From shellhole to cabaret hot spot

2013-07-18 00:00

THE Allan Wilson Shellhole in Pietermaritzburg is about to throw open its doors to theatre goers in the city, thanks to a new partnership with Durban’s Rhumbelow Theatre.

Starting on Sunday, the hall at the shellhole will be turned into a supper-theatre venue, where cabarets and music revues can be enjoyed on a monthly basis.

The partnership came about after the shellhole, at 5 Alan Paton Road, employed Roland Stansell’s Rhumbelow Theatre for a grand show in honour of its 85th anniversay in March.

District Old Bill and Allan Wilson Shellhole member, Johann du Plessis, said: “People enjoyed it so much that we hoped we could do it again. Roland came up with the idea to hold regular shows and we thought it was a fine idea and would help with exposure.

“We want to let people know about the Memorable Order of Tin Hats (Moths) and to encourage new members to join.”

During shows, the shellhole’s well appointed and cosy pub will be open. Funds raised from the cash bar will be used to help members do community work in the city. This includes helping at Sunnyside Park Home, sponsoring school children with stationery, and supporting organisations such as Lifeline and the Animal Anti-cruelty League.

Members also do a grocery collection before Christmas, which they parcel up and donate to the elderly. They also hold annual Christmas lunches for veterans and children and raise funds for various ex-service men and women organisations, including the Moth Cottages in Pietermaritzburg, Flame Lily Frail Car and the police, widow and orphans fund.

Founded on March 27, 1928, in a storehouse in Longmarket Street, the Allan Wilson Shellhole is one of the oldest shellholes in the country.

The Moth Order itself was founded in 1927 by Charles Evenden, with the aim of helping fellow comrades in need — either financially or physically — and to remember all servicemen and women who have died, both in war and peace time.

The Allan Wilson Shellhole’s 16 founder members — W. Attlee, J.G. Bigley, F. Bosomworth, H. Burgess, E.T.G. Humphries, J. Keilly, L. Kimpton, W. Mason, J. Meek, J.R. Myers, B. Shaw, E.R. Taylor, R. Simpson, A.C. Wearner, H. Whitaker and F.C. Wood and six visitors, including Jack Pickup and Vic Clapham, who represented Moth headquarters — drew up the constitution on Warrington House Hotel notepaper. The organisation’s stated aim was “to bring together for sociability all ex-servicemen of any war, any service”.

Today the shellhole has some 90 members, including several veterans of the World War 2, who saw action in North Africa and Italy: Bob Barrett, Frank Beaumont, Doug Fairman, Toppy Fanner, Ken Hayter, Len Henderson, Geoffrey Robinson, Doug Rowland, Hugh Scheffer, Peter Swanepoel, George Teichmann and Ron Wood.

Asked why he was a member, Du Plessis said: “Once a soldier, always a soldier. Soldiers are a different breed and the things that happen to soldiers, you always remember.

“I love the camaraderie and being part of a group of people who can offer something to the wider community. It’s a social organisation, not a military one. People come here to enjoy themselves.”

While most shellholes commemorate places and events associated with the World War 1, the Allan Wilson is named after a Scotsman who lost his life in a Rhodesian battle.

Wilson, who fought in both the Anglo-Zulu and the first Anglo-Boer Wars in South Africa, was the leader of the Shangani patrol that went in search of King Lobengula in December 1893, during the first Matabele War.

He and 33 of his men were cut off from the main column and killed by Ndebele warriors. Wilson is buried in the Matabo Hills in Zimbabwe.

The shellhole’s current premises in Alan Paton Road opened on February 13, 1969, and today, thanks to the gun and tank in the foreground, it has become one of the landmarks of Pietermaritzburg.


• The Allan Wilson Shellhole holds an open meeting on the first Sunday of every month at 10.30 am, followed by a braai. All are welcome.

• The hall is available for hire for weddings, parties and other functions, and the cosy pub is open daily from 3.30 pm until late.

• The shellhole has two mandatory parades each year: Dellville Wood on July 16 and Remembrance Day on November 11. The members also do a collection for Poppy Day.

• The shellhole has social gatherings (Tavern) on Wednesday and Friday evenings, during which members can enjoy the bar facilities and meals from the kitchen.

For information, contact the Old Bill of Allan Wilson Shellhole, Nick Little, at 079 886 2491 or Provincial Old Bill Johann du Plessis at 072 176 4163.

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