Celebrating South Coast heritage

2018-09-27 06:01
PHOTOS: SUPPLIEDAiken street in 1984

PHOTOS: SUPPLIEDAiken street in 1984

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SEPTEMBER 24 marks national Heritage Day in the country.

To commemorate the day, the Fever spoke to Port Shepstone museum curator Sipho Shude about the historical background of three areas of the South Coast, which articulate three different faces of the area, namely, Port Shepstone the commercial industrial hub, Gamalakhe the townships, and Port Edward the holiday destination.

According to records at the Museum, Shude explained, up until the late 1800s Port Shepstone was known as “No Man’s Land”. This was not because the area was uninhabited, on the contrary there were several different types of people living there. There were remnants of tribes who had fled southward from Shaka and Dingaan, there were Bushmen in the valleys and there were fugitives from justice, from the Pondos to the south and from Natal to the north.

It was only in 1865 that the British government decided to incorporate Natal and Alfredia or Alfred County became Natal’s southernmost district. Later, around 1880 the Lieutenant Governor of Natal Colonel JJ Bisset along with the surveyor general Mr Sutherland sailed down to the mouth of Umzimkhulu.

“They set up camp near where Bedford Inn now stands. J.J Bisset was impressed with what he saw and could see the possibility of opening up a harbour at the river mouth. He immediately set about surveying the river mouth with a view to getting ships in, and land on both sides of the river mouth was reserved for townships, even though the north bank, which they called North Shepstone (named after the government administrator at the time),” said Shude.

“The area, which covered 3 400 acres, was accessible only by boat. South Shepstone was the name given to the southern piece of 1 000 acres, reserved for a township.

“It retained the name until 1928 when for simplicity’s sake the whole area south of the Umzimkhulu Mouth became known as Port Shepstone,” said Shude.

The street names, of which many persisted until their recent change with democratic South Africa, were named according to the medieval custom of naming streets after the trades carried on there.

Aiken street for example was named after David Aiken who was one of the two Aiken brothers, who in 1877, came to Umzimkhulu from Ifafa where they owned the farm and Sugar Mill at Maryville. The street was one of the busiest in Port Shepstone and the local market stood near the head of the street reflective of the brother’s robust business etiquette.

Gamalakhe township was one of the Apartheid products which stemmed from this inhabitation of the Port Shepstone area by white settlers.

Due to the Group Areas Act of the Apartheid system which determined the geographical and social segregation of residents, affected communities were uprooted to designated land which was often unsuitable and unappealing. So that was how Gamalakhe was established some 10 kilometres inland from and south-west of Port Shepstone, administered by the Mavundla Tribal Authority.

The establishments of the township was the responsibility of the Bantu Affairs Commissioner in Port Shepstone. Many of the initial residents were forcibly removed from Albersville, Margate, Komiti, Umbango and Marburg. The first school in the area was built in 1971.

Meanwhile, at the far end of the South Coast, Port Edward was named after Edward Stafford.

Stafford, a transport rider form Stafford’s Post, Harding was the first European to choose Port Edward as the perfect place to enjoy a holiday.

The exact year Stafford arrived and set about erecting a holiday shack overlooking the mouth of the Umtamvuna is unknown, but it was some years prior to the arrival of T.K. Pringle and the Muller brothers in 1916. T.K. Pringle, the first settler, owned and subsequently named the Banners Rest area as well as the present township of Port Edward. Banners Rest was so named by Pringle because it was here, he intended “to strike the banner” and retire and although the township was first known as Kennington, after Pringle’s second name, Ken, he changed the name to Port Edward in 1925 in honour of Edward, the Prince of Wales who had visited South Africa in that same year.

Port Edward was also the site of a shipwreck in 1552 when the Portuguese galleon Sao Joao ran aground, followed by the Sao Bento in 1554. 1878 saw The Ivy run aground near Leisure Bay. In 1933 Glenmore Beach became the final resting place for the Nightingale, which is now a popular scubadiving destination.

The Port Edward Lighthouse is a cornerstone of the history of Port Edward. Another historic landmark is the Umtamvuna River Bridge.

“Today Port Edward is not just an extremely popular holiday destination, but, also home to approximately 2 000 residents.

“With a hotel, two major holiday resorts, a dual medium primary school and a retirement village, the town has all the amenities one would expect to find in a fast-growing holiday destination,” said Shude.

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