Therefore all seasons shall be sweet to thee,
Whether summer clothe the general earth
With greeness, or the redbreast sit and sing
Betwixt the tufts of snow on the bare branch
Of mossy apple-tree, while the nigh thatch
Smokes in the sun-thaw; whether the eave-drops fall
Heard only in the trances of the blast,
Or if the secret ministry of frost
Shall hang them up in silent icicles,
Quietly shining to the quiet Moon.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Pilgrim's Rest

We are back in South Africa again on a very hot Saturday afternoon when we drove up along the Eastern Escarpment of the Drakensberg Mountains to Pilgrim's Rest. This was site of the first great goldrush in South Africa in 1873. A man called Alec 'Wheelbarrow' Patterson discovered gold in a stream now known as Pilgrim's Creek and although he tried to keep it quiet the word soon got out and miners appeared from all points of the compass anxious to try their luck - 1500 of them by the end of that year!!. These men had some wonderful names - Yankee Dan, Black Sam, French Bob, Spanish Joe and One-Eye Spinner among them. Pilgrim's Rest must have been a pretty lively place in those days:) By 1972 the  gold had run out but the village was preserved as a living museum. The top photo is mine and shows the Post Office as it is today and the lower one is a photograph of it in the 1890s with the Royal Mail coach outside. As ever clicking will enlarge my photos though sadly not the old one.

Dredzens was the general store which has been preserved as it was during the period between 1930 and 1950. I found the interior absolutely fascinating, you could buy just about anything in this place.

Looking for a new teapot or some kitchen china? Or maybe you're off on a trip and need a suitcase.........

......and if you're off on holiday better get a pretty new hat and a couple of new shirts and a panama for the man of the house! And maybe a new pair of gloves? A lady would never be seen out without gloves even in summer.

You can buy a wireless or a record player or a new bike or maybe more mundane things like Jeyes Fluid or Vim. And all those barrels - I wonder what they contained? I could have spent hours in here.

Behind the shop are the family's living quarters which are furnished in the way they would have looked during the 1940s. This is the combined living and dining room which was a decent sized area.

Steve and myself (holding Lucy) in the kitchen with the pantry in the background.

The other end of the kitchen with the old shallow stone sink. My gran had a sink like this in her scullery when I was a little girl.

The 1940s bedroom with someone's best frock hanging on the wardrobe and a photo of a soldier on the wall - a son serving overseas perhaps?  Many South Africans served with the Allied Forces in WW2.

The old Garage with its vintage petrol pump now houses a small but interesting transport museum.

Among the exhibits was this fabulous 1928 Chevrolet.

Even more interesting and atmospheric was this transport wagon. These were drawn by teams of up to fourteen oxen and were the lifeblood of South Africa in the 1800s and early 1900s. The journeys were slow as the animals needed to graze for eight hours a day and also needed to rest for eight hours, the travelling was mostly done in the cooler hours of the early morning or late afternoon and they would cover around 18 miles each day.

I bought this book on my first visit to South Africa and it has strong connections with Pilgrim's Rest.Percy Fitzpatrick was a transport rider carting supplies for the goldfields at Pilgrim's Rest and Barberton from Delagoa Bay in what was then Lourenco Marques but is now known as Mozambique. Jock was his dog, a bull terrier who travelled all over what is now Mpumalanga with his master. The story is fascinating for the picture it gives of the lives of these transport riders as they travelled in what was then dangerous and often unexplored country.

Jock became so famous that there are memorials to him all over Mpumalanga where the routes he travelled cross modern roads and this includes the area that is now Kruger National Park.

This is the cemetery at Pilgrim's Rest, I'm not holding my camera at an angle, it really is this steep! Steve and Kaitlyn climbed to the top but it was so hot in the midday sun that I gave up halfway. Hannah, Lucy and Juliette didn't even come this far.

This was the original grave in the cemetery, a man was caught and convicted of tent robbery and banished from Pilgrim's Rest. He was later found on this nearby hill and shot. He was buried in a grave facing north-south branding him as a thief. Every other grave in the cemetery is oriented eat-west.

Many of the graves belong to people who were a very long way from home and at 38 George Davies was two years younger than the average person buried here. Few died peacefully in their beds - snake bite,malaria,dysentery and other diseases,drowning and accidents claimed most of the lives.

No burial records were kept until 1911 but the earliest marked grave is that of a man crushed by a boulder on his claim in 1874. There are 320 known graves but only 163 of them have headstones or markers of some sort. Most are simply marked out with stones like these in a quiet corner near the entrance.

I think there are worse places to be buried than here though with this stark but beautiful view over the Drakensberg Mountains.


Diane said...

What a fabulous place. So interesting. You look very "Out of Africa". xx

Bovey Belle said...

What a superb holiday you had - so many wonderful places to visit and that store just as it might have been in the 30s and 40s - amazing.

Hollace said...

I love the way you combine photos, history, literature and a good trek in your posts, whether in England or Africa. So many interesting details of history and custom...
It seems like you were in Africa not too long ago--the pull of the grandkids?

John said...

'Wheelbarrow' Patterson is certainly a splendid name. I wonder if he got it from the habit of saying the word 'wheelbarrow' for any long, complicated words which he couldn't pronounce. One of my uncles used to do this and he told me that he did it once while reading in church and nobody noticed. His wife said he did no such thing - "There you are," he said "you weren't listening either!"

Jane said...

So intersting - I quite enjoy having you as my occasional tour guide lol! Love the general store amd I could see myself happily snooping through it. Sobering to think of the many short lives and tragic ends represented in that graveyard.

Dartford Warbler said...

What a fascinating and atmospheric place to visit.

The 1940s bedroom looks very much like my Granny`s bedroom as I remember it in the 1950s/60s.

Lynda (Granny K) said...

Fascinating post Rowan! I love the general store, reminds me of the co-op when I was a girl.

Piecefulafternoon said...

What a fabulous journey - and thank you for the wonderful tour. I learned so much!

Mary said...

What an interesting place to visit. I only saw the Drakensburg Mtns. from far away - our guide pointed them out on a game drive one morning.

Love the photo of you with Lucy - great hat!
That store would be interesting to sort through - lots of old treasures I'm certain!

Hugs - Mary

Wanda..... said...

I agree you relay such wonderful pieces of history, full of rich detail that make it so interesting to read, Rowan. Plus the lovely photos of wherever you are!

Rowan said...

John - 'Wheelbarrow' Patterson was a gold prospector and got his name because, having received a hefty kick from his donkey, he decided from that point that he would transport all his possessions in a wheelbarrow. He apparently pushed it all the way from the Cape up to Sabie a distance of very nearly 1000 miles! I should have made that part of the post really but it was already getting a bit long:)

Kadeeae said...

Absolutely fascinating post!

Lovely to read, and the photos too. Are you certain you weren't some travel writer in the past, because your writing brings each place alive and makes me want to go too! :)

Granny Sue said...

Fascinating, Rowan. The graves tell a story, one of a hard place to live and of people willing to try it anyway. The east-west/north-south orientation of the graves is interesting too--I wonder if that is a tradition in other places?

Mac n' Janet said...

Fascinating post, South Africa is one of those places I've always wanted to visit, so I'm really enjoying your pictures and commentary.
Old gold mining towns are fascinating, I'm from California and can remember visiting some of the old mining towns there.

Pomona said...

What an amazing place to visit - I should think you had the most wonderful trip.

Pomona x

Thimbleanna said...

Wow, that's so interesting! I'll bet you had a wonderful trip. Thanks for all the info -- I'll remember that trick about burying the theif in a different direction!

Janet said...

Fascinating! It makes me think of the Gold Rush area here in California. The general store looks like a place I could spend hours just looking at things. And interesting little tidbit about the thief being buried north to south. I've never heard of that.

Lucy said...

From your photo alone, I would never have realised the Post Office is as old as it is.

Interesting to see a department store without departments!

Large living areas are essential, I reckon. It's sad modern houses don't have proper room in them.

The last photo of the cemetery shows it as stark and beautiful.

What a trip!


Anonymous said...

Helo Rowan,
I enjoyed your interesting post very much.
Imagine how it must have felt to be the first one to discover gold like Alec "wheelbarow" Patterson and then trying to keep it a secret. It's a wonderful name, I think I'll adopt it as I am always pushing a wheelbarrow either mucking out or gardening!
The old post office is an attractive building and looks so tranquil now but I would like to go back and be a fly on the wall in it's lively gold rush days.
It's funny you should mention Jock in your post as I nearly put Greyfriars Bobby in my post about Edinburgh, it seems special dogs are remembered all over the world.
Thank you for a fantastic tour of Pilgrim's Rest.

Gracie said...

What a wonderful place. Glad you found it and thanks for sharing it with us. Waiting for more to come.

laoi gaul~williams said...

oh rowan what a fantastic post~i enjoyed reading it and examining the photos! thank you so much :)

Anonymous said...

Those pictures are wonderful. I love all the old rooms.
The burial place is very beautiful. The details on the stones are great.
By the way, I love your hat, looks great on you.
Have a fantastic weekend.

George said...

A fascinating and informative post, Rowan, one that heightens my desire to go to South Africa. Thanks for sharing this with us.

Morning's Minion said...

You wear that hat very well--A gift I don't have, but admire in others.
I enjoy museums which seem to freeze time--as if the occupants of a house or village have just stepped outside for a bit.

Comfrey Cottages said...

What an interesting spot! thank you for sharing all the pictures:) You look lovely in the hat:) xxxx

Anonymous said...

Loved seeing the photos and reading about your visit.
Enjoyed seeing your photo!

Thanks so much for stopping by the Back Porch!

FireLight said...

Rowan, I truly feel that I have just been on this tour with you!
I echo so many others when I say your work here is the best anywhere in the blogosphere! The names--the store--Jock the dog--the cemetery!! Love the details you share with us! Thank you!

Carolyn said...

Hi Rowen,
That must have been such a lovely trip=so many interesting things to see!
The general store would be fun to snoop around in and the wild life and waterfalls are lovely to see also.

Thank you for all your sweet comments on my blog.

Take care,