Eastern Cape

When Sobukwe left Healdtown Mission Institute for the next stage of his education, he found that most of the country’s universities were closed to blacks. Only the universities of Cape Town and the Witwatersrand gave limited access to black students. The premier institute for blacks was near Alice – the South African Native College at Fort Hare.

By the end of March 2018 the 14-member Africa Media Online team resident in Alice, Eastern Cape and working in the National Heritage and Cultural Studies Centre (NAHECS) at the University of Fort Hare, had completed the digital capture of all the material assigned to them in the current phases of the ANC Archives digitisation project.

In the piece below, Miss E Dankwerts provides a short description St Michael and All Angels in Queenstown. The details appeared in the 1978 edition of Restorica, the journal of the Simon van der Stel Foundation (today the Heritage Association of South Africa). Thank you to the University of Pretoria (copyright holders) for giving us permission to publish.

Robert Mangaliso Sobukwe was born on 5 December 1924 in Graaff-Reinet, a small town in the Eastern Cape known as the gem of the Karoo. He was the youngest of six children and, as was normal at the time, he was given an English name (Robert) as well as a Xhosa name, Mangaliso, meaning ‘it is wonderful’. His brothers who survived were Ernest, born in 1914, and Charles, born in 1922. His only sister was Eleanor.

The first thing I did when researching this piece of writing was to look at a modern physical map of South Africa and envision that the urban areas and the modern road network shown thereupon were on a thin film that could be peeled away. What remained on the under layer were the physical features such as the coastline, rivers, escarpments and mountain ranges. It was a clean canvas on which I could put settlements on, but before I could do this I had to determine a date in history.

Established during 1786, Graaff-Reinet is the fourth oldest magistrate district in South Africa. At the time, this town was also the most important Eastern Cape based interior centre of trade in South Africa in that it was on the route of many travellers, mainly to and from the Algoa Bay harbour.

As a callow teenager, Joseph Kirkman left an indelible mark on the annals of early Natal history. He is remembered for his efforts in assisting the American missionaries to establish a bridgehead in Zululand and his subsequent heroic exploits in assisting the evacuation of those missionaries following the turbulence consequent on the Retief massacre.

About four years ago I popped into the premises of Cannon & Cannon (auctioneers in Hilton) and, whilst looking around for nothing in particular, came upon a rather battered, leather covered box on which was embossed, if you looked very carefully, ‘His Excellency The Governor’. I asked the attendant if they had a key to the box and was told that they did but were having difficulty in opening it but duly handed it over. After several attempts, I found that if you pushed the key, turned it and then turned it back on itself again, the lock opened.

Once, a train ran from Port Alfred station every day: the 11.10 to Grahamstown, 68km away. In the early 1900s the train used to steam up through the valleys towards Bathurst and Grahamstown taking farmers, farm workers, holidaymakers and commercial travellers, especially on stock-fair days, when the atmosphere was festive and the coaches were full. It is no longer possible to go on the train. One must walk the line or take the road that loops and meets, strays from and returns to it. 

A few years ago, Bev Young compiled this article on the spectacular Cock's Castle in Port Alfred. The piece was originally published in the newpaper Eastern Cape Today on 21 January 2010. Bev is one of the Eastern Cape's most prolific and passionate researchers. 

Enoch Mankayi Sontonga was born in Uitenhage, Eastern Province (now Eastern Cape) around 1873 as a member of the Xhosa-speaking Mpinga clan of the Tembu tribe. He trained as a teacher at the Lovedale Mission Training College, after which he was sent to a Methodist mission school (unnamed) in Nancefield, near Johannesburg in 1896. He taught here for nearly eight years.

Morley House is an exquisite historic home. I first went there in the late 1980s, when it was a home and antique shop. Oh my... the yellowwood woodwork, red baked floor tiles, crooked passages, low doorways. It was all just so perfect! There is an oldish rondavel in the backyard, which I am convinced might have been the original kitchen. Since there are no known plans, it is difficult to be sure. The bathrooms, would have been added, possibly in place of the old pantry. 

 

In the vale of Clumber in the Eastern Cape, 5 km from Bathurst just off the Shaw Park road, lies Clumber Church. Situated on a knoll, this is the third Church to be built on this spot by the Nottingham Party and descendants of the 1820 Settlers. This knoll was given the name of Mount Mercy by the Nottingham Party in thanksgiving for their safe arrival here on a journey which had taken them over 6 months to complete.

We South Africans live in a polyglot society, which under our Constitution, has 11 official languages that “must enjoy parity of esteem and must be treated equitably”. Mother tongues range from Afrikaans to IsiZulu, from isiXhosa to Setswana, however to stop us being a modern Tower of Babel we largely use one language to communicate between each other and that is English. In doing so we are reflecting a world wide trend. In today’s world English has become the “Lingua Franca” replacing French as the language of diplomacy and German in the field of science.

In the article below, first published in the Gold Fields Review 1992-1993, Eris Malan tells the story of the discovery of a remarkable set of documents that filled a significant gap in the priceless Gold Fields Collection. She also traces some of the history behind the Collection including the process that led to the Cory Library at Rhodes University becoming the custodian. The article has been shortened by The Heritage Portal Team.

The last few years have not been kind to the Gately House Museum in East London. Due to ongoing security problems the museum is no longer open to the public and artefacts have been relocated for safekeeping (click here for details). Despite the depressing current situation it is fascinating to look at some of the history of the house and the battle to save it a half a century ago.

Below is an absorbing and practical article looking at lettering on buildings. It was compiled by Dennis Radford for the October 1988 edition of Restorica, the journal of the Simon van der Stel Foundation (today the Heritage Association of South Africa). Thank you to the University of Pretoria (copyright holders) for giving us permission to publish.

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