Saturday, July 30, 2016

Souvenir Saturday: Gadsden Swires Natal marriage 1909

Maud Alice Swires (1890-1969)
 daughter of James Dudley Swires
and Alice Mary King

Maud Alice Swires married Sydney Bartle Gadsden on 3 November 1909 at St Peter's Church, Pietermaritzburg. Witness were Frank W King and Winifred Emily Swires. 

The couple shown on the marriage record are my grandparents. You may find your own Natal ancestors' marriages if you access the Civil Marriage records 1845-1955 on Family Search. See link at foot of this page*.

Sydney Bartle Gadsden (1880-1953)
 son of Thomas Alfred Gadsden
(Lighthousekeeper at the Bluff Lighthouse)
and Eliza Ann Bell.(daughter of Capt William Bell)

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Waratah: 'Where's my Ship?' Part 2

Just as Amy had written it was still early days, but concerns had been mounting in Cape Town as news reached them of a great storm up the coast. Rumours abounded and confusion grew. 

As each day passed and no good word was received, anxiety deepened. Stories drifted in that the Illovo, having left Durban some 50 hours before the SS Waratah, was now 24 hours overdue at Cape Town. She too had met such heavy seas that her deck cargo had been completely swept overboard and when she began listing off Danger Point, the Captain had decided to jettison 30 tons of coal.

Suggestions emerged that perhaps the SS Waratah had suffered broken propeller shafts or coal gas explosions. Perhaps she had been struck by lightning, or steamed head-on into an enormous wave and been buried by thousands of tons of water! With the despatch of the tug T. E. Fuller to try and locate the Waratah in case she was disabled, further unease spread amongst the waiting passengers. ‘No ship!’ was the response to their daily visits to the Agent’s office.

What, oh what had happened out there in the ocean? 

One can only imagine the thoughts which would have confronted Amy as she walked up the gangplank of the SS German. Was it relief at being able to embark on her sea voyage after her impatience of the delay?  Perhaps she would have been beset with apprehension in boarding a ship when the Waratah was missing?  Similarly for Mr Northcroft and those with business commitments or urgent family matters, passages on other ships to London were booked and thoughts of their safety would have been uppermost in their minds. Others decided to wait it out for the ‘delayed’ Waratah to arrive in Cape Town.

As the SS German settled against the wharf in London, Amy would surely have felt a sense of relief. Now, safely delivered to London, one is again drawn to imagine how Amy would have felt both during her passage and when learning that the SS Waratah had never arrived in Cape Town. Her head would have been awhirl with fears for the ship and awful with thoughts of what possibly could have happened to her passengers and crew. As this realisation grew she would be haunted with the thought that had the SS Waratah arrived in Cape Town and she had taken up her passage, this ship may well have been destined to founder between Cape Town and London!

Now, these many years later, looking back at all the possible outcomes and the human tragedy, speculation will persist, questions will continue to be asked, doubts will be raised and searches will continue. We are left to draw our own conclusions on what actually happened to the SS Waratah that night and where she, her Captain, passengers and crew might rest, 107 years later, in their ocean grave.

Guest post by Suzanne-Jo Leff Patterson.

RMS Glengorm Castle – previously launched as SS German 1898
The ship which finally delivered Amy to London.

Jeanette Grobbelaar, Honorary Curator, Cape Agulhas Lighthouse Museum - Amy’s letters. Janice Albertyn - owner of the letters.

Authors’ note:
The SS German (II) 1898 - Intermediate Steamer - Builders: Harland & Wolf of Belfast. She began her career unhappily. Before commencing her maiden voyage to the Cape, she collided with and sank the Wilson Line’s SS Corso on November 16th 1898. Fortunately, no lives were lost. Within a few days, she was again in a collision with the Bark Savernake, but this accident was not so serious, although it delayed the SS German’s departure for some weeks. After running in the Intermediate service for 15 years, in August 1914, the SS German was renamed Glengorm Castle.  She was taken up almost at once as a British military hospital ship and acted in that capacity until the end of World War I. 
Source - Marischal Murray 'Ships & South Africa'


Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Waratah: ‘Where is my ship?’ wrote the passenger Part 1

The SS Waratah

12 September 1908 - 28 July 1909 

Advert in Cape Argus

A letter was written in Cape Town in July 1909 by a young lady as she waited to take up her passage on the leg of the SS Waratah’s voyage to London, via Las Palmas and Plymouth. Amy’s letter to her family will not resonate with the associated tragedy of the letters that were written by passengers and crew to their loved ones, prior to SS Waratah’s departure on the ill-fated voyage from Durban on 26 July 1909. For their friends and families, the shock of receiving these hand-written letters from their loved ones, now dead, would have been another terrible blow to distress them further. 

Amy’s letter, received by her family, would, to the contrary, have been a blessing in knowing that she had avoided boarding the SS Waratah and possibly being exposed to potential danger. Access to these letters gives us the opportunity to look into the past and feel the emotions that would have been on display one hundred and seven years ago. Anxiety, indecision and frustration would all have played their parts amongst the SS Waratah’s waiting passengers.

            School House
Observatory Road
Cape Town
July 31st 1909

My dearest Family,

You will be surprised to see the above address and date. This is the 4th night I am spending here instead of only one. The ship has not been sighted yet. The Agents seem to know nothing about her. They told me today that they wired up the coast, but could find out nothing about her. I do hope she comes in tomorrow. I haven’t written before because I never knew from hour to hour when the boat was coming in.

Miss Alexander has been so kind to me. She has taken such a lot of trouble to find out. She met me at the station. Harrison’s man was there to meet me, so I had no trouble with my luggage. We had some tea and then took the train out to Observatory. On Thursday we went to town to see about the boat. I got several telegrams. It was so nice getting them. Thanks so much for them. It was most noble of the Breadwinner to spend his hard-earned money like that.

I had one from George B…… and Gordon Fraser. It read ‘Two desolate admirers wish you every success and single return to our superior selves.’

On Friday morning Miss Brink, who stays with Miss Alexander, took me up to Groot Schuur. She is such a nice girl about my age. Miss A took her class so that she could take me out. Groot Schuur was beautiful. It was so green.

I do hope that wretched boat comes in tomorrow – I have no clothes to wear as I sent my boxes to the agent and have only my hold-all and handbag, I have had breakfast in bed every morning so far. They won’t wake me up in time. Miss A is so good to me and really seems quite glad to have me so that I don’t feel as uncomfortable about staying so long as I would have done with anyone else. My pencil point is worn down so I will have to stop.

Goodbye my darling family. Do take care of yourselves.
Heaps of love and kisses
Your loving

Cape Town
August 2nd 1909

My dearest Father,

I got your wire just after I got back from town.

Nothing has been heard about the SS Waratah since she left Durban and they are afraid something serious has happened. I went into town this morning to see Mr Northcroft and found that he had decided to leave by the German this afternoon. He thought it would be as well for me to go too.  Anderson’s refunded the money and gave me my concession form. The difference in fare is £1.18/-. I took an inside cabin. The Union Castle gave me 10% off without any difficulty. I came straight back and told Miss Alexander. She thinks it is the best thing I could do.

Did you get my other wire? We have been expecting the SS Waratah every hour, but they seem very worried about her now. Andersons were quite willing to refund the money and were very nice about it. I am in a great hurry as we have to be on board at 3 o’clock.

It is costing Mr Northcroft £40 extra.

With heaps of love and kisses


PS - I am having a cabin to myself.

To be continued

Guest Post by Suzanne-Jo Leff Patterson

Monday, July 25, 2016

Port workers ca 1860s Durban

Note the turbaned Indians. This photograph would have been taken after the initial arrival of Indian migrant labour and reminds us that not all of these immigrants worked on sugar or other plantations. Many were employed at the harbour or, later, on the railways.

Below, African port workers manning a boat: a rare photograph. Listed in the Natal Almanac
of 1875 (see final photo below) are 'Native Boatmen and freed slaves at different rates per agreement'.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Souvenir Saturday: Landing by basket at Durban

Basket used for landing passengers at Durban
before the wharf was built. This original basket can
be seen at the Maritime Museum in Durban (Victoria Embankment).

Passenger emerging from (or entering?) the basket
at Durban

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Archdeacon Lloyd, Durban, Natal

Archdeacon Lloyd who married my great grandparents,
Thomas Alfred Gadsden and Eliza Ann Bell at Conch Villa, the Bell family home on the Bluff, Durban, on 6 August 1873.

William Henry Cymric Lloyd, Anglican, Archdeacon of Durban (13 January 1802-3 January 1881). He was well-connected. Lloyd was the son of Bell Lloyd, brother to Edward Lloyd, 1st Baron Mostyn, and Anne Anson, sister of Thomas Anson, 1st Viscount Anson and niece of Edward Venables-Vernon-Harcourt, Archbishop of York. He was brought up at the Anson seat, Shugborough Hall and at Lord Mostyn's castle in Flintshire.
Accompanied by his family Lloyd arrived in Durban, South Africa in 1849 as the first Colonial Chaplain appointed by Earl Grey. Lloyd was involved in the Colenso Controversy. He was rector of St. Paul's Church, Durban and subsequently Archdeacon of Durban. As military chaplain at the Fort during the Anglo-Zulu War of 1879 he played an important role.
He married firstly Lucy Jeffreys (died 1843) the daughter of the Rev. John Jeffreys, and secondly married Ellen Norman (died 1903). Archdeacon Lloyd's children remained in Natal and gained various distinctions
  • Jemima Charlotte Lloyd (1837–1909) married philologist and librarian Wilhelm Bleek.
  • Lucy Lloyd (1834–1914) renowned traveller and African linguist.
  • William Llewelyn Lloyd married Baroness Maria von Gross-Zauche, daughter of the German consul to Namibia.
  • Alfred Norman Mostyn Lloyd (1868–1941), registrar of deeds, Pietermaritzburg, and father of Anson Lloyd (b. 1914), chairman of the Board of Governors of Michaelhouse, a school the men of the family traditionally have attended.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Baines 1820 – 1875: artist, explorer and photographer

Born in King's Lynn, Norfolk, the son of a master mariner, Thomas Baines was educated at Horatio Nelson's Classical and Commercial Academy. 

He started his working life in 1836 as an apprentice to an ornamental carriage builder but soon turned to painting and studied under the heraldic painter William Carr. 

In 1842, wishing to see more of the world and inspired by explorer artists like George French Angas and William Cornwallis Harris, he left England on the Olivia, bound for Cape Town.

He arrived at Cape Town on 23.11.42 and worked as an apprentice to a cabinet maker, an ornamental sign-painter, then from 1845 as a portraitist and painter of marine subjects.

 Later Baines based himself in the eastern Cape. Many adventures and explorations were to follow.

He is of particular interest to me because he painted my g g grandfather, Capt William Bell's, schooner Conch arriving at Port Natal in 1842, towing boatloads of troops to raise the siege of the British Regiment at what is now called the Old Fort. Baines was not present in Natal for this event but painted his famous work from a drawing by an eye-witness. It remains one of his most well-known and recognisable works.

Conch 1842 entering Port Natal

He was not only a prolific painter but was an early exponent of the photographic art, many of his works showing him busy capturing images or setting up his equipment.

Later his magnificent paintings of the Victoria Falls would bring him renown. However, he also left a wealth of Natal views including Durban from Mr Currie's Residence - a snapshot in time showing the town in the 1870s.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Souvenir Saturday: E Larsen, photographer, and family

Here we have a photograph of a photographer.
Emil and Gusta Larsen with daughter Dora (b 1897 d 1926). 
Gusta was the daughter of Thomas and Ane Dahle of Lot 30, Marburg.
Photographed around the turn of the century. Cabinet print.

Emil Larsen and his twin brother Sigvart were both photographers in the Dundee, Vryheid, Volksrust triangle. In October 1900 the Larsen home was occupied by the British, who destroyed all the family's photographic plates. Regarded as 'undesirables', the family were given one hour's notice to leave with a British convoy. Mrs Larsen, a British subject who had recently lost a child, was 6 months pregnant and Mr Larsen, a Norwegian and a non-combatant, had four brothers serving with the Royal Durban Light Infantry (RDLI).

See more at

Emil Larsen initially operated a studio in Greyville, Durban. By the turn of the century he and his brother Sigvart were working together as Larsen Bros at 410 West Street, Durban - the studio mentioned on the above photo mount. Emil crops up in 1904 at a studio in Winder Street, Durban; after that, entries for him in the Natal Almanac cease.

Natal Almanac entries re Larsen photographers, Durban.

1894  Natal Almanac Larsen ‘F’, photographer, Greyville [probably an error for ‘E’]

1896 -1897 Natal Almanac same entry as above ‘Larsen, F’

1898 Natal Almanac – first mention of Larsen, E, photographer, Greyville’ [the Almanac corrected their error in this edition]

1899   Natal Almanac Larsen, E   Greyville  

1900 Natal Almanac – first entry for Larsen Bros 410 West St.

David Larsen