Pearson Conservatory in decay despite upgrade

This article first appeared in the The Heritage Portal Newsletter Number45/2017

Six years after the Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality spent R5.5-million renovating the Pearson Conservatory at St George’s Park, the historical building is falling apart, with paint peeling and window frames broken.

Main picture: Peeling paint and broken window frames at the Pearson Conservatory. Picture: Devon Koen

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Port Elizabeth of Yore: Sir Rufane Shaw Donkin

Sir Rufane Shaw Donkin was the point man for the British Empire in the Cape of Good Hope at the time of the arrival of the British Settlers. In his letters, Donkin reveals himself to be a kindly man unlike the cold autocrat that was Lord Charles Somerset. Furthermore, they reflect a desire to assist the colonists. In fact, he was not prepared to sacrifice principles for his own advancement. For these reasons, the Settlers were most fortunate in having him rather than Somerset in charge at this momentous moment in the affairs of the Cape.

Main picture: Sir Rufane Shaw Donkin

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Port Elizabeth of Yore: Japanese warplanes over PE during WW2

In 1942, Port Elizabeth had some unwelcome aerial visitors. During the period 20-27th April, unidentified aircraft flew over South African ports, including Port Elizabeth. Fighters were scrambled but they never made any contact with the intruders. It was only after the war that researchers and historians found out more about these mysterious visitors. 

Main picture: The Yokosuka E14Y “Glen” Scout Plane painted by Ron Belling

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Port Elizabeth of Yore: The Defiance Campaign of 1952

Just like the fact that the destruction of South End is an integral part of Port Elizabeth’s history so is the paint theft which culminated in the Defiance Campaign. How did such a minor issue transmogrify into a riot? It was the sense of displacement and discrimination that the Black population had endured from the time of their relocation from the inner-city locations such as Strangers’ Location in Russell Road and Gubb’s Location in Mill Park. Perhaps this was the defining moment when forever White domination in South Africa would be under siege.

Main picture: New Brighton Railway Station

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Port Elizabeth of Yore: The Port Elizabeth Club

Until fairly recently the concept of a gentlemen’s club was in vogue and all the rage. Businessmen felt the need for pleasant relaxation playing snooker and billiards after a day at the office. Only the finest whiskeys would slake their thirst. So as not to be distracted, the admission policies usually excluded females, blacks, Jews and the chattering classes. Even Bohemian types were probably excluded. 

In 1866, Port Elizabeth joined the ranks of towns which catered for the needs of this select group of individuals. 

Main picture: The original Port Elizabeth Club building circa 1880s 

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Mission: Destroy U-Boat 240 Miles South of Cape Recife

These are the reminiscences of Denis Glendinning, one of the first pilots posted to 6 Squadron RAF based at 42 Air School, Port Elizabeth. Denis is well known in Port Elizabeth having served as a City Councillor. Apart from being a war story, it highlights the fundamental difference in the martial activities of the Allies and their German opponents whereby the SAAF placed its members in extreme danger in order to rescue the crew of a U-Boat after it had been sunk. 

This depiction of a flight in atrocious weather encapsulates the pathos of the situation. This his personal story in Glendinning’s own words.

 Main picture: Avro Anson over Cape Recife in November 1942

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