Rachel Finlayson Pool

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Mike Kamionka wrote in with the following:

Don’t know where to post this rather sad story, but here goes!: (article dated May 2017). I was there last week and saw it for myself.

A two-year upgrade to restore one of Durban’s iconic beachfront swimming pools to its former glory has ground to a halt and now it is just an eyesore.

The Rachel Finlayson pool — once a major beachfront attraction – now stands empty‚ surrounded by overgrown grass and shrubs. Stagnating water from recent rains is pooled at the bottom.

An upgrade worth more than R4-million began in 2015 and was‚ according to reports‚ supposed to be completed within a year.

Municipal spokesman Tozi Mthethwa said: “The work on the Rachel Finlayson swimming pool was halted in order to allow the City the appropriate time to procure a finishing contract within this financial year.”

Democratic Alliance councillor Peter Graham‚ who sits on the city’s security and emergency services sub-committee‚ described the state of public pool as “shocking”.

“When you have a budget allocated‚ it’s for the entire project. I want to know where are the pubic funds that have been spent on this…? It’s so far from finished. It hasn’t changed in about three years. There are two security guards sitting there. This is another example of complete wastage of ratepayer’s money‚” he said.

“It looks as if any attempt to restore this icon of the Durban beachfront where so many of us did 1000’s of lengths in the 70’s and 80’s has been abandoned. When grass and shrubbery can be seen growing through the building material it is plain for the world to see the city has lost interest.”

Graham said the city’s treatment of the public asset was “completely unacceptable”.

Link to see the photos.


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Hotel Cecil

posted in: InfoRequests 2


Arthur Gammage wrote in with a query about the Hotel Cecil:


G’day Allan

Hotel Cecil image

Please will you publish this photo on fad and see if Bob Gooderson or anyone else can date this celebratory illumination of the Hotel Cecil complete with Union Jacks, or has another image of the hotel. It was at 14 West Street, adjacent to the Beach Hotel in its second manifestation.

On the right is the Electric Theatre, an early cinema. Behind at first floor or roof level is a Union period gable, which closely matched those on the Beach Hotel before it was replaced by the present multi-storey building.

Both Gerald Buttigieg and I remember a ZUT Boutique towards the end of West Street. Our family also used to watch 8mm films at home, rented from a shop in this location.

In the 1970s the old Cecil building was altered for the Mykonos Restaurant.

Arthur Gammage

Arthur also wonders if anyone has a picture of a church designed by Philip Dudgeon

I am researching some buildings shown along the Addington portion of Point Road on the Durban 1892 map. On the corner of Point and Hospital Road was a Presbyterian church, designed by Philip Dudgeon, who designed the first Town Hall through a competition entry. Maria Helena Martin in her thesis on Dudgeon, speaks of a prolonged and fruitless search for a photograph of the building, other than a few remnants after it had been replaced by the existing little Presbyterian Church, on the narrow part of Smith Street leading one-way onto Point Road. A three storey hotel was built on the street corner, masking the Gothic style church, which by 1931 was being used for Zulu services.

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Blasts from the past

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I recently realised that Facts About Durban has been going for 14 years (it feels more like a lifetime) and I had a happy morning trawling through the older parts of the site. There was no WordPress in those days and I manually created diary pages using Dreamweaver and posted links to new pictures and articles as I added them to the site. The old diary pages cover the period from June 10, 2003, to January 2011, when I added WordPress to the site, and are linked from here:


I then decided to see what was happening 10 years ago on FAD so I called up the diary page covering that period and I found, among other things that:

  • Neil Gould contributed reminiscences about Durban nightlife.
  • A storm surge struck Durban.
  • Wade Kidwell contributed a number of postcards.
  • I wrote a story about a troopship revolt in in Durban in 1942.
  • There was a large fire at the Seaboard Hotel.
  • We heard from Hans Hallen — the designer of the Little Top.


  • The third edition of my book Facts About Durban finally hit bookshop shelves.

I’d encourage everyone to have a browse through the early diary pages because it’s an excellent way of discovering stuff on the site that you might otherwise not see.

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Union Castle II

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Following on from the previous post on Tim Gallwey’s Union Castle memories, Trevor Friend sent in scans of his Union Castle memorabilia including a map of Africa and the schedule of sailings for 1955.

Union Castle map of Africa
Union Castle schedule of sailings – 1955


By the way, I have just updated Trevor’s page of memories growing up in Durban. It’s a substantial read but very nostalgia-provoking.

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Union Castle Memories

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Durban Castle. Click to see our page other ships called Durban.


By Tim Gallwey – August 2017

An integral part of the old Durban scene were the lavender coloured mail ships of Union-Castle. They would leave Southampton at 4 pm every Thursday and, if my memory is correct, they would arrive in Durban on Wednesday three weeks later.  As a consequence the latest issues of weekly magazines from the UK would be on sale in Durban on Thursday. The return trip to the UK left every Thursday afternoon around 4 pm. Because of the mail contract they were able to charge passengers less than their competitors such as the “City” ships of Ellerman & Bucknall, which made them popular with the travelling public until their demise in 1977. Separate from the mail service they also had a round Africa service which was more orientated towards cargo. Read More

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The siege of The Old Fort relieved

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I have posted Udo Richard Averweg’s article on the relief of The Old Fort which had been besieged by Boers.
He wrote:
Saturday 24th June 2017 marked the 175th anniversary of the arrival of the schooner Conch to the Bay of Natal (now known as Durban harbour). The ship’s arrival from Algoa Bay (now known as Port Elizabeth) on 24th June 1842, was instrumental in raising the month-long siege of the British garrison at Fort Port Natal (now known as The Old Fort, Durban).
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New Forest High 1969

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Trevor Friend sent in this picture of his matric class. Speak up if you know any of them.

Form 6B - New Forest High School - 1969
Form 6B – New Forest High School – 1969


Back Row: –
Andrew (Andy) Miller, Keith Demmer, John (Johnny) Banks, Brian Lloyd, David Downs
Middle Row: –
Trevor Friend, Gordon Green, James (Jimmy) van Dyke, Harold (Harry) George, Brian de Villiers
Front Row: –
Terrance (Terry) Espitallier, Trevor Harris, Daniel (Danny) Terblanche, Mr Brooks (Class Teacher), John Spencer, Geoffrey McClure, Edward (Eddie) Dees

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Eagle Building mural?

posted in: InfoRequests 8

Architect's drawing of Murchie's Passage

Regular contributor Arthur Gammage has a question about an elusive mural which may have been in Eagle Building at one stage. He wrote:

Hello Allan
I have completed an article on the work of John Churchill Simpson, architect and artist, which I have submitted to the KZN Architecture Journal, possibly for publication next year.
According to artefacts.co.za, Simpson while working for Geoffrey le Sueur, completed a decorative mural in 1968 for the SA Eagle building, which also contains Murchie’s Passage. This is said to have been a turning point in his career, whereafter he devoted himself to drawing and painting, becoming known especially for his paintings for the Adams Bookshop calendars.
However this mural remains elusive, no evidence thereof in or on the building, where G. le Sueur and partners had offices on the 23rd floor by 1972. A building plan search also found no reference to the feature.
So once again I look to your readers for any leads.
Arthur Gammage

Please contact me at the address on the contact page if you can help.

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Battle of Congella

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Udo Richard Averweg
Udo Richard Averweg


I have just uploaded the story of The Battle of Congella which was contributed by Udo Richard Averweg. I’ve created a page for Udo and you can download the story in PDF format from there. I will soon be adding his account of the relief of the siege of the Old Fort after Dick King reached Grahamstown and British reinforcements were sent to Durban.


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