Saturday, August 30, 2014

Souvenir Saturday: View of the Bay of Natal from the Bluff 1860s

The Bay of Natal from the Bluff  ca 1860  watercolour by unknown artist, from an Album amicorum

This view of the Bay is from the seaward end of the Bluff ca 1860 looking across the Point and Bay towards the heavily wooded Berea, with the buildings of D'Urban clustered onshore, right. A sailing ship negotiates the entrance channel in the foreground, dhows and other small craft are seen in the Bay, and the tug Pioneer, her single stack smoking, is in the centre of the picture, near the Point. At left is the signal station and signalman's house on the Bluff. Its possible that the tall building on the extreme right represents St. Paul's Church.

The painting can be dated as post December 1859 because the steam vessel shown is undoubtedly the Pioneer, Natal's first steam tug. She was 124 tons and was despatched (fitted with masts and sails) from the Thames at the end of July 1859, arriving in Durban 111 days later, having made the journey under sail only, her paddles being fitted in the Bay after her arrival here. On Boxing Day 1859 she was shown, flag-bedecked, to the assembled populace, and crossed the Bar with various dignitaries on board, sailing out into a choppy sea beyond the Bluff - to the discomfort of some of her passengers.

A rare find, this little watercolour in ornate embossed surround, was one of several original drawings in a mid-nineteenth century "Album amicorum", bound in gilt maroon calf. The artist has signed himself (more probably herself) "L.C." and entitled the picture "Bay of Natal  and; Town of D'Urban".

Quite apart from the fact that this picture is a delightful piece of Nataliana, it is of particular significance to me, because it shows a view of Durban which would have been a familiar one for at least two of my ancestors:

1. Captain William BELL, my great great grandfather, Port Captain of Natal from the Byrne settler era and commander of the Conch. He lived on the Bluff at Conch Villa and died in 1869. His memorial obelisk and plaque stand in West Street Cemetery.

 2. Thomas Alfred GADSDEN, my great grandfather and founder of the Natal GADSDEN family. He married Captain Bell's daughter and was Lighthousekeeper from the 1860s to 1880s. This is precisely how he would have seen the port and the town from his vantage point on the Bluff. [See Keeper of the Bluff Light article on this blog.]

The painting is in my own collection. 

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Keeper of the Bluff Light: Thomas Alfred Gadsden in Natal

For a new article, Keeper of the Bluff Light, on a permanent page on this blog, follow the link below:

Opening of the Bluff Lighthouse

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Souvenir Saturday: Shrubsole in Natal: a marine artist at work

Entrance to the Bay of Natal with mail liner approaching:
artist C J Shrubsole

While much about this artist remains obscure, it is known that Shrubsole arrived in Natal (on at least one occasion) aboard the Conway Castle on 8 March 1892. In the passenger list his initials are given as 'C.J.' (possibly an illegible 'T'?) and his age as 25, his occupation "Draughtsman". He travelled 3rd Class. In the column usually reserved for employers or 'sureties' for the incoming passenger, is the name O. ORMSKOLD, Marburg - one of the Norwegian families which settled in that area of the Natal South Coast. 

It may be that this was the start of Shrubsole's career in Natal and presumably his interest in painting marine views of the port began at that time. Though early attempts were amateurish (the ships endearingly wobbly and the Bluff varying considerably in shape from painting to painting) he gradually honed his skills and by the period 1915 to 1925 was producing consistent work in his own recognisable style, often repeating the Bay Entrance as his subject. His 'signature' was a small red-turbanned figure - either seen as an Indian fisherman as in the painting shown above, or in his few landscape works, an African figure in a red headdress. 

Four of his marine views are reproduced in Nigel Hughes' wonderful volume Paintings of the Bay of Natal (published privately Johannesburg 2001). Some of Shrubsole's works are held in the collection of the Old Court House Museum, Aliwal St, Durban and are displayed at the latter's satellite museum, the Old House in St Andrews Street. Included are some intriguing moonlight views of the Bay.

Enquiries to the SHRUBSALL/SHRUBSOLE and variants One Name Study have so far elicited no confirmation of the artist's origins or parentage, nor is it known when he first arrived in South Africa though his employment with Ormskold at Marburg may be significant. Any further information on Shrubsole would be most welcome.

A landscape by Shrubsole recently offered for auction by Clarke's Africana. Note the African figure with signature red headdress. This painting probably dates from the period 1915-1925. Is this the Cape or Natal? 

Friday, August 22, 2014

Eudora passenger list to Natal September 1864

EUDORA Natal Government Gazette 22 September 1864
Immigration Board

It is hereby notified for the information of those whom it may concern, that the following Emmigrants have arrived by the Eudora:-

Brown, Elizabeth - Servant
Brooks, Charles - Carpenter
Brooks, Elizabeth
Brooks, James
Brooks, Elizabeth
Barret, Christian - Domestic Servant
Crocket, Janet - Dressmaker
Craig, John - Storekeeper
Donoghue, Thomas - Farm Laborer
Elliott, Susan H - Dressmaker
Edwards, Elizabeth - Servant
Evans, Richard - Laborer
Fahy, Thomas- Tailor
Flemming, William - Laborer
Flemming, Elizabeth
Flemming, William
Flemming, John
Gove, John - Blacksmith
Garson, David - Blacksmith
Gold, William - Ploughman
Gold, Mary
Hind, Mary - Dressmaker
Johnstone, William - Clerk
Johnstone, Marion
Johnstone, Isabella
Johnstone, Jessie
Johnstone, Helen
Kane, Patrick - Laborer
MacPhail, Dugald - Shopkeeper
Munro, Donald - Carpenter
Munro, George
Noble, Halliburton - Apothecary
Noble, James - Plumber
Noble, Mary
Noble, Anne
Graham, Agnes - Servant
Plowright, John D - Shoemaker
Plowright, Louisa
Plowright, James
Rogers, George - Mason
Speight, Annie - Servant
Steele, Alexander - Carpenter
Steele, Jessie
Samways, Sarah - Domestic Servant
Sinclair, Duncan - Shepherd
Sinclair, Margaret
Sinclair, Archibald
Sinclair, Donald
Sinclair, Sarah
Taylor, John - Blacksmith
Thomson, Jessie - Servant
Thomson, William
Tweedie, Jane - Wife
Tweedie, Elizabeth
Tweedie, Anne
Tweedie, Robert
Tweedie, John
Tweedie, Joanna
Woolridge, William - Blacksmith
Woolridge, Mary
Woolridge, WH
O'Conner, Cath
Lucas, Emily
JAMES CRAW, Secretary Immigration Board Sept 22, 1864

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Maritime Adventures of the Anglo-Zulu War 1879

After the battle of Isandhlwana 1879 British reinforcements were urgently required in South Africa but there was as yet no cable communication between England and the Cape (this was established in 1880) by which news of the catastrophic defeat by the Zulus could be sent immediately to Britain.

One of Donald Currie's steamers, the Dunrobin Castle was about to leave Table Bay on her homeward run and her planned departure was put forward so that she sailed at 7.30 p.m., 27 January 1879, headed at full speed for St. Vincent, which was then the limit of the Western Telegraph. From there the news of Isandhlwana was cabled to London, its publication causing a sensation on 11 February.

This voyage of the Dunrobin was turned to good account by Currie, who subsequently instructed that another of the Castle steamers, the Conway Castle which was then outward bound, should also put in at St Vincent. By the time the vessel reached St Vincent, the military authorities had been informed and the Conway was able to pick up dispatches with the latest information about the many reinforcements about to leave for South Africa. This news being directly transmitted to the forces in Natal had a major impact on the course of the war. The garrison which was besieged at Eshowe was deterred from making the planned desperate attempt to break out and fight its way through the Zulu lines to the Tugela River. It was as a result of the services rendered by Donald Currie in connection with the war that the head of the Castle Line was later given a knighthood.
R.M.S. Dunrobin Castle

Currie's opposition, the Union Line, also played its part in the conflict. The Pretoria had returned to England after her first voyage when news of Isandhlwana reached London. The vessel was immediately taken into dry-dock, where alterations were carried out so that she could carry troops. A new propeller was fitted, and coal and stores taken on board - all in the remarkably short space of nine days. On 20 February she set out for Natal, carrying the 91st Highlanders (Princess Louise's Argyllshire Highlanders), and making the run in the record time of 24 days 8 hours. The landing of the Kilties is said to have given rise to a perception among the Zulus that the British were sending women to fight. 

R.M.S. Pretoria

Underlining the rivalry between the two great steamer companies, Captain WC Crutchley relates in his autobiography My Life at Sea (published London 1912) how the coaster African on which he was serving was in Table Bay at the crucial moment. Crutchley was at his club in Cape Town late one night in January 1879, when the rumour was received of a British defeat at Isandhlwana. The captain realised that troops then in Cape Town would be required post-haste at the front, and also knew that Currie steamers were in port and would, if given the chance, convey the necessary reinforcements to Natal. The Union Company offices were closed at that time of night, there was of course no telephone and it was impossible to contact any of the company's officials. Crutchley, undeterred, took it upon himself to go to Government House and the Castle, offering the services of his vessel in transporting troops. The African was made ready and troops embarked within hours for Port Natal. Arriving a few days later, the coaster landed the reinforcements and also her own 12-pounder, which was later used in the defence of the Pinetown laager outside Durban.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Robert Brown, Sunny South, Natal Star to Natal 1867

ROBERT BROWN, SUNNY SOUTH AND NATAL STAR Natal Mercury April 9 1867 with mention of the loss of the schooner Wasp at Table Bay with all hands

April 5, Robert Brown, sch., 33 tons, Mitchell, from Algoa Bay March 25. Cargo rice, etc.
Capt Chapman
Reports the sch. Wasp having capsized in Table Bay, all hands lost.
Goodliffe, Smart, and Ballance, agents. 
April 6, Sunny South, barque, 309 tons, Mitchell, from Port Elizabeth March 25, and East London.
Cargo, general.
Goodliffe, Smart, and Ballance, agents.

April 5, Natal Star, ship, 366 tons, Hodge, for London, via Algoa Bay.
For London
1st Class
Mr and Mrs Calder
Mr and Mrs Dickens


2nd Class
Mr and Miss Summerhayes
Mrs Stabler and child

For Algoa Bay
1st Class
Mr Owen
Cargo, sundries
Muirhead, Findlay, and Co., agents.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

William Shaw arrives Natal 31 January 1867

The William Shaw, 39 tons, was built at Cato Creek in August 1856, for George Cato (Mayor of Durban). Named after a Wesleyan minister, she was the first ship to have Port Natal painted on her stern as port of registry. This schooner was launched prematurely when the Umgeni River came down in spate.

Jan 30, William Shaw, sch., T Ledson from Delagoa Bay.

Mr Fonceca
Mr and Mrs Garavon
Cargo, rice.

Sailed from Delagoa Bay Jan 24, experienced a very heavy thunder storm from 3 p.m. until midnight, afterwards a gale from SW. Masaken's people went to attack the Matola, but returned after capturing two women, whom they afterwards killed. Fever very prevalent. The Portuguese brig Tigo, Captain Olivario, in port, with the Matola chief and Secretaries on board as prisoners, for Mozambique.
GC Cato, agent.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Souvenir Saturday: Arundel Castle enters Durban ca 1920s

Union Castle Line's Arundel Castle enters Durban ca 1920s; 
artist C J Shrubsole

Laid down at Harland and Wolf's yard, Belfast, in November 1915, the Arundel Castle did not take the water until nearly four years later. Narrowly escaping being completed as a troopship or requisitioned as an armed cruiser, in 1921 this mail steamer made her first visit to the Cape. She eclipsed any previous Cape liner in size, being almost half as large again as the Balmoral Castle. Arundel Castle was the first Union-Castle mail steamer to be fitted with geared turbines, to have a cruiser stern and to have four funnels. Ungainly in appearance, the Arundel Castle provided compensating features in the arrangements of her passenger accommodation, which marked a great advance on that of previous ships. Both she and her sister the Windsor Castle were remarkably smooth-running vessels and very popular with the travelling public.

[Marischal Murray: Ships & South Africa]

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Hiatus in Posts

Apologies for the current hiatus in posts on this blog. Due to circumstances beyond her control, Mole has descended into subterranean regions for an unspecified time. Normal service will be resumed as soon as possible. 

There is still plenty to read - browse the archived posts or find a specific topic using the search facility at the top left of the page.
Thank you.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Isipingo Mounted Rifles 1878-1879

Early Natal Volunteers

This corps, the Isipingo Mounted Rifles, was formed under the command of Captain Dering Stainbank in 1878 primarily for local defence when the various Natal volunteer units departed for service in the Zulu War.

However, after a brief training period the unit was sent to the Zululand border in March 1879 where, together with the Alexandra Mounted Rifles, Durban Mounted Rifles and the Natal Hussars, the Isipingo Mounted Rifles was involved in guard duties. The I.M.R. did not cross the Tugela into Zululand, but half its members volunteered to serve in the composite unit the Natal Volunteer Guides. Captain Stainbank was among those who volunteered and was appointed second in command to Captain Friend Addison in the N.V.G.

At the end of the Zulu War most of the I.M.R. members transferred to the Alexandra Mounted Rifles, and the unit ceased to exist.*

On formation the following men were in the I.M.R.:

Stainbank, Captain D
Quested, Lieut. W.
Bower, Quarter-Master
Murray, Sgt-Major
Rockey, Quarter-Master-Sgt.
Chapman, Sgt.
Birkett, Corporal
Ramsay, Corporal
Haines, Trumpeter
Buckston, Trooper
Clarkson, Trooper
Chapman, Trooper
Cass, Trooper
Daddy, Trooper
Fayers, Trooper Q. R.
Fayers, Trooper W. F.
Gilbert, Trooper
Hillary, Trooper
Hogart, Trooper
Ingle, Trooper
Kenton, Trooper
McDonald, Trooper
Madore, Trooper
Munn, Trooper
Prince, Trooper
Pugh, Trooper
Robinson, Trooper
Royston, Trooper **
Sinart, Trooper
Smith, Trooper W
Platt, Trooper
Platt, Trooper
Stewart, Trooper
Stainbank, Trooper
Steel, Trooper
Westley, Trooper 
Westley, Trooper A.C.
Skinner, Trooper

The uniform of the I.M.R. was blue cloth, with scarlet facings and white metal buttons; a helmet was worn. No badge or motto is recorded. The members were armed with the Swinburn-Henry .450 carbine and the officers carried swords.

*'The Armed Forces of South Africa' by Major G Tylden.

** J.R. (John Robinson) Royston had not yet turned sixteen when he joined the Isipingo Mounted Rifles. He was ordered to confine his services to defence duties on the Zululand border, but he defied authority, crossed the border into Zululand and reported to Captain Addison of the Natal Volunteer Guides, who enrolled Royston as a special scout. In this capacity Royston took part in the battles of Inyezane, Gingindhlovu and the Relief of Eshowe and remained with the Guides until the end of the Anglo-Zulu War.
During the Anglo-Boer War he served as Sgt-Major in the Highflats Squadron of the Border Mounted Rifles. After the Relief of Ladysmith he joined the Volunteer Composite Regiment as Captain and later commanded the West Australian Mounted Infantry operating in the Transvaal and Orange Free State. He was awarded the D.S.O. In 1906 he raised and commanded Royston's Horse and was appointed Honorary Lieutenant-Colonel in the British Army. In 1910 he commanded the 2 000 troops of various units which attended the coronation of King Edward VII, to whom he was presented. The King conferred on him the C.M.G. At the outbreak of World War I he was authorized to recruit a Regiment to be called the Natal Light Horse. In 1915 he was on the Staff of General McKenzie in the German SWA campaign, and later appointed OC 9th Mounted Brigade. Subsequently he commanded Australian 12th Light Horse Regiment and then the 3rd Australian Light Horse Brigade in the Palestine Campaign, 1916-1917. The name Galloping Jack was given to him at the Battle of Romani, when he rode up and down the lines calling: 'No surrender, Men'. In 1935 at the age of 75, Brigadier-General Royston announced his intention to offer his services to the Emperor of Abyssinia to raise a brigade and 'take part in the struggle of this unjust war.'

['Rough But Ready': An Official History of the Natal Mounted Rifles and its Antecedent and Associated Units 1854-1969' by Eric Goetzsche]

Muster Roll of Alexandra Mounted Rifles 1892.
Members of the Isipingo Mounted Rifles transferred to the AMR
when the IMR was disbanded.