Sunday, November 8, 2015

Gadsdens of the World: New Blog

The Stepney Meeting aka the Independent Chapel. Bull Lane Stepney. A building closely linked to Thomas Gadsden and family in the 17th c.

gadsdensoftheworld is a new blog exploring the origins and history of Gadsdens (Gaddesdens, Gatesdens and other variants).  It will be of interest to anyone researching their own Gadsden line or the surname. You are invited to visit the blog and are welcome to make comments in the facility provided.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Lest We Forget: Remembrance Day coming up soon ...

The Turkish Trench Dog

by Geoffrey Dearmer

Night held me as I crawled and scrambled near
The Turkish lines. Above, the mocking stars
Silvered the curving parapet, and clear
Cloud-latticed beams o'erflecked the land with bars;
I, crouching, lay between
Tense-listening armies peering through the night,
Twin giants bound by tentacles unseen
Here in dim-shadowed light
I saw him, as a sudden movement turned
His eyes towards me, glowing eyes that burned
A moment ere his snuffling muzzle found
My trail; and then as serpents mesmerise
He chained me with those unrelenting eyes,
That muscle-sliding rhythm, knit and bound
In spare-limbed symmetry, those perfect jaws
And soft-approaching pitter-patter paws. 
Nearer and nearer like a wolf he crept —
That moment had my swift revolver leapt —
But terror seized me, terror born of shame
Brought flooding revelation. For he came
As one who offers comradeship deserved,
An open ally of the human race,
And sniffling at my prostrate form unnerved
He licked my face!

Note: During World War I, Dearmer fought at Gallipoli and on the Western Front. Most of his poems dealt with the brutality of war and violence.

Monday, November 2, 2015

The Last of the South African Lighthouse Keepers: Hannabus family cont.

Dassen Island Lighthouse

Installed April 1893

Latitude          33° 25' 55’’ S.

Longitude       18° 05' 23 '' E.

55 kilometres from Cape Town

11 kilometres from the coast.

Isolated and bleak, and standing on a barren outcrop of rock and sand, Dassen Island Light remains one of the major beacons on the Cape shipping route.

Surrounded by water, the Western seaward side is deadly, with high seas beating in from the Atlantic and consequently, many ships have been driven onto the rocks with shipwrecks scattered around this area. The Eastern side, looking towards the mainland, is much calmer with hardly any breakers and on the South and North sides, are two sheltered bays.

The island became so notorious for the regular incidents of shipwrecks, that authorities released rabbits and tortoises onto the island to provide a food source for any survivors.

Whilst outward bound on her maiden voyage from London to Sydney in 1891, the SS Wallarah, commanded by Captain F.H. Ekins, and belonging to Wilhelm Lund’s celebrated Blue Anchor Line, was wrecked at Boom Point on Dassen Island. It was this loss, of yet another ship, which prompted the authorities to take action and the Lighthouse was erected.

The Blue Anchor Line ships regularly travelled the South African Coast and it was unfortunate that again in 1909, they faced calamity when their legendary SS Waratah, also on her maiden voyage, disappeared without trace on the Transkei Coast after departing Durban for Cape Town. 

P-J Hannabus, Lighthouse Keeper (Ret.,) had some interesting experiences on Dassen Island.

“All too frequently, when the tugs could not make their monthly voyage out to Dassen Island because of foul weather conditions, the Lighthouse Keepers would run out of food. At these times, penguin eggs were collected and eaten. Keepers would dive for perlemoen (abalone) and crayfish. Snoek and bream were plentiful, so the Keepers always had a meal on their tables.

In the early 1970’s, helicopters were used for transport which made things easier.  We would freeze fish, perlemoen and crayfish, securely pack them in boxes marked ‘FRAGILE’ Lighthouse Bulbs, ready for transportation to Cape Town. The Lighthouse Keepers from Green Point Lighthouse would collect the boxed ‘Lighthouse Bulbs.’ When the swop would take place for the next flight back to Dassen Island, Green Point Keepers would send steak, wine and brandy and other food items, in exchange for the seafood! 

In 1973 I was assigned to relieve on Dassen for three weeks and took just enough fresh food with me for this time. During the three week period, Mr Bruyns our Lighthouse Inspector, informed me that the Keeper due to arrive to take up the permanent post had just resigned and I was required to stay for three months! ‘Oh no’ I wailed! ‘I don’t have enough food!’ He asked me if I had any objection to eating penguin eggs, fish and crayfish, to which I replied, ‘No.’ ‘Good,’ said Mr Bruyns, ‘go and catch your food!’ I certainly had no objection to this!

In order at times to stave off boredom and pass the night shifts away, I would cut the gunwales off old wrecks and make ashtrays by chiselling out the rough-hewn wood, then gluing in the beautiful Perlemoen shells, which shimmered in their ever-changing iridescent colours of purple, blue, green and pink.  I would give them away as gifts and I was always very popular at Christmas!”

A series by Suzanne-Jo Leff Patterson
October 2015

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

Friday, October 30, 2015

Masulah Boatmen introduced by Bell 1861

The Natal Almanac includes among its port entries a group of 'Masulah boatmen'. One might be forgiven for believing 'Masulah' to be, in a Natal context, a contemporary error for 'Zulu', but not so. The terminology is correct.

These boatmen were engaged, from 1861, by the always innovative Captain William Bell, who persuaded the authorities to import special surf boats from Madras. This city had a sandbar problem not unlike Natal's, with all ships being forced to land offshore due to the silting up of the entry channel. The lightweight Masulah boats would transfer the cargo - and passengers - through the surf back to port.

Masulah boatmen bringing boats in to shore at Madras.

It is quite possible that Bell (who is recorded as sailing from Calcutta on at least one voyage) had seen the fearless Madrassi oarsmen in operation in India. The concept proved equally successful in Natal and shown in the annual list of Port Office employees from 1861 in the Almanac are eleven Madulah Boatmen 'at 18 pounds each' (per annum).

When their contracts expired, many of these Indian sailors remained in Natal, bought or built their own boats and went into business as fishermen.

Masulah boat and crew

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Captain Bell's narrow escape 1854

William Bell was an active Port Captain, not spending every hour at Natal writing reports or making lists of passenger arrivals. 

The frequent trips which Bell undertook in all weathers in the Port Boat between the harbour and the vessels at anchor, were hazardous. He narrowly escaped drowning in September 1854, when coming ashore in the early hours from the Princeza. 

The night was very dark and the Port Boat filled with water in the heavy surf, Bell and his crew being immersed chest-deep before abandoning her and slowly groping their way to land without a light. If the incident had taken place a yard or two nearer the deep water channel, all the men would have been lost.

From The Natal Mercury, Supplement 27 September 1854

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Death of a mariner Gadsden 1849

Sailing ship Lalla Rookh
Photo Qld Library


It is our painful duty to record a most distressing accident which happened on Wednesday afternoon last in our harbour, by which the lives of two young men were sacrificed.

 It will be recollected that on that afternoon the wind was at times blowing in heavy squalls, during which the jolly-boat of the barque Lalla Rookh broke away from her fastening. The mate, Mr James Fenton, with Charles Gadsden, the 3rd mate and two hands, got into her pinnace to go after and secure her and had hoisted the mainsail when a squall came on and capsized her and she immediately sunk. Captain Balliston of the Ennerdale who saw the accident from the deck of his vessel, immediately manned his boat, and endeavoured to pick up the immersed crew - but being of a considerable distance from the place of the accident, only succeeded in saving two, Messrs Fenton and Gadsden both meeting a watery grave.

Mr Fenton had only joined the Lalla Rookh at the Cape of Good Hope but his gentlemanly manners and very considerable general talents had already commanded the esteem and respect of the vessel and his numerous passengers. Mr Charles Gadsden, although he had not completed his apprenticeship, had been during the passage advanced to the position of 3rd mate and was a young man well connected and affording much promise of success in his profession. We regret to learn that the bodies were not recovered. The two men who narrowly escaped this sad fate were in the first instance taken on board the Ennerdale where they met with every attention from its kind-hearted commander and are now recovered.

Source: The Daily Southern Cross (Auckland) 5 May 1849 p4

Note: at present it is not certain precisely which Charles Gadsden was involved. There were a number of Gadsdens in Australia at the time.

Note 2: Lalla Rookh is an Oriental romance by Thomas Moore, published in 1817. The title is taken from the name of the heroine of the tale, the daughter of the 17th-century Mughal emperor Aurangzeb

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Romance at the Bluff Lighthouse

The lighthouse lurks, faded, in the background of the left picture.

Photo from D Larsen

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Souvenir Saturday: Postcard Union Castle Liner and the Bluff, Durban

Signal Station and Lighthouse at right. Tug bringing the liner in.

Friday, October 23, 2015

Eastern or Ragged Point Lighthouse, Barbados

Ragged Point is located in the parish of St Philip on Barbados and the lighthouse marks the most eastern point on the island.
Built in 1875 (too late for my Barbadian Gadsden ancestors to have known it), the lighthouse is 97 feet tall and is still in operation - one flash in 15 seconds. It is closed to the public, for safety reasons. Its massive structure looks across the beautiful but dangerous and choppy Atlantic Ocean.  Speedy currents make swimming better avoided.
Ragged Point has various coves and bays, and stretches for almost the entire east coast of the island, with breathtaking scenery.

Photo: E Dixon-Smith