Friday, March 16, 2018

A wedding ... and a drowning: Arnold family 1899 Natal

This delightful wedding photograph (with a glorious collection of hats) taken in Durban by W B Sherwood in 1899 shows members of the Arnold family. The gentleman standing, left, could be William Marshall Arnold and the lady standing far right his wife, Julia nee Irvine, parents of the two little girls. The names of the bride and groom await further research, but the elderly lady seated left is the grandmother of the girls sitting on the floor at front. Her resemblance to the child next to her is very clear.

A tragedy hangs over the happy picture as the two young girls, Eunice and Kathleen Arnold, drowned at Durban on 8 March 1900. The story is that one girl lost her bracelet and they both drowned looking for it. The family had come from Ladysmith to see the arrival in Durban of an unnamed dignitary.

Acknowledgements to Peter Hare and Dale Schultz.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Royal Hotel, Ladysmith, Natal 1912: William Marshall Arnold

The Royal Hotel, Murchison Street, Ladysmith, Natal, photographed in 1912 by F Atkinson, of whom no details are currently known. The owner of the hotel was William Marshall Arnold of Ladysmith, who got into hot water in 1898 when he was summoned in the Magistrate's Court for the Klip River Division as follows:

To CH Hendley Sergt NP Acting Messenger of the Court Summon Willam

Marshall Arnold of Ladysmith Hotel and Bar Keeper that he personally
appear before this Court at Ladysmith on the 21st October 1898 at 10
o'clock in the forenoon then to answer and abide the judgment of this
Court upon the complaint and information of the Local Board of the
township of Ladysmith that the said WM Arnold is guilty of the crime
or offence of contravening Section 65 Act 38 1896 In that on or about
the 15th October 1898 and at the Royal Hotel premises in Murchison
Street Ladysmith he being then the holder of a Hotel Bar License for
the said premises for the sale of intoxicating liquor did wrongfully
and unlawfully sell or keep his Bar or Buffet premises open for the
sale of intoxicating liquors and did supply persons namely James
Cairns of Ladysmith and Sergeant Lloyd of the Royal Irish Rifles with
certain intoxicating liquors to be drunk on the aforesaid licensed
premises between the hours of 11 'o clock at night and 6 'o clock in
the morning the aforesaid persons not being sleeping or boarding on
his hotel premises and to produce his liquor license and deliver the
same to the Magistrate on the day of hearing.
Serve on the said defendant a copy of this summons and then return to
this Court on that day what you have done thereon.
Given under my hand at Ladysmith this 17th day of October 1898
(Signed) HJ Colenbrander
Clerk of the Court

He was found guilty, appealed and had his appeals denied.

Acknowledgements to Dale Schultz

Saturday, March 10, 2018

The Hello Girls: telephone operators in Durban

Telephone Operators at the Durban Corporation Telephone Exchange,
opened in 1905. Known as the Hello Girls, they included my Great Aunt Dorothy Moffat,
nee Swires (b 1900 - d 1995).

The Durban Telephone Exchange was the only municipally run exchange in South Africa until March 1969 when the Department of Posts and Telecommunications took over the service.

Friday, March 9, 2018

John Brand Martin and a Missing Dredger 1906

John Brand Martin was born in Fife, Scotland in 1857, and died in Durban in 1926. He was sent to Australia in 1910 to give evidence at a court hearing regarding a little-known event of a dredger that disappeared without trace between Durban and Australia. This is how it was reported in Lloyd's List 27 Dec 1906:


Sydney Nov 30

All hope for the safety of the [steam] suction dredger Walrus has been
abandoned.  She is now nearly 100 days out from Durban and even should
she still be afloat, her crew must long since have been starved and her
coal supplies completely exhausted.  Having been bought in South Africa
for the Geelong Harbour Trust, the vessel sailed from Durban on Aug 13
for Geelong via Western Australia with 653 [? indistinct] tons of coal
and a stock of provisions sufficient to maintain her crew of 23 hands
for 60 days.  Just before commencing this voyage the master [Capt
McDonald] intimated his intention of following the course of latitude
29S and to make for Fremantle or Albany to replenish supplies of coal
and food.

Since leaving Durban, however, the Walrus has not been spoken or
reported.  Under ordinary conditions the little vessel should have
reached Western Australia within 50 days.  This period expired several
weeks ago.  Taken in connexion with the loss of the dredger Octopus,
which was also bought from the Natal Government by the Geelong Harbour
Trust, and which sprang a leak a few hours after leaving Durban on Oct
13, and was abandoned, three lives being sacrificed, an opinion is
expressed in shipping circles generally that dredgers of the Walrus and
Octopus class were never intended for a long sea voyage, and that they
should have been prevented from sailing from South Africa for Australia.

The wreck was never found. 

More about J B Martin:

Martin J B: Port Captain's Dept. Assistant Superintendent of Machinery.
Started Oct 16 1889. £350 pa.
Martin, John Brand - First engineer of dredger "Otter", 16th October, 1889;
tug, "Richard King," 1st April 1900; assistant superintendent of machinery,
port department, 1st July, 1902; admitted to civil service 30th November,

Acknowledgements: Jill Martin

Additional information from Trove:
Melbourne, October 29 1906

The chairman of the Geelong Harbor
Trust to-day received a cablegram stating
that the following persons were on board
the dredger Walrus, which left Durban on
August 13 and has not been sighted since:
Alexander McDonald, Lewis Jones,
George Mitchell, J. Webb, F. Watkins, A.
Buckingham, Alexander Gilmore, Alex-
ander Allan, William Hosking, A. Fullar-
ton, G. Keally, George Watt, R. Middle-
ton, John Dunn, Robert McCallum, H.

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Passengers to Natal per SS Elizabeth Martin Aug 1873

ARRIVAL OF THE ELIZABETH MARTIN: Natal Mercury 5 August 1873
On 5 August 1873 the local press announced in eulogistic terms the arrival on the 3rd of the Currie Line steamer Elizabeth Martin (her tonnage varies in the reports) from East London from which she had sailed on the 2nd under Captain DEACON. She carried a general cargo and only 8 passengers viz:
Mr and Mrs GARBUT
Black, Baxter & Co were the agents.

NM 5 August 1873
At three o'clock last Sunday afternoon (3rd August) a large steamer was sighted to the westward. She steamed round the Bluff at 3.40 p.m., anchored in the roadstead, and was made out to be the Elizabeth Martin, 906 tons, Captain DEACON (late of the Gothland), of Messrs. Donald Currie & Co's line. The tug went out to her about half past four o'clock, towing a cargo boat. The bar was rough, and the sea outside ran so high that the mails could not be put on board the tug. They were trans-shipped into the lighter, which arrived back in the bay very soon after the tug. There were 33 bags of mails, and our packet of extras, containing the latest European news, to the 25th June.
The Elizabeth Martin is a very fine, handsome, smart, and comfortable steamer. The passengers who have come up in her speak in the highest terms of her steaming capabilities, and of the courtesy and ability of her commander and his officers. She had a head wind all the way up from East London, and yet she made the run in about 24 hours. She was off the Umkomaas about 1 o'clock on Sunday afternoon. We are glad to hear that she is to be kept on the coast until the Florence arrives out, about the end of September.
She has brought up eight passengers, whose names will be found in our shipping column. Amongst them we are glad to welcome back our much-respected fellow-townsman, Mr W PALMER, who has had a pleasant trip through the Transvaal, Diamond Fields, and Cape Colony; whose health, we are glad to say, is thoroughly re-established; and who has many an interesting tale to tell of absent Natalians with whom he met and conversed during his wanderings.
The steamer's mail bags arrived at the post-office in town about six o'clock in the evening, and were delivered about nine o'clock. The steamer has only a small quantity of cargo for Natal, the manifest of which, together with that per Teuton, will be found in our extra. She discharged a great deal of cargo at Algoa Bay and East London. She is to come inside to-day, and all who can should pay her a visit. She is the largest steamer that will have crossed our bar, her gross tonnage being 1260.

Natal Mercury 7 August 1873
The entrance of the Elizabeth Martin into our inner harbour is an event worthy of special notice in the records of our port. This fine steamer is much the largest vessel that has yet crossed the bar. Her burthen is over 1200 tons, her register shows upwards of 800 tons. She is 250 feet long. Nevertheless she entered the harbour safely and easily at dead neap tides. We congratulate both her commander and our Port Captain upon this interesting fact. Some months ago, when referring to the trade of the River Plate, we pointed out that there was no reason why vessels of large tonnage should not be built so as to come inside, and the present incident is proof of the fact. If a permanent depth of 18 feet could be secured on the bar steamers of 2000 tons might ply direct between England and Natal without the drawback of detention at the outer anchorage. It is of the utmost importance however, that the condition of the inner harbour should be improved, and the present channels, which are ever shifting and shoaling, be permanently straightened and deepened. We are glad to hear that Sir Benjamin PINE intends to visit Durban next week, with the especial purpose of inspecting both the harbour and the works.

Natal Mercury 12 August 1873
On Thursday last a party of nearly fifty gentlemen including most of the leading merchants of the place, together with several public functionaries, was invited to luncheon on board the Elizabeth Martin, by her Commander, Captain DUNCAN (sic: error for DEACON). The 12 o'clock train took the bulk of the guests to the Point, from whence they were soon aboard. Some was spent in a careful and admiring inspection of the fine vessel, which is much the largest that has yet come across the bar. She lies moored in the Bluff channel, and her lines are so well proportioned that she looks smaller than she really is. The Elizabeth Martin is three-masted, and has a hurricane deck from stem to stern. In the centre, over the offices, the ordinary bridge takes the dimensions of yet another small deck, which affords a commanding outlook over the vessel and the sea. The fittings of the steamer are all in brass and teak, and everything about her gives evidence of first class workmanship. The huge depths of the hold, with a floor as dry as a parlour's, gave proof of large carrying capacity, and we were glad to see 250 tons of sugar being stowed away there. The saloon, though small, is beautifully paneled in polished maple, rose and satinwoods, surmounted by solid and massive gilt cornices. The internal fittings of the staterooms, and all other parts of the ship, are as comfortable as modern ingenuity can secure. We observed that the table crockery, too, was designed with a special view to the exigencies of bad weather.


The Elizabeth Martin, named after Sir Donald Currie's mother, was built in 1872 in Glasgow and was a sister ship of the Courland. She ran for a few years in the Cape mail service (making the trip from London to Table Bay in 30 days 16 hours & 15 minutes in October 1872) before being transferred to the coast where the 'Betty Martin' soon became a familiar sight.
The itineraries of such coasters as the Elizabeth Martin varied, some running in conjunction with the mail steamers from England, which the coasters met at Cape Town, passengers and freight being transshipped for coastal ports.
During the Ashantee war of 1874 the Elizabeth Martin acted as a transport, subsequently returning to the coastal trade and in September 1875 she inaugurated Currie's service to Port Alfred. The bar there was so rough that she had to continue on to East London with 50 tons of Port Alfred cargo on board. In July 1879 she took the first sailing in a newly established service between Durban and Mauritius. In 1882 she was bought by a Greek company and renamed Athenai. Some ten years later she was renamed Samos, in which guise she remained afloat until 6 October 1916 when she was sunk by a submarine in the Mediterranean.

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Passengers to Natal on RMS Natal Oct 1875

'Arrival of RMS Natal 28 Mail Bags 58 Passengers. Yesterday at a quarter past two o'clock this steamer arrived at the outer anchorage. She has made exceedingly quick passage, having left Cape Town at noon on 6th inst. Capt Airth (Port Captain) at once proceeded out in the tug which did battle with the waves going across the bar, a heavy sea being on at the time. The mails were landed at a quarter to 4. We are indebted to Capt Gilbert for a report of the voyage. Capt Gilbert has had a splendid run this trip. Having been only 45 hours from Cape Town to Algoa Bay and 53 hours thence to Natal including stoppage at East London.' (Natal Mercury 12.10.1875)

This Natal (not to be confused with the General Screw Co vessel of the same name in the 1850's) was a Union Line coaster. Built in 1866, 618 tons, she was intended for the colonial coastal trade. Despite being described as capable of crossing the bar at Durban in all conditions, she evidently anchored out in the roadstead on her arrival in October 1875.
Natal had the dubious distinction of losing her captain, Ridsdale, when he fell overboard during a voyage to Cape Town. On a more auspicious occasion she carried Sir John Molteno and other notables. In 1873 she inaugurated the Zanzibar Line, sailing to Zanzibar from the Cape.

Arrived 11 October 1875 RMS Natal (took 5 days from the Cape).
ANDERSON Farquharson
ANDERSON Alexander
ANDERSON Charlotte
ANDERSON Margaret Jane
ANDERSON Wilhelmina
BATH Samuel
HOBSON Matilda A
HORN Alexander
METCALF Frank Hardy
METCALF Percy James
MITCHELL Alex Hector
PERFECT (infant)
PERFECT Robert William

Not all passengers are listed by name. Sureties (i.e. providing employment) for some of those on board were Black Baxter & Co. The Anderson family had emigrated from Aberdeen and were to settle at Umzinto on the south coast of Natal. After the death of Farquharson Anderson, his widow Charlotte married William Dixon Smith.

The road to Umzinto, Natal South Coast:
crossing a drift by ox-wagon. There were about 20 rivers

to cross between Durban and Umzinto, a hazardous undertaking.
The lengthy sea voyage was merely the start of the settlers' journey.


Monday, February 26, 2018

Passenger arrivals and departures at Natal Oct 1875

ARRIVALS AND DEPARTURES Natal Mercury October 2 1875
Florence, Adonis, Pelham, Natal, Elizabeth Martin, Zulu, Kafir

Sept 27 - Florence, CMS, of Leith, 880 tons, Jones, from Cape Ports. Cargo: general.
From East London
Mr R Wilhelm
From London
Mr Milner
Capt and Mrs Hyme
Masters MHC and H Hyme
Misses K and J Hyme
two nurses
Capt and Mrs Lucas
Mr and Mrs Welsh
Mr and Mrs Morgan Evans
Mr and Mrs Allen
S Chambers
T Hayman
W Freville
G Harrison
HP Harrison
JM Cooke
H Martin
Mrs MA Ellis
M Evans
W Bruce
J Wolfe
R Allcock
E Groves
R Culverwell
S Swales
V Plank
W Plank
Mrs Taunton
Mrs and Miss Gibson
Masters CA, WF and CF Gibson
Miss C Morris
From Algoa Bay
Mrs JE Wood
Mrs Impry
Mrs Vanderschyff and four children
T Farrow
W Woodger
Mrs Brink
Mrs Nelson and baby
six coolies
Left Cape 22nd Sept.; strong breeze NW with rain, squalls at times, high sea; arrived Mossel Bay, 9 a.m. 23rd Sept., stiff breeze NW, and fair weather; left Mossel Bay 1 p.m. 23rd Sept.; fresh breezes NW and cloudy; arrived at Algoa Bay 9.30 a.m. 24th Sept.; variable winds, and rain at times; left Algoa Bay, 3.45 p.m. 24th Sept.; moderate breezes, passing showers; arrived at East London, 8.45 a.m. 25th Sept.; high winds, NW, and fine weather; left East London 6.30 p.m., 25th Sept.; variable winds and cloudy weather 26th strong winds; arrived at Natal, 9.30 a.m., 27th Sept.
Black Baxter and Co., agents.
Sept 25 - Annie,of London schooner, 41 tons, C. Smith, from East London, sailed Sept 23. Cargo: forage and spokes.
S Crowder and Co., agents.

Sept 26 - Garmouth, schr, 200 tons, McPherson, from London, sailed July 4. Cargo: general.
Adler Bros, agents.
Sept 28 - Adonis, SS of Amsterdam, 80 tons, Thompson, from Scottburgh, sailed Sept 27. Cargo: general.
S Crowder and Co., agents.

Oct 3 - Florence, DCMS, of Leith, 800 tons, Jones, for Cape Town and intermediate ports. Cargo: colonial produce.
For London
Major-General Sir Garnet Wolseley, KCB, KCMG, and four servants
Major Brackenbury RA
Major Butler
Lord Gifford
Miss E Bate
Captain Dickinson
For East London
Mr J Holden
Miss Finchen
For Algoa Bay
J Gilligan
E Shaw
For Cape Town
Mrs Phillips
Mrs E Shaw
1 gunner RA
1 private, 1-13th, LI
Black, Baxter and Co., agents.

Oct 11 - Adonis, SS, of Amsterdam, 80 tons, Thompson, for Scottburgh. Cargo: general.
Mrs Collingham and three children
S Crowder and Co., agents.

Oct 14 - Pelham, brigantine, of Natal, 160 tons, Strachan, for Delagoa Bay. Cargo: general.
Mr R Beningfield
Mr Dubois
Mr Schonberg
100 kafirs
Beningfield and Son, agents.
Oct 15 - Adonis, of Amsterdam, SS., 80 tons, Thompson, resailed for Scottburgh. Cargo: general.
S Crowder and Co., agents.
Oct 16 - Sea Gull, schooner, of London, 76 tons, Hines, for East London. Cargo: sugar.
Harvey, Greenacre and Co., agents.

Oct 16 - Annie, schooner, of London, 41 tons, Smith, for East London. Cargo: general.
Thomas Crowder
S Crowder and Co., agents.

Oct 18 - Natal, RMS, of Southampton, 587 tons, JC Gilbert, for Cape Town and intermediate ports. Cargo: general
For Southampton
CH Wells
W B Scott
B De Waal
Mr and Mrs Vergottini
Mrs Hayne, child and servant
Capt Baker
Mr A de Terrason
For Cape Town
Miss Coates
Miss Symons
Mrs Moodie and child
Mr Farr
St. Leger
W Stitzer
17 Naval invalids
For Algoa Bay
Mrs Adlam
Mr Bomball
Mr Rigg
Escombe and Co., agents.

Oct 19 - Elizabeth Martin, CMS, of Leigh, 1503 tons, Duncan, for Cape ports and England. Cargo: general.
For Algoa Bay
Mr W Reekie
Black, Baxter and Co., agents.

Oct 22 - Zulu RMS, of Southampton, 679 tons, H de la Cour Travers, for East Coast ports. Cargo: general.
For Delagoa Bay
Brown, Mrs Brown and four children
Mr Stephen Jackson
Mr Solomons
88 kafirs
For Zanzibar
Dr Turnbull RN
For Mozambique
one kafir
ten lascars
Escombe and Co., agents.
Oct 26 - Hannah Nicholson, barque, of Adelaide, 252 tons, Farquhar, for Mauritius. Cargo: flour.
H and T McCubbin, agents.
Oct 26 - Lady Selborne, 3-masted brigantine, of Plymouth, 209 tons, N. Keen, in ballast.

Oct 29 - Kafir, RMS, of Southampton. 900 tons, Garrett, for Cape Town and intermediate ports. Cargo: general.
For Southampton
Mr FW Reid
Mr George Reid
Mrs Pascoe and two children
Mr Whiskin
Mr Stooker
For Cape Town
Miss Crossley
Mr and Mrs Doesell and child
1 Naval invalid from HMS Encounter
For Algoa Bay
Dr Hope
one kafir
For East London
Miss McArthur
Miss Sweltzer
Escombe and Co., agents.

Oct 29 - Annie Brown, brigantine, of Adelaide, 166 tons, Gilfillen, for Adelaide. Cargo: general.
Grant and Fradd, agents.

Saturday, February 24, 2018

Souvenir Saturday: Nobel's Dynamite Factory Gate, Ardeer, Stevenston

A view of the loading gates at the Nobel Factory in Ardeer circa 1900, the employees are all wearing Tam O’Shanters except of course for the foreman with his bowler hat.

My great grandfather Finlay Gibson is at various dates during his career at the explosives factory described as ‘searcher’, ‘cartridge foreman’ and ‘gatekeeper’. A remarkable photograph shows the very gate where Finlay would have been positioned as gatekeeper, no doubt wearing a bowler hat similar to the one in the photo. A 'searcher' had the task of making sure nobody entering the factory was carrying matches.

In the Early 19th century nitro-glycerine was the main explosive used in mining throughout the world, even though it was incredibly unstable, it had caused many fatal accidents in its use and just as many in its manufacture. Nitro-glycerine was so unsafe that many countries outright banned its use, a safer form of blasting had to be developed.

Alfred Nobel invented Dynamite in 1864; he used a method of saturating diatomaceous earth with nitro-glycerine and various other chemicals to make a solid compound. This made it far safer to handle; it could even undergo force-impacts and not explode, unlike nitro-glycerine that would sometimes explode literally at the drop of a hat. He was only able to manufacture small quantities at a time, as had limited working space and it was still a very dangerous manufacturing process.

In choosing the location for his new explosives plant, he sought an isolated location, with goods access links by sea. The Ardeer peninsula seemed perfect with it was isolated from any major settlement and could be accessed by sea easily. The plant opened for business December 1872, a notice appeared in the Mining Journal:

'The British Dynamite Company, having erected extensive works at Ardeer, Ayrshire, near Glasgow, with all Mr. Nobel's recent improvements for the manufacture of dynamite, are now prepared to execute orders for Home Consumption and Export.'

'For more information on the North Ayrshire's Yesterd@ys project, please visit Our Website, or email us at '

Acknowledgement to North Ayrshire Yesterdays.

Friday, February 23, 2018

Passengers to Natal per URMS American Sept 1878

Natal Mercury September 28 1878
27 September American URMS of Southampton, 2474 tons, Gilbert, RNR, from England and Cape ports. Cargo general.

From Southampton
Mr and Miss Warwick
Mr G Green
Cape Town
Mr and Mrs Peacock, infant and servant
WA Daly
Kowie River
Six natives
East London
Mr and Mrs Bentley
Dr Mansell
Capt George
Surgeon-Major Cuff and servant
Colonel and Mrs Pullern, two children and servant
Captain and Mrs Upeton, two children and servant
Captain Anstye
Captin Hodson
Lieutenant Heaton
Lieutenant Palmer
Captain Spalding and servant
186 men of the 24th Regiment*
245 passengers in all
E Boynton, agent.

September 27 Tyne, HMS troopship, Solly, from England (July 31) and Cape ports, with troops.
September 27 Hastings, ship, from Madras, with coolies.
John T Rennie and Sons, agents

September 27 EJ Spence, barque, of Melbourne, 519 tons, Gill, for Melbourne. Cargo general.
Mr Harvey
Henry Smith, agent.

American, URMS, of Southampton, 2474 tons, Gilbert, RNR, from England and Cape ports.
E Boynton, agent.
Courland, CRMS, of London, 1500 tons, Rigby, from Cape Town and intermediate ports.
SS Ridge, agent.
Tyne, HRM, troopship, Solly, from England and Cape ports.
Basuto, barque, of London, 334 tons, Creak, from London
Ballard, King and Jarvis, agents.
Fager, barque, of Geffe, 323 tons, Albrithsen, from Hudikswall
John Hunt, agent.
Hastings, ship, from Madras
John T Rennie and Sons, agents.
Lydia, barque, of Geffe, 282 tons, Nordin, from Skutskar
John Hunt, agent.

*Note that 186 men of the 24th Regiment are not individually named, as was the practice in newspaper passenger lists at this time. You can lose a lot of ancestors that way. In this instance the men of the 24th were sailing out to South Africa to fight in the Zulu War and many would meet their fate at Isandhlwana or Rorke's Drift in January 1879.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Durban docks ca 1887

Historic photograph of Durban Docks circa 1887. Extremity of Point Wharf showing original Wharf Shed A erected in 1881 (with curved roof) and the Sheers erected at the end of the main wharf, the total length of which, at this period, did not exceed 1500 feet. In the left foreground is a craft known as the Anchor Boat used for laying moorings about the Bay. The funnel of one of the paddle tugs (probably Forerunner) can be seen in front of the ship in full sail. To the right of A Shed is the Customs House.
[Cory Library 754_1207]

For an extension of the view to the right, see