Situated on the north shore of Durban Bay, the Victoria Embankment, also know as Esplanade, is Durban’s main promenade, stretching all around the waterfront and offering great views of the harbour. More or less at the center of this promenade you will stumble across a beautiful bronze equestrian statue dating back to August 1915 – the statue of Dick King.
The statue commemorates Dick King and his heroic journey that is entwined in the history of Port Natal (now Durban).
Port Natal was a British trading station in the region now known as KwaZulu-Natal. Richard ‘Dick’ King was an English trader and colonist based there, who became famous following his epic horseback journey that saw him cover a distance of 960 kilometres in 10 days (a journey that would normally take 17), in order to request help for the besieged British garrison barricaded in at Itafa Malinde (now the Old Fort) of Port Natal from the British military outpost of Grahamstown.
25 May 1842. Having successfully slipped out from a ship moored in the bay and escaping the Boer republic of Natalia’s Andries Pretorius (who was spearheading the siege), Dick King, accompanied by his 16-year-old servant Ndongeni, set out into the wilderness on horseback, fording 120 rivers and dodging attacks from both Zulu and Boer forces alike.
Without a saddle or bridle, the young Ndongeni could only make it halfway, but Dick King pushed on, covering the distance in a mere ten days, but arriving in a state of complete exhaustion. His message was heard, and a month later King returned aboard one of the British vessels carrying the relief parties, arriving in time to save the Port Natal garrison from imminent surrender or starvation.
Later, Ndongeni would receive a farm at the Mzimkulu river and the humble King a farm at Isipingo for their services. On the 14 August 1915 this beautiful statue commemorating Dick King and his horse Somerset’s epic journey, and thus important piece of Durban’s history, was unveiled.