For me Port Elizabeth represents my roots, physically and emotionally. It was only the lack of work opportunities after I had completed my Articles of Clerkship, that I was forced to relocate to Joburg in 1980. Emotionally it is more that the place where I grew up, went to school and university. My roots go much deeper than that. One of the first citizens of Port Elizabeth was my great great great grandfather. With his house at Number 7 Castle Hill being a National Monument, I can truly feel a part of Port Elizabeth’s illustrious history.
Main picture: The central suburb of Port Elizabeth.
Apart from the historical connection stretching back to the arrival of the Reverend Francis McCleland in Port Elizabeth in 1820, it was the endless beaches. Once I was old enough, I would cycle the 20 kms down to the beach, usually Pollock, to meet friends. There were a number of groups of beach guys: the surfing bunch, the life saver crowd such as Clive Meyer and those that just hung out on the beach. That was me but I certainly did my fair share of body surfing as well. Naturally there were other groups with different ideas about what was important. These are the guys who hid out in the sand dunes and bushes but they were not there to admire the surf or the beach or the girls in their bikinis. They were there to smoke weed.
It was not only the unspoilt littoral but the flanking river system with their estuaries which demarcate the coastal extremities of the city while to the north west, the Lady’s Slipper mountain hems the town gently in.
Such is the town which I proudly state are my roots, gentle and serene and never ostentatious and impersonal.
Port Elizabeth might no longer be called home but it still retains a special place in my heart.
St Mary’s Church
This is the church at which my forefather was appointed as the first minister
Until the arrival of settlers in the early 1820’s, the needs of the British garrison at Port Elizabeth had been served by chaplains in passing ships. By 1825 a substantial settlement of 500 people had congregated in the town, one of whom was the Rev Francis McCleland. During that year he was appointed Colonial Chaplain, and the foundation stone for the Collegiate Church of St Mary the Virgin was laid. Until the church was finally opened for worship in 1832, the congregation met in a school room near the present St Augustine’s Cathedral.
Number 7 Castle Hill
This was the residence of the Reverend Francis McCleland. It is the oldest extant house in PE.