Saturday, October 31, 2015

The Last of the South African Lighthouse Keepers: Hannabus family

M’Bashe Point Lighthouse Transkei

Latitude          32° 14' 27, 1'' S.

Longitude       28° 55' 00, 9'' E.

P-J Hannabus, Lighthouse Keeper (Ret.,) has a fond attachment to the M’Bashe Point Lighthouse for it was here that his Lighthouse career commenced.

The Lighthouse overlooks the forest-clad hills of the river mouth and down onto a beach of rocky outcrops. It is an isolated post, 100 kilometres from Umtata on a gruelling, gravel road and the nearest hospital is at Madwaleni, a rural village approximately 60 kilometres away. A South African Railway bus delivered post and groceries to the trading stores, the Haven Hotel and the Lighthouse.

P-J’s father Lighthouse Keeper, J.F. Hannabus (Babsie) arrived with his wife Eunice, P-J and his sister Nerene, in 1969 and took up appointment at M’Bashe Point. Sadly, Eunice passed away just a few months after their arrival and lies buried in the Umtata cemetery.

P-J brings us this amusing story, of how, as a young man of 17 years old, his Lighthouse career was launched.

“I had just completed my matriculation and my Dad, Babsie, became very ill with bronchitis. I telephoned Corky Bruyns, the Lighthouse Inspector in Cape Town (Green Point) and requested a Relief Keeper be sent out for two weeks. Corky said that by the time they had found a Relief Keeper, sent him by rail to Umtata plus the difficult car journey to M’Bashe, Dad would be better!

Corky said to me, ‘What are you doing?’ I told him that I had not chosen any particular career path at this time. Corky said, ‘so who is running the station at the moment?’ ‘Well sort of me. Pops is telling me what to do from the bed.’ Corky’s reply was firm and decisive. ‘That is settled then and saves a lot of bother. You are now appointed Senior Relief Keeper at M’Bashe! When Pops gets better, you stay on as Trainee!’

I trained under my Dad and when competent, the Service posted me to my first Lighthouse at Danger Point as Relief Keeper.

Danger Point was home to me, as my Dad had been stationed there from 1961 to 1963 and it is here under a clump of trees that my infant brother lies buried in a tiny grave.

The first job I was given as the Relief Keeper was to paint the dome of the tower. With only an antiquated safety belt to rely on, my nerves were quite raw as I took on this perilous task!”

A series by Suzanne-Jo Leff Patterson

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