Port Elizabeth of Yore : Volume 1 – Defying the Odds

As Port Elizabeth approaches 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.

Volume 1 entitled Defying the Odds will be released later this year with the other three volumes following at six-month intervals.

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.

Port Elizabeth of Yore: From Sundridge to the Sharley Cribb

From the outset, Park Drive was envisaged as having large erven so as to accommodate “villa sites”.  Many of the initial homes could be classified as mansions owned by the haute monde but the succeeding generations could either no longer afford such luxurious accommodation or they cashed in their inheritance.

In the manner, the original inhabitants of Sundridge strode the same path: from manor house to nursing home.

Main picture: The original Sundridge mansion

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Horse Memorial: The Humanity of Man

The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way that its animals are treated.

Apparently, this quote has been falsely attributed to Mahatma Gandhi.  Nevertheless, it remains a great quote.  What is not in dispute is the following broadly similar quote from 1905 that was engraved in perpetuity (we hope) on the Horse Memorial in Port Elizabeth.

Main picture: The ineffably humble inscription on the Horse Memorial

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The Art of Mea Culpa and Conduct Unbecoming

Bruce Koloane obviously agreed to plead guilty to his three charges at his disciplinary hearing which meant that no evidence was led and, hence, no red faces, particularly for No. 1 – that is if his face could turn red.  Thinking about it, even if he was melatoninally challenged like me, he still would not
blush as he has no sh

But I digress. Pleading guilty is very useful in certain cases.

Main picture: Uit klaar parade, Officers Course, Tech Services Corp, Dec 1981

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Port Elizabeth of Yore: The Story of “Knockfierna” in Park Drive

Knockfierna (Hill of Fairies or Truth) was originally built in 1899 as an opulent grand Victorian Mansion by John Daverin, from Ireland, who was a successful Wool Merchant. John and his wife, Clothilda, brought up their seven children in the grand style befitting this era. It was then owned by Harry James Harraway and then Raymond Whitworth Hutchinson before becoming St. George’s Preparatory School.

This is the story of this mansion and its first three owners as told by Tennyson S. Bodill.

Main picture: Knockfierna circa 1900

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Port Elizabeth of Yore: Blunting the Menace of the Drift Sands

A natural feature of Port Elizabeth since time immemorial was a band of drift sands stretching from Gulchways near Schoenmakerskop across the bush to Algoa Bay between Shark River and Bird Road.

To protect the town, in the 1870s it was decided to prevent the sands’ possible movement over the town by planting bushes and trees over the sand dunes. This process took 30 years. Apart from remnants of these dunes, none of this natural feature remains except the sandy soil. The consequences of tampering with nature always results in unintended consequences. In a separate blog I have addressed those negative effects on the ecological system.

This blog has been based upon an excellent article by Ivor Markman which was published in the Herald on Monday 20th July 2009

Main picture: Mule train used to deposit refuse on the drift sands

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Port Elizabeth of Yore: The Opening of St. George’s Park

Many of the visitors to Port Elizabeth in its formative years paint a deeply unflattering picture of the hamlet as being dull and dreary or more depressingly as “a parcel of miserable huts huddled together on the seashore”. By the 1860s that situation was being cast aside by numerous events amongst which was the opening of St. George’s Park and the erection of the majestic Town Hall.  

This blog is based almost exclusively upon an unpublished article by Tennyson S. Bodill on this event entitled Narrative of the Park on the Hill.

Main picture: The Pearson Conservatory in 1888

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Port Elizabeth of Yore: Ford Motor Company

Ford had a long association with Port Elizabeth until its relocation to Mamelodi, Pretoria after Ford’s disinvestment from South Africa during 1985. From its humble origins in its first factory located in an ex-woolstore in Grahamstown Road in November 1923, it was subsequently relocated to Harrower Road and then to Neave Township.

Main picture: This was the first factory of Ford Motor Company in Port Elizabeth

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