Plans to relocate historic clock

2014-02-07 00:00

THE Vasco da Gama memorial clock is one of Durban’s largely unseen monuments, a sudden enigmatic blur at the edge of vision as you negotiate the hectic traffic along Margaret Mncadi Avenue (formerly Victoria Embankment).

Now plans are afoot to relocate the monument and make it more visible following a call by the municipality, together­ with the provincial heritage body Amafa aKwaZulu-Natali, for public comment on alternative site suggestions.

The Vasco da Gama memorial clock and drinking fountain was erected in 1897 to mark the 400th anniversary of the Portuguese explorer’s voyage to India, during which he named this area Natal­ — the Portuguese word for Christmas — on Christmas Eve, 1497.

Manufactured in cast-iron by Macfarlane’s Saracen Foundry in Glasgow, Scotland, to a design selected from their catalogue, the monument was originally placed at the corner of Mahatma Gandhi (Point) Road and Southampton Street near the Point Docks.

It was relocated to Margaret Mncadi Avenue in 1969.

A 1984 survey of historic buildings and objects in Durban noted that the present site was inappropriate, as the positioning appeared to be quite arbitrary without any relationship to its surroundings.

In addition, mature trees in the gardens now tend to obscure clear views of the memorial.

As part of the relocation project, the monument will be renovated and the clock restored to working order.

This is not the first time the authorities have asked the public to comment on proposed relocation sites — they did so in 2010.

However, according to a statement, “after some consideration, the municipality felt it important to re-open this platform to allow for more public comment”.­

The alternative sites to be considered are:

• Margaret Mncadi Avenue, opposite Samora Machel (Aliwal) Street, on the city side of the railway but visually linked to the Maritime Museum and roughly 200 metres from the present location.

• As close as possible to the original site at Mahatma Gandhi Road/Southampton Street at the Point.

• Within the developing Point Waterfront area.

• The final option is to leave the clock at its present site.

Please submit comments and suggestions to: The Director, Amafa aKwaZulu-Natali, 195 Langalibalele (Longmarket) Street, Pietermaritzburg; or by post to Box 2685, Pietermaritzburg, 3200, or e-mail

Comments can also be sent via the eThekwini Municipality Facebook and twitter accounts.

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