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.