During the Anglo-Boer War (1899 - 1902), Charles Sim, a Scotsman came to South Africa with the British army. After the war, he decided to make Hermanus his home, where he married a local lass, Hester Henn. He was one of the men who drove the first buses from Bot River to Hermanus and with Harry Fay and others, was in charge of the station.
Some nights when he was homesick for Scotland, he played his bagpipes entertaining the townfolk. On those nights, nobody supported the bioscope of Mr Oblowitz who in desperation approached Charles and offered him free haircuts in his barber’s shop if he stopped playing his bagpipes in town.
Town Clerk of Hermanus
Charlie progressed through the ranks of the municipality and retired in 1991 as town clerk. He was well-loved and highly respected but never forgot what it was like to be the new boy with his foot on the bottom rung of the ladder. Charlie always showed the same courtesy to everyone.
He was in the top administrative post of the Hermanus municipality when many crucial developments were dealt with – developments like De Box Dam in 1973, Hermanus Heights residential development in 1970-1980 and the first complex for elderly residents, Mollergren Park.
He was also there when 53 people lost their lives when a bus with Mount Pleasant and Hawston rugby players plummeted over a bridge into a river near Villiersdorp in June 1972. Charlie assisted with the lengthy rescue operation at the scene of the accident. Today the bridge is submerged under the water of Theewaterskloof Dame. Charlie was the administrator of the nation-wide fund started for relatives of the disaster.
Joan Beukes, who worked at the municipality for more than three decades, was Charlie’s secretary for many years, until he retired in 1991. She reached the highest administrative position in the municipality.
Charlie really left his footprints all around Hermanus – the town where he was born and where he gave of himself all his life in many ways. Like many brilliant men, Charlie suffered from Alzheimer’s disease, and was lovingly cared for by his wife, Tokkie and the staff of Huis Lettie Theron. Charlie passed away in December 2006.
Over the last decade the Hemel-en-Aarde valley has become quite famous for its wines, but from 1817-1846 it was known as a place of sorrow. The isolation deep in the valley seemed to have been the reason that the Leper Institution was placed there. We do not know who first called the valley Hemel-en-Aarde, but the name was very well chosen, as one early author wrote: “Omdat het oog over de Bergen slechts den hemel kan zien.” (Because over these mountains you can surely see heaven). The surrounding hills which closely embrace the valley are so high that they seem to touch the sky and you cannot see anything but heaven and earth. According to government correspondence at that time, the name existed before the lepers came to the valley.
It must take a divine miracle, when a rehabilitated alcoholic has the fortitude and resolution to enter the wine industry and make an enormous success. Paul Du Toit of Wine Village told me his riveting story for the book of Hermanus Stories III. His strong Christian faith shines through his whole witness and tells of the reason for the achievement of a business like Wine Village in a most competitive industry taking a leading role in South African wine circles and among overseas wine specialists.
The following is Corinne’s story:
“I was born and schooled in Glasgow, Scotland, then studied at the University of Glasgow for a BSc degree. A short period in teaching was followed by a move into the world of pharmaceuticals.
For over seven years, Hermanus residents and thousands of visitors who annually flock to our shores, have listened to the sonorous sound of his single-note kelp (dried seaweed) horn, which he blows to spread the happy tidings when whales are spotted in the bay. Wilson Salukazana is only the second man who was to be appointed to this unique post and Hermanus is the only place in the world with a whale crier.
The history of Hermanus includes at least thirteen hotels of which most no longer exist. In this story we’ll look at some of them.
This story was given to me in 2001 by Wendy Hofmeyere of Voelklip – her brother Peter Hartford worked with Edith Hardwick for whom the story was written by her uncle.
In a newspaper article which appeared recently (1979), describing Hermanus of sixty years ago, reference was made to the efforts made by the Town Council to keep the harbor area clean. This anecdote has a bearing on the matter.
Erna is precisely that special Hermanus lady who has become synonymous with flowers, flower arrangements and the judging at flower shows. Her special talent and love of flowers is well0known to all around Greater Hermanus, and many enjoy her expertise, whether at church, school or many other special functions wherever she is called upon. She has come to know the therapeutic effect of flowers on herself and the many people who can share in her art. On a cold winter’s day Erna shared her interesting story.
Conservancies originated in the KwaZulu-Natal midlands where they were very popular. Through co-operation between the farming community and conservation authorities, this concept developed into a national conservation movement. The Overberg has at least ten conservancies. Groenlandberg Conservancy was the first to be established in 1998. Then followed Walker Bay Fynbos in 1999, and the Akkedisberg, Blinkwater, Dedraay, Kleinswartberg, Kleinriviersberg, Diepgat and Onrus Mountain Conservancies in 2002.
When Michael Henn and the other pioneers started Hermanuspietersfontein, Walker Bay teemed with fish. They needed less than half a day to fill their boats and they supplied many Boland towns and later, with easier transport, also Cape Town. This bounty lasted hardly a century when fish started to dwindle and disappear. Some reckon the disappearance of of fish can be ascribed to both greed of man and mammal. Seals rapidly increased in numbers while big fishing trawlers with nets, running for some 20 kilometers, stripped everything the seals had left behind. Sometimes up to 50 trawlers, from the West Coast and elsewhere were fishing in Walker Bay at night. Restrictions came, but the damage was done.
For this final volume of the Hermanus Stories trilogy, I have gone to a great deal of trouble to include all the stories within my reach that are important to posterity. Searching high and low, I've covered more than 80, but the most difficult one to get hold of, was of a man who evaded me time and again" because he did not like blowing his own trumpet". Such a man is Jim Wepener, best known for his erstwhile Kenjockity Guest House and the Whale Crier. But his fame stretched a whole lot further than the guest house and I wanted to include his story in "Hermanus Stories III". After much prompting and e-mailing, I finally succeeded, and here is his story.
My father was ‘Skipper’ Hen van Dyk. There were three other Van Dyk fishermen. Hankie van Dyk lived in Hermanus, while Coen and Lodewyk van Dyk both lived in Poole’s Bay. My name is Philip Reginald but I was called Klein (little) Skipper. I was born in 1919 in a Main Road cottage that stood on the premises which is now a parking area between Cuckoo Tree and Rossi’s restaurants. I was the youngest of six children. Father was skipper of old harbour boats. One was Spes Bona (Good Hope). I have never skippered a boat, yet to this day everybody calls me “Skipper”. I went fishing with the boats only a few times. My trade was really hairdressing. I started work in Hermanus and moved to Worcester where I worked for 27 years before retiring and returning home.
Shortly before the 2006 whale season, I walked into Photo Holler and talked to Ingo Schirmer about various Hermanus matters, among them the dangerous coastline on the “Champagne Mile” where three drownings have taken place over the last three years resulting in the death of four people. We were both concerned that the powers that be had done nothing to warn residents and tourists using the cliff path for whale watching, of the dangers of that treacherous stretch of water. But, said Ingo, he heard that the ladies of The Sharklady were doing something about it.
“The 'Father' of Hermanus”—an appropriate title given to John Luyt by the media reporting on his death in January 1940. He did indeed contribute enormously to the early development of the village. When John Luyt arrived in 1903, Hermanus was a small, primitive fishing hamlet. When the village took leave of him, in 1940, it had grown into a prosperous and well-known seaside resort, with better working opportunities for all. This was largely due to his influence and hard work. He never stopped publicising Hermanus and improving his hotels.
HERMANUS AND POOLE’S BAY FISHERMEN IN DAYS OF OLD
From the unpublished diary of Berdine Luyt come both some moving and light-hearted stories of wartime Hermanus and the hospitality trade of those long ago years. She was one of the five daughters of John and Joey Luyt and assisted her mother in running the Marine Hotel after her father’s death. The following extracts are from her diary, edited by the author with permission from Berdine’s niece, Sue Blyth, the owner of various manuscripts. Berdine Luyt was born in Hermanus in 1916, and lived a full and interesting life. Besides the diary, she left an unpublished manuscript on the life of her mother which is for the most part the story of Hermanus. She dedicated the stories to her mother Joey Luyt, that most unusual woman. Berdine died from cancer in Hermanus in 1980. Some of these stories appeared in a special series in the “Hermanus Times” in 2006.
One of the “younger” generation in my stories, is the dedicated and extremely talented Estelle Spaarwater who has been and still is serving Hermanus on several fronts - as chief organiser of the Hermanus 150th anniversary in 2005, for two years at the helm of the Greater Hermanus Tourism body and presently as chairperson of the Hermanus Heritage Committee.
JULIUS SELL OF 15 HOPE STREET
When Emile Julius was born in Oppi Koppi, Hope Street, Hermanus in1939, there were five generations on his mother’s side of the family still alive. Three generations were in Hermanus and two in Albertinia, near Mossel Bay. Julius now lives in the house where he was born, and where his grandparents also lived. The house stands on a little outcrop in
Victoria Square, running from Long Street to Main Road alongside Photo Holler on the Long Street corner, is one of our tranquil shopping squares in Hermanus, and in most of the little shops one experiences a truly peaceful atmosphere. One such a place is Jenny’s Book Exchange, situated in one of the ancient historic cottages.
Early in 2003, the Hermanus Times obtained the telephone number of Mr Lemm late of Lemm’s Corner and asked me to visit him in Cape Town. I arranged a visit and on a sweltering February afternoon, I drive into upper Oranjezicht, Cape Town, and park beneath a shady tree for this special appointment.
The recorded history of Hermanus goes back to 1724, but taking a look at earlier times we see that man and beast were attracted to this area. Long before European farmers set foot along Walker Bay, indigenous Khoikhoi peoples living in kraals at Kleinriviers Kloof and Attaquas Kloof grazed their cattle and sheep on the coastal lowlands in sweet limestone veld.
In the heart of Hermanus, the Old Harbour was saved when a man of vision and his friends started the humble task of cleaning up where vagrants and neglect had left their mark. Much earlier he had helped with the first stages of Fernkloof, the construction of Rotary Way and the Cliff Path.
Betty Jones describes how the cliff path was born.
"One Sunday afternoon Eric and I walked to the cliffs near Kraal Rock. There were only footpaths to the fishing spots. Eric was collecting seed of the pink Cliff Lily for Kirstenbosch. Gladiolus Carmineus is endemic to our coastline and grows prolifically on our cliffs. He looked at the cliffs, and rather thoughtfully