Schoenmakerskop: From Convict Station to Sleepy Hamlet


On the southern coast of Port Elizabeth lies a hamlet barely touched by civilisation. Comprising less than 100 cottages, it is partially a retirement village as well as a holiday resort. Unlike the endless sandy beaches of Algoa Bay, it comprises shingly gullies and rock pools. Instead of the perfect waves for surfers, theses gullies are safe even for toddlers. 

This blog chronicles the early history of this timeless hamlet with its Norfolk pines oblivious to the sea breezes.    

This is where I learnt to swim, to dive, to fish – which I never enjoyed – and to explore the inter-tidal zone and rock pools.

Main picture: Motor vehicles on the commonage in front of The Hut Tearoom at Schoenmakerskop

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Fidel Castro: A Flawed Hero


The world has witnessed outpourings not only of grief at Fidel Castro’s passing but also admiration for his achievements. In South Africa, this has been especially pronounced amongst supporters of the ANC, EFF & Cosatu. The fact that Castro supported the ANC to obtain freedom for the Blacks in South Africa will never absolve Castro for repression, oppression, persecution and enslavement for his own people. 

The bald facts are that Castro was a dictator: pure and simple. 

Main picture:  Fidel Castro at MATS Terminal in Washington in 1959  Continue reading

Port Elizabeth of Yore: Piet Retief as Farmer and Land Speculator


In all likelihood, school learners who take history as a subject would be aware that Piet Retief, a descendant of French Huguenot extraction, was a renowned Voortrekker Leader who was ultimately killed by the duplicious Dingane. 

What the school history books do not teach the learners in Port Elizabeth, is that he owned substantial land in well-known parts of what was to become the City of Port Elizabeth. 

Main picture: The Piet Retief Monument in Summerstrand

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St. Albans Church, Draaifontein

St Albans Church at Draaifontein where Elizabeth Daisy McCleland married Harry William McCleland on 11th May 1904

Amongst the few things that I know about my grandmother’s upbringing, is that as a Beckley, she was raised in the family house in Draaifontein. Furthermore, Elizabeth Daisy McCleland always claimed that she was the first person to be betrothed in the St Albans Church.

Only after recently receiving a photograph of the original iron & timber church from Rosemary MacGeoghan and the excellent notes by Anthony Beckley, have I been able to establish something of substance about this quaint church. 

This is the story of the family church. 

Main picture: Original St. Alban’s Church

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Wild Fig Trees in Port Elizabeth


Strangely, as a youngster in Port Elizabeth I harboured a love hate relationship with trees. The Syringa tree in my Aunt Thelma’s back yard was the best. The three of us kids – Cheryl included – would attempt to climb to the top most branches. I loved it for the challenge. 

On the other hand, what I loved for its beauty was the Wild Fig, which we drove past every Sunday on our way to Granny Mac. This was just a passing acquaintance but the visit to Trinder Square was the real deal, an enchanted affair. Whenever we visited out cousins staying in Pearson Street, this is where we would play. Unlike the Syringa, one could not climb it, but only admire it. 

Main picture: Wild Fig trees in Trinder Square

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Cecil McCleland: Memories of Meriel Burman nee McCleland


Spare a thought for an extremely young girl, her parents first separated and then at the tender age of 10, her father dies. Imagine the sense of loss, the perpetual sense of emptiness. This is the personal and touching story of Meriel [Merry] Burman as she recalls her father, Cecil McCleland and recounts her life growing up almost cheek-by-jowl with other McCleland’s in Newton Park but never knowing them. Meriel is the correct spelling of Merry’s name as I have gently been scolded.

This is Meriel’s story

Main picture: Cecil & Dorothy McCleland in 1939. A serene idyllic scene of family happiness with Cecil fishing & Dorothy stroking the family dog

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Port Elizabeth of Yore: The Saga of the Drift Sands


The fact that the whole tip of the peninsular formed by the southeastern part of Port Elizabeth comprised a huge swathe of sand dunes is now totally lost to its current inhabitants. Commencing in the late 1800’s, a scheme was instituted to prevent the further northern spread of these dunes. 

This was their death knell. Today some dunes, a remnant, are still visible at its extremities of Sardinia Bay, the western extent of this dune field, and around the Cape Recife area whilst the driftsands incubator itself, lost its battle for primacy.   

This is the story of their demise. 

Main picture: Sardinia Bay, a remnant of a once vast sand field stretching inland through Bushy Park to Humewood

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A Letter by a Grandmother to her Granddaughter on her Engagement

Top L-R Thelma, Mr Clements, Daisy Bottom L-R Kathleen, Maureen & Clifford

In March 1926, the 19 year old Kathleen Mary McCleland took the momentous step of getting engaged. No one understood what attracted Kathleen to the 33 year old George Wood but whatever it was, she was smitten. 

To congratulate her and offer some sound words of advice, her grandmother, Mrs Mary Ann Beckley, sent her this letter. Having been born in Ludlow, Shropshire, England on the 20th December 1847, Granny Mary was 79 years old. 

Main picture: Top L-R Thelma, Mr Clements, Daisy Bottom L-R Kathleen, Maureen & Clifford

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Bryce Beckley McCleland – A Second Chance at Life


Bryce was the proverbial laat lammertjie. By being born on the 24th August 1922, meant that he was the youngest of the six McCleland children of Harry & Daisy McCleland of Schoenmakerskop. In what can only be described as a tumultuous few years, first his elder brother Francis accidently shot himself during an attempted break-in at his parents Tea Room, then at the age of 8 his father succumbed to Black Water Fever which he had contracted fighting in German East Africa. 

Main picture: Bryce and Auret McCleland – most probably taken at their 40th wedding anniversary in 1986 when Mom was 65 yrs old – Dad was 68.

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