Port Elizabeth of Yore : Volume 1 – Defying the Odds – Now Available

This volume is now available as follows: Soft cover = R 250, hard cover R475 plus shipment costs to SA destinations at R100. Copies of the book can be collected in Joburg from Dean [082 801 5446], Cape Town from Blaine [074 103 7137] and at Port Elizabeth from Alan [084 981 8491 oe 041 368 1304]. Alternatively email Dean at deanm@orangedotdesigns.co.za.

Banking details:

Bank: Standard Bank Branch: Clearwater Mall Account number: 00 294 451 0 Swift code for overseas payments: SBZAZAJJ Reference: Will be provided before EFT is performed

As Port Elizabeth celebrated its bicentenary in April 2020, this event has to be celebrated for not only was it the birth of a new town, but it was also home to many of our ancestors. This four-volume set of books records those birth pangs and well as the people and events which over the next 150 years made Port Elizabeth what it is today.

Comments on the back cover

Initially Port Elizabeth was only earmarked as a landing place for the British settlers and not as their destination. Yet in the thirty-year period from 1820 to 1850, contrary to expectations it experienced a tremendous growth spurt. So prodigious in fact was its expansion that it even overtook Cape Town in terms of the volume of exports.

This is the story of the people and events that form the basis of this incredible journey.

This book forms part of a four-volume series which takes the reader on the fascinating odyssey from the original inhabitants – the Khoi – through the town’s development into an entrepôt, wool processor and exporter to its pinnacle as the Detroit of South Africa.

PE of Yore: Interesting aspects during the Construction of the Harbour

One aerial photograph taken in 1935 shows how the construction of the new harbour was progressing and the sequence of operations. This blog examines this photo in detail with explanations provided by Blaine McCleland.

Main picture:  Aerial view of the harbour with the breakwater almost complete, stub jetty and the construction of the Charl Malan just commencing

The breakwater

Clearly the construction of the breakwater had commenced many years previously given the fact that it was largely completed already. In fact it had been commenced in 1922 and was largely complete by 1935. Note the huge Titan crane, also known as block-setting cranes, still in operation placing gigantic cement blocks into the water. The Titan block setting crane is parked at its spot on the breakwater after finishing its back breaking task of building the breakwater.  Apart from possibly moving a few times to assist in various building projects on that side such as the ore terminal, tanker berth, etc, it remained an iconic feature until 1973.

More interestingly, Blaine notes “how the breakwater was built offset from Dom Pedro so as not to interfere with wharf operations as it would be critical having lost the cranes on the north side of the North Jetty.

Lastly, in ten years very little sand had accumulated against the breakwater. This is probably a consequence of the fact that the first portion of breakwater was in fact an extension of the Dom Pedro jetty which permitted the flow of the northerly current through this area. Only once the jetty was replaced with a concrete breakwater, did the accumulation of sand commence.

The “stub” jetty

This curiosity arose during the construction of the quays. The only plausible explanation for its erection according to Blaine, is to serve as a passenger landing jetty given the loss of the North Jetty whose prime function was the offloading of passengers.

On the left the Charl Malan quay is being constructed. In the centre is the mysterious “stub” jetty

With the completion of the first full berth on the Charl Malan quay, the stub jetty (red ellipse on the photo 2 below) was surplus to requirements and they just built the approaches to No. 2 Quay right over it.  Quite rude of them.  They must have salvaged the decking but left the pilings to rot as they were too must trouble to extract.  Knowing that it was temporary they probably used untreated wood of inferior quality, after all, they had lots of experience with that problem when the built the original jetties.

The South Jetty

While the North Jetty served as the passenger terminal and hence garnering all the attention and limelight, the workhorse jetties viz the Dom Pedro and the South, went unnoticed. In the more than 50 photos of the jetties that I possess, less than half a dozen photos relate to these two jetties. From an economic perspective, these two jetties and the landing beaches were the main income generators of the harbour until the Charl Malan Quay was completed.

In the foreground is the breakwater with the early Humewood in the background

Charl Malan Quay

There was another block setting crane (blue ellipse) used on the Charl Malan Quay.  It has been labelled as the Goliath crane to distinguish it from the Titan crane.  They were both built by Stothert and Pitt and the names have been used interchangeably for both of them.  A crane of this type was supplied for construction in the Table Bay Harbour in the mid 1920’s.  The cranes were highly specialized and once the construction was completed, they were often broken up and moved somewhere else.  It is possible that it ended up in Port Elizabeth.

The Goliath crane on the end of the Charl Malan Quay during construction


Finally, one has got to feel for the lighters huddled between the South Jetty and the Breakwater.  Just like the dinosaurs, they experienced a cataclysmic environmental change and became superfluous overnight.



Article by Blaine McCleland Some observations on the construction of the harbour

The Chances of Surviving Once Hospitalised with Covid are not Good

What struck me about the pandemic in the UK is that the infections in their 2 nd wave are running at roughly 10x the 1st wave yet their daily death rates are only slightly higher. I don’t wish to theorise about why that is so, but what I did find significant is how their death rate visually correlated exceptionally well to their hospitalization rate.

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Port Elizabeth of Yore: The Size of the North Jetty

North Jetty served as the principal jetty of the Port Elizabeth harbour from 1870 to the early 1930s. A quick view of this jetty reveals a minute useable working area supported by 10 cranes. How did this jetty handle all the passenger cargo especially during the first 3 decades of the 20th century and how does its size compare with that of a modern ship tied up alongside it?

Main picture: The North Jetty circa 1908

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The J&J Vaccine is not Necessarily the Solution to SA’s Covid Problem

With the gatslag of the announcement that the AstraZeneca vaccine does not work against the SA variant, the health department seems to favour the J&J vaccine since its SA trial leg encountered the SA variant which none of the others did.  However, when you unpack the numbers, it is not hopeful as the effective sample size is exceedingly small.  I posit, with good reason, that the effective sample size on which they base their unimpressive efficacy of 57% is 49!

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The Military Mind

The SADF process, that so many white South Africans endured against their will, wasn’t such an aberration after all.  The military mind is the same no matter where you find yourself.  What made me rediscover this?  It was this article on the coup d’etat in Myanmar.  I am not talking about the coup itself, although I believe most Generals have wet dreams above usurping power, it was the picture that invoked suppressed memories from 40 years ago.

I’m talking about the distinctly non-military white wall tyres on this APC (Armoured Personnel Carrier) in Myanmar.

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The Brazilian Variant

South Africa always seems to hit the worldwide headlines for all the wrong reasons.  Normally, the reasons are self-inflicted but South Africa has again become a household name when a South African Variant of the SARS-CoV-2 was discovered and found to be more infectious, if not more lethal.  Luckily, we’ve been upstaged by a new variant, known as the Brazilian Variant, that popped up in Manaus and overwhelmed their medical system within 24 hours.

Prince Alfred’s Guards: In the Line of Fire

Up until 1942, Prince Alfred’s Guards had always been an infantry unit. This was to change after the Battle of Alamein when it was converted into an armoured unit forming part of the 6th Armoured Division. It was at this juncture that Lt. Arnold (Coley) Colenbrander was posted into this Port Elizabeth unit as a tank commander. This blog covers the miraculous escape by Coley when his tank, an M4 Sherman, was destroyed by a German 75mm anti-tank gun outside Celleno in northern Italy, killing three of his crew.

Main picture: Coley’s Sherman after the battle at Cellano on 10th June 1944. Coley was in the turret when the shell struck the tank

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Since July 2017, Adobe has been telling the world that they were pulling their Flash Player as at 31 December 2020.  SARS woke up to the problem too late and could only migrate half their input forms to the new method in time.  On 24 January 2021, they announced that they had created their own browser which could accept the plug-in to solve their self-created problem. This is a very dangerous approach given that they are dealing with highly sensitive and confidential information and given it takes an immense effort to ensure that any home-grown software is unhackable.  In addition, it does not run on the Apple operating system, iOS.  This led me to think whimsically about SARS creating its own operating system, tOS-SARS (Tax Operating System – SARS) or tOS for short.

Coincidently, one month prior to Adobe’s announcement, Mmamathe Makhekhe-Mokhuane was appointed Chief Officer – DIST (Digital Information Systems and Technology, I presume).  Who can ever forget that hilarious interview in October 2018 on SABC-TV conducted with her where she struggled to answer softball questions?  This led her to plead, “Ma’am, can you give me protection from yourself?”  In reply to a parliamentary question, Tito Mboweni provided the following information on her qualifications:

A due diligence was conducted on the following qualifications prior her appointment and were Verified:

(1) Diploma in Practical Accounting, Damelin, 1996

(2)  Diploma in Bookkeeping, Damelin, 1996

(3)  Diploma in Business Organization & Management, Damelin, 1997

(4)  Diploma in Personnel Training and Management, Damelin, 1997

(5)  Master of Business Administration, University of North West, 2004

A due diligence was not conducted on the following foreign qualifications prior her appointment:

(6)  General Certificate of Education. University of Cambridge, 1985

(7)  Diploma in Information Technology, Square one, Data processing College, 1987.”