Port Elizabeth of Yore: The Oldest Golf Club

During 1890, the first golf club was formed in Port Elizabeth. A preliminary meeting was held in the Algoa House Hotel on 29 August, and the first rounds were played on 27 September. The first President was Sir Frederick Blaine and the site chosen for the course was on the North End flats. In 1902 the new course and club-house on the Cape Road flats were opened.

Main picture: Golf Links of the Port Elizabeth Golf Club

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Port Elizabeth of Yore: The Early Years of Aviation

By any measure the first airplanes were light-weight midgets with the French Nieuport 17 weighing only 375 kgs. As such they did not require a hardened surface on which to land. Any reasonably level grass covered field or strip of dirt or sand could suffice as an airfield. In Port Elizabeth’s case, the area adjacent to First Avenue Newton Park was selected as the airfield. Not only that but a concreted apron was required otherwise standing aircraft were liable to sink into soggy and damp ground. Also required are various other structures such as hangars and a terminal building.

Main picture: Painting by Ron Belling of Harvards flying over the military section of the airport

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Port Elizabeth of Yore: Airfields, Airports & Aerodromes

During the age of biplanes, aerodromes, airfields and airports were intimate places where family and their friends could view the passengers boarding while standing beside the plane. Today their signature features are formality, impersonality and huge scale, the very antithesis of the personal touch. This impersonality is exacerbated by the hub-and-spoke approach of air flight today.

Without radar, navigational aids such as ILS or concrete runways, these aerodromes served these fragile midget planes.

Main picture: Avro Anson F1 1143 based at 42 Air School

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Port Elizabeth of Yore: The Introduction of Air Flight

It can safely be presumed that the residents of Port Elizabeth were equally as fascinated at the concept of air flight as the rest of South Africa. As a testament to that allure was the great fanfare that Allister Miller’s flight from Cape Town in 1917 engendered. 

This is the story of how fascination transmogrified into plans and then planes. This was an age of dreamers and schemers. 

Main picture: Experimental air mail service between Cape Town and Durban

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Allister Miller: A South African Air Pioneer & his Connection with Port Elizabeth

Allister Miller was not only a war hero but he was instrumental in the creation of a civilian aviation industry in South Africa. By all objective measures, he can claim to be the father of this industry. Due to his recording breaking flight from Cape Town to Port Elizabeth, he was accorded recognition in Port Elizabeth by naming the street past the airport, Allister Miller Drive.

Lieutenant-Colonel Allister Miller DSO OBE (1892–1951) was a South African aviation pioneer, who contributed significantly to both military and civil aviation in his country during the first half of the 20th century.

But what did Allister Miller actually do to receive this acclamation?

The original caption on the photograph: The end of an historic flight, Rio de Janeiro II, piloted by Major (later Lieut.-Col) Allister Miller, the pioneer of South African civil aviation, lies upended in a bunker on the old 17th fairway of the Port Elizabeth Golf Club on Wednesday, 7th November 1917. Major Miller, accompanied by Sgt-Mechanic Way, took off from Young’s Field Cape Town. Five hours, 18 minutes later flying at an average speed of 70 m.p.h., the plane touched down at the P.E. Golf Club – the first plane ever to land in the City. An estimated 5,000 people were waiting at the Club to witness the arrival, but they pressed so close when the plane touched down that Major Miller was forced to crash his craft into a fairway bunker to avoid the over-eager spectators. His action prevented what could have been a major tragedy. The only damage to the plane, fortunately, was a broken propeller which was presented to the Club as a memento of an historic occasion.

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