Port Elizabeth of Yore: Hougham Hudson – Questionable Probity

By being not only a Civil Servant but by also occupying positions such as that of Civil Commissioner and Magistrate, the highest levels of integrity, trust and probity were demanded from the holder of these offices. During the establishment of a Leper Institution in Port Elizabeth, many questions were raised about Hougham Hudson’s integrity, and he was found wanting. Despite these episodes exposing additional breaches of ethical standards and behaviour, there appears to be no ostensible consequence for Hudson but it must have tarnishing his career in some manner or fashion.

Main picture: Hougham Hudson [1793-1860]

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Port Elizabeth of Yore: Mrs. Chase, Mr. Tee and the Toll Saga

Both parties to the dispute over payment of toll fees at the Toll outside the Baptist Church in Queen Street in 1840 were well-respected residents of Port Elizabeth. Mrs. Chase was daughter of Frederick Korsten, the wife of the late John Damant who died in 1825 and then the wife of John Centlivres Chase while the Toll Keeper clerk was one Richard Tee junior, the son of a property mogul and a founding member of St. Paul’s Church in Albany Street, also called Richard Tee.

It was while he was the “toll keeper of the Toll of Port Elizabeth” that Richard was involved in one of those cases which never should reach court (the sum involved was one shilling and four pence!), but which even reached the Circuit Court. As is so often the case in matters of this nature, each party no doubt felt that a matter of principle was at stake.

Main picture: The original toll used to be on the opposite side of Queen Street to the Baptist Church which hosted its final service in 1959  

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Port Elizabeth of Yore: The Settler Family called Damant

Most settler parties conformed to the rules of the Emigration Scheme that they would be settled in the frontier districts. Having been stationed at Fort Frederick for seven years prior to the arrival of the 1820 Settlers, Captain Damant had already decided that the Gamtoos valley area would be the new family home.

This is the saga of the Damant family of Hankey

Main picture: A farm in the Gamtoos Valley

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A SMAC in the Face #31: Hollow Victory Day Parade

All autocratic systems share a common weakness – they just love martial parades with serried ranks of men and weaponry.  Russia and Putin are no different.  Coming hard on the heels of their May Day celebrations is the Victory Day celebrations on May 9.  This day commemorates the final surrender of Nazi forces in WWII.  The USSR, as it was then, suffered the most of any country and rightly holds the day dear.  Confusingly, the Western Allies celebrate it as V-E (Victory in Europe) Day on the 8th of May when the definitive surrender document was signed.  V-E Day has become an anaemic celebration consisting mainly of wreath laying.  Russians, on the other hand, have used their Victory Day Parade through Red Square to demonstrate their military might like a steroid-enhanced bodybuilder pulling poses.  He could have a glass jaw, but he looks pretty impressive.

In the weeks preceding, Russia had repositioned its forces after its attempts to defeat Ukraine by main force had failed dismally.  It seemed that Putin was opting for a quick small solution in the East which would allow him still to declare victory on May 9.  Embarrassingly they failed again.  This year’s parade was eagerly anticipated, not for the military hardware, but to see what illogical distortions would Putin spew out and what dire tub-thumping threats would he make.  He generally disappointed but nevertheless creatively hailed a ‘great victory’ and devoted the rest of his speech to whingeing about American hegemony and Ukrainian Nazis who seek to destroy Russia.  ‘Russia’ he said, ‘preventively rebuffed the aggressor. It (the special operation/invasion/war – author) was necessary, timely and … right.’  The parade itself was anaemic with up to a third fewer vehicles than normal.  The obvious conclusion is that they are desperately needed elsewhere.  The Russian losses have been staggering – 1130 tanks, 2741 armoured personnel carriers, 509 artillery pieces, towed and self-propelled, 179 multiple rocket launch systems, 156 helicopters and 199 planes*.  To put the numbers into perspective, this represents 5-10 times the equipment owned by the SANDF, working and not-working. 

It is not an exaggeration to state that the Russian war chest is beginning to look bare.

*The numbers have been supplied by the Ukrainians but have been largely backed up by independent sources from photographic evidence.

Port Elizabeth of Yore: The Boer War Letters of the Ferndale Boys

A 2nd generation member of the Bean family, Mr Thomas Pullen Bean (1845 – 1925), living in the Sunday’s River Valley area struggled to make a living there. On listening to the advice of his brother-in-law and neighbour, Maj-Gen. John Pigott Nixon of Balmoral, he investigated the prospects of the Gamtoos Valley. Upon inspection, he was so enamoured that he rented the undeveloped farm, then known as “Saagkuilen” and still Crown land, on a tributary of the Gamtoos River in 1885. Initially the family of 10 children, 4 sons and 6 daughters, only had a wagon for accommodation. Not liking the Dutch name, he renamed it Ferndale. Soon Thomas applied himself a main house to be known as the Settler House as well as a tiny 2 room cottage, later expanded to 3. Seven years later in 1892, the wife of Thomas Pullen, Edith Emma Bean (nee Pakenham) purchased the property and accordance to the Title Deeds it is registered in her name. Finally in 1912, a more robust house, nicknamed the “Big House” was built on the property and the original house was demolished. The original cottage is still standing and functional.

Amongst the gaggle of ten children, two sons, Guy Pakenham Bean and Dixon Charles Pakenham Bean would join the Imperial forces and join battle against the two Boer Republics to the north. It was the letters of these two sons which would survive and through the gracious assistance of Patricia Reid, that I was able to obtain copies of two letters written by her father, Guy Pakenham Bean, and one of her uncle Dixon Bean. These three letters provide an insight, albeit a smidgen of a glimmer, into aspects of that tumultuous war.

Main picture: Front and rear of medal awarded to Guy Pakenham Bean

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Port Elizabeth of Yore: Pinchin’s Ascent of the Cockscomb

Robert Pinchin was born in England in 1824 and died in Port Elizabeth on the 9th May 1888 at the young age of 64 probably due to overwork. He arrived in Port Elizabeth from London in 1849, marrying Mary Ann Burton on the 13th September 1853, Pinchin was a land surveyor, civil engineer and architect from the end of 1849. During the period 1863 to 1868, Pinchin was in partnership with G.W. Smith. Pinchin laid out much of the first streets and properties in Central, Port Elizabeth and became a respected consultant. Robert negotiated a supply of water from the Shark River Co. to the municipality. In 1881, G.W. Smith again joined Pinchin in partnership, at Port Elizabeth, and on Pinchin’s death in 1888, took over the practice.

Pinchin’s interests were astronomy and geology. In 1862 he released his treatise in which he advocated the construction of the Van Stadens Water Scheme which would alleviate the water supply difficulties of Port Elizabeth which did not yet possess domestic plumbing. In 1870 Robert led a party which climbed the Cockscomb Peak and hence would be the 3rd successful party to do so as far as they were aware. Pinchin lived with his daughter in his mother-in-law’s house in Baakens Street and then in 1877 built a house in Park Drive. 

The Story of Pinchin’s Ascent

This narrative has been largely based upon the report that Pinchin drafted for the Herald and was published on the 20th April 1870.  Excluded are irrelevant comments and minor adjustments have been made to spellings and flow of sentences. Long sentences have also been truncated to enhance readability. Apart from these changes, the narrative is true to Pinchin’s original article in the Herald. 

Main picture: Cockscomb Peak from the north

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Port Elizabeth of Yore: Securing the Town’s Water Supply

The accepted norm when establishing a new town, is to locate it on a perennial water source. By non-adherence to this immutable law, the residents of the town were to suffer for 50 years. The first attempt to supply the residents of Port Elizabeth with water was not hugely successful. As the water was delivered by means of gravity feed from the Frames Reservoir on the Shark River, only the residents not residing on the hill could be serviced. Furthermore, the quality of the water was questionable. Far-sighted residents and officials agitated for a more reliable source of potable water. This is their story.

This blog has largely been based upon David Raymer’s excellent book entitled The Streams of Life: The Water Supply of Port Elizabeth and UItenhage.

Main picture: Weir on the Van Stadens River

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Port Elizabeth of Yore: The Strand Street Mosque

Amongst the earliest inhabitants of Port Elizabeth, was a group of Muslims foremost amongst whom was one, Fortuin Weys, of which the following has been written:

But the most famous entrepreneur was a Malay, Fortuin Weys, whose house was among the first to be built in Port Elizabeth, and who became one of the wealthiest residents of the town”. 

The first mosque to be built in Port Elizabeth was the Grace Street Mosque to serve the growing Muslim community which previously had to travel to Uitenhage for Friday prayers. Hence it is the oldest mosque erected in Port Elizabeth. Another mosque, in close proximity to this one, would later be built viz the Strand Street Mosque

Main picture: The Strand Street Mosque. To imagine the scale of the building, imagine that a fully-grown man would only take half of the height of the front door.

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