14 June 2009


Recent heavy rainfall in Cape Town saw part of the 110-year-old Junction Hotel in Junction Road, Salt River collapse. The double-storey building was built in October 1899. A row of annexed houses behind the hotel, known as the Blue Buildings, collapsed. They were on the City's list of buildings to be demolished. The white-painted hotel still stands, although it is shut close and barred. The Blue Buildings were used by staff of the old hotel as accommodation.


A genealogical research trip has unearthed a burial ground for indentured Indian labourers, on land which is part of the new King Shaka International Airport in KwaZulu-Natal. Retired Tongaat teacher Tholsi MUDLY and her uncle, Arumogam (Billy) GOVENDER, made the discovery on Inyaninga Estate while trying to trace the graves of her grandparents and great-grandmother. Today the land is co-owned by Airports Company South Africa (ACSA) and Dube Tradeport, and was bought from sugar company Tongaat-Hulett. It is believed that about 50 indentured labourers are buried there. Tholsi's family graves are marked with iron rods as there were no tombstones. Her great-grandmother came to South Africa in 1898. Tongaat-Hulett was originally based in Tongaat, and was founded in 1892 by Sir Liege HULETT.


Hout Bay's landmark Lichtenstein Castle, high up on Karbonkelberg, is up for sale for a mere R31.5-million. Cape Town businessman Reynier FRITZ, who was well-known in advertising circles, first saw the 12th-century Schloss Lichtenstein in Stuttgart, the land of his ancestors, and decided to one day replicate it in Hout Bay. He was able to start building his dream in 1986 and 12 years later it was completed. He eventually turned it into a guest house before he died there. Sometime after his death, his widow, Christine, sold it to an overseas buyer. The main hall has carved beams, a vaulted wooden ceiling and leaded stained-glass windows. The castle has 12 en-suite bedrooms, a library, banquet hall for 140, and a conference centre for 40. Other luxuries include a swimming pool, a helipad, and a natural waterfall.


A fire has caused extensive damaged to the 109-year-old Colonial Building at 241 Church Street, Pietermaritzburg. The Msunduzi Municipality Fire Brigade were unable to put out the fire because their equipment was below standard. Firemen battled for almost half-an-hour to get three of the four fire engines started before responding to the call - even though the Fire Brigade is only about 500 metres from the Colonial Building. Two fire engines from Umgungundlovu District Municipality were brought in to help. Msunduzi Municipality Fire Brigade took almost two hours to start fighting the fire. The brick building, with its colonnaded frontage, was completed in 1901 and housed departments of the Colonial government. The building is being renovated to house the offices of the Master of the High Court, while the adjoining Magistrate's Court is being renovated for civil, maintenance and domestic violence courts. GVK-Siya Zama Building Contractors has a two-year contract to renovate the building, which has stood empty and vandalised since 1997. It was designed by architect William Henry POWELL who entered a competition for its design in 1894, winning £100 for his design. The foundation stone was laid in 1887. William died in 1900 before the building was completed. Besides housing the Colonial government offices, over the years it has also been home of the Deeds Office, the Surveyor General’s Office, the Natal Museum, and the Small Claims Court. In 1998 the KwaZulu-Natal Heritage Council found that thieves had stolen copper sheeting from the roof, the cast aluminium staircase capping, tons of lead lining from the toilets and all the cast-iron Victorian fire hearths.


The historic Tramways Building in Valley Road, Port Elizabeth is to be refurbished and turned into an entertainment hub. The tender to redevelop the building was awarded to Pambili Developments (Pty) Ltd. The historic landmark is the first state-owned property to be released on a 40-year lease basis for private development in the inner city. The building was erected in the 1800s and over the last few years became a decaying and derelict eyesore. Since the tender was awarded, the project has been hit by various snags and work has not yet started.


Weston Agricultural College near Mooi River, KwaZulu-Natal, recently unveiled a memorial to horses, mules and other animals killed in military service, particularly during the Anglo-Boer War of 1899 to 1902. The land on which the college stands today, Weston Farm and Weston Common, was the site of the British Army’s Remount Depot from 1899 to 1913. The depot was also used during the Bambatha Rebellion of 1906. Thousands of British Army horses arrived at Weston Remount Depot to be broken in and/or to recover from the weeks-long sea and train journeys that brought them there. The memorial was the idea of the college's farm manager, Warren LOADER, a military history enthusiast, and Jeanine TAIT, the school’s history teacher and museum curator. It is designed in the shape of a horseshoe and mounted by an obelisk-shaped monument created out of old horseshoes found on Weston’s farmlands. The structure is topped off by a bronze statue of a horse made by a Weston old boy, Kim GOODWIN. There is a Wall of Remembrance with plaques commemorating the animals. A box containing some bones of horses buried on Weston Farm was sealed within the Wall of Remembrance.

Port Elizabeth also has a memorial to the horses who died in the Anglo-Boer War, as can be seen in these two photos.

13 June 2009


The Finest Type of English Womanhood, by Rachel Heath, is set in the 1940s. In 1946 Laura Trelling (17) of Sussex, meets Paul Lovell and she sets off for South Africa. Here she meets Gay Gibson, whose heart is set on becoming a star. Gay hailed from Birkenhead, before also heading off to South Africa. The two young women meet up in Johannesburg, where Laura is exposed to Gay's wild life of parties. After Laura's marriage ends and Gay's scandalous behaviour becomes too much, they arrange to return to England. During the sea voyage Gay disappears. The novel is based on the real-life "porthole murder" trial of 1948. The real Gay was described in the court case as "one of the finest types of English womanhood, physically, mentally and morally".

Rachel Heath was born in Bristol in 1968. She studied Drama and English at Hull University, then worked in publishing in London. She lives in Bath with her husband, a screen-writer and their three children. This is her first novel. She lives with her husband, a screen writer, and their three children in Bath. This is her first novel. She knew the story of the Porthole Murder. Her grandparents and mother went to live in Johannesburg after World War II, where her grandfather worked for the SABC and knew the real Gay GIBSON.

James CAMB (31), aka Don Jimmy, was a First Class steward on-board the Union-Castle Line vessel "Durban Castle" which sailed between South Africa and England. He was born in Lancashire on 24 December 1916. His first job was in a shoe factory, like his father. When World War II broke out he joined the Merchant Navy. After the war he joined the Union-Castle Steamship Line as a galley boy. In May 1946 he made his first voyage on the "Durban Castle". He was married to Margaret and they had a daughter. The family lived in Clova Street, Thornliebank, Glasgow.

On 10 October 1947 the "Durban Castle" set to sail at 4 p.m. from Cape Town for the 14-day voyage to Southampton, with 1300 passengers of whom 57 were in First Class, including the auburn-haired actress Gay GIBSON (21). She was born as Eileen Isabella Ronnie GIBSON and had appeared in a number of plays as part of her duties with the Women's Auxiliary Territorial Service. Her last film role was as Lorna, a fight manager's girlfriend, in "Golden Boy", a South African production. Her biggest hit was in "The Man With a Load of Mischief" opposite former British boxing champion Eric BOON. Her ticket was allegedly paid for by Charles SCHWENTAFSKY, one of her many admirers. He was born in Austria and had arrived in South Africa via Kenya.

Gay was born in Jamalpur, India, in June 1926, where her father was working as a blacksmith for the East India Railway. In 1943 she joined a tap-dancing group, the Top Hats Gay Dancing Company, in England. She took name Gay as her stage name. After the war, she sailed on the "Carnavon Castle" for South Africa with her mother Ellen (aka Daisy) to join her father who was already living in Durban. After arriving in Durban, Gay joined a theatrical company there before moving to Johannesburg.

On 18 October, off the coast of west Africa, Gay was reported as missing. The ship's captain, Captain Arthur PATEY, ordered the ship to search the waters, believing that she'd fallen overboard. His investigation found that the night watchman had reported that the service bell of Gay's First Class cabin, number 126, had been pushed several times in the early hours of 18 October. He responded and when the door opened slightly, he saw James, who quickly closed the door and said everything was in order. James denied being in her cabin. He drew attention to himself when, for the rest of the voyage, he wore a long sleeve jacket when short sleeve uniforms were commonly worn. He claimed that the scratches on his arms were from a heat rash, after he was examined by the ship's physician, Dr. Anthony GRIFFITHS.

When the ship docked in Southampton, police officers went aboard. James was questioned by Detective Sergeant QUINLAN. He said that Gay had invited him to her cabin that night and he had brought her a drink. He claimed they had sex but that she suddenly stiffened, then went limp and he noticed she was foaming at the mouth. He tried first-aid, and this was when the night watchman knocked on the door. Afterwards, James pushed the body through the porthole. On 29 March 1948, James was tried for murder. People who'd known Gay in South Africa were at the trial. Mike ABEL, an actor who'd worked with her, testified she'd had fainting fits in his presence. Henry GILBERT, an actor-producer, and his wife Dr. Ina SCHOUB, testified that Gay suffered from asthma. James was found guilty of murdering Gay and sentenced to death. An appeal was filed and during that time, the House of Commons was debating capital punishment. It was decided to commute all capital sentences still pending to life terms. After his trial, several women came forward with stories of being attacked by James on previous voyages. Gay's body was never found. Doubts about James' guilt remain to this day.

James was paroled in September 1959 and released from Wakefield Prison. Prior to his release, he was a star prisoner, working as a garage storekeeper in Dewsbury and returning to prison each day. After his release, he changed his surname to CLARKE. He had divorced Margaret and took a job as a waiter in Radcliffe. Soon afterwards he married a barmaid who had a young daughter. In 1967 he was convicted of attacking a 13-year-old girl. He was placed on a two-year period of probation. He went to Scotland where he worked as a head waiter in a restaurant. Shortly afterwards he was charged with sexual misconduct with three school girls. His parole was revoked and in 1971 he returned to prison. He was released in 1978 and went to live in Leeds, taking a job as a waiter at a golf club. He died of a heart attack at the club's bar on 07 July 1979, always having denied murdering Gay.

20 May 2009


Today, Le Petit Fillan is a tranquil haven in the centre of Sandton but it was once part of three large farms in the area. One of the farms was owned by the GILFILLAN family after World War II. The farm was a dairy farm supplying milk and cream. This elegant and beautifully decorated house was recently opened as a luxury guest house, after suffering a serious setback in October 2008 when a fire almost destroyed the dream. It was given a French name as the French school, Ecole Jules Verne is behind the guest house.

Littlefillan was the name given to smallholdings in the Sandton magisterial district. It was properly named Littlefillan Agricultural Holdings, and was between Parkmore and Morningside. The holdings consisted of 2-hectare plots which originally comprised a small farm commonly known as "Gilfillan's little farm" - derived from the owner's name, Noel Hamish GILFILLAN. The family were part of the 1820 British Settlers. Gilfillan is an old Scottish surname from Fife, derived from the Gaelic "Gille Fhaolain" which means "servant of St. Fillan".

William Frederick Anderson GILFILLAN was born 27 Jan 1796 at Elizabeth Castle, Jersey, Channel Islands, the son of Lieutenant John GILFILLAN and Elizabeth BRIDGES. William was baptised on 20 Feb 1796 at a service attended by the son of King George III, Prince William Frederick , Duke of York, who was Commander-in-Chief of the British Army and was on an inspection tour of Jersey Island. William first arrived at the Cape in 1812 as an Ensign in the 60th Rifles. He stayed until 1818 but returned as an 1820 British Settler in 1820, onboard the Zoroaster with Thornhill's Party. His brother, Adam (1800-12 Jul 1874), was also onboard. Because William was still a paid military officer, he does not appear in the official Settlers list. William married Anna Margaret THORNHILL. He became the first Resident Magistrate of Cradock. He died in Cradock on 04 Sept 1855 and was buried at St. Peter's Church Cemetery, Cradock. The couple had 12 children, one being Edward Stockenstrom Lodewikus GILFILLAN born 14 Mar 1838. The family is mentioned by Lucy GRAY in her book, A Victorian Lady at the Cape 1849­1855. Anna died on 13 Feb 1879 and was buried at St. Peter's Church Cemetery, Cradock.

Edward married Charlotte Maria Louise FLEMMER at St Peter’s Church in Cradock on 07 Sept 1864. Charlotte was born 18 Apr 1844 in Korsor, Denmark, daughter of Dr. Christian August FLEMMER and Betty ABO. Her family immigrated to the Cape in 1852 and settled in Cradock. Edward was a member of the Town Council and served a term as Mayor. He was involved with the founding of Cradock Boys’ High School. Edward died at his home "The Abbey" in Bree Street, Cradock on 20 Jul 1908. The couple had six children, including Douglas Flemmer GILFILLAN born 25 Jun 1865 in Cradock.

Douglas matriculated from Cradock Boys’ High School and decided to become a lawyer, like his father. In those days, no university degree was required. Instead, articles were served and exams written. Douglas did his articles with the Cape Town firm, Reid & Nephew. He had to wait until he turned 21 in 1886, before being admitted as an attorney. While living in Cape Town, he stayed at a boarding house in Moullie Point run by Maria Elizabeth DE JONGH (maiden name VON SCHONNBERG), the widow of Lourens DE JONGH. Here he met one of the daughters, Sophia. When he returned to Cradock in 1886, they stayed in touch. In 1888 he moved to Pretoria where Sophia's brother James had a legal practise. In 1889 Douglas moved to Barberton where he bought a share in the legal practise of Henry CALDERWOOD. He married Sophia agdalena DE JONGH on 10 Apr 1890 in Pretoria. The couple lived in Barberton, where Sophia often played piano at concerts. The piano was a wedding gift from Douglas. While living in Barberton, Douglas founded the forerunner of the Wildlife Protection Society. In 1892 the couple moved to Johannesburg, where their four children were born - Vera Louise, Dagmar Marie, Noel Hamish and Angus Edward.

When tensions started rising between the Boer government and the Uitlanders in 1895, a Reform Committee was formed by Douglas and others, to fight the cause of the Uitlanders. Because of the Jameson Raid, the Reform Committee members were arrested and jailed in Pretoria. They were brought to trial and sentenced to death. This was later reduced to a fine of £2000 pounds. Douglas was released when Sir Abe BAILEY paid his fine. Douglas returned to his legal practice.

In 1898, the family moved to Belgravia, Johannesburg, where they built a house called "Elgin", which cost £8000. In that year, Douglas went into partnership with Richard BAUMANN (later BOWMAN) and so the legal firm of Bowman Gilfillan was founded.

In 1899, tensions rose again and war rumblings were heard. Douglas sent Sophia and the children by refugee train to Queenstown, where they stayed with her sister. When war broke out in October 1899, Douglas left for Pietermaritzburg where he helped form the Imperial Light Horse and became a Lieutenant. He was at the Relief of Ladysmith, and also saw action at Colenso, Spion Kop, Vaal Krantz, Tugela Heights, and the Relief of Mafeking. He was awarded the Queen’s Medal with 4 clasps and ended his service as a Captain.

After the fall of Pretoria, Douglas was appointed a judge of the Special Court for the Witwatersrand. He also served as Magistrate for Germiston and Boksburg. After the war was over, he returned to his legal practice. The family moved back into "Elgin", which had been used by the British Army. Their neighbour was now Lord KITCHENER who had moved into "Friedenheim" next door. In 1908 Douglas was one of the founders of the South African Field Trial Club. Douglas served on the governing board of Jeppe Boys’ High School for many years. The family sold "Elgin" and Douglas and Sophia moved to Parktown before settling in Linden. Sophia died on 08 Jan 1939 and Douglas moved in with his son Noel. Douglas died on 05 Sept 1948 at the home of his son Angus.

Noel Hamish GILFILLAN was born 25 Dec 1902 in Johannesburg. He was educated at Jeppe Boys', Hilton College and the University of Cape Town. After completing his law degree, he was recommended for a position as private secretary to Sir Ernest OPPENHEIMER and spent two years at Anglo American, before setting up a legal firm with Thomas KINNA. He married Ellen Marjorie MORRIS, the eldest daughter of Dr. Frank and Emily MORRIS of Cape Town, in Jul 1928 at St Georges Church, Parktown. Ellen, known as Marjorie, was the daughter of Dr. Frank Mayo MORRIS. He came to the Cape during the Anglo-Boer War and settled in Cape Town where he practised as a medical doctor. Ellen was born in Cape Town and educated at St Cyprian's School and the University of Cape Town. Noel and Ellen had three sons - Brian Mayo, Graeme Douglas and Robin Francis. In 1913, the family lived at 30 Bolton Road, Parkwood. During World War I, Noel served in the South African Air Force. In 1936 he joined his father's practise as a junior partner. Here one of his clients was De Havilland and Noel became an expert in aviation law.

When war broke out in 1939, Noel joined the Imperial Light Horse but was later transferred to the South African Air Force. In 1941 he was sent up North, with the rank of Captain. In 1943, he was allowed to leave the SAAF due to ill-health and returned to Bowman Gilfillan. In March 1946 the family moved to a new home, Littlefillan, a 75-acre farm. Here Marjorie built up a Jersey herd. Noel served on the governing board of Hilton College, was president of the Wildlife Society, and the 1820 Settler Association. He later bought a farm in Dullstroom which he called Elgin, and turned it into a trout farm. In 1967 he retired from Bowman Gilfillan. He died in 1977.

Brian Mayo was educated at Parkview Boys’ School, Parktown High, Hilton College, the University of Cape Town, and Oxford. He became a director at Bowman Gilfillan & Blacklock. He married Jennifer Mary GRIFFITH and the couple had three sons and one daughter. He died on 12 Dec 1984. In 1985 the family lived at Littlefillan.

Graeme Douglas was born in 1931. He was educated at Parktown School, Pridwin, Hilton College and the University of the Witwatersrand. While at Hilton, he became interested in taxidermy and birds mounted by him are displayed in the Hilton School Museum. He played rugby in the Natal Midlands XV, and for the Transvaal under-19s. On 26 Jul 1950 he was killed in a motorcycle accident on Louis Botha Ave, Johannesburg. In 1965 his father donated a rugby field and pavilion to Hilton College, named the Graeme Gilfillan Pavilion.

Robin Francis was born in 1934. He was educated at Parktown School, Pridwin and Hilton College. He played for the Natal Schools rugby team. He started a degree at the University of Cape Town but later changed to a Business Administration course at the Manchester University Institute of Technology. While there he played for Sale Rugby and was selected for a trial for Scotland. Just before the trial he suffered a concussion which ended his rugby career. He worked for Dove Insurance Company, which had been set up by his father. Later he formed Lenagil Investments. He married Bernice BRAMSON and they had four children. Robin died on 09 Nov 2001 in Pietermaritzburg.

18 April 2009


Deryck NUNES was one of the last remaining master watchmakers in South Africa. He died in George in February 2008 at the age of 68. He originally opened a jewellery shop in Paarl, but after his step-father, Raffaele D‘AMATO, recovered from a serious illness, the family moved to George in 1957. They opened Raffaele d‘Amato Jewellers in York Street, with Deryck's mother, Monica. Raffaele was an Italian immigrant, and was trained at a young age as a master watchmaker. He trained Deryck who eventually had clients from England, Germany and Israel. Deryck and his wife, Marlene, took over the family business and, with their eldest son Michél, a jewellery designer, made Raffaele d‘Amato Jewellers one of the country‘s leading manufactures of designer jewellery and timepieces. Deryck was survived by his wife, children Michél, Juanita and Carlo, and grandchildren Daniel, Sean and Cailin.


The Italian village of Grizzana-Morundi has named a peace project after South African politician Colin EGLIN (88) in honour of his bravery in World War II. The Colin Eglin Project for Peace honours his service in Italy during the war. The project is aimed at local school pupils, focuses on teaching them the ideals and principles Eglin stands for. Each year the village has liberation celebrations. In 2007 the celebrations took place at the summit of Monte Stanco, where a battle took place in 1945 and troops of the 6th South African Armoured Division captured the strategic mountain stronghold. Eglin took part in the battle. He was also in the battle at Monte Sole, on his 20th birthday, where the 6th Armoured South African division held their ground and took the mountain-hold from German control. He was awarded the Distinguished Service Order for his part in this battle. There is a South African cemetery in Castiglione dei Pepoli.


One of East London’s oldest corner shops closed in February 2008 after almost 75 years. Quigney Supply Store was co-owned by Dolly RADLOFF and her siblings Edith and Lee. It was started by their father in 1934. One of the oldest customers was Harry CHOATES (58) who had been a customer for over 40 years.


Port Elizabeth-born and raised Savvas KOUSHIS (48) and his wife Amanda. have restored Grahamstown‘s historic Victorian-style Frontier Country Hotel to its original splendour, a project that cost R6,6-million. The ground floor of the building houses a Nedbank branch. The top floor houses rooms overlooking Market Square, the Cathedral of St Michael and St George, the city hall and two rows of Victorian-style shops. The corner balcony is the one where, in 1947, King George VI and Queen Elizabeth of England and their daughters stood and watched horse racing around Church Square. Savvas has run hotels and restaurants all over South Africa. He collects antiques and loves history. The Frontier is not his first historical project. He also bought and opened Assegai Lodge near Grahamstown, which was built in 1717 and used as a garrison by the British in 1785.

Savvas was in the news earlier in 2008 when he appealed to a Port Elizabeth township resident who was given an old brass bed by his late father Peter, to return it. The bed was shared by Cecil John RHODES and Neville Ernach PICKERING in Kimberley. The bed is believed to be worth R30 000. Peter was a Port Elizabeth barber who owned College Gents Hairdressers in Russell Road. He bought the enamelled bed with solid brass knobs and wheels, near Kimberley in 1983, not realising the historical and monetary value of the bed. In the 1990s he gave it to some poor people from the township. Savvas found out that the home of Neville PICKERING was auctioned off in 1983, with all its contents. He died in 1886 in Kimberley. He was hired by Rhodes in 1881 as a secretary at De Beers Mining Company. In 1882 Rhodes had made a will, leaving all his estate to Pickering. After Pickering's death, he made another will in 1888.


In January 2008 the statue of Jock, the famous Staffordshire Bull Terrier that belonged to Sir Percy FITZPATRICK, found a new home at the Johannesburg Zoo. The statue was erected in 1992 in the gardens of the Johannesburg Hospital in Parktown, where Sir Percy's house, Hohenheim, used to stand. It was the same year that the film, Jock of the Bushveld, was made. The statue was commissioned in 1992 by the Parktown and Westcliff Heritage Trust, as part of Parktown's centenary. It was unveiled on 11 November 1992 by the actor, Jonathan RANDS, who played Sir Percy in the film about Jock. A few years later, thieves tried to steal the statue and it was then moved into the hospital's entrance hall. Sally-Ann Fitzpatrick NIVEN, great-grand-daughter of Sir Percy, was at the unveiling of Jock's new spot, together with Flo BIRD of the Parktown and Westcliff Heritage Trust. Jock died when Sir Percy's friend, Tom BARNETT, shot him by mistake. Jock was deaf as a result of being kicked by a kudu, and did not hear Tom the night Tom heard noises in the chicken run. Tom was looking after Jock while Sir Percy was travelling.


In 1993, Captain Meyer BOTHA, airline pilot and a former race car driver, flew more than 26 000 km from the USA via Singapore to Delareyville, to attend Laerskool Wildehondepan's 75th anniversary celebrations. Captain Botha was a pilot with Singapore Airlines at the time and was on duty flying from Singapore-Los Angeles-Singapore flight. After landing in Singapore, he boarded an SAA flight for Johannesburg, and then drove to Grand Central in Midrand, where he flew his Mooney 020 aircraft to Delareyville. After the clebrations, he flew back to Grand Central, before flying SAA back to Singapore.

Of the six students who were in Standard 6 at the school in 1949, five attended the celebrations - Marais AUCAMP, Gert VAN DER RYST, Alta JOHANSSEN (married SCHOLLY), Meyer BOTHA and Johanna KOEN (married JACOBS). Laerskool Wildehondepan was one of the few operating farm schools left then. Capt. Botha's father was a teacher there. The first teacher was Miss LE ROUX (married DU TOIT), who was a 97 year-old widow and living in Johannesburg in 1993.

In 1997, Capt. Botha visited Killarney Race Track in Cape Town, the scene of one of his accidents in 1972 in a Lucky Strike Lotus 49C car. After the 1972 crash he was treated by the doctor on duty. Dr. Harry WADE, who was still involved in 1997 as a doctor on race days at Killarney. In 1969 Capt. Botha crashed another car at a Formula V race in Daytona, USA. In 1970 he won the Meissner Trophy in Formula Ford racing, racing a Lotus car belonging to Dave CHARLTON (six times SA champion). Capt. Botha started racing 1959 and played a big role in getting Formula V started in South Africa in 1966. His last race was in 1972 in a Formula One race. After leaving SAA in 1986, he flew for Singapore Airlines until July 1997. Jody SCHECKTER (1979 world champ) was runner-up in Daytona this race, and went to the UK as part of Capt. Botha's prize because he could not get leave from SAA. Whe he raced the Lotus car, his race mechanic was Sampie BOSMAN. Sampie's son Stephen later became a GTi race driver and a helicopter pilot.

After finishing school, Capt. Botha joined the South African Air Force. He became the youngest SAAF officer when he was made a 2nd Lieutenant at the age of 17 years, 6 months. He went on to study agricultural engineering at the University of Pretoria, before returning to the SAAF. At the age of 21 he joined SAA and stayed there until 1986.

The life of this interesting man ended tragically in October 1998, when he was shot by two murderers at his home in Mear Street, Sunnyside, Pretoria. He was rushed to the Medforum Hospital where he passed away. Capt. Botha was 61 years old and had retired from flying in 1997. He was in the process of turning his house into a guest house. Capt. Botha was divorced. His son, Retief Botha, was a vet in London, and his daughter Melinda VIAN a medical doctor in Cape Town.

13 April 2009


Pietermaritzburg businessman Nad PILLAY (57) started looking into his father's family history after his father's death in 1969. What he found was that his father was a World War II hero. He joined the Army when he was 22. Private A.S. (Haps) PILLAY was captured on three times. Nad and his five sisters always wondered about their father's service but he rarely spoke about it. Nad, who lives in Northdale, started looking for letters, pictures and postcards after his father’s death, and compiled an album. Now he wants to find the families of the men who served with his father, so that together they can discover more. His father served in the Cape Malay Corps. He travelled through North Africa and parts of Europe, including Italy, as a member of the South African Military Transport Unit between 1942 and 1945. He was first captured in Libya in 1942 by German soldiers. On another occasion, he was captured at Tobruk and held in an Italian prisoner-of-war camp. He managed to escape again and hid in the mountains for a year, meeting a group of rebels opposed to the Italian-German alliance. He joined them in acts of sabotage throughout Italy. He later made his way through German lines but was again captured. He was held prisoner until the Allied forces invaded Italy. He was once on a ship which was torpedoed in the Mediterranean and was in the water for several hours before being picked up by a cruiser. Haps was awarded several medals, including the Distinguished Service Order, the 1939-1945 Star, the African Service Medal and the War Medal 1939-1945. Nad found that while other black soldiers received a bicycle for their military service, his father received a car, which he used to start a taxi business in Pietermaritzburg. When the Group Areas Act was enforced, Boom Street residents in central Pietermaritzburg were not forced out because of Haps’ military service. However, a few years later, the Group Areas Act was enforced once more and the residents had to move.


The curator of No. 7 Castle Hill, Grizel HART, and Bayworld historian Emile BADENHORST, recently cleaned up Rev. Francis McCLELAND's grave in St Mary's Cemetery in Lower Valley Road after finding it in a bad state of disrepair. His grave was vandalised and decaying under the weeds. Rev. McCleland gave Port Elizabeth St Mary's Cathedral 175 years ago and No. 7 Castle Hill. The cemetary is in a bad condition and not a good place for the many visitors who go to Port Elizabeth to look up their family history. Most of those buried at St Mary's Cemetery had played some significant role in the history of the city, including nine of the Reverend's family members. He was a colonial chaplain who came to Port Elizabeth during the 1820s to minister to the British soldiers in the area. In 1827, he bought the land on which No. 7 Castle Hill now stands for three guineas (three pounds and three shillings). By 1834 he had overseen the building of St Mary's church (later declared a cathedral). He also helped establish many small churches in the area. In 1963 his house at No. 7 Castle Hill became a museum.


The Voortrekker Youth Movement recently unveiled a memorial on the farm Doornkloof, to commemorate the 70 years that the movement has owned the historic farm. Doornkloof originally belonged to the Voortrekker leader Sarel CILLIERS. It was sold to the movement by his son, Cor F. CILLIERS for R3 312. The memorial consists of three pillars symbolising the Voortrekker belief - faith, hope and love. At the same time, the 140 year-old Cilliers family Bible, which was in a provincial museum for 37 years, was returned to the farm's museum.


The old graves in the Paarlberg were recently visited by the Het Gesticht committe in Paarl, and found to be in a bad condition. The graves are those of the Zion Church and Bethel Congregational Church parishes that used to be in Paarl West. Het Gesticht is working on plans to preserve the graves. Some of the graves are those of Hendrigks HENTY, Frank Mickel ADONIS, Jason S.B. ADAMS, Jacob Salmon ADONIS, W.F. GRIFFIN, Sophia Christina DISMORE, Jacobus A. STEENKAMP and C (?) ADAMS. If anyone can help with more information, please contact Rev. Dries ERWEE on Tel: (021) 872 9381.


The historic farm which surrounds the Cango Caves outside Oudtshoorn was recently up for auction. Grootkraal has been owned by the VAN DER VEEN family since 1868. About 240 000 tourists drive past the farm gate each year on their way to the caves, a national heritage site. The caves do not form part of the farm. The farm forms part of the estate of the late Jon VAN DER VEEN. His son, Hans, is an Oudtshoorn businessman and former athlete. He said the family had farmed tobacco, wheat, lucerne, ostriches, cattle, sheep and fruit over the years. The farm had its own tobacco factory. Later the original farm was divided and a restaurant was built on one portion. His father and grandfather often took visitors into the caves, lowering them by rope and lighting their way with candles. They acted as unofficial tour guides in the years before the caves were developed as a tourist attraction.


An old Port Alfred wood and iron shanty is at the centre of a court case. The Grahamstown High Court recently upheld the Provincial Heritage Resources Authority’s (PHRA) refusal to allow its new owners to demolish it. The shanty was built in the late 1800s or early 1900s, and was purchased by Port Alfred guest house owner Louise CORRANS with the intention of demolishing it and expanding The Lookout guest house, which she operates from an adjoining property. The Lower Albany Historical Society and Ndlambe Tourism sent letters of support for the demolition of the corroded shanty. After more than an eight-month wait, the PHRA granted permission for a partial demolition and ordered that the original building’s north and north-west facade be retained. It said the building was in a historic part of town and its front facade was a worthy heritage component of Port Alfred. Corrans appealed the decision but the PHRA stood firm. She then wrote to the Arts and Culture MEC Noxolo ABRAHAM-NTANTISO to intervene, but received no response. Finally she appealed to the High Court to review and set aside the PHRA’s decision. Judge Daylan CHETTY ruled that individual members of a heritage resource agency were appointed for their expertise in the field of heritage management, and that the conditional demolition permit was granted in accordance with the duty imposed on the PHRA to preserve buildings of cultural significance. He dismissed the application and ordered Corrans to pay the legal costs. According to letters sent to the PHRA by Corrans and her husband, Alan, the façade was extensively altered in 1977 and the corrugated iron was badly rusted, while the supporting wooden structure was rotten from borer beetle and termites. They had undertaken to erect a structure similar in style to the original building and which would reflect the architecture of the period.


The SS Mendi, a troopship on which 600 South African soldiers died during World War I, is going to be classified as war grave, making it a protected ship under the British Protection of Military Remains Act. Because the ship was not British-owned, it was never given the status of a war grave. The SS Mendi sank in 1917 in the English Channel while transporting the 5th Battalion of the South African Native Corps. The men were on their way to the Western Front, where they were to perform non-combat duties such as dock work and digging trenches. At 5am on 21 February 1917, the SS Mendi was rammed by another ship, the Darro. The troopship sank in less than half an hour. As the ship listed, Reverend Isaac DYOOBHA led the men in a death dance on the deck and told them to be quiet and calm. He was one of 649 men who died that day. Retired British Army Major Ned MIDDLETON was responsible for getting the ship designated as a war grave. The University of Wessex has over the past three years been surveying the wreck site. The study has also involved researching archive material and sourcing oral histories.


Port Elizabeth‘s Main Library will be closed from 10 April 2009 for about six months for renovations. The Victorian-era landmark building has suffered from rising damp caused by underground water seepage. Walls have mould. The roof will also be repaired. The library has about 250 000 books, which will have to be moved during the building work.