Port Elizabeth of Yore: Shipping Activity of 13th April 1935

During the first half of the 20th century, one major service, now in severe decline, occupied a prominent place in the city’s commercial life. That was shipping and its ancillary services. It was fortunate to represent both major industries in Port Elizabeth: the export of wool and the importation of motor vehicles’ parts to be assembled in the two major motor plants viz General Motors and Ford.

To satisfy the interests of commerce and the general public in these activities, The Eastern Province Herald ran various articles regularly on these activities. Interestingly these articles even listed the names of passengers.

My uncle, George Wood, the representative for Mitchell Cotts in Port Elizabeth, kept copies of these newspaper clippings especially where they mentioned him. This is an example of such an article published on the 13th April 1935 and provides an insight into a vital aspect of commercial activity.

Main photo: Port entry of PE photographed on the 5 Jan1938 from the bridge of the German battleship training ship – SCHLESWIG HOLSTEIN during its 6 months cruise around Africa.

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Port Elizabeth of Yore: A Lighter Meets its End at Chelsea Point

Prior to the opening of the first quay, the Charl Malan, in 1933, most freight was unloaded from a cargo ship in the roadstead onto a lighter which would transport the cargo to one of the jetties protruding into the Bay. As North Jetty was used predominantly to offload passengers from tugs & lighters, the jetties that were used to offload cargo were the South and the Dom Pedro Jetties. There the cargo was again manhandled being offloaded from the lighter onto the jetty from which it was loaded onto a train as the age of the truck had not yet arrived.

Main picture: Lighter aground at Chelsea Point

When my uncle, George Wood, started work at Michell Cotts, immediately after completing his schooling, one of his first jobs was to supervise the loading of these lighters at sea. He was issued with only one piece of equipment, a megaphone, with which to communicate with the loaders aboard the lighter. Apparently he possessed a natural stentorian voice and thus he discarded the megaphone in favour of his voice.

Being unpowered, the normal process of moving these lighters between the shore and the freighter and then between the freighter and the shore was to use a tug. During this process, the tug would pull three or four lighters at a time.

Above: A tuge pulling four lighters to the jetties

One day during the second decade of the 20th century, a batch of empty lighters was delivered to a freighter in the Bay. Perhaps there was a steady westerly wind blowing but whatever was the cause of a lighter drifting off, is now unknown. It drifted off from the roadstead in the Bay, around Cape Recife and was washed up at Chelsea Point.

With camera in hand, George Wood sped to the site where the lighter had grounded and took the photo above of it. As the date of this incident was probably 1915, there were only a few cars in Port Elizabeth and there was only a path across what would become the Dawid Stuurman Airport. Marine Drive would only be completed in 1922. So, in all probability, George was compelled to walk across the peninsular to Chelsea Point.


Photo by George Wood via his daughter, Rosemary MacGeoghegan

Commentary: supplied by Rosemary MacGeoghegan

Port Elizabeth of Yore: The Liberty Ship – the Anne Hutchinson

WW2 was fought across the oceans of the world. As such the seas off Port Elizabeth were not immune  from the depredations of the scourge of the seas: The U-Boat. One such vessel that was sunk off the Eastern Cape coast was the Liberty Ship, the Anne Hutchinson.

The American Liberty ship Anne Hutchinson SS was torpedoed and shelled on October 26th, 1942, by German submarine U-504. Her stern portion up to No. 4 hatch was blown off. The forepart was towed into Algoa Bay on October 31st. Three lives were lost.  

Main picture: Anne Hutchinson after being torpedoed

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History of the Wood’s Family in Schoenmakerskop

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

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