Saturday, May 28, 2016

Souvenir Saturday: A Light on the Bluff

Bluff Lighthouse early 1900s

Prior to January 1867 Durban was without a lighthouse and this led to frequent mishaps with shipping. The Natal Mercury reported in the late 1850s (an era of much emigration to Natal) as follows;

A Light on the Bluff: We have on former occasions urged the great importance of this provision. Another illustration of its necessity has just been furnished. The Rydal would have anchored off this Port two day sooner than she did, if a light on this promontory had identified the spot. The currents on this coast cannot always be allowed for with certainty, specially after such weather as has recently been experienced; and the Rydal after sighting the land, came to anchor during the night, at a part which, in the darkness, was mistaken for the outer anchorage of this Port; but in the morning, instead of the Bluff, it was found the vessel was opposite a headland of the coast which when an observation could be taken, was ascertained to be some point about 60 miles north of Port Natal. A light on the Bluff, duly notified, would be favourable, not only to the shipping frequenting this Port, but to passing vessels, which would then commonly make the land at this point; and the advantages of the Port would then also be brought more generally into notice.

Note: for a passenger list of the Rydal in 1854 see

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Gadsden/Hamilton wedding, Durban, 1939

Gadsden/Hamilton wedding, St Andrew's Presbyterian Church, Durban, 20 May 1939.
Front row: Ann Hamilton, Bill (William Bell) Gadsden, Cathrine Gibson Gadsden nee Hamilton, Joan MacInnes. Second row: Bill (William Finley) Hamilton, Annie Hamilton nee Gibson, Maud Gadsden nee Swires, Rex O'Halloran (best man). Back row: Joe Hamilton, Sime (Sydney Bartle) Gadsden.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Bell, James Colquhoun, arrives on the Ferdinande Dec 1872

Unexpected and useful nuggets of information arise while browsing local newspapers. Even a tiny snippet such as the one below fills a gap in the Bell family history.

Natal Mercury 12 Dec 1872

The Ferdinande – 'James Colquhoun, son of Mrs Bell, widow of the late Port Captain Bell arrived in the Ferdinande. He is, we believe, anxious to get employment here, so that he may be with his family.

Engraving of the Entrance to Port Natal, showing a ship
entering the channel, the Bluff at right with Signal Station,
and the Point, left.

James may not have been successful in getting employment in Natal. Whatever the case, he fetches up in England a couple of years later, marrying Sarah Clark at St Mary Stratford, Bow in September 1874. Sarah had been born in Blackfriars London ca 1851. By 1891 James and his large family were living in South Shields where he worked as a Marine Enameller (painting done on ships)..

Confusingly, there were three James Colquhoun Bells: (1) Capt. William Bell’s 5th child and 2nd son, born in the Cape in 1847, (2) James Colquhoun Bell jnr born 1880 in Aldgate to James C and his wife Sarah Bell and (3) James Colquhoun Bell b 1890, son of William Caithness Bell.

'The Six Gems':
six of James Colquhoun Bell's children

Gordon Brown, descendant of James Colquhoun Bell

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Souvenir Saturday: the Ship John Campbell, owner Isaac Oldham Bold

The port of Liverpool: in the foreground the Ship John Campbell, 415 t,
owner Isaac Oldham Bold,
artist Joseph Heard (1799-1859);
Victoria Gallery and Museum.
Photo Credit, University of Liverpool. for larger version of image

This ship, the John Campbell, is listed in Lloyd's Register as sailing from Liverpool to Africa. It may have brought one of Mole's blog visitor's ancestors, Henry James Hanford, to this part of the world in 1844.  

There appears in the BT112 series Britain, merchant seamen, 1835-1857 a Henry J. Hanford aged 24,. born 1817 in Liverpool . It shows a rank of Seaman and experience on the John Campbell in January 1844. He is married late January 1844 and is sentenced to 5 weeks imprisonment in July 1844. Quite a year for young Henry.

Drummond Corrie

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Souvenir Saturday: Bluff Lighthouse Tearoom and Point Ferry, Durban

In foreground, Bluff Lighthouse Tea Room and gardens; visitors could take the Point Ferry, see pic below,  across the Channel from the docks.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Was your ancestor on Waratah's maiden voyage?

If you believe your ancestor might have been on SS Waratah's maiden voyage, access the passenger list at:

The latest post on Andrew van Rensburg's brilliant blog, Waratah Revisited.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Water for Lightkeepers, Bluff 1878

My great grandfather Thomas Alfred Gadsden, Lightkeeper, writes to the Port Captain:

Bluff Lighthouse, 14th August 1878

To Port Captain Airth

Sir, I most respectfully beg to inform you that the Lightkeepers are running short of water in fact have only a week's supply. Mr Wellington of the Signal Station told me this morning that he is the same predicament. 

Therefore Sir it will be absolutely [necessary] to supply us with water from the other side, and that as soon as possible.

I have the honour to be, Sir,
Your Obedient Servant,
Thos. Gadsden, Lightkeeper

This photograph indicates the isolation of the Bluff lighthouse and its keepers.

Friday, April 22, 2016

Bluff Lighthouse Unusual View

Another in my collection of old Bluff Lighthouse postcards,
taken from an unusual angle and showing the Signal Station, left, and keepers' cottages.
This is pre-1935, probably circa 1920s.