where my broken neck was fixed. Lovely nurses! Wonderful random memories. Thank you, for them all, Durban. Sadly, a City that is no more.

Another email from Gordon Arrived a short time later. It kicks off with an anecdote about his grandmother, mentioned above, whose name will be familiar to most Durbanites. He wrote:

My granny was Mrs. Fin or Dockside Annie, although she was actually Rachel Finlayson, the lady who gave her name to the Beach Baths in Dutban. A swimming coach of renown. Her husband, my grandfather was head of the Durban Corporation Telephone Department and his name was Gordon Black Finlayson. He died before my birth in 1938. He came from Aberdeen in Scotland in 1896.
my same granny was Mrs. Fin or Dockside Annie, although she was actually Rachel Finlayson, the lady who gave her name to the Beach Baths in Dutban. A swimming coach of renown. Her husband, my grandfather was head if the Durban Corporation Telephone Department and his name was Gordon Black Finlayson. He died before my birth in 1938. He came from Aberdeen in Scotland in 1896.
I remember the West Street Groyne and barbed wire on the beach, during the war. The black out curtains and an air raid shelter in the grounds of flats in Hunt road.
The Christmas lights at Payne Brothers, Greenacres, and OK Bazaars where they competed to be Durban’s best.
The library and Museum at the back of the City Hall, And the Little Theatre in a lane between the Princes bioscope and the Royal Hotel. I sang a solo of Greensleeves with the Park View School Choir there.
I also remember Bakers horse and cart that brought the bread down Hunt Road and us kids sat on the back step for a ride. “Sammy”, who carried two baskets of fruit and vegetables, hung from a long pole, over his shoulder.
Nutty Toffees, 4 for a 1d.
The railway bus ride to PMB for a day’s outing, with a stop at The Valley of 1000 Hills for tea and cake in Drummond. I preferred an icecream. Then from Pmb Railway Station to the Botanical Gardens by bus, for a lunch time picnic.
The big household shows at the Wool Market in Umbilo, the talent shows at the Planet Theatre opposite the Umbilo Fire Station, and being allowed to slide down the brass pole by Captain? Goulding.
I also remember the factory tours. Lion Match Factory at Stamford Hill, Lever Brothers at Maydon Wharf, Dunlop Tyres in the Congella area. The Dry Docks where they pumped the water out and the ship settled on its keel for maintenance.
The Municipal housing developments at Virginia, Sherwood and Woodlands. The double story home of Charlie Barends, SA champion jockey and the swimming pool he graciously allowed the neighbourhood kids to use in Montclair and Mr. Wayne’s stable, where we had a boxing ring. And the horse riding stables in Montclair Road. The bicycle races through the Montclair bush, and even the sawmill up above the park.
And the row boats for hire on the Isipingo River with it’s tea garden up river a ways. We played pirates so happily there.
Being taught to play soccer by Topper Brown, and the soccer ground near the big Sugar Mill next to a river in Clairwood. The Union Flour Mill with its tall silos and the bridge over the railway line at Umbilo Station.
Those were the days, my friend, We thought they would never end.

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End of the road for iconic Beach Hotel

I was quite surprised to see this one line entry in the Natal Mercury announcing the closure of what must be one of the iconic hotels on Durban’s beachfront. One would have thought that the imminent closure of the Beach Hotel would have been considered a bit more newsworthy.

But Durban is changing and the CBD is no longer what it used to be. I suppose with the economy as it is, the tight margins to keep hotels going in these tough times is having its effect. I have no information on the Beach’s Hotel past history but from old postcards and photos it would appear that it may have been the first beach front hotel of them all. As it was the Beach front was known as the Back Beach for in the early days the beach was actually the “sandy shore” along what is now the Esplanade. The present Beach Front apparently was a series of high sand dunes which in time were levelled when the development of the shipping wharves became a priority and the “beach front” on the Bay had to give way.

I have managed to gather a few pictures of the Beach Hotel as it transformed over the years. I remember it as the single storey with the long verandah and the big sea facing gables. Then the redevelopment of the corner site it stood on into a multistorey building that it is today. One wonders what its future will be. More student accommodation like its not too far off neighbour down West Street the Lonsdale Hotel.

Click on the pictures to enlarge.

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The Cuban Hat

The “Cuban Hat” and its neighbour “The Nest” were two very popular drive in locales situated on the then Lower Marine Parade in Durban. They were especially popular in the late 50s / early 60s when own car transport became an essential must have amongst young adults. These were the days when young adult life changed considerably when freedom of movement, the changed music and habits of the time and there was a general improvement in living standards. Initially any form of car was better than none because as the saying was, it enabled you to get to “where the action was”. Action being where parties, socials, “sessions” and get togethers. The fact that you could pick up your mates or girl friends and go together as a group made life good. Parents of the time had to adjust to the times because they were brought up when stricter parental control was generally enforced. The days of dates being, sitting in the lounge with the parents were no longer and life was now centred on getting out and about and mixing with your own age group.

This accounted for the popularity of the three such Beach front locales that existed in Durban. The two most popular the Cuban Hat and The Nest and the other some distance away the XL Tea Room at Addington became very popular haunts. They were free, the refreshments were affordable and invariably your friends would happen to be there as well. Combined they were not overly large and Friday and Saturday nights they were fully parked in and business was excellent. The two sites also became the meeting place for motor bike groups which in those days were to a large extent a “separate breed”.

Thanks to Michelle Jacobs, she posted two pages of the original Cuban Hat building and surprisingly the Cuban Hat dates back to 1953. These are classic pictures in my opinion and prompted me to add them to the site. Click on pictures to enlarge.

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