MYTHS & LEGENDS.

                    PORT ALFRED.

            SOUTH AFRICA.

Every town, no matter how old, survives on its legends, they are the stories that we tell our children, that we relate and exaggerate, embellish and in doing so they are handed down, from generation to generation.

Port Alfred to-day, which is known as part of the "Sunshine Coast." is one municipality, and although the folk of this "Settler village" still refer to Kowie West and Kowie East, it is fast becoming a well known retirement town, which makes for a stable economy, and made famous by having the distinction of being the  third largest "line fishing port" in South Africa.    The amenities are all modern, and with the addition of the Royal Alfred Marina, which was first constructed in 1987, there are now  numerous  hotels, excellent restaurants,  many B&B's, most forms of "medical facilities" or health care amenities, and shopping that defies going to the larger cities.



The following are just a few of the many stories we have gathered for your reading pleasure.
 
 

               Ronnie Samuels, receiving his medal for bravery.
                                                                                               

                    The Angel of the Kowie.
                    In 1906 the proprietor of the Beach House hotel near
                      the entrance to the harbour of Port Alfred was building an
                      addition to the guesthouse when his son unearthed a
                      statuette. Some 17cm high, it was of material that
                      resembled meerschaum - the proprietor was an ardent
                      smoker so it was a natural comparison for him to make.

                      The figure was lifelike and beautifully carved. It was
                      dressed in a robe and had long flowing hair, he later
                      reported to the historian Professor George Edward
                      Cory. In its right arm it held a wreathed shield edged in
                      blue and emblazoned with a red cross.

                      Dubbed the Kowie Angel, the figure disappeared for
                      many years, recently resurfacing in the Albany Museum
                      in Grahamstown.

                      Its discovery in 1906 caused quite a stir. Some believed
                      it had been buried by Portuguese sailors and proved
                      that the navigator Bartholomew Dias had landed at the
                      Kowie River in 1488. Most authorities dispute this but
                      the myth was born. The novelist Ethelreda Lewis used
                      the legend in her first published novel, The Harp ,
                      building one of her key characters on the proprietor of
                      the Beach House (which later became The Cove and is
                      now the Ferryman's Hotel).

                      Myth and legend are very much part of the history of Port
                      Alfred and it is not always easy to untangle the truth in its
                      history.

                      But it was a different angel that brought me to Port
                      Alfred recently, an unlikely angel named Ronnie Samuel.

                      The proprietor of the Beach House was Johannes
                      Heindrich Samuel, from Altona, near Hamburg in
                      Germany, possibly the son of a Danish rabbi. Family
                      legend has it that one of the family was stepfather to the
                      Wild West outlaw Jesse James (whose mother was a
                      Zerelda Samuel).

                      Drifted wreckage often ends up in a port, and much of it
                      is human. Johannes Samuel, born in 1856, jumped ship
                      in Port Alfred and was naturalized in 1876. He married
                      Annie Jane Dowse-Smith, had 21 children and became
                      one of the doyens of the town.

                      In his footsteps walked one of his sons, Manning, the
                      idol of the youth of Port Alfred for many years. When
                      Samuel gave a boy a hiding, the boy's father would give
                      him a second one too, because he knew he deserved it.

                      There is a photograph of Manning looking out to sea on
                      the pier at the mouth of the harbour. His gaze is on the
                      tide some 400m out, watching the sea build. It is a
                      treacherous tide, as anyone will know who has read Eric
                      Turpin's Basket Work Harbour , about the futile attempts
                      in the 19th century to turn Port Alfred from a ship's
                      nightmare into a safe haven. Manning Samuel and
                      others were part of the crew of the lifeboat Maggie long
                      before the National Sea Rescue Institute came to town.

                      Unlike his father, Manning had only one son, Ronnie. He
                      worshipped him and Ronnie reciprocated.

                      As a kid Ronnie loved the Kowie River. He fished there
                      a lot. As he got older the sea sang to him. His father
                      took him fishing at sea in his boat, The Risk. Ronnie
                      never got further than Standard 8 - he just wanted to fish.
                      He began training as a welder but never finished
                      because the fish were biting.

                      His training stood him in good stead, however. He built
                      his own boats from plywood: first the Bluefin, then the
                      Yellowfin, powered by a Seagull 4hp engine, then by a
                      Johnson 7½hp. Every return to harbour was a hazardous
                      one. The sea could change within an hour. The boats
                      made no more than five knots. The waves, treacherously
                      angled at 15 knots, always threatened to hurl them
                      against the pier.

                      But Ronnie had no fear. He loved the sea and the sea
                      loved him. He he felt he was too close to it for it ever to
                      hurt him.

                      Not that he didn't have close shaves. Many times his
                      boat was swept out to sea by gale force winds. On more
                      than one occasion he was washed overboard. Once,
                      famously, in 1961, he and 13 men on the 40-foot Mary
                      Anne went missing for 32 hours in a gale and were
                      eventually discovered 50 miles off course by a search
                      aircraft.

                      But Ronnie was best known for his rescues. He once
                      dived in to pluck a child from the bottom of the Buffalo
                      River in East London. On another occasion he saved
                      two men in trouble in a boat off Kowie - one of them was
                      paralysed but he got to shore wheelchair and all.

                      By 1965, at the age of 30, he had already made at least
                      30 rescues. He once said to his son Dicky that he had
                      rescued more people than he had had years of his life.

                      In 1956 he had two boats entirely manned by coloured
                      crews. When one day in a strong westerly wind one of
                      them failed to return, he went to the pier and anxiously
                      scanned the sea, exactly as his father had done before
                      him. When the boat finally drew near, it suddenly began
                      to drift out to sea again. It had run out of fuel.

                      Ronnie rounded up a relative, Pixie John, a rough man
                      renowned as a beachcomber, and braved the troubled
                      sea, taking out a supply of petrol. He swam with a line
                      between the boats and extricated the stricken craft from
                      the danger of nearby rocks. When he, too, ran out of fuel
                      he lashed the boats together and drifted 150km
                      eastwards, miraculously clearing Riet Point. They were
                      rescued only the next morning, but Ronnie had
                      undoubtedly saved his crew.

                      His most famous exploit came in 1965. A 73-ton fishing
                      trawler, the Cape St Blaize, ran aground 12km west of
                      Port Alfred off Glendower Beacon at 10.30pm. There
                      were 12 men on board. The police immediately called
                      Ronnie.

                      Heavy seas were running, spray dashed over the stern
                      and the early morning was cold. "I knew a rope would
                      have to be used," Ronnie said afterwards. "Unless the
                      men on board were strong swimmers they would not
                      have made the swim to the beach. The strong current
                      would not have taken them to shore but rather along the
                      coast."

                      Ronnie waded in and shouted to the crew to have a line
                      ready for him. The crew tied the line to an oil drum and
                      put it over the side as Ronnie made the hugely difficult
                      swim out (he claimed he was not a strong swimmer).

                      Holding grimly onto the drum, he began the swim back,
                      but the current swept him 90m down the beach. As each
                      breaker rolled over him he dived to avoid being hit by
                      the drum. Once he was too slow and the drum slammed
                      down on his head. His friend Albert Marais waded out to
                      help since he was by then very weak. The line was
                      secured and the lucky dozen were plucked from danger.
                      Half of the wreck can still be seen, a monument to the
                      bravery of Ronnie Samuel.

                      He was awarded the Wolraad Woltemade medal for
                      bravery - amid some confusion, as family legend has it
                      that he won it twice.

                      Then he became a hero twice over, disguised, for
                      some, as a villain.

                      Ronnie married young and soon had five or six children.
                      Then he left his wife for a coloured woman. It was the
                      height of the apartheid era and the police pursued him
                      relentlessly. Convicted under the Immorality Act, he
                      spent six months in a Port Elizabeth jail. His pregnant
                      companion was locked up too. The Supreme Court
                      overturned the verdict and Samuel had himself
                      reclassified as coloured.

                      A straight man who didn't care what people thought of
                      him, he was well spoken, capable and intelligent. He
                      knew his birds and he knew the stars, and he would
                      collect specimens for the Rhodes University
                      ichthyologists Fishy Smith and his wife, Margaret, or
                      report to them when he came across an albatross far
                      out to sea.

                      He was a quiet, easygoing man who drank little and did
                      not smoke. He would often intervene in a fight. Once he
                      shot a man's arm off with his .45. He read cowboy
                      books, like those of Louis L'Amour, a habit he passed
                      on to some of his sons.

                      But it was a hard life. In 1963 he lost two boats, St Peter
                      and Sea Hawk, within two weeks. He had 17 children by
                      at least four different women and found it difficult to
                      support them all. Crews were unreliable so he often took
                      his family to help him. His last wife, who was
                      Xhosaspeaking, spent 10 years fishing with him.

                      He kept his dignity, though, and handed on his instinct
                      for fearless service to one of his youngest sons,
                      Richard, who became an ambulance man.

                      It was probably the hard life of fishing which killed
                      Ronnie Samuel in the end - his heart gave in in January
                      1997. By the time of his death, the sea had allowed him
                      to save more than 40 lives.

                      Often his catch was small -- he fished by hand line - and
                      his families would suffer. But when he had a fair catch of
                      kob, redfish, silvers, geelbek or hake, he would say with
                      his characteristic wry smile: "Ah, the sun always shines
                      on the righteous!"


                      Of Buddhists And .................................
 

                      One strange piece of human driftwood presented the
                      locals of Port Alfred with a problem in 1941. John Still, a
                      lively, bearded, dark eyed man, was believed to be
                      agnostic and presented a problem for the clerics in town
                      when he died. When it was discovered that he was
                      actually a Buddhist, the Anglican rector ran for cover. In
                      the end, the young Baptist minister volunteered with
                  Christian charity to conduct the burial service, and Still
                      was eventually laid to rest in the graveyard of the small
                      Methodist Settlers' Church on the hill on the east bank of
                      the Kowie River.

                   Still's only son had been killed in a plane crash in
                      Greece a few months before, so he died alone. About
                      15 people attended his funeral and a few cows leaning
                      over a nearby fence showed some interest. A poem by
                      Still was read.

                      I went to pay my respects to Still since no one else
                      cared. Three graves away I accidentally came across an
                      even more fascinating grave.



                                Exotic Dancers
                  Kathy Keeton, who died in 1997, came from a
                      well known family in the Lombard's Post area. She
                      made her name overseas as an exotic dancer and was
                      closely associated with one Bob Guccione, a magazine
                      publisher, with whom she started Penthouse.

                      Keeton would slip into Port Alfred frequently, but when
                      she brought Guccione the local parson refused to marry
                      them.

                      Keeton's reputation among at least some residents of
                      Port Alfred is one of generosity. And she won one of
                      New York's highest honours, the New York community
                      service award, for her work among black children in
                      Harlem.

                      She started the South African magazine Longevity, but
                      lived to only 58.

                      There is a plaque to her on the family grave.

                      Perhaps her ashes are there, too.

                      - Tim Couzens 


Actually, Kathy Keeton, was part of the original family of Keetons, who still live and farm in the district.  Her ashes are not buried here, but her estate, which was large, so they say, benefited many of her family and friends.

 
 
Train trip to tragedy: The story of the Blaauwkrantz bridge disaster


                      MARGUERITE POLAND follows in the now-still tracks of the
                      11.10 to Grahamstown, and finds it crowded with ghosts

                      My guide says the railway station is haunted. A woman
                      crossed the line without noticing the train. She is still
                      there, waiting where the sheen of silver-pink rooigras
                      runs the length of the line. The little railway station is
                      abandoned now. The slanting shadows of late afternoon
                      lie across a warm platform, the walls are rough-hewn,
                      made of the grey stone quarried not far away. Beyond,
                      the dry euphorbias of the Eastern Cape climb a krans.

                      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. The railway runs truer than the
                      road: there are fewer meanderings and distractions. In
                      the old days, prospective passengers could signal to the
                      train driver if they wanted to board, running up from a
                      farmland or waving from the veranda of a homestead for
                      him to wait. The train drivers were obliging in those
                      days.

                      Mr Robinson, driver of the 11.10 on Saturday April 22
                      1911, was aware of potential passengers as he
                      steamed along. By the time he reached Martindale, he
                      had 52 on board.

                      The line was built in 1883, tracing a wide curve across
                      the farms of lower Albany, ancient in the history of the
                      indigenous people long before the first white colonists
                      settled there in 1820. The names of the small stations
                      and sidings are testament to the provenance of those
                      settlers: Hayes, Bathurst, Clumber, Trappe's Valley,
                      Martindale, Manley Flats, Oak Valley, with the
                      occasional gesture to other origins: Blaauwkrantz. The
                      older, Xhosa names for the rivers that cross those grass
                      and copse-scattered hills are unrecorded in colonial
                      records.

                      Blaauwkrantz is the destination of this journey, although
                      it is not at the end of the track. It is the place of other
                      ghosts.

                      It is a late summer morning when my guide, Basil Mills
                      of the National English Literary Museum in
                      Grahamstown, and I set out. There is a limpid quality to
                      the air in this quiet corner of the Eastern Cape, shrikes
                      calling, proclaiming territory, the blue-black bush
                      marking out the camps where cattle graze. The hills are
                      low. There are lands cleared for pineapples and chicory.
                      Far off, the sea is glimpsed between bushes trailing
                      orange tecoma, blue here and there with plumbago.

                      hanging at an angle, a black signpost with white letters,
                      a farm gate easing itself on old hinges, a fiscal shrike
                      perched on a post: nxa, nxa, nxa, nxanxadi - hang him
                      up, hang him up, hang him up!

                      The first real station is Bathurst. It was once an
                      important destination thronging with passengers. There
                      was a fireplace in the waiting room for winter days. Now
                      khaki weed grows out of the grate. Someone has
                      scrawled "F**k Off" on a wall. The only sounds are the
                      old windmill creaking and a dog barking.

                      From here the line loops out, heading east past the
                      sidings of Purdonton and Spring Grove to Clumber. A
                      small white church and school stand on a grassy knoll
                      among old trees and quiet graves. It is here, from
                      Clumber station, that Grace Pike would have boarded
                      the almost full first-class carriage of the 11.10, coifed
                      for a day in Grahamstown.

                      Down at the church, her nephew Percy and his wife,
                      Olive, meet us at the gate. They are gentle people,
                      proud of their heritage, unpretentious and generous.
                      They have put aside their morning to show us round.
                      Their family have farmed here for six generations.
                      Already the seventh is preparing to take over.

                      Olive Pike taught alone at the school for 20 years, Sub
                      A to Std 5. "Her" children are all over the world now. She
                      takes us into the school, stands poised at the threshold
                      of her classroom, a ghost of a smile on her face.
                      Outside the old swings lean in the wind.

                      In the church the brass lamps glow in filtered sunlight.
                      Percy Pike laughs. There is no electricity to light them
                      any more - things have slid back to the time of the
                      forefathers. Olive plays the small carved organ. She
                      pumps the pedals, directs the swells, pulls the ivory
                      stops.

                      We go on to the farmhouse for tea. The garden and veldt
                      are abundantly green, the best rains in 20 years. We talk
                      about our families, the interconnections between them,
                      Grace Pike, who as a young woman took that train from
                      Clumber 89 years ago. We talk about the farm and the
                      district: pineapples, trains, droughts, rains, love, loss.
                      We talk about Saturday April 22 1911.

                      It is a day which connects us.

                      Trappe's Valley station is derelict under a pale sky, and
                      here we are furthest east in the journey. This is frontier
                      country. Out there, further than the horizon, is the Great
                      Fish River and Coombs, where the sacred clay pits of
                      the Xhosa were found.

                      Basil takes me to a secret place he has been looking
                      for for months. He tells me of the ghostly horseman at
                      the tollhouse who frightened some young herd boys
                      driving their cattle along the road. They fled through a
                      window and took refuge under the toll keeper's bed, odd
                      roommates for the night.

                      The tollhouse is derelict now. An aloe has taken root on
                      the walls of the upper gable. Beyond the broken walls
                      we act out a battle scene among a grove of mtsintsi
                      trees where - legend has it - a besieged farmer had his
                      hand pinned by a spear to a sneezewood post as he
                      reached to take a loaded gun. His adversary was his
                      long defected herdsman.

                      There is a well in a grove, perfectly preserved. Basil
                      throws a pebble into the water. The number of
                      concentric rings he counts will indicate the depth. He
                      goes down the stone stairs into the gloom. I stand
                      suddenly frightened. What if he disappears? It is not
                      who might come by unexpectedly; it is who is there from
                      long ago that bothers me. If there is little evidence now
                      of the lives lost in the struggle for ascendancy over the
                      land and the tracks scored by endless herds of raided
                      or recovered cattle are long overgrown, there is still a
                      presence.

                      At Martindale there are people living in the old guard
                      house. A scarecrow made from an overcoat crucified on
                      sticks, his head a rusted paint tin turned upside down,
                      guards a mealie patch. There are neither mealies to
                      guard nor birds to chase away.

                      From Martindale the rail swings northwest again. The
                      country is more broken. Surveying the possible route for
                      the railway line in the early 1880s, the railway engineer
                      George Pauling wrote: "A very bad piece of country had
                      to be crossed and it took some time before it was
                      decided to cross the worst spot on the route called
                      Blaauwkrantz, about 21km from Grahamstown, by a
                      high level bridge."

                      A very bad piece of country indeed.

                      At the bottom of the gorge there is a large pool. It is one
                      of a number of pools scattered randomly throughout the
                      Eastern Cape where the "People of the River", Abantu
                      Bomlambo , are thought to reside. In Xhosa cosmology,
                      the People of the River are believed to live beneath the
                      water with their crops and cattle. It is they to whom
                      initiates go when they are called to be diviners and who
                      may sanction their vocation. Those they approve may be
                      lured into the depths of a pool to join their society for a
                      time. Those they reject drown. Libations and gifts for the
                      Abantu Bomlambo are often floated out into the centre
                      of the pool in small baskets containing sorghum,
                      tobacco, pumpkin seeds, white beads, a calabash of
                      beer or brandy.

                      Small wonder then that the Blaauwkrantz River, its pools
                      and gorge registered anxiety in the more sensitive
                      traveller from the earliest times. There is a sense of
                      another existence here. This was a place of pilgrimage,
                      a spirit domain, a place of brooding - long before April
                      22, long before the railway line was opened on October
                      1 1884.

                      It was over the Blaauwkrantz Gorge, situated between
                      two such pools, that Pauling built the bridge. Designed
                      and constructed in England, the material for the bridge
                      was transported from Britain by sea. It was assembled
                      in 1883 and, when completed, was only 6mm out of
                      specification: a beautifully calculated feat of
                      engineering. Built light and strong, suspended web-like
                      above the chasm, it could withstand the winds that often
                      sweep down the tunnel between the cliffs.

                      It no longer exists but, from old photographs, it had an
                      airy, latticed appearance, vaulting the space between
                      the kranses guarding the riverbed, the banks of which
                      were planted at that time with the orange orchards of
                      Leslie Palmer, owner of Brenthoek farm.

                      Palmer's descendants, the Claytons, live there still. The
                      new bridge, built in 1928, sends its shadow out across
                      their lands. The fence of the clay tennis court is
                      supported by girders from the 1911 bridge. A ladder,
                      constructed from the same, leans against the stone wall
                      of an outhouse. A wonderful tea is spread out in the
                      living room of the farmhouse. Bunny Clayton and her son
                      Roger have a feast of anecdotes about Bunny's father's
                      part in the drama of the day.

                      On the mantelpiece stands a picture of the old bridge - a
                      toy-like train, a jaunty puff of smoke above, trundling
                      across it. Looking at it I have, again, a sense of history
                      shared. I carry a photo in my head of one of the
                      passengers. It was taken a day or two before she
                      boarded the 11.10 for Grahamstown on April 22. She
                      sits pulling on the oars of a rowing boat on the Kowie
                      River. She was 17 and her name was Hope Brereton. It
                      was the last picture taken of her.

                      Walking down into that gorge there is a feeling - quite
                      apart from the knowledge of the history that was played
                      out there - of the aloofness, the detachment of the
                      landscape. Long before a road or bridge was built, it
                      has been rumoured, early transport riders used to
                      approach the place with some trepidation, while
                      Africans on the journey would insist on waiting a time of
                      placation before descending the slope. Bunny and
                      Roger say the local farm workers avoid the place after
                      dark.

                      In the benign afternoon, women singing as they harvest
                      bright red peppers on the banks, it is a peaceful place. I
                      sit with my companions on a rock and reconstruct a
                      scene in my mind. The voices of the sombre bulbuls
                      recede. The bridge is no longer a skeleton against the
                      sky but the elegant and well-oiled iron road to
                      Grahamstown, punctuated by thriving little stations.

                      On April 22 1911, the train left on time. Behind the
                      engine was a coal tender followed by five trucks of
                      stone, quarried near Port Alfred, for the completion of
                      the Grahamstown cathedral. A fifth truck carried a loose
                      cargo of pineapples, that crop of lower Albany that
                      spikes the lands with pale sage coloured leaves against
                      mulberry earth. Four passenger coaches and a guard's
                      van were coupled behind this, the black passengers
                      crammed together in the last coach, en route to
                      stock-fair day in Grahamstown.

                      Walking tentatively onto the bridge, unable to glance
                      down through the rotten steelwork at the dizzying depths
                      below, I wonder what Robinson, the train driver, was
                      thinking at the moment that his engine ran out onto the
                      girders. Did he have his eyes fixed on the cutting at the
                      other side? Was his mind wandering pleasantly
                      elsewhere?

                      Two-thirds of the way across there was a sudden lifting
                      and lightening of the load. The sound of metal, the flump
                      of steel on steel, smoke and dust rising. The fourth truck
                      had come uncoupled. One can only guess at Robinson's
                      horror, at the moment of turning his head, at seeing the
                      fourth truck rail-jump, fall on its side, the grind of steel as
                      the passenger carriages and guard's van plummeted
                      into space, the roof of one detaching, the last coach in
                      which the black passengers were travelling,
                      somersaulting once before it hit the rocks more than
                      60m below. The roof of a carriage spiralled down,
                      providing a safer landing place for a passenger, a
                      lampholder caught in the girders, a man's coat fluttered
                      on a spar.

                      The aftershock must have echoed up and down that
                      gorge, stunning Leslie Palmer in his lands with his
                      labourers, one of whom, at the moment of the accident,
                      had called out, "It is falling! It is falling!"

                      The appalled driver, knowing there was nothing he could
                      do to help, hurtled his engine, coal tender and two trucks
                      towards Grahamstown, whistle shrieking.

                      The stationmaster of Grahamstown was out on the
                      platform. With what dread must he have heard the
                      long-approaching shriek of the whistle, seen the smoke,
                      then the engine and truck without the coaches or the
                      guard's van, the distraught driver stumbling from the
                      cab?

                      It was not the bridge that had failed. The weight of the
                      stone had not broken it.

                      Some engineering experts said it was the age of the
                      dog spikes and the repair of the rails, rotten sleepers,
                      the vintage rolling stock too heavily laden. The
                      stationmaster of Bathurst believed it was the shifting of
                      the pineapples as the train took a curve, causing a
                      stone truck ahead to jump the rails and overturn,
                      obstructing the path of the following carriages so that
                      they concertina, derailed and fell.

                      Some said it was other forces: the Blaauwkrantz is not a
                      gorge to challenge.

                      Within an hour a relief train had reached the sight with
                      three doctors, nurses and medical equipment. Among
                      the first Grahamstown residents to arrive at the scene
                      were a group of clergymen representing every
                      denomination. And among them was the Rev William
                      Brereton, Hope's father. For him, the descent into the
                      gorge must have been the most appalling journey of his
                      life. And the longest.

                      Hopie Brereton did not survive. Her father carried her
                      body from the gorge.

                      Grace Pike of Clumber did. But in the fall, the 22 pins
                      with which she had arranged her hair so meticulously
                      had pierced her head and had to be extracted one by
                      one.

                      There is the well-known story of the miraculous escape
                      of little Hazel Smith, who, with her sister Dorothy and
                      threeyear-old brother Willie, had been catapulted from
                      the train window as it fell. Hazel was caught in the
                      girders. Her sister Dorothy clung to the side of the
                      bridge for some time. Then, unable to hold on, she fell.
                      Baby Willie, whom Hazel had by the hand as he dangled
                      precariously above the chasm, struggled violently. He
                      too fell to the gorge below. Dorothy survived. Willie lived
                      only a day.

                      The newspaper reports from the time are full of the
                      language of drama, stories of bravery and courage.
                      Absent from all of them is any description of the black
                      passengers killed in the accident, except for mention of
                      a woman whom rescue workers tried to free for many
                      hours, only to die as she was taken up the gorge.

                      The absence from the press reports of the story of that
                      carriageful of passengers is reflected in a scrawled
                      aside taken from an unpublished letter: "An African
                      woman being taken from Kowie Mental to Fort England
                      was later found to be sane! So much for shock
                      treatment!" A strange little silence hovers around these
                      victims.

                      Altogether, 29 passengers died. Twenty-three were
                      injured. At the time, the Blaauwkrantz Bridge disaster
                      was the worst accident South Africa had witnessed.

                      Evening comes and we laugh and talk in the Claytons'
                      living room. "Oh yes, there is a ghost . . ." says Bunny,
                      pointing up the stairwell. She does not seem
                      uncomfortable. She has been here for too long to be
                      disturbed by an interloper.

                      Outside, the workers have gone home and the bright
                      green and red of the pepper land is in deep shadow.
                      Beyond, the Blaauwkrantz Bridge seems ghostlike.

                      That day I had stood aloft in the wind on the bridge's
                      precarious rails, seen far below the travellers' cairns that
                      mark the path into the ravine and which passers-by
                      honour with a stone, a thought or a prayer: Camagu,
                      mandisoloko ndihamba ekukhanyeni, ndingaze
                      ndihlelwe bububi (I must always walk in the light so that
                      no evil may befall me).

                      I say the words myself and I remember my
                      great-grandfather on his desperate journey down that
                      rocky gorge; I remember, too, his 17-year-old daughter,
                      Hope Brereton, whose name, whose face, whose tilt of
                      the head, reflects three generations down in my own
                      daughter. It has been a moving pilgrimage.

 
 

NEW TRACKS: Peppers  are now harvested below   the new Blaauwkrantz                                       bridge. Pictures: B Mills
 

OLD HAUNTS: The Trappe's Valley station; .
                                         Picture : B. Mills
                                                                                                               
 

                                                               Basil and the spirit well; .
                                                              Picture : Marguerite
                                                              Poland
 
 
 

and the pineapple fields of lower Albany. Picture :
                                                              Marguerite Poland
 

wait for more! the ghosts of Wesley Hill and others...............
 
 

                                             mail us if you know of any stories we have left out?

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