Kids – six of them! – driving me crazy so I pack a flask of coffee, some buttermilk rusks, grab my binocs and waai. Three minutes away to the Palmiet Nature Reserve on my doorstep.
Two hours later off to Pigeon Valley in town for another two hours. Palmiet is only 90ha in size and Pigeon Valley a tiny 10ha, but they’re rich in plant and birdlife. These collages are just some of the birds I saw and heard today in the two reserves:
I spotted an old landsnail shell in a tree hollow. New life sprouting out of it.
I pinched the pics from all over the internet, and some from Friends of Pigeon Valley‘s Crispin Hemson and Sheryl Halstead. Thank you!
I told Dad I’d taken the kids on a boat trip to Maputo and he remembered his two older Swanepoel sisters Janie and Lizzie going on a trip from Maritzburg to Durban by train then to the same city in Moçambique by ship back in 1934. The city was called Lourenco Marques back then and the ship was called the Julio or Giulio or Duilio or the Giulio Cesar, he said.
Oupa would have organised the train trip at a special rate or free, being a railway man! This is where he worked:
Dad remembers the whole trip costing them seven pounds each, all in. Here’s a ticket from the Giulio Cesare in 1923, the year it was launched:
I went looking and found – as so often – that Dad’s memory was good. Maybe the Grundlinghs and Solomons know more about this trip? What an adventure it must have been for the girls! Dad said he was worried sick his big sisters wouldn’t return! ‘Cried my eyes out!’ he said. He was eleven years old.
Here’s the ship’s service history:
The SS Giulio Cesare was used on Genoa and Naples to South America voyages but also served North American ports. Until 1925 the SS Giulio Cesare and the SS Duilio were the two largest ships in the Italian merchant fleet.
In November 1933, the Giulio Cesare was reconditioned and made ready to serve on the Mediterranean – South Africa Service.
A feature of this ship was the Club situated on the boat-deck, with a bar. The ship also featured a saloon dining room, galleries and a ballroom. Second class was situated amidships. Talkie apparatus were also fitted to the ship and a long-distance wireless telephone was also available.
Tourist class accommodation was situated astern and also had several public rooms. The tourist passengers shared an open air swimming pool with the second class passengers.
SS Giulio Cesare
Italia Line (Navigazione Generale Italiana)
Port of registry:
Italy-South America & Cruising
Swan Hunter & Wigham Richardson, Ltd, Newcastle-on-Tyne, United Kingdom.
7 February 1920
four sets of geared steam turbines manufactured by Wallsend Slipway
six boilers D.E. & four boilers S.E. creating 220lb of steam pressure by Wallsend Slipway & Engineering Company Ltd. Newcastle-on-Tyne
21,800 shaft horse power
Total passengers: First Class: 244 Second Class: 306 Tourist Class:1800
Paintwork: White hull and upper works ; Boot-topping green
Funnels white with red and black tops and narrow green band
During WW2, SS Giulio Cesare was chartered to the International Red Cross for a time before being laid-up in the port of Trieste. She was sunk there by Allied aircraft on 10 July 1944, along with the SS Duilio.
One night in my first own home, Whittington Court in Marriott Road on Durban’s Berea, I heard a strange sound. It was like a small dog barking, but not quite that and I remembered from all my reading and re-reading of Roberts and Newmans bird books: Nightjar!
Aitch! I shouted, a nightjar! Luckily she knew I was weird so she joined me and we peered out from our first floor window and a nightjar flitted past. I was over the moon with excitement and discovery. A Freckled Nightjar right outside my flat!
Investigation revealed it to be a well-known one, roosting on the roof of the residential hotel nearby. Eden Gardens, now a retirement home. It had been discovered by Philip Clancey, famous birder and splitter and Durban Natural Science Museum ornithologist and author and artist, who lived in the hotel.They usually roost on rocks and the roof was a good substitute. Their camouflage is impressive:
Durban museum ornithologist Philip Clancey took numerous expeditions into Zululand and Mozambique, discovering several new subspecies as well as one new species to science, the Lemon-breasted Canary in 1961. Clancey was a prodigious publisher of papers and books including “Birds of Natal and Zululand”, all lavishly illustrated with his excellent and distinctive bird paintings.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
Jess decided she wanted an ocean cruise for her eighteenth birthday. Tom was cool with that for his fourteenth birthday, so off we went.
I checked with veteran cruiser Craig and booked the four night cruise to Portuguese Island in Maputo Bay in Mocambique on the MSC Sinfonia.
What a bay!
The cruise north was rainy, so the kids had indoor fun. Jess took to quaffing cocktails at the various bars. Hey! She’s eighteen now! And the nice barmen didn’t need money, they just swiped her room key card.
Tom focused on the meals, making sure we got to where we needed to be and using the pizza and burger cafes in between meal times.
The highlight was going ashore on Portuguese Island in rubber ducks, having a swim and lunch onshore.
On the beach a huge group of people formed a square and danced to some catchy tune. We swam and walked. I could see Jess actually wanted to join the dancers. But she didn’t. She just watched and watched and swayed in time to the music. Little did I know that tune was going to come back to haunt me!
Back on the boat an obviously Durban family walked past us chatting to their friends about going for a jacuzzi; I had seen the jacuzzi and thought “Good luck”; Minutes later they were back to where we were sitting and told their friends “Hey you can’t even go in there, it’s CHOCKED!” Elbow-to-elbow people. Bum-cheek to bum-cheek. Every facility was crowded, every deckchair taken.