History of the Wood’s Family in Port Elizabeth

As recounted by Rosemary MacGeoghegan nee Wood

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, a boat Owner, who came from Porto Recarratie, Italy in the 1860s, and settled in the Bay. The Giri’s family home was No. 2 Pier Street in Port Elizabeth opposite the mosque. 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 Magadriena 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.]

George and Clarence Wood aged 5 & 3 respectively

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!

George and Clarence Wood talking to Wild Capt Munday at Redhouse in 1920s
Harry and Magdalena Wood plus friends at a campfire in Schoenmakerskop. Harry is the shirt man in the back row with a black waistcoat. Immediately in front of him is Magadriena.
In the front row, the two little boys weating white hats were George on the left and Clarry in the right. Magadriena is in the middle row, 3rd from the left

By 1905, Magadriena had left the family. 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 and periwinkles etc. In addition there were plenty of springs of fresh water flowing down from the hills into the sea.

George Wood at 35 on the rocks at Schoenies

By 1915, the boys were able to erect a “shack” on the hill at the T-junction. All building materials that were needed were brought out to Schoenies on their bicycles. 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.

Schoenmakerskop in the 1930s with the Wood boys using the tent and some forgotten person using the shack. The main swimming pool – The Tanks – is not visible on the right

When the plots at Schoenmakerskop were auctioned in 1918, George gave his father Harry Wood money to purchase a plot for the family. This he did but bought the plot erf 23 in his name. Many years later George was able to transfer it into his name. Having purchased their plot, George & Clarry, together with Harry, moved the “shack”, which was like a very large box 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 Hut Tearoom, the predecessor of the Sacramento Restaurant

The gulley in front of their home was very rocky and the boys, together with 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 being. I enquired from my cousin Raymond Wood where these men had managed to get their hands on the dynamite? I was informed that it was readily available from certain shops in South End.

Some of the McCleland family at The Hut Tearoom. Top L-R Thelma, Mr Clemence, Daisy Bottom L-R Kathleen, Maureen & Clifford


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 [1924]. 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 married 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 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, she realised that it was now dependent upon her to help the family. To this end, she opened the first tearoom at Schoenies where the Sacramento Restaurant is located today.

George Wood

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.

George Wood at 55

Clarence married 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 island but not if it was high tide. There was a Boys’ rock and to the right, but further back, 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 you could see the fishing boats coming in after a day’s fishing at sea. I believe  that the fishermen worked for Oelofse’s Fisheries in Wlamer Road, South End.

The house on the left is the orginal cottage of Clarence Wood
The gulley at Schoenmakerskop now known as The Tanks painted by Rosemary’s sister Cynthia

Sources

Text and photos supplied by Rosemary MacGeoghegan


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