Humans understand facts by categorising them in multiple ways. The most utilised method is a three way distinction. In reality this method, whilst providing simple solutions, most are completely incorrect as it does not allow for nuances as life is a shade of grey and not black or white. Hence incorrect conclusions are derived. Despite these reservations in this blog I have used the classification the Good, the Bad and the Extraordinary. According to this methodology, Clarence Wood can be classified as extraordinary.
Do you concur?
Note that the Woods referred to are not Ashley and Doreen Woods of number 36, but rather Clarence Wood of number 44.
This is the Wood’s story as recounted by Rosemary MacGeoghegan [nee Wood] with additional information provided by sundry other people.
Main picture: William, Elize and Harry Wood in South End in 1864
Arrival in a new country
William, Elize and baby Hannah Wood left Yorkshire, England in 1859 on board the Shah Jehan and arrived in Algoa Bay in July of the same year. William was a Trader and Elizabeth a dressmaker. The family settled in Upper Pier Street and their son, Harry, was born in December 1860. He married Magadriena Giri at St. Mary’s Church in 1882. She was the only daughter of Joseph Giri [actual name Giuseppe Pasquale Giri], a boat owner, who came from Porto Recanati, Italy in the 1860s, and settled in the Bay. The Giri’s family home was No. 2 Pier Street in South End opposite the mosque which has subsequently been converted into parking for the worshippers. It might also have housed his workshop. Giri was a boat proprietor and when he passed away in 1894, his boats were sold to the Messina brothers. In family circles it was believed that Joseph Giri brought out from Italy the marble to be used in the new St. Augustine Church in Port Elizabeth. Harry and Magdalena had three sons: George Wood [born 1893, died at Walmer in 1958], William Wood, [born in 1894, died at birth] and Clarence Wood [born in 1897 and died at Schoenmakerskop around 1970.]
Wild Captain Munday
For some time the family lived at Redhouse and George and Clarrie were very friendly with “Wild Capt. Munday”, who spent a lot of time on the Swartkop’s River, rowing and sailing his boats. No doubt it was Capt. Munday’s love of ships and the sea that had a lasting effect on the young George. One fine day George and Clarence sailed their little boat down the Swartkops River, through the mouth and into Algoa Baya and beached the boat close to the Railway Station. Fortunately the brothers were recognised, their father was called from his workplace, and the boys were promptly put on the train back to Redhouse. What happened to their boat nobody remembers!
Magdelena disappears off the scene
By 1905, Magdalena had left the family. No information is available about what precipiated this decision as most women would never abandon their children. Harry and his two sons moved to South End to stay with their mother / grandmother. At a very early age, the Wood family were frequent visitors to Schoenmakerskop and, as the boys grew older, they would ride their bicycles to Schoenies to spend their school holidays there. Both boys attended the Grey Institute and when George finished his schooling at the age of fifteen years, he found work with Mitchell & Cotts Shipping in Strand Street. After church on Sundays, George and Clarry would still cycle to Schoenies for a swim and roam along the coastline and rocks for dunnage which they left in a case until they were able to build a “shack” for themselves. George often spoke of the lovely smell of “flowers” which grew in the area and covered the sand dunes as you approached Schoenies from Walmer. It was at this point that one would get a whiff of the tangy smell of the sea and the excitement of a dip in the cool water after a long cycle from South End.
They never took food or water with them, only their fishing tackle & matches as there was an abundance of fish waiting to be caught and plenty of food on the rocks: mussels, ollycrocks – a marine mollusc which is eaten as seafood and used as bait – and periwinkles. In addition there were plenty of springs of fresh water flowing down from the hills into the sea.
The prototype shack
Prior to 1918, Schoenmakerskop was Crown Land. Despite this various people “squatted” on the land and for accommodation they built timber shacks often from packing cases of imported vehicles and disassembled cars. By 1915, the boys were able to erect a “shack” on the hill above the T-junction [Victoria Drive and Marine Drive]. All building materials that were needed were either brought out to Schoenies on their bicycles or flotsam collected on the beach and rocks at Schoenmakerskop. During one weekend at the “shack”, George could not sleep due to his brother’s snoring. He woke him up and then realised his mistake as it was not his brother but on investigation found a puff adder sleeping under the building material.
When the plots at Schoenmakerskop were auctioned in 1918, George gave his father Harry Wood money to purchase a plot for the family. As George had commenced work circa 1908 at the age of 15, this money was probably from his savings. This he did but Harry purchased the plot – erf 23 – in his own name instead. Many years later George was able to transfer the plot into his name. Having purchased their plot, George & Clarrie, together with Harry, moved the one-roomed “shack”, which was like a very large box from the T-junction onto their plot and over time were able to erect a verandah around the “box”, using the dunnage that had been collected from the rocks over the years. The floorboards in the kitchen and bedroom were laid by the Wood family in about 1919. This wood was collected from the shipwrecks on the beaches around Schoenmakerskop.
The explosive incident
While on a beach walk during 1918, Harry Wood picked up a piece of wood which had washed ashore. The name Lynwood, already carved on this find, was taken home by Harry, fixed to his cottage and that is how the house acquired its name.
The gulley in front of their home was very rocky and the boys, together with their father, were able to purchase dynamite to rid the gulley of the rocks in order to make a decent gulley for swimming. This is how the gully, now known as the Tanks, came into existence. My cousin Rosemary MacGeoghegen enquired from her cousin Raymond Wood where these men had managed to get their hands on the dynamite. She was informed that it was readily available from certain shops in South End. In fact without the benefit of motorised mechanical equipment, the use of dynamite was a regular occurence when building roads.
According to the history of St. Mary’s Church, “A parishioner of sixty years’ standing, Mrs. Eliza Ann Wood, was called to rest on 4th October . Until old age crippled her greater activities, she was very regular in her church duties. In spite of her long sojourn in a new country, her broad Yorkshire dialect still survived, and in longevity Mrs. Wood fulfilled the traditions of her county. She died at the age of eighty-nine, and within a short day of her death was carrying out her household duties.”
George Wood married my aunt, Kathleen McCleland, in 1928. She was the daughter of Harry and Daisy McCleland who settled at Schoenies around 1913 with five of their children. Harry, the husband of Daisy Elizabeth McCleland, joined the Union Defence Force at the start of the war in 1914, after losing his home and vegetable lands in the Gamtoos floods of 1905 and subsequently losing his dairy herd to the rinderpest in 1911/12. In 1915/16 when Daisy heard that Harry had contracted Black Water Fever, now known as malaria, while serving in German East Africa during WW1, she realised that the family was now dependent upon her. To this end, she opened the first tearoom at Schoenies where the Sacramento Restaurant is located today, and named it The Hut Tearoom. As no signage ever bore that name, her customers merely called it Mrs. Mac’s Tearoom. It was only on her death when her will was read, did this fact come to light.
George and Kathleen moved into their home in Fordyce Road, Walmer and at the weekend would walk out to Schoenies to see their families and no doubt help at the “Hut Tearoom” which turned out to be very popular with the residents of Port Elizabeth.
The Maverick settles down
Even though I met Clarrie Wood in my youth many times as our canoe was parked under his Norfolk pine tree for about a decade, I barely know the man. At that stage I must have only been in my teens whereas he was an old man. It is only 50 years later that I heard some of the stories of his childhood. Many allude to other pranks and actions which are indicative of a maverick who lived a colourful and full life.
Clarence did ultimately settle down by marrying Jessie Drysdale and they lived in the cottage. Jessie died in 1950. Clarry became a well-known handyman in the village once he retired from work as a wool sorter. He was affectionately known as Daddy Wood and of an evening, you would see him standing on the village green overlooking the gulley. One could see 1st & 2nd islands but not if it was high tide. There was a Boys’ rock and to the right, but further back, a Girls’ Rock, then Mullets Pool and down the coast Sardinia Bay. Rumour has it that Clarry Wood buried an unroadworthy Hupmobile in the garden of his house presumably to dispose of it.
In earlier days Clarrie would also watch the fishing boats coming in after a day’s fishing at sea. These fishermen apparently worked for Oelofse’s Fisheries in Walmer Road, South End.
People with a bohemian unconventional streak often do not form successful relationships with their spouses or their children. One wonders whether this had an impact on his daughter Olga, who only recently passed away on 31st March 2023. As my father was raised virtually as a next door neighbours of the Woods, he knew Olga Wood. In fact I am in possession of a photo of them suntanning on the rocks at Schoenies. My father’s sister, Kathleen, married George Wood and apparently Olga Wood had a crush on my father. Inspite of the 19 year age difference, but the relationship never progressed. any further. My dad was to meet my mother about two years later and marriage followed in June 1952 Was it war service which prevented the relationship from progressing? We will never know. Instead Olga chose a Mr Truscott.
Family history as recounted by Rosemary MacGeoghegan nee Wood
Darling, would like a string of pearls or a house at Schoenmakeskop? by Joan Shaw. A private publication
Text and photos supplied by Rosemary MacGeoghegan