Africa, Birds & Birding

Old Lilani Spa

On our first visit, with Bruce & Heather, the remains of the old hotel were still there. You walked into the foyer under a roof, the reception counter awaited you; But you soon walked out into the sunshine, as it was just a remnant of roof and a built-in counter with nothing behind it, only three of the walls still standing. Less than this:

But that was OK as it was the hot baths we were after.

While sitting in the warm water of these old baths drinking beer, we heard a loud ‘Pretty GEOR-gie’, looked up into the tree overhead and saw this:

emerald cuckoo
– emerald cuckoo – Roger Hogg’s pic from Westville –

Then they had a big revamp and it was like this:

– we enjoyed some lovely times here –

Now it has fallen into disrepair again and in 2019 there’s this:

– hope this sign is at the top of the valley, not only when you get to the bottom! –

I looked up some of the history of the resort:

In a 1900 school geography and history book, Robert Russell, the Superintendent of Education in the Colony of Natal wrote, ‘The Ehlanzeni and Kranskop districts are noted for their wild country. Hot springs with a temperature of 101°F, more or less sulphurous, are found in the Ihlimbitwa.’ These were Lilani’s hot springs.

In 1905, Mr St Vincent Erskine, on behalf of the Grand Lilani Hot Sulphur Springs Syndicate Ltd, leased 10 acres of land around the hot springs from the Natal Government for a period of five years at £25 per annum. The “syndicate was granted a lease of two of the warm springs to develop them for the benefit of the sick as a ‘sanitarium’ – especially to overcome rheumatism and nervous disorders, though they soon claimed way more benefits than that, including curing constipation. One would hope that particular cure wasn’t instantaneous; like, in situ, ne?

An article in the local newspaper announced that as of the 1st August 1906 a charge of two shillings per day was to be made for the use of the hot springs to non-syndicate shareholders. During this time facilities were being built down at the hot springs. The initial part of the hotel was then built which included accommodation for the proprietors. The first access road was built to the top of the northern escarpment at the present day village of Eshane, and people descended on foot or were carried down by litter into the valley.

Later a rough road was built to the hot springs resort.

In 1908, a new lease for 25 years was drawn up, increasing the land from 10 acres to 32 acres, in favour of the Hot Springs Syndicate, owned by Messrs Menne, Matthews and Gibbs. This was then sublet to Mrs Matthews for 10 years from April 1910. Dr J Wright Matthews, M.D., was the resident physician and Mrs LV Matthews was the manager of the Sanatorium In 1914 the Hot Springs Syndicate went insolvent and the ownership of the lease passed to Mrs Matthews.

Advertising was not shy: “The panoramic view of the surrounding mountain scenery was said to be truly magnificent, and the climate, one of the most equable in South Africa.” “The wonderful powers of the hot mineral springs found here have long been known to the Dutch community in Natal, and an analysis proves that the waters in a great degree possess the same chemical constituents as those which make Harrogate and other spas of a similar character in Europe in so much request.”

Breathless reports in The Greytown Gazette, Friday, 26 July 1912, page 4, col. 5 : ‘A large party comprising several families, left Greytown at the beginning of the month for the ever-famous Lilani Sulphur Hot Springs, which are under the able management of Dr and Mrs Matthews, who at all times show unstinted hospitality to visitors. On arrival at the Springs the party camped out in 15 to 20 large tents erected around the place which presented a gay appearance. The baths are very healthy and bathing commences as early as 4.30 in the morning and is indulged in till ten and eleven o’clock in the evening. The patent oven, dug out in a large donga, in which bread is baked comes in for a great amount of attraction and the bread produced from this oven is both delicious and wholesome. In the evenings Dr Matthews entertains the visitors with magic lantern lectures, which are greatly appreciated.

The party are having a most enjoyable time at these Springs and are expected to return to Greytown early next week.’

Later a Mr and Mrs Hobbs ran the resort. During the Second World War they went to one of the large POW camps in Pietermaritzburg, where many Italian Prisoners were detained and chose three prisoners to work at the Lilani Hot Springs. The three men were Frank, Mario and Inchenso Caruso. The men worked there from March 1945 until 1948; building, terracing the gardens, and generally helped with the running of the Hydro resort for a shilling a day. In 1948 Frank Caruso applied to remain in South Africa and was accepted. Mr and Mrs Hobbs and Mr Sayer offered him a partnership in the resort which he accepted on the condition that he was given a trip home to Italy the following year, which condition was granted (Caruso, 1996). They now called the resort the Lilani Hydro Mineral Hot Sulphur Springs, Holiday and Health Resort. Trips off the tongue.

In 1966 the Apartheid government decided to make sure resorts were strictly Whites-only or Blacks-only, so they terminated the lease and paid the owners R44k for their improvements. In 1972, having done sweet buggerall with their investment, they tried to get Caruso to take back the lease, but he declined.

– the valley – check that glorious winding road – all downhill!

Correspondence and financial transactions before EFT and email:

Dr J Wright Matthews, the first proprietor of the Lilani Hot Springs Spa, applied for a prospecting license to search the valley for gold, asbestos, whatever. His application was granted and he paid the sum of £2.10 shillings as a deposit to the Natal Native Trust, Colony of Natal, on 28th July 1909.

In a letter, dated 21st December 1911, Dr Matthews applied for the return of his money as he had not used his prospecting license. In the reply to his request, dated 28th December 1912, his request was granted by the Acting Chief Native Commissioner in Natal, on the condition that Dr Matthews forwarded an affidavit to the effect that no surface damage was done under the prospecting permit. This affidavit was duly drawn up in Johannesburg, dated 5th January 1912. The Acting Secretary for Native Affairs in Pretoria was then instructed to forward a cheque to Dr Matthews by the Acting Chief Native Commissioner in Natal in his letter dated 9th January 1912. Nineteen days from application to ‘Refund granted – please pay the man!’ Not bad by any standards. Especially over Xmas / New Year time.

The hot springs

Six springs are known in the vicinity. Their temperatures range from 35°C to 40°C and their flow volume per hour from 770 to 3500 litres. The total flow of over 10 000 litres per hour would thus fill an average home swimming pool in about five hours.

The original founder of the Lilani Hot Springs as a spa

Mr Mbulungeni an early member of the community and who could have been an inkosi of the community, is spoken of in oral tradition as the ‘founder’ of the Lilani Hot Springs. Mr Mbulungeni is said to have sat on a large rock while waiting for the sun’s rays to shine into the valley, either before or after having a bath in the hot springs. He was buried beside the large rock and to some of the community it is known as a Remembrance Rock. It is situated above the road, at the last fork to the right before the turning circle at the old hotel site.

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The history from a 2000 thesis by Ross Johnathan Hoole for his MSc in Geography at UKZN Pietermaritzburg – thank you!

Africa, Wildlife, Game Reserves

Moth-Eaten Friends

For some unknown reason, Bruce Soutar thinks I know things, so he sends me stuff. Which I really enjoy! What’s this? he often asks. This was a moth on his car in Mbona, an ‘eco estate’ in the KwaZulu Natal midlands.

– what’s this on my BMW? he asked – bragging –

Of course, I immediately knew – after asking Roy Goff of African Moths. He identified it as Pingasa abyssinaria – ‘a regular from that end of the continent. It has an unusual resting posture which often makes people notice it.’

Common name: Duster. Bruce’s picture (shown) is better than any of the pictures I could find on moth websites – not bad! Maybe we can call it The Mbona Duster? Thank you to African Moths and Christeen Grant’s magic Midlands nature blog for info and the use of their pictures temporarily till I found Bruce’s pics.

Judging by the beautifully fringed trailing edge of its wings, I’d guess it flies very quietly – the better to dodge bats and nightjars and other predators.

– Bruce has a thing about moths – and he looks better all covered up –
– another Bruce moth – from their Masizi Kunene Road home in Durban –

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Africa, Wildlife, Game Reserves

I’m beginning to suspect . .

. . that Soutar was sold a story which he swallowed as he swallowed the fourth free sample they gave him in Ballito.

I don’t think this whisky:

. . is made in KwaZulu Natal.

Reason being they also make Cape Gins and they talk of Cape florals n shit.

But Soutar roared back: They said it is made in Mtunzini and taken to Cape Town for barrel age-ing. (then he adds unpatriotically) . . it was not very nice in comparison to the single malt Irish and Scots of which I had many. I only had one tot of this SA one  – So Waaaaa !!!

Me: Mtunzini!? I’m beginning to like it again. I can just imagine . . . the connoisseur sniffs, sips, and says ‘hmmmm – subtle hints of crocodile shit . . . ‘

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Africa, Family & Kids

Jessie’s 21st Party

Jess did it all herself; drew up lists, hired lights, organised a DJ who brought her own equipment; we bought some stuff; we bought booze. Jess invited a few good friends round, and so did I.

Jess 21st party at home

The adults came early, we had a slide show on Jess from the early days. I was being a bit Nervous Norman, so thank goodness for hooligan friends. First the Lodders added their usual mayhem. Then star Lydia our Gautengaleng student friend stepped forward, deciding things were a bit quiet for a 21st. She took over the bar, mixing cocktails and getting the kids to pour them down their throats. The party was launched!

The adults disappeared except me in the background. Jess and her gang had a lovely evening with their favourite music and lots of chatting. Later, some boys arrived drunk but peaceful and friendly and joined in. At midnight the DJ’s mom arrived to fetch her, they packed up and peace returned to the valley.

Africa, Sport

Wisdom & Insight

Note this WhatsApp chat – I’m in green, of course. Bruce is in white.

Note how Bruce tried to side-step halfway by bring in some Algerian, when we all know Algerians suck at rugby.

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The stats for the game make amazing reading. The All Blacks won everything except the game:

ON ATTACK:

TRIES – New Zealand – 6 — South Africa – 5

METRES CARRIED – New Zealand – 624 — South Africa – 245

CARRIES – New Zealand – 215 — South Africa – 59

DEFENDERS BEATEN – New Zealand – 39 — South Africa – 12

PASSES – New Zealand – 257 — South Africa – 64

OFFLOADS – New Zealand – 14 — South Africa – 3

POSSESSION – New Zealand – 75.3% — South Africa – 24.7%

ON DEFENCE:

TACKLES – New Zealand – 61 — South Africa – 235

MISSED TACKLES – New Zealand – 12 — South Africa – 39

BREAKDOWNRUCKS WON – New Zealand – 155 — South Africa – 41

SET PLAY – SCRUMS WON – New Zealand – 9 — South Africa – 6

LINEOUTS WON – New Zealand – 13 — South Africa – 7

DISCIPLINEPENALTIES CONCEDED – New Zealand – 3 — South Africa – 10

YELLOW CARDS – New Zealand – 0 — South Africa – 1

FINAL SCORE? – New Zealand – 34 — South Africa – 36

Africa, Books, Nostalgia

McCord’s Zulu Hospital

McCord’s Zulu Hospital is a well-known institution in Durban. It was started in 1909 by Dr James B. McCord, who had studied medicine at Northwestern University in Illinois, qualifying in 1891.

McCord James B.JPG

McCord joined the Student Volunteer Missionary Movement at Oberlin College in Ohio and there met his future wife, Margaret Mellen, who was born in Natal when her parents had been missionaries there. She and James fell in love and decided to go to Africa as missionaries.

In 1899 he was sent to Adams Mission in Amanzimtoti as a medical missionary. Medical services for Africans in Natal at the beginning of the twentieth century were meagre at best and at worst non-existent.

So, right at the start of the Anglo-Boer War, James and Margaret, accompanied by two young daughters, travelled to South Africa in a troop ship carrying British soldiers! In 1902 he became a member of the Royal College of Surgeons, and a licentiate of the Royal College of Physicians in London. He then moved to Durban where he remained for the rest of his working life. Initially he opened a clinic and a dispensary. To establish his hospital for Zulus in a fashionable part of Durban Dr McCord had to battle ingrained prejudice and unfounded fears. In time McCord’s Zulu Hospital became a well-known institution in Durban, gaining a reputation for excellence both in its treatment of patients and for its teaching and research. Predictably some whiteys agitated for it to be removed from the Berea to a ‘black area’ but – not predictably – they didn’t get their way.

McCords Hospital
See the book ‘The People’s Hospital’ – link below

It was here that the McCords trained the first African women to become nurses, and fought for them to become registered by the nursing profession overcoming suspicion and the deadweight of bureaucracy. They received great help from Katie Makanya, whose knowledge of isiZulu and allround capabilities were essential to their success. At first he was assisted by two doctors who worked part-time and one trained nurse. His wife Margaret served as nurse and business manager. Much later the hospital staff expanded to include nine doctors, and 150 nursing sisters and trainees.

Katie Makanya
Katie Makanya on the right

By the time of Dr. McCord’s retirement in 1940 at age 70, African female nurses were being licensed for the first time. His dream of establishing a medical school to educate and qualify African doctors was realized in 1947, three years before he died, when the University of Natal in Durban brought into being a Faculty of Medicine for black students, now named after Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela.

Our own dealings with McCords were all good. When Trish’s Mom Iona was well in her eighties the orthopod there advised her to rather not risk a hip replacement. Sound advice we thought.

In 2014 the Provincial Government of KwaZulu Natal took over the McCord’s Zulu Hospital and converted it into a specialist eye hospital, McCord’s Provincial Eye Hospital. I now readily refer people without medical insurance to McCords these days for cataract and other eye surgery. They get great treatment there.

Dr. McCord wrote his autobiography My Patients Were Zulus (Rinehart & Co., New York, 1946); His daughter Margaret wrote The Calling of Katie Makanya (John Wiley & Sons, New York, 1995) about McCord’s first translator, theatre nurse and ward supervisor, who worked with him for over 40 years.

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From a paper by Prof Dennis Luck of Oberlin College Ohio, sent to Bruce Soutar. Bruce and Heather took Dennis – who grew up in Durban – and his wife to see Ohlange Institute at Inanda, a high school founded in 1900 by Rev Dr John Langalibalele Dube and his first wife Nokutula. It was the first educational institution in South Africa to be founded by a black person. Like Dr McCord and Prof Luck, Dube had studied at Oberlin, and was a founder of the ANC. Nelson Mandela cast his first free democratic vote in 1994 at Ohlange school.

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Pics from Hugh Bland’s great Natal-History-Saving site KZNPR. Go and have a look at it.

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Do go and look at a new book The People’s Hospital by Julie Parle & Vanessa Noble is available free to download online. Wonderful old photos like this one in a spacious ward:

McCords Ward 1918

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Bruce Soutar sent this to his connection in the USA, who replied:
From: Prof Dennis Luck
Sent: Thursday, February 8, 2018
Dear Bruce,
Many thanks for sharing with me comments from various people who have read the “one-pager” on James B. McCord.   It seems that they found it interesting and informative.
I’ll never forget the day, some years back, when I stumbled across McCord’s autobiography, My Patients Were Zulus, in a second-hand bookshop in Oberlin that was going out of business.   What a lovely connection between Durban, where I was born and grew up, and Oberlin, where I taught at the College for 33 years before retiring in 2005.   I never knew that James McCord was a graduate of Oberlin College until that time!
John Dube, by the way, was not a graduate of Oberlin College: he attended the College for only two years,1888-1890 (thus overlapping with James McCord), before returning to South Africa.   On a return visit to the US in 1897 he studied at the Union Missionary Seminary in Brooklyn, New York, for two years: in 1899 he was ordained as a priest thus becoming the Rev. John Dube.   Finally, in 1936 he was awarded an honorary doctorate by the University of South Africa, becoming Dr. John Dube.   Oberlin College is very proud of him, and claims him as one of their own!
Another by- the- way: my field was biochemistry, not microbiology.   Sorry to be so pedantic – I guess it comes from being an academic!!
All best wishes, Dennis
Life, Sport

Bruce in a Tiger Moth

The de Havilland Tiger Moth is a tailwheel biplane first built in the 1930’s. It was used by the RAF and remained in service until the early 1950s. Many of the military surplus aircraft remain in widespread use as recreational aircraft.

Recently my friend Bruce went for a spin in one and sent me some pics:

Astonishingly, this plane is older than this pilot!