The Uninvited Guest Who Stayed – Part 1

Herbie arrived uninvited at our house one night in 1973 when Dean rocked up with a buggered 1961 1200cc VW Beetle.   We didn’t actually name it Herbie but that name had been made famous by the 1968 movie, The Love Bug, and so I shall refer to it thus from time to time.   The family all trundled out into the dark to watch proud Dean show off his new little baby.  Dad was aghast as, with his superior experience, he knew that it was a piece of junk and washed his hands of it.  Dean’s friend, Michael Baker, owned one and it was he who had convinced Dean to buy it for R90.  I was in Standard 9 and this was a lovely, real life challenge for me.  I had done my apprenticeship on Mom’s sewing machine and Dad’s lawnmower.  Now for the big time.

Main picture: 1960-1969 Volkswagen Beetle – Not my vehicle as only one photo exists of it

Continue reading

Schoenies: A Very Special Place

Mom hated Schoenies, or Schoenmakerskop, to give it its full name.  Maybe that’s a bit strong, but she was bored, bored, bored with the place.  Dad was seldom adventurous and since he grew up there in the early 1900s, he kept returning to it like a homesick baby desperately trying to return to the womb.  Saturday afternoon, summer and winter, would invariably find us there.  Maybe Mom had a spirit of adventure after all.  I, however and I think my siblings, loved the place.  We kids knew that place like our own backyard as we explored every little bit of it – multiple times.

Main picture: Main gully at Schoenies showing the two islands at mid tide and how the obliquely running rocks form a natural breakwater

Continue reading

Reverend Francis McCleland: A Life in Port Elizabeth 1825 – 1853

At best the Irish Settlers in Clanwilliam eked out a precarious existence. The Settlement could not have been called a resounding success both for the Settlers generally and the McCleland household in particular. After a number of unseemly fracases, Francis was granted a transfer to the newly created hamlet named Port Elizabeth which was supposed to have been their original disembarkation point. 

It was here that Francis and Elizabeth would spend the rest of their lives. This episode, the final one, is the chronicle of that life. 

Main picture: Castle Hill in 1851 painted by engineer Henry Fancourt White of White’s Road fame. Number 7 Castle Hill is the commodious double storey house on the right on top of the hill

  Continue reading

Reverend Francis McCleland per Theal’s “Records of the Cape Colony”

George McCall Theal was the most prolific and influential South African historian, archivist and genealogist of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. In his epic compendium Records of the Cape Colony, he records all the correspondence by and to the Colonial Office in Cape Town for the period 1793 to 1827. As the last seven years coincide with the arrival of the original batch of Settlers, this series of 35 books contains a rich vein of data to be mined. 

Before even landing in Saldanha Bay, Francis McCleland had already made a name for himself as a heavy drinker and troublesome priest. As well, William Parker – the Party Leader – and Francis McCleland were a volatile mix, ever on the brink of ignition. 

For these reasons, the McCleland name is often fairly and sometimes unfairly denigrated in these pages. For ease of reference, I have extracted all references to the irascible Irish clergyman however oblique. 

Main picture: George McCall Theal

Continue reading

Rev Francis McCleland: An Interlude in Clanwilliam 1820 – 1825

This, the fifth episode in the life of the Reverend Francis McCleland, deals with his arrival in Cape Town in early May 1820 and their disappointment at being redirected to settle in Clanwilliam instead of the Eastern Border. 

Not to put too fine a point on it but the five years spent at Clanwilliam were character forming with the man in the cassock not always cutting a fine figure. Casting a long shadow over this Party was the leader himself. Self-serving, megalomaniac and irascible, William Parker was to add to their woes. 

Beset by troubles from every quarter, acrimony and dissension descended on this disparate party. 

Main picture: A Settler House in Clanwilliam

Continue reading

Captain Francis William Henry McCleland

Of the ten children that the Reverend Francis McCleland sired over a period of 19 years from 1821 to 1839, four were sons of which two died in infancy. Spare a thought for his wife, Elizabeth. In effect this fact meant that Elizabeth was pregnant every second year of their marriage. Of these surviving sons, Francis William Henry McCleland was the eldest son. Born on 17th October 1827, Francis William was arguably to become the most successful of the Rev. Francis’ six surviving children. 

It is through Francis William that the majority of the McCleland family in South Africa can trace their descent and why the Beckley and McCleland clans in South Africa will forever be inextricably linked. The betrothal of three of Francis William’s sons to three Beckley girls would be that chain. 

This is the life story of my great grandfather. 

Main picture: Francis William Henry McCleland

Continue reading

St. Albans Church, Draaifontein

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

Continue reading