My Draaifontein Great Grandmother: Mary Ann Beckley

Normally women during this era were hidden from the purview of subsequent generations. Whether they are remembered – if they are recalled at all – is through the deeds of their husband and not for what they achieved themselves. But Polly – Mary Ann’s sobriquet – was different. She survives not through some outrageous deed but rather her wistful letters and poignant poetry.

Main picture:Joseph James and Mary Ann Beckley with their youngest daughter Grace on the front verandah at Draaifontein.

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Port Elizabeth of Yore: The Draaifontein Farmhouse

The original house of the McCleland’s in PE was No. 7 Castle Hill but how many in the McCleland clan are aware that the distaff side of the family for three of the Rev Francis McCleland’s sons, whose wives were all Beckley’s, were raised in this unprepossessing house on the hill along Draaifontein Road.

Whether this house was built in 1803, as is now supposed, or in 1815 when Capt. Francis Evatt was granted this property, is irrelevant in the oldest extant house stakes. On either count, no. 7 Castle Hill is the lame donkey to the virile horse.  

 Main picture: Photo of the Title Deeds taken by Tony Beckley

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Port Elizabeth of Yore: St. Alban’s Church, Draaifontein

Amongst the few things that I know about my grandmother’s upbringing, is that as a Beckley, she was raised in the family house in Draaifontein. Furthermore, Elizabeth Daisy McCleland always claimed that she was the first person to be betrothed in the St Albans Church.

Only after recently receiving a photograph of the original iron & timber church from Rosemary MacGeoghan and the excellent notes by Anthony Beckley, have I been able to establish something of substance about this quaint church. 

This is the story of the family church. 

Main picture: Original St. Alban’s Church

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