Durban’s Old Fort (just next to Kingsmead Stadium) has had a long history tied to military action – the site having been first established as a military camp by the British back in May 1842, when 237 men of the 27th Regiment and Royal Artillery under Captain Thomas Charlton Smith were sent in to respond to an imminent Boer threat.
Following the ensuing retaliatory siege by the Boers after the failed British attack on Congella (lifted only be the arrival of the schooner Conch and the frigate HMS Southampton), a permanent fort was built on the site and a permanent British garrison was based there with a larger force being stationed outside Pietermaritzburg at Fort Napier.
Over the years a number of British Regiments did garrison duty in Durban and eventually the fort was later leased by the War Office to the Durban Light Infantry where it was at last converted into cottages for veterans. (Incidentally, the magazine was converted into a chapel and given the tranquil, lush nature of the grounds, the chapel has proven to be one of the city’s most popular wedding venues over the years!)
These days the grounds are open to the public, providing a quiet green space within the bustling city. There are old military relics scattered about to discover, and if you are somewhat of a military nerd, then the hugely informative Warrors Gate M.O.T.H. (Memorable Order of Tin Hats) Museum and Shrine (situated on the grounds) is an absolute must.
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Highly recommended to anyone with an interest in South African military history then.
My dad’s mom, my last remaining grandparent, passed away at the start of this year. She was 82. As is now the tradition, I was asked to deliver the eulogy at the memorial service, and in an effort to preserve it online for myself, this is what I said…
Beatrice Elaine Lötter (20/04/1935 – 04/01/2018) – Memorial 10 January 2018
Thank you for all being here today. We are gathered here in remembrance and to pay our respects to Beatrice Elaine Lötter, who most of you would have known as Bea, to some of us as Granny Lotter, and to even fewer still, as Mom.
For those of you who don’t know, Gran hails from the Eastern Cape, having grown up in Bathurst before moving on to Grahamstown where she pursued a career as a theater nurse. It was there where she met and started seriously courting my grandfather (and his motorbike), himself a nurse who specialised in working at psychiatric wards.
Following Grandpa’s various postings, the two of them jumped around between Grahamstown, Queenstown and our very own Bellville, with a small family jump-started somewhere in between. Having come from a big family, and now with four boisterous boys to take care of herself, Gran would eventually step back from the nursing profession and move on to being a full time home-maker, as she and Grandpa dove headfirst into quiet suburban life.
Jumping forward in time to 1983, Granny and Grandpa finally settled back in Bellville (shortly after my birth), thereby becoming permanent fixtures in our upbringing – so much so that I still have very fond memories of them playing games with us kids and cards with my folks twice a week, every week, for pretty much forever – first Wednesday evening at our house and then Friday evening at theirs!
Gran and Grandpa had an immense love for the outdoors, and they were almost constantly away for weekends in either their trusty Autovilla or caravan (of which they had many!), spending many of those weekends away in the company of their beloved Tygerberg Caravan Club compatriots. My siblings and I often got a chance to join them on these adventures, which if I remember right were always an absolute blast – probably because gran was known for always making sure that there was always some sort of sweet treat on hand!
In terms of loves, Gran absolutely adored playing games (cards, jukskei and bowls I can definitely remember as favourites) and watching sports – particularly if a national team was involved. She loved watching the cricket in particular – basically, if the Proteas were playing a game then you could always ring her up and be of getting an accurate match update!
Gran was perhaps a natural worrier, but more importantly, she was always willing to lend a hand and step in to serve wherever, and whenever, she was needed. She was always involved, always on some or other committee. She loved her garden, she loved her sports, she loved her kids, she loved her grandkids, and she loved her great grandkids.
And as such, we’ll miss her. Her friends at Eden Park will miss her. Her friends in the Presbyterian church will miss her. We family will miss her.
Hopefully, with the pain finally gone and perhaps now in the company of her loved ones gone before her, Bea can well and truly be in peace.
Rest well Granny Lotter.
I’ve written about the Rhodes Memorial on these pages before, and earlier in June I took my two girls up the slopes of Devil’s Peak to go and see this unique, classically inspired memorial to the English-born South African politician Cecil John Rhodes.
Firstly, if you have never seen this national monument in person before, then the Sir Herbert Baker and Francis Macey designed structure sitting on the flank of Table Mountain (above my old alma mater UCT for that matter) is guaranteed to impress.
(Well, that said, the girls didn’t really think it was all that. The liked the stairs and the horse, but as far as what they were concerned, the most exciting bit was the prospect of being allowed to take a photo or two with my phone camera, a promise that I had to make before we had even exited the car!)
Flanked by eight lions (cast by J.W. Swan and modeled upon those protecting Nelson column in Trafalgar Square), the memorial is fronted by the dynamic ‘Statue of Energy’, an imposing horse with rider sculpture – said to be a tribute to Rhodes’ restless drive and determination.
49 granite steps (one for each year of his life) then lead you to the main viewing platform which is adorned with a classic arrangement of Doric columns, the center at which stands the bronze bust of Cecil John Rhodes himself.
At this point of the photos, you might of course notice something slightly out of place.
Sadly, during the populist anti-colonialism outcry (complete with symbol defacement) that took place throughout South Africa in 2016, a few activists tried to behead the bust, ultimately failing in their attempt but doing enough damage so as to leave Rhodes without his nose.
As you might imagine, this does rather spoil the whole effect.
The site is also home to a popular tea garden and restaurant (makes sense when you consider the gorgeous view over Cape Town to be had from this location), and is also the starting base for a couple of popular Table Mountain hikes.
(The hour long walk to the King’s Blockhouse being one of those).
For the record, we didn’t pop in to the tea garden because we still had quite a few other interesting things to get to on the day (Llandudno Beach, Hout Bay Harbour, and World of Birds to be exact), but the girls were okay with that – after all, I did let them fool around with my phone camera for a bit…
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A visit to Rhodes Memorial doesn’t take particularly long, and no matter your view on colonialism or the likes of people like Cecil John Rhodes, it is worth a visit just for the architecture and view alone!
Designed by famed architect Sir Herbert Baker, the memorial is situated at Rhodes’s favourite spot on the lower slopes of Devil’s Peak – in fact, Rhodes’s own wooden bench is still situated below the memorial (which makes sense considering that he own most of the land making up the lower slopes of Table Mountain!). The site faces north-east, which one can easily imagine as marking the start of the Cape to Cairo road, Rhodes’s championed imperial dream of a British colonial Africa.
Built mostly of Cape granite quarried on Table Mountain, the memorial consists of a massive staircase with 49 steps (one for each year of Rhodes’s life) leading from a semi-circular terrace up to a rectangular U-shaped monument formed of pillars.
At the bottom of the steps is a bronze statue of a horseman, Physical Energy by George Frederic Watts. Eight bronze lions by John Macallan Swan flank the steps leading up to the memorial, with a bust of Rhodes completing the installation.
The inscription on the monument is “To the spirit and life work of Cecil John Rhodes who loved and served South Africa”. Also inscribed, below the bust of Rhodes, are the last four lines of the last stanza from the 1902 poem Burial by Rudyard Kipling in honour of Rhodes:
The immense and brooding spirit still
Shall quicken and control.
Living he was the land, and dead,
His soul shall be her soul!
Today the memorial is part of the Table Mountain National Park. It sports a well-known tea room, making it a popular viewpoint and picnicking spot. It also marks the starting point for a number of walks and hikes on Devil’s Peak.
Related Link: Rhodes Memorial
The Honoured Dead Memorial stands at the meeting point of five roads, commemorating those who died defending the city of Kimberley against the Boers during the Siege of Kimberley in the Anglo-Boer War.
It is listed as a provincial heritage site in Kimberley (Northern Cape), and is primarily built of sandstone quarried in from the Matopo Hills in Zimbabwe. The memorial serves as a tomb for 27 soldiers, and features the inscription (by Rudyard Kipling):
This for a charge to our children in sign of the price we paid. The Price we paid for the freedom that comes unsoiled to your hand. Read, revere and uncover for here are the victors laid. They that died for the city being sons of the land.
Related Link: Honoured Dead Memorial
Sadly, my mom’s mom, my Gran, passed away recently. I was asked to say something at the memorial and in an effort to preserve it online, this is what I said.
Iona Ray Bothma (1930 – 2013) – Memorial 19 April 2013
Thank you for all coming today. We’re gathered here in remembrance and to pay our respect to Iona Ray Bothma, who some of you would have known as Iona, others as Mom, and to me and my brother and sister, Granny Sedgefield.
Gran was born in Hanover in the Karoo, though most of her schooling years took place in George where she spent the majority of her childhood. Then it was off to Cape Town where she would eventually meet and fall in love with my grandfather Stefanus, and from there it was life in the Northern Suburbs for them, where they were eventually blessed with two wonderful children, Stephen and Cheryl. Finally it was off on retirement to Sedgefield, which is the part of their lives which we grandchildren associate with the most, hence the moniker of Granny and Grandpa Sedgefield, which to this day remains the way Ryan, Claire and I refer to them.
We spent pretty much every holiday and long weekend travelling up to Sedgefield to visit with our grandparents and it was there that we were spoiled and loved, and truly experienced Granny’s remarkable kindness and empathy, her genuine interest in and love for all her family.
She was a home-maker good and proper, with a huge love for her sewing and knitting, for her gardening, and of course her two little furry doggy companions, Piaf and Chloe. Together she and grandpa were without a doubt the highlight of our lives as children when away from home, always ready with a surprise present, or a delicious snack, or just that much needed hug and cuddle.
Eventually old age caught up with them and they moved back down to Cape Town, and joined the “family” here at Eden Park, where funnily enough, my father’s parents had also moved in. Sadly though, my grandfather took ill and passed away (almost ten years ago now) which was of course a terrible blow to my grandmother, but who instead of just giving up, silently soldiered on, long enough for both my sister Claire and her husband, and myself and my wife to present to her her great grandchildren, Devon and Jessica.
One of the first (and most striking) things that comes up whenever you talk to friends or acquaintances about Gran is the incredible level of thoughtfulness she had when dealing with people, that incredible patience and kindness she showed to everyone, a quality which without a doubt defined her very being.
And it truly is sad to lose a person like that.
The only solace we as family can take from her passing is that she did touch a lot of people with her kindness over the years, and more importantly, is now finally at rest, reunited with her beloved Stefanus and Stephen in heaven.
We will miss you terribly Gran, but we can rest assured that you are smiling down upon us and for that, we are grateful.
Rest in peace Granny Sedge.
I found this Word document dating back to 2006 in my archives, and in an effort to preserve it I have decided to now post it online. This is the eulogy that I read out at my grandfather’s (father’s father) memorial service just after he passed away.
Willem Adriaan Lotter (26/09/1932 – 27/11/2006) – Eulogy 30/11/2006
Willem Lotter to most of you, Grandpa Lotter to me. I’m standing here today to just say a few words, share a few thoughts about my Grandpa and the life he lived before he finally passed on.
My Gran and Grandpa got married in 1954 and enjoyed 52 years of marriage, enduring both the good and the bad times together – on that note I suppose I’d better include their four sons as a good thing (after all one of them is the reason I’m here). But it was the together part that I want to harp upon. I don’t think Grandpa and Gran ever did things apart – they always stuck together through thick and thin and I think this has been especially noticeable through Grandpa’s final years, when Gran has pulled through the strain and stubbornly stuck by his side no matter what. So for this I want to thank you Gran, thank you for showing all of us just what the bonds of marriage means. You have without a doubt stood by those words uttered so long ago “In sickness and in health, for better and worse, until death do us part.” For that alone I thank you from the bottom of my heart.
But this is about Grandpa and his life. Throughout his life, Grandpa worked to the benefit of those others who could not help themselves. He started his career in psychiatric nursing in his hometown of Grahamstown at the Fort England institute before moving down to the Cape where he continued his good work at both the Stikland and Valkenberg psychiatric hospitals where he eventually became a matron.
Outside of work, Grandpa shared with Gran a love for the great outdoors. For as long as I have known them, Grandpa and Gran never ceased to travel. Almost every weekend they would be in some new location, travelling by trusty caravan or AutoVilla to some far off location, braving wind and rain simply to enjoy the beauties of nature and the company of all their friends in the Tygerberg Caravan Club. And every now and then one of us Grandkids would go along for the ride – and make no mistake, it was always fun!
There is probably ONE word that sums up Grandpa – ‘Mischievous’. When you saw that twinkle in his eye and that small little grin sitting above that ‘bokbaard’ of his, you know you were in for a treat (or trouble if you were his intended target). I remember how he would mercilessly tease Gran or us kids, or pull the funniest pranks and tell the most hilarious jokes. He had a particular trick with his false teeth that always got the better of us when we were little. Grandpa was always a laugh and that is something I’ll never forget. He also made the best pancakes – the largest, most delicious pancakes in the whole wide world)
Grandpa took great interest in us his grandchildren. He would literally spend hours playing with us, be it cricket with his old plastic cricket set or ludo with us taking up all of Gran’s table. We played cards and board games until it came out of our ears! And he always made it treat for us to be there by them.
He really enjoyed his sports and mom and dad involved in good natured battle of either Jukskei, bowls, darts, cards or whatever caught his fancy at that moment. Every Wednesday and Friday night without fail, mom and Gran (The ladies) would take on the men at Canasta, but I’m afraid to say that 90% of the time dad and grumps came out on top.
Grandpa was a stubborn man who did things the way he believed things should be done. I once remember when we were with on a caravanning trip through the Kruger Park how Grandpa insisted on getting out of the car in the middle of a game drive simply to admire the view better and have a cup of coffee. No matter what the rules were or said, Grandpa would insist on staying true to himself.
And that’s the memory I will hold onto of my grandfather: The white-haired mischievous stubborn man with a twinkle in his eye and a grin on his face that always had time and a place in his heart for his family.
And although he may no longer be with us in the flesh, I can picture him even now, sitting somewhere in the veldt under a giant shady tree in his trusty old camp-chair, watching down over us with a great big mug of coffee in his hand.
May you rest in peace Grandpa, you’ve earned it.
I found this Word document dating back to 2004 in my archives, and in an effort to preserve it I have decided to now post it online. This is the eulogy that I read out at my grandfather’s (mother’s father) memorial service just after he passed away.
Stefanus Cristoffel Bothma (Fanie) – Eulogy, Wednesday 7th January 2004
Stefanus Cristoffel Bothma. Or Grandpa Sedgefield as he was known to us kids all the years. There is a lot that I can say about this special man, but I probably don’t have all the words I want to use, or the time to say it all. Perhaps I should start with a poem by Henry Scott Holland. He probably sums up death the best and this poem in particular is special to the family for other reasons as well. It’s called “In Deepest Sympathy”.
Death is nothing at all.
I have only slipped away into the next room.
I am I, and you are you.
Whatever we were to each other,
that we still are.
Call me by my old familiar name,
Speak to me in the easy way which you
Put no difference in your tone,
Wear no forced air of solemnity or sorrow.
Laugh as we always laughed,
At the little jokes we enjoyed together.
Pray, smile, think of me, pray for me.
Let my name be ever the household word
It always was, let it be spoken without effect,
Without the trace of a shadow on it.
Life means all that it ever meant.
It is the same as it ever was;
There is unbroken continuity.
Why should I be out of mind because I am
out of sight?
I am waiting for you, for an interval,
Somewhere very near, just around the corner.
All is well
He is waiting for us, somewhere very near. Just around the corner. Grandpa Sedgefield, or Grumps as I used to call him, was probably one of the kindest, gentlest of men you would meet. Very unlike his fiery red-headed appearance, Grumps almost never raised his voice nor spoke a word in anger. He always did his utmost to help people in need, no matter who they were.
A loving husband, he and Gran were married for 51 years. It would have been 52 in March. It was a loving friendship and relationship that stood the test of time – and brought many wonderful memories and moments with it.
Grumps was a very meticulous and thorough person. He was also very dedicated, and if he started something then he would see it through to the end. He worked for the post office for his whole life, and made many friends amongst his colleagues. He was a hard worker and a respected man. He was also a very cleanly man, and I remember that if there was a bit of fluff or dirt on your shirt, then he would lean over and remove it for you. He hated to see things out of place, and even now at the retirement home, he would walk around picking up things off the floor and giving it to the nursing staff to get rid of. With him everything had a time and place of its own and it was an ordered universe in which he lived.
He was a very helpful person, and Granny can’t even begin to remember how many people he would stop to help alongside the road, pulling their cars along when they got stuck with his trusty old Toyota Corona bakkie. Talking about cars, Grandpa was really passionate about his vehicles. One of his first cars that he owned when Granny met him was an old Morgan sports car. To this day Gran’s not sure whether she fell in love with Grandpa or with the car first. The car I will remember him the most for was his old Corona bakkie. He saw this old thing parked at the apartments where my mom and dad were staying and instantly fell in love with it. Gran and the rest of the family couldn’t understand it. It back had completely rusted off, so it looked more like a truck without a trailer. Still he persevered and managed to buy this thing off its owner. We don’t even think it was for sale at that time. Anyway, he fixed it up and had a wooden back-end fitted. This bakkie took him everywhere, and us grand kids had great fun on its back.
My mom remembers her dad of course as any daughter would. But she also remembers in particular how helpful he was when she and Ronnie first got married and moved out. Grumps went out of his way to help them and show my dad the tricks to DIY. Grandpa was a very practical person, and his garage was always packed with tools – all on their specially marked out places of course! He loved his woodwork, and I can remember him making all sorts of toys for us.
I remember my Grandpa as the great man that he was. I remember the time he spent with us grand kids, how he would take us for drives and walks, how we would sit staring over the Sedgefield Lagoon or run over the sand dunes. I remembering snuggling up against him late nights and watching the Lone Ranger riding into the sunset. He was a special man and we loved him dearly.
A good way to end this is by remembering his greatest passion during the year. He was an avid Formula One fan and wouldn’t miss a single race. He was a great Michael Schumacher fan and no matter how much I made fun of it, his man always seemed to win. Like Formula One, life is a race, and Grandpa has finally completed it. I think he won – but to him it was probably just the joy of taking part that kept him going. We love you and miss you. But we know that you will always be close by.