Port Elizabeth of Yore: The 1905 Floods in the Gamtoos Valley

During the past two centuries, the Gamtoos Valley has experienced at least seven severe floods – 1847, 1867, 1905, 1916, 1932, 1944 and 1961. Of those, the 1905 flood was the most destructive, not from an overall economic perspective but rather due to the fact that my grandfather, Harry William McCleland, and his young bride, Elizabeth Daisy, were made destitute.

While my grandparents’ experiences might have been sadly lost in the mists of time, this account by a survivor, Mrs Gillbee, has survived 

Main picture: Gamtoos River in 1903

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Port Elizabeth of Yore: The Old Gamtoos River Bridge

Like all river crossings before the advent of pontoons and later bridges, the travellers could only cross the river at locations sufficiently far inland so as not to be affected by tidal inflows while still being as close to the coast as possible. Furthermore both of the ingress and egress points had to be characterised by gentle slopes. 

This blog covers the evolution of the crossing of the Gamtoos River from pontoon to a single lane bridge. 

Main picture: Ferry across the Gamtoos River

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Elizabeth Daisy McCleland: Overcoming Adversity

Granny Mac was more than our grandmother, she was the matriarch of the family. Adversity came in many forms, all steeling her for the next calamity. But she endured, persevered and overcame all these trials and trubulations. First the family lost its farm on the Gamtoos due to floods, then the cattle herd at De Stades due to rinderpest, but the cherry on the top was the death of her husband, Harry William, due to Black Water Fever in 1925. Despite all this misfortune and adversity, she survived and prospered. With her tiny frame and diminutive size, she was the epitome of the fighter that she was.

This is the story of that amazing woman.

Main picture: Schoenmakerskop and Daisy’s Tea Room with its famous home-made buns became a popular destination due to the convergence of a number of simultaneous events namely the invention of the motor car and the opening of the coastal road to Schoenies in 1922.

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