The Follies of Youth in Port Elizabeth

There can be little doubt that Port Elizabeth offers some superb opportunities for the ill-advised youths in Port Elizabeth to partake in speed related challenges. Needless to say, my brother Blaine has finally revealed some incidents in his ill-spent youth in which he might have met his maker long before his allotted three score and ten years. 

Main picture: Blaine’s Yamaha which was the crux of Blaine’s follies

Continue reading

Another Ruddy Job in an Era of Loyalty to one’s Employer

Amongst the many traits of the people half a century ago were loyalty, loyalty to one’s family and fealty to one’s employer. Because of this, one never got divorced however dysfunctional the marriage or toxic the employer. 

In my father’s case, it meant spending his whole working life for bosses that he disrespected and conditions under which he felt exploited. 

Spare a thought for one such employee, Harry Clifford McCleland, in this milieu. 

Main picture: Main Entrance to Yard of JJ Ruddy & Sons in Lindsay Road

Continue reading

WW2 Military Record: Harry Clifford McCleland

Never once did my father ever discuss his involvement in WW2 let alone regale us with stories of the war. Today I bemoan the fact that he was not more open & forthright about his participation; any vignette, however mundane, would have provided an insight into what he had to endure, what was risible and what was hilarious. 

Despite the fact that he had contracted polio as a youngster, and hence was technically not eligible for military service, yet he duly and dutifully volunteered. 

Military duties comprise two categories: active service and non-active service. The latter encompasses experiences such as how they survived on a litre of water per day, the scorching heat or the cloying  oppressively, hot southerly khamsin winds. In my father’s case, being an artificer and a driver precluded him from direct contact with the enemy. Nevertheless, all of his other experiences could have provided a valuable peep into a lost world.

This blog is solely based upon his Military Record which Steve Groeneveld, a running friend, has been able to obtain from the military document centre in Pretoria. 

Main picture: Harry Clifford McCleland in military attire

Continue reading

The Reverend Francis McCleland – A Life of Service

In order to celebrate the bicentennial of the arrival of the first McCleland to South Africa, I decided to compile a history of my ancestor. Fortunately, he was instrumental in the erection of the first church in Port Elizabeth, St Mary’s Church. In addition, his house at Number Seven Castle Hill was proclaimed a National Monument in 1965. This has provided a starting point in uncovering of the real person concealed behind the cassock.

Main picture: St Mary’s Church after being rebuilt in 1895

Continue reading

Kirkcudbright Document: Establishing the McCleland’s Right to Peerage

This document serves as a record of the basis upon which the McCleland’s peerage rights were obtained. From a purely historical aspect, this document serves thus as an important family document. Notwithstanding that fact but more as an interesting point of speculation is the matter of the vacant peerage. For some 200 years, it has been vacant with nobody making a claim to the title of Lord Kircudbright.

The full document with related annexures has been included in this blog for posterity.

Main picture: M’Clellan Castle at Kirkcudbright

Continue reading

The Parsonage House at Number 7 Castle Hill Port Elizabeth

This, the oldest unaltered house in Port Elizabeth, bears a specific significance in my life. The original owner of that house – the Reverend Francis McCleland – was my great-great-grandfather. In 1962 the house was declared a National Monument. In order to restore the parsonage house from a place of ill-repute back to its former glory, all members of the McCleland clan in Port Elizabeth were requested to contribute financially to this process.

This blog chronicles how this parsonage came to be erected in Port Elizabeth, its fall from grace, and then how it achieved its current status as a treasured museum

Main picture: This must be the earliest view of Number 7 Castle Hill – a lithograph by W.J. Huggins showing whaling in Algoa Bay in 1832. The recently completed house of Francis McCleland stands alone at the top of Castle Hill, midway between Fort Frederick and the memorial pyramid to Lady Donkin, after whom the town of Port Elizabeth was named

Continue reading

The Sea can be a Dangerous Place as I Learnt

Being brought up by the sea brought us boundless joy as children. From a very early age we all learned to swim proficiently. As my father was brought up at the coast, he took us to the beach every weekend irrespective of what the weather conditions were like. Due to our competence, we were left unsupervised and unattended on the beach from an early age. Instead of the current generation frequenting the malls, we led an active life.

Even as a competent swimmer I twice almost did not see another day. On both occasions it was a spring tide which was the cause of my near fatal mishaps. Perhaps familiarity breeds contempt as I did not treat the sea with the caution it deserves.

These are the chronicles of those events still seared in my memory.

Main picture: This is a view of the main sand dune at Maitlands River Mouth  Continue reading

Dare Devil Bike Races down the Third Avenue Newton Park Dip

I cannot recall how old I was, but I must have been in High School because I never owned a bike in Primary School. Either that or I had foolishly borrowed somebody else’s bike. In what can only be described as an act of utter insanity – in retrospect – we would race down one side of the Third Avenue Dip in Newton Park, Port Elizabeth as fast as possible and then up the other side. Then one had to take into consideration the factors which bedevilled this race:  a narrow winding road, fast cars and road hazards in the form of pot holes, rough patches and bumps all in strategic places. Amazingly none of us was killed or even seriously hurt.

This is the story of this mis-adventure.

Main picture: The Third Avenue Dip in Newton Park which the road submerged due to floodingThe bike races were from the top of the hill near the houses. By the time one “hit” the bridge. one could be doing at least 80 kph.

Continue reading

A Sunday Drive to Schoenmakerskop in 1922

After losing all their possessions in a great flood of the Gamtoos River in 1906, my paternal grand- parents purchased 3 plots in an isolated hamlet called Schoenmakerskop during July 1918. On erf 17 – what was to become Number 32 Marine Drive – they constructed a wooden restaurant, which in its early years was called “The Hut”. With only a limestone and sand road from Walmer, their customers must have been paltry. Against the odds, luck was their side. On Wednesday 6th December 1922, Marine Drive was opened. It became a magnet for the rich and well-heeled in Port Elizabeth. Soon  The Hut was overflowing with customers and the whole family was impressed into service catering for this demand.

This blog is a pictorial replication of that drive on Sunday 10th December 1922 with contemporary photographs and drawings.

Main Picture: The start of the drive was at the Port Elizabeth Town Hall. One hundred and fifty model T Fords line up to make the journey around the Marine Drive. This is the actual photograph of the vehicles lining up.

Continue reading