Well-known Plett thespian, raconteur and committee member of The Van Plettenberg Historical Society, David Hall-Green, tells us about the ill-fated Portuguese ship, known to us as the “San Gonzales”, which ran into serious trouble in our bay.
1630: Padrão of the São Gonçalo
It seems that a group of about 100 sailors off the Portuguese trading ship, São Gonçalo, were the first Europeans who spent any significant amount of time in the area we now call Plettenberg Bay. They were en route back from India to Portugal in 1630, carrying a cargo of pepper. They had actually stopped in the bay to make some repairs to the ship when a huge storm hit the bay and claimed the ship as well as 150 of their crewmen. The 100 survivors managed to swim ashore and made the Piesang Valley their home for about 8 months, befriending the Khoisan as they did so and building a church. They spent their time here building 2 boats from the remains of the São Gonçalo and the timber supplied by the surrounding forest. Just before they left the Bay, they erected a stone marker (padrão) on the shore. This was the first ‘Plett beacon’. The padrão was re-discovered in 1980. It bore the inscription (in Portuguese) “Here was lost the ship São Gonçalo in the year 1630.” Sadly, the story of the São Gonçalo ended in even further tragedy: although the sailors were eventually picked up by other ships of the Portuguese fleet who brought them back to Portugal, one of those ships sank just as it entered the Lisbon harbour, with the loss of everyone on board – including some of the survivors of the São Gonçalo.
Our final event for the year at Fairview Estate was a resounding success. The weather behaved, and we sat on the terrace feasting our eyes on the Tsitsikama mountains while listening to Andrew Rattray’s fascinating tales. Andrew’s talk was followed by a delicious curry lunch. Unfortunately, technical issues occurred during this recording and the early part of Andrew’s talk was not recorded.
We will certainly be returning to Fairview next year to hear more about the Rattray family and their close association with the Natal battlefields and the people involved on both sides of the great battles.
The Rosiland saga has sat with me for over the 40 years that I have lived in Plett. I remember her as we shared a cafeteria at UCT. She was tall good looking with a dress down to the ground. Us Architects did not chat up the Hippy chicks. I moved to Plett got a copy of Ballard of Rosiland Ballingall DVD made by Nicole Schafer. I also studied all info available at the time. There was a lot of info on the Internet with many stories of what happened to her.
One day I saw some mail from a lady in the UK who wanted a copy of Nicole’s DVD. I sent it to her and asked why after 40 years she wanted the info. She said that when Rosiland went missing she and her boyfriend were on the way from PE to Knysna. They saw a tall lady and a guy walking down the N2. She was sure that it was Rosiland. Later Roziland’s Mom tracked them down to a hotel in Knysna. She asked if they had seen anything? They told her what they had seen and all they got was “Thanks” No one ever looked or investigated the N2. They only looked in Fisantehoek and the Forrest.
A few days ago I spoke to a friend about this matter He told me to go and see a local Psychic. He said that she was brilliant and had helped so many people.
I went and saw her and gave her the DVD and all the info that I had.
In one day she replied. See the attached mail:
She was not walking with her boyfriend at the time of her disappearance she was joined on the road by an opportunist who was driving past and took a liking to the way she looked. He then coerced her into his car with the promise of dropping her somewhere or helping her with something and then abducted her and knocked her out. He took her back to his home in East London where he kept her captive and abused her, eventually killing her when she tried to escape. He buried her body, and 2 other women’s bodies in his garden, which he also abducted, he was a psychopath! His disgusting deeds were never discovered and he was never suspected either but she is saying that you can search in the archives of disappearances for the other 2 women if you wish. Her boyfriend DID help with the search and was blamed unfairly for her killing which she wanted to make sure people understood that he had NOTHING to do with her death!
An aspect of her soul went back to the Garden Of Eden, to try and undo what she had done that day in walking by herself, which is why she kept appearing asking people for help. She thought that she was safe walking there on that day and had brought a spiritual book with her but it was not the Bible, she was not religious. My Angels and I have released that aspect from that area now and it has rejoined her soul and is very happy to be released. She sends thanks to you Paul for loving her so faithfully and helping her to find peace, she also leans over and kisses me on the forehead and thanks me.
She reincarnated into another body in 1974 only that aspect of her soul remained in the Garden Of Eden trying to understand how she could stop what was going to happen when she met that man and sadly trusted him.
IN THE vale of Clumber in the Eastern Cape, 5km from Bathurst just off the Shaw Park road, lies Clumber Church.
Situated on a knoll this is the third Church to be built on this spot by the Nottingham Party and descendants of the 1820 Settlers. This knoll was given the name of Mount Mercy by the Nottingham Party in thanksgiving for their safe arrival here on a journey which had taken them over six months to complete. The wagons and carts that had transported them from “Tent Town” on the dunes of Algoa Bay to their final destination were offloaded at the base of Mount Mercy close to the Torrens River.
A service of thanksgiving was held on Mount Mercy on the day of their arrival on July 23 1820.
The Nottingham Party was one of the few parties of 1820 Settlers that consisted of the poor, as Nottingham was a cottage industry hub of lace and hosiery making. With the Industrial Revolution under way most of these family-run cottage industries had to shut down. It was also a time of the end of the Napoleonic Wars so demand for goods had slackened off and soldiers had returned from war with no prospect of employment. It was a time of massive unemployment with thousands starving.
As the applicants could not even afford the passage, the Duke of Newcastle agreed to garner financial support and raised sufficient funds to allow the 60 men, 26 women and 72 children to emigrate
The prospect therefore of the promise of a piece of land in a foreign country looked appealing and hundreds applied. As the applicants could not even afford the passage, the Duke of Newcastle agreed to garner financial support and raised sufficient funds to allow the 60 men, 26 women and 72 children to emigrate.
From records we are able to determine that the departure was rather hurried. John Bradfield’s application was dated October and by mid-January the family was aboard the Albury in Liverpool. The party gathered in Nottingham from where the men walked over the Pennine Moors under Sergeant Dennison to Liverpool while the women and children travelled by coach and cart. By January 17 they were aboard the Albury as they were trying to reconcile the records of those who had applied versus those who were already aboard.
Conditions were cramped with married couples lying four and even six to a bed. The single men were given a blanket and had to lie where they could on the bare boards.
It was bitterly cold in England with vessels on the Thames unable to move from being iced in. The plans to depart before the end of January were thwarted by a cold front which had swept in and delayed departure till February 13. The Albury struck severe weather off the coast of Wales and the hatches had to be battened down much to the consternation of those below. Conditions were cramped with married couples lying four and even six to a bed. The single men were given a blanket and had to lie where they could on the bare boards.
On May 1 1820 the Albury arrived in Simons Town but the Settlers were not able to disembark. Their cramped conditions were made even worse when three parties from the vessel Zoroaster numbering 142 people joined the Albury on their last leg to Algoa Bay.
They arrived there on May 15 together with the vessel Aurora carrying 344 persons, the Brilliant carrying 144 and the Weymouth carrying 478. They had to ride at anchor and await their turn to be pulled to shore.
Once disembarked they were housed in tents on the sea shore awaiting their turn for the ox wagons and carts to take them onto their final destination. Some 2 000 tents provided accommodation for this massive influx of people. The Nottingham Party waited there for 48 days before finally leaving on July 15 1820.
The convoy of wagons used the coastal route from Addo Heights passing Congo’s Kraal and Graafwater to Jagers Drift on the Bushmans River. After Theopolis Mission Station they forded the Kowie River near the mouth and turned inland to Bathurst and to their final destination which they named Clumber after the seat of the Duke of Newcastle, Clumber Park.
The head of the Nottingham Party, Dr Calton, died in Algoa Bay. His successor, Thomas Draper, left Clumber not long after arrival, so the leadership passed to William Pike, a Methodist, who administered spiritual comfort from the moment the Party boarded the Albury.
Our second talk was held at Formosa Garden Village – commemorating 200 years since the arrival of the 1820 settlers. Courteney Bradfield spoke about the arrival of the 1820 settlers in what has been described as “The most callous mass migration of people in the history of the British Empire”
Enthusiasm for Plettenberg Bay’s history was tangible on Friday 19 August as more than 150 locals and visitors gathered at the iconic and historic Forest Hall in the Crags on the outskirts of Plett.
The reason for the gathering was a talk by local resident and amateur historian Murray Crawford about the property and surrounding areas.
The event was spearheaded by the Van Plettenberg Historical Society and took place at Forest Hall on Friday afternoon.
“It was a resounding success… it shows that there is a great interest in the area’s history,” said the society’s chairman, Len Swimmer.
The talk was received well. The crowd, who sat along four long tables, hung on Crawford’s every word as he delved into the history of the area and shared stories of the people who called this part of the world their home many years ago.
One of the most touching stories he told, especially for those with a soft spot for romantic gestures, was that of a Major Rivven from Scotland.
It is believed that he wanted to purchase Forest Hall for his beloved wife, but could not as the owners at the time did not want to sell it. Crawford said that Rivven then decided to purchase land surrounding Forest Hall all the way to the Keurbooms River. He promised his wife that he would build her a house on the property and carry her over the threshold in his arms.
Fate however had something else in store. Before he could build the home, his wife passed away. Holding on to his promise, he built the house of her dreams as a mausoleum in her honour and carried her ashes across the threshold.
Crawford also spoke about the rich history of Forest Hall itself. Dating back to 1864, it was the first manor house in the Plettenberg Bay section of the Garden Route.
It was the South African seat of the aristocratic British Newdigate family.
While it is now a prominent historic feature in Bitou, Forest Hall started off with a “catastrophic construction error” that caused it to decline into decrepitude. It was abandoned as a hopeless case and left to rot, but was acquired by a visionary outsider who had the will and resources to rescue it. Thanks to him and subsequent owners, it is today a beautifully restored and maintained historical monument.
After the talk, attendees were treated to a tour of the pro