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The Way We Were
04 Feb 2010
Various Authors

The Way We Were was a series published in The Witness between 1997 and 2000, looking back on local history and interesting stories which took place among people in years gone by.

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A fictional hero in a city grave

A fictional hero with a real-life counterpart throws up something of a Maritzburg mystery. STEPHEN COAN examines the real identity of Rider Haggard's hero Umslopogaas (November 5, 1997).

A steamy hub of travel

Although Pietermaritzburg Station is now sometimes eerily quiet, it was an exciting and often used stop for South Africa's rail travellers. Pietermaritzburg was once a considerable railway centre, writes JACK FROST (March 17, 1999).

A journey into the sun

A Norwegian school book of the 1800s taught two generations of Norwegian children that Africa was 'unhealthy, indeed lethal, for Europeans' and populated by 'semi-wild barbarians'. Despite this introduction, a few of these children made their way to this continent, where their grandchildren and children still live today. SOLVEIG BANG looks at the history of Norwegian emigration to Natal (April 9, 1998). 

A man of his time

Although Harry Lugg's works read with the inevitable patronising tone of his era, MARGARET VON KLEMPERER argues that modern historians are indebted to him for putting pen to paper and leaving a valuable record of Natal history behind him (June 24, 1998).

A friendship lost to principle

A conflict of principles involving the politics of the 1873 trial of Hlubi chief Langalibalele destroyed the famous friendship of Bishop Colenso and Theophilus Shepstone, writes STEPHEN COAN (March 19, 1998).

Before the silence

JOHN WRIGHT recalls the All-in Africa conference held at Plessislaer in March 1961. It was addressed by Nelson Mandela and the last national meeting organised by black opposition leaders until 1990 (April 25, 1998)..

Bandages and bedpans: A tale of 0ribi's hospital

The Imperial Military Hospital was situated in Oribi Village from 1940 to 1944 and is the source of many memories for nurses who were stationed there, writes JACK FROST (October 23, 1998).

A Zulu King in exile

After the Anglo-Zulu War of 1879, Zululand was wracked by years of faction fighting and civil war, write VAL WARD and MARGERY MOBERLY. Eventually Dinuzulu's attempts to strengthen his position and gain recognition led to what the authorities were able to call treason. The king and his two uncles were tried and sentenced to imprisonment on St Helena (September 29, 1999). 

Bibi the beautiful

Bibi ka Sompisi was a famous Zulu queen, the wife of Senzangakona kaJama a minor chief, who survived the turbulence of the Zulu transformation, only to be tragically murdered in 1840, records DAVID STRYDOM (May 6, 1999).

A tribute to my jailer

In 1971, NINA HASSIM spent 78 days in solitary confinement at Hilton Police Station where she was interrogated by security policemen. She acknowledges the efforts made by an ordinary policeman to help her through this ordeal (August 7, 1998).

By the seaside

MARGERY MOBERLY and VAL WARD interpret a photograph of Durban beach in 1895 that shows how radically people's behaviour changed over 100 years (August 26, 1999).

Bremen to Durban: Settlers forge a new life

The 150th anniversary of the arrival of the first German settlers in Natal is celebrated by JACK FROST (September 10, 1998).

Changing our view of the Bushmen

Seen as the surviving remnants of primordial hunter-gatherer societies, Bushmen are citizens of the same modern world as the one we like to call ours, argues JOHN WRIGHT.

Days of quiet defiance

A city woman, Bhanu Ghela, remembers her life as a political activist in the protests of the 1940s against the Pegging and Ghetto Acts, writes MARGARET VON KLEMPERER (February 5, 1999).

First stop for Rhodes cotton farming in Natal

One of South Africa's major historical figures, Cecil John Rhodes, once managed his brother's two farms in the Umkomaas Valley, near Richmond, not far from Pietermaritzburg, writes V.E. WOODLEY (January 7, 2000).

Fedsem: a battle lost

'It was a real community... People from all corners of South Africa and all sectors of society lived as neighbours without even a garden fence behind which to hide.' A place of religious co-operation and instruction, the Federal Theological Seminary did not escape the effects of the political violence of the eighties in Pietermaritzburg, records THABO MASEMOLA, and this ultimately contributed to its demise.

Faster by foot

A poster in today's post offices proclaims that a letter posted fastmail can be delivered 'within and between major centres in two days'. In 1887 it was carried faster on foot, discover MARGERY MOBERLY and VAL WARD (July 9, 1999).

Entertaining royalty

The humble denizens of the British Empire were shocked to discover that their crown prince was a liberated specimen of the swinging twenties. BILL BIZLEY recalls the visit of the Prince of Wales (later King Edward VIII) to Pietermaritzburg in 1925 (June 4, 1999). 

Digging for wealth in Thukela valley

Fortune seekers abandoned unsuccessful mines in KwaZulu-Natal in favour of the profitable Witwatersrand goldfields. VAL WARD and MARGERY MOBERLY recall that in the nineteenth century prospectors and diggers were busy up and down Natal and Zululand from what is now Itala Game Reserve  in the north to Mtwalume and Umzinto in the south, where a gold rush occurred in the 1860s (May 27, 1999). 

Early beginnings of the Indian press

By the 1890s, Indians who had come to Natal earlier in the century as indentured labour for the sugar farms were beginning to feel a need for their own newspaper. MARGARET VON KLEMPERER records the history of Indian Opinion (August 28, 1998).

Days of defiance

Two protests by Pietermaritzburg's women against the dompas in the fifties formed a milestone in the history of the resistance movement in the city. SIBONGISENI MKHIZE writes about two incidents in 1956 and 1957 (June 5, 1998). 

How Durban hearts opened to wartime pilots

VALERIE WARD and MARGERY MOBERLY discovered wartime letters written to a Durban family by an Australian pilot, and wonder what happened to him and his mates.

Implementing the Group Areas Act

MARGERY MOBERLY and VALERIE WARD focus on Grey Street, Durban (April 29, 1999).

PMB before the Voortrekkers

Who were the first Maritzburgers? When the Voortrekkers arrived in the Pietermaritzburg region in 1838, black farming communities had already been living here for an estimated 1 200 years, writes JOHN WRIGHT.

Military hospital with a big heart

An article by JACK FROST entitled 'Bandages and bedpans' about the hospital at Oribi during World War Two, aroused a flood of memories for many people.

Rendering language into writing

An historical photograph reminds MARGERY MOBERLY and VAL WARD of a conference held at the Education Office in Pietermaritzburg to discuss a standard system of recording the Zulu language (isiZulu) in writing (January 28, 1999) .

Pioneering paediatric techniques

In 1959 the care of critically ill babies took a major step forward with the development of new techniques by PAT SMYTHE, a retired professor living in Nottingham Road, who describes what happened (June 19, 1998).

Pentrich families lay their claims

The final day of 1998 was the last chance that displaced families formerly living in Pentrich had to seek recompensation for their forcible removal. JASPREET KINDRA looks at the events leading up to 1965 (December 23, 1998).

Quarry Curve and Henry's Knee

Pietermaritzburg once boasted its very own international motor racing and bike racing circuit, the Roy Hesketh. DAVE FALL looks at the history of the track and some of the personalities involved (November 26, 1997).

My father's house revisited

In 1950 the Maharaj family were forced out of their Hilton house with the passing of the Group Areas Act. Dharamdevi Maharaj relates her childhood memories to MARGARET VON KLEMPERER (April 23, 1998).

Out on the town

Pietermaritzburg did not lack entertainment during its earlier years as cinema and the theatre helped to provide an element of escapism for its residents, records BILL BIZLEY.

Recollections of racing and romance

A look at the life of Burton Kinsey, the only surviving winner of the gruelling Durban-Johannesburg motorcycle race, which he won in 1933, writes DOUGLAS ALEXANDER.

Prized family memories tell of past power shifts

Established families in KwaZulu-Natal keep written records of the past. But the stories passed down orally by black families are less well-known to historians, observes JOHN WRIGHT (August 20, 1998).

Recalling the hardships of resettlement

It is estimated that some 3.5 million people were forcibly moved during the apartheid era. VAL WARD and MARGERY MOBERLY point out that the exact number will never be known. Nor will there ever be any way to measure the human suffering experienced (November 10, 1999).

Music, needlework and other ladylike pursuits

KwaZulu-Natal has many fine schools, some with a reputation far beyond the borders of South Africa. One that is less well-known than it deserves is the Seminary for Girls at Inanda on the north coast (December 17, 1999).

Legacy of the Penningtons

JACK FROST records the history of a family that contributed much to the clerical, sporting and teaching fields in KwaZulu-Natal (October 30, 1998).

In search of 'fine detail' of conflict

A conference on the campus of the University of KwaZulu-Natal seeks to identify what was unique about the political violence in the Natal Midlands in the years 1984-94. SHELAGH McLOUGHLIN spoke to its organisers, John Wright and John Aitchison.

'I'll see you get a medal for this'

As a war correspondent in the Anglo-Boer War, future British Prime Minister Winston Churchill never forgot the bravery of two railway workers in the derailment at Chieveley, near Colenso in  1899 records DOUGLAS ALEXANDER.

Long road to recognition for black farmers

Production for markets by black farmers started as far back as the mid-19th century, despite opinions that black people couldn't farm properly. JOHN WRIGHT records their repression by the white settler government.

The little club that did

It started as a deliberate provocation of the government and white sporting bodies by a small group of Maritzburg men. For a brief period their stand attracted the attention of the world. SHELAGH MCLOUGHLIN writes about the origins of Aurora Cricket Club.

Triumph of the 'glum people'

Since 1978 the Pietermaritzburg Agency for Christian Social Awareness (Pacsa) has been committed to raising justice issues and encouraging Christians to act. MARINA BANG writes about their trials and triumphs.

When Indians lived in Edendale

Before the Group Areas Act was implemented, the Edendale Valley boasted Indian and black community members living side by side, reports JACK FROST.

The wagon driver who converted a bishop

JEFF GUY looks at the encounter in Natal of a black man, William Ngidi, and a bishop, John Colenso, which caused one of the best-known religious controversies of the Victorian age.

Wild waters that woke the city

Floods have been a tragically regular occurrence in Pietermaritzburg. MARGARET VON KLEMPERER reports on the events of 1947.

When trams ran through

The arrival of tramcars during the early 1900s signalled a new era of public transport for Pietermaritzburg, records BILL BIZLEY.

When Sobantu boiled over

SIBONGISENI MKHIZE writes about 1959, a time of upheaval in Pietermaritzburg with township residents rebelling against their administration and apartheid institutions - and being introduced to the ANC.

The murder that shook a hardened city

The brutal slaying of Reverend Victor Africander in Imbali in 1990, a time when murder was commonplace in and around Pietermaritzburg, touched the battle-weary city in an unusual way, writes MARGARET VON KLEMPERER.

The forgotten scribe

Magema Fuze worked with men like Bishop William Colenso, Dinuzulu and wrote the first book in isiZulu, records JOHN WRIGHT, yet few have heard of him.

Winston Churchill once walked Pietermaritzburg's streets

The 25-year-old war correspondent in the Anglo-Boer War and future world leader described Pietermaritzburg as a 'sleepy, dead-alive place' and compared it to Ootacamund, a hill station in southern India, writes DOUGLAS ALEXANDER.

Edendale's liberal hero

Henry Selby Msimang was an inspiration to his fellow activists, reports THABO MASEMOLA, and a thorn in the side of various apartheid governments.

The forgotten force

Not much is known about the black men and women who joined the South African forces in two world wars. SHELAGH MCLOUGHLIN spoke to Pietermaritzburg men who served in World War Two.

Floral subversion

Flower suppliers offered a lifeline during the Group Area Act era, writes STEPHEN COAN. At the Lounge Tea Room in Commercial Road owned by the Mullinos family the Ram family sold flowers.

The night the city hall burned down

In July 1898 it was the biggest show in town - the city hall was burning down, records STEPHEN COAN.

When the women said 'enough'

When women ran into the Retief Street beerhall in August 1959, wielding sticks and beating patrons, it was the culmination of many frustrations borne by them. SIBONGISENI MKHIZE recalls that the continued opeation of the Ohrtmann Road beerhall was the spark that started the Sobantu revolt.

Still prisoners of the city

Several World War One prisoners are buried in Pietermaritzburg's cemeteries, JACK FROST reports.

Riots that shocked KZN

The riots of January 1949 in Durban, which saw Africans and Indians confronting each other in a bloody, week-long orgy of violence, have provided analysts with much food for thought since then, records JASPREET KUNDRA.

Handing down memories of a people

How is the history of a pre-literate people preserved? JOHN WRIGHT looks at a chain of people, starting with a praise poet, which ensured that the story of the amaNgwane people is not forgotten.

Why a superpower picked on the Boers

Why did hostilities break out between the South African Republic and the British government on October 11, 1899, asks JOHN WRIGHT.

The power of sound

VALERIE WARD and MARGERY MOBERLY look at the way radio has risen, fallen and virtually died within the twentieth century.

Should we talk about the past?

How should the often painful memories of the past be treated? JOHN WRIGHT looks at the dilemma of public memory in South Africa.

The quiet strength of the Bag Nurses

VAL WARD and MARGERY MOBERLY look at midwives who were once an integral part of the Indian community.

When children were 'ejected' from school in colonial Natal

VAL WARD and MARGERY MOBERLY record the beginnings of segregated education in Natal.

Horror of a long-forgotten train disaster

An accident on New Year's Eve in 1895 near Glencoe in northern Natal left the citizens of Pietermaritzburg in a state of shock, writes STEPHEN COAN.

Life in Jobe's chiefdom

Few are aware, writes JOHN WRIGHT, that the landmark mountain in the Ladysmith-Dundee area called Job's Kop or iLenge is named after a Sithole chief.

The man who 'woke up' a nation

A respected educator, editorialist, businessman and politician, John Dube played a prominent role in establishing black political opposition in South Africa, records THABO MASEMOLA.

Resurrection of a church

The Maria-Ratschitz monastery church, reports JACK FROST, is slowly being brought to life again after being neglected for years because of apartheid-era removals.

Veteran of the battlefields

An integral part of battlefield touring in KwaZulu-Natal was George Chadwick. STEPHEN COAN looks at this undisputed expert on blood and thunder.

The year the cattle died

VAL WARD and MARGERY MOBERLY write about the rinderpest epidemic of 1897 when thousands of cattle died.

The basket has landed

VAL WARD and MARGERY MOBERLY remember the days when travellers were swung into Durban in a basket.

Turning British rule to profit

The impact of early colonialism in Natal was varied, depending on time and place. JOHN WRIGHT writes about two individuals who benefited from the system thrust upon them.

Walking through the valley of death

In his submission to the TRC, Father Tim Smith stationed at an Elandskop mission at the time, recounted some of the horror he saw during the political violence in the Edendale Valley. BRIAN PEARSON reports.

The rising middle class

The black middle class is burgeoning under democratic rule in South Africa, reports JOHN WRIGHT.

A woman of many firsts

In 1978, Daphne Tshabalala was named woman of the year and in 1980 she was included among biographies of the World Who's Who of Women. THABO MASEMOLA takes a look at the achievements of this remarkable woman.

From herdboy to intellectual

African Renaissance is not a new catchphrase, writes JOHN WRIGHT. It was coined by Isaac Pixley Seme, a founder of the party that became the ANC.

Horror of a long-forgotten train disaster

An accident on New Year's Eve in 1895 near Glencoe in northern Natal left the citizens of Pietermaritzburg in a state of shock, records STEPHEN COAN.

Tough times paid off for Byrne settlers

Immigrants lured to Natal with promises of a bucolic idyll were appalled at harsh conditions on their 20-acre allotments. JACK FROST writes about the Nicholsons, one family that stayed.

The Anglo-Zulu war's forgotten soldiers

A book by historian Paul Thompson throws focus on an all but ignored aspect of the Anglo-Zulu War of 1879. STEPHEN COAN writes about the role of Africans who fought on the side of the British.

When cannibals roamed KZN

Tales of an Africa peopled by man-eating groups were common fodder for Europe a century ago. THABO MASEMOLA reveals that this practice was confined to a few groups.

Gandhi, my grandfather and the rubble in the garden

While Yunus Bayat was researching the history of his grandfather, records NALINI NAIDOO, he learnt of his grandfather's friendship with Gandhi and the major role that Indian tradesmen played in Pietermaritzburg.

Friend or foe of the Zulu?

Colonial official James Stuart cuts an ambiguous figure in South African history, writes STEPHEN COAN. He sympathised with the Zulu nation during their exploitation by colonial settlers, yet used his knowledge of indigenous culture to help suppress a rebellion.

The fate of a restless chief

BILL GUEST recalls the story of Langalibalele, the Hlubi chief, convicted of treason.

The tracks of empire

STEPHEN COAN tells the story of the railway line from Pietermaritzburg to Richmond on the centenary of its opening.

Main Caves, Giants Castle

VAL WARD and MARGERY MOBERLY write about a rock painting of a hunting party in the South Cave at Giants Castle.

Hunting for hidden history

VAL WARD and MARGERY MOBERLY examine a photograph of the first archaeological excavation at Ndondondwane in the Tugela Valley in 1978.

The harbour that Bazley built

VAL WARD and MARGERY MOBERLY write about a photograph of William Bazley's stone barge at the mouth of the Umzimkulu River, Port Shepstone, 1885.

The sinking of the troopship Mendi

VAL WARD and MARGERY MOBERLY look at the sinking of the troopship Mendi.

The Zulus are coming

After the battle of Isandlwana, city officials prepared for a possible attack on Pietermaritzburg by building a laager, writes SHELAGH MCLOUGHLIN.

The travelling circus from 'savage' South Africa

A troupe of animals and people, part of the Greater Britain Exhibition, was intended to intensify the supposed pride of ordinary Britons in the variety and might of the Empire, record VAL WARD and MARGERY MOBERLY.

The city's quiet revolutionary

A church in Ashdown stands testimony to one man's life-long crusade for a better life for all. He was Dasarath Bundhoo, a follower of Gandhi and a former official of the National Leatherworkers Union writes NALINI NAIDOO.



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