After a recent mention of this unusual occupation several blog readers have asked what a tidewaiter did.
He was a customs official who checked goods upon the landing of a vessel, to ensure payment of duties. Depending on the size of the port and the volume of shipping there might be several tidewaiters in attendance.
The position was open to abuse by the tidewaiters themselves, bribery and corruption could occur. Mostly, however, they were honest men earning a not particularly high income, hours were inconvenient and there could be risks involved.
'Four Extra Tidewaiters' are listed in the Natal Almanac Port Office section for 1878.
Tidewaiter Tait: note his peaked cap at left. And a parrot ...