When Rovos Rail – The Pride of Africa stops at Kameel it is
always a special occasion.
For those that is still wondering Rovos Rail is a
train-hotel.. The trains consist of restored coaches with lounges, dinning
cars, private sleeping compartments, each with private ensuite facilities. Then
there is the observation car which is like sitting on the stoep of the train.
The train has different types of accommodation on board.
With names like Pullman. Delux and the Royal Suite, which is half a train car
The company was started in 1989 by Rohan Vos and is family
owned and Rovos Rail has its private station at Capital Park in Pretoria.
The dining car reminds of Edwardian train travel with beautiful pre-1940 and is characterized by the carved roof that is supported with pillars and arches. The button leather seating, cristal glass and branded cutlery is all enhanced with the beautiful light fittings. The fans add to the glamour. This car is referred to as the Pillars.
The lounge car is fitted with deep sofas and wing back chairs and seems like the ideal place for an afternoon snooze as the train makes its way over the plains of Africa. Even the train is air conditioned the windows can open and you can enjoy the sights, sounds and scents of Africa.
Die dorp Stella het wonderlike kinderdae herinneringe vir my. In besonder Brandstraat. Dit was die straat waarin Oupa Jimmy en Ouma Sannie se huis was. Nommer 10. Vandag lyk Brandstraat heel anders as wat my kinderdae se onthou dit voorgestel het.
Oupa en Ouma se huis was wit geverf en het so ‘n wye voorstoep waarop Oupa Jimmy graag gesit het en die wêreld bespiet het. Oupa het so ‘n skaaphak kierie gehad waarmee hy jou sommer so nader gehak het. Dit is die straat wat gelei het na die ou klipsaal. Die straat het sommer net daar by die klipsaal gestop. Vandag sou ons praat van ‘n cul-de-sac, maar daardie dae was dit ‘n vreemde woord. Die saal was die middelpunt van die dorp. Dit is nou naas die kerk. Daar was konserte en vergaderings gehou en natuurlik ook het die Vroue Landbou Vereniging hul vergaderings gehou. Ouma Sannie was ‘n raakvatter tussen die vroue van die VLV.
Brandstraat se huise het elkeen sy eie styl gehad. Almal was wit geverf. Almal naby die straat. Sommer so naby genoeg dat jy met die uit loop slag in die straat was. Daar was die Celliers huis op die punt naaste aan die klipsaal. Die huis het ‘n stoepie tussen die twee kamers wat soos vleuels op die stoep uit geloop het. gehad. Dan was daar die huis met die geboogde sinkplate oor die stoep. So ‘n regte Karoo-styl stoep. Die stoep waarop die oompie sy pyp gesit en rook het. Die hoekhuis lyk vandag nog baie dieselfde. ‘n Lekker stoep met die lae muurtjie.
Die water in Stella is brak want die soutpan lê naby die dorp. Vir baie jare is hier sout ontgin. Ongeag die brak water was daar heel party windpompe in die dorp, want almal het groentetuine gemaak. Ouma Sannie het ‘n Lemon Verbena by die agterdeur gehad. Dit was ‘n fees om die blare tussen ons hande te vryf en dan die reuk vir die hele dag saam te dra. ‘n Lekker vrugteboord was oupa se pride and joy. Die ingelgde geelperskes met dik vla, was ons kinders se gunsteling.
Oupa en Ouma was altwee kinders van die Willowmore, Patensie en die Gamtoos, soos Oupa het altyd na die Kolonie verwys as sy grootword wêreld gepraat het. Hy en Ouma het mekaar van kindsbeen geken. Hy het die plaas Langverwagt naby Kameel gekoop. Op hul oudag het hulle op Stella afgetree.
Ouma het geduld gehad met ons. Sy het die fynste kant hekel met sulke fyn gare en ‘n blink hekelpen. Dollies was ‘n groot gunsteling. Elkeen het die mooiste glaskrale gehad. Dit het geklingel wanneer sy die koffie ingebring het en dit oor die melkbertjie daarmee toegemaak was. Sy het geduld gehad om my te leer hekel – hotklou en al.
Die kombuis het ‘n houttafel gehad. So wit geskrop naby die koolstoof. In die eetkamer was ‘n bal-en-klou tafel wat ‘n verlengstuk gehad het. Op Sondae was die tafel gedek met ‘n gehekelde tafeldoek en haar beenhef eetgerei. Sy sou op ‘n oggend bel en sommer so terloops sê dat sy my pa se gunsteling skaapboud gaar gemaak het en ons moes oorkom vir ete. Sy kon selfs haar skoonseun onder ‘n wip vang met haar kos wat altyd vol verrassings was. Wanneer dit vetkoekdag was, was dit wonderlik om die vormpies van die vetkoeke in die olie te probeer assosieer met ‘n diertjie. Eendjies en hasies was altyd ‘n reg raai.
Ouma het lang hare gehad. Sy het dit in ‘n lang vlegsel aan die eenkant van haar kop gevleg en dan om haar kop gedraai. Na Oupa oorlede is en Ouma by haarself gewoon het, het die dogters op ‘n dag besluit – Ouma se hare moes kort geknip word. Wat ‘n tragedie was dit. Ouma kon nooit met die kort hare vrede maak nie. Ek het baie dae my tas gepak om by ouma te gaan bly maar het maar elke keer weer terug gekom huis toe.
Ouma Sannie het ook die swaar van die lewe geken. Haar een dogtertjie is oorlede en twee van Ouma se seuns is tydens WWII oorlede. Ek het altyd gewonder hoe sy dit oorleef het want daar was altyd ‘n glimlag op haar gesit.
Ouma het nog in die tyd van briewe skryf gelewe. Onlangs het ek hierdie stukkie kosbaarheid van ‘n niggie ontvang. Die brief is gerig aan haar suster, Tant Pollie, wat in Uitenhage gewoon het. Die inhoud is kosbaar!
Die stasie is 25km vanaf Kameel. Vandag is daar min oor van die eens tuiste en besigheid van my Oupa Victor en Ouma Hester. Na hulle huwelik het hulle Devondale Store besit en in die huis langs die winkel gewoon. In die goeie dae van Devondale was daar die watertenks waar die stoomtreine water gevat het. Ek onthou nog die ou Convent wat een van die groot geboue in die omgewing was.
Wanneer daar by die familie op Kameel gaan kuier is, het oupa en ouma met die motorfiets en side-car gery.
Ek is seker hulle het by al die bekendes van die omgewing gekuier. Aunt Ethel (oupa se suster) en Uncle Rex Collins het, net oorkant die spoor op Devondale, gewoon. Ek is seker dat daar ook gekuier is by Uncle Alfi and Ant Nellie Fincham, wat op Kinderdam gewoon het. Ook onthou ek die Starkes van Curnow. Daar was die Barlow’s (my ouma en ouma aan moederskant) van Langverwag.
Pa Gerald het altyd vertel van die spook op Devondale – ouma en oupa het na die 4 uur tee gaan stap. Toe hulle terug kom was die tafeldoek onder die koppies en teepot uitgetrek en bo-oor alles gegooi, sonder dat iets uit sy plek was. Daar was natuurlik die fosfor-ligte op die drade waarvan Ma Floss vertel het.
Kameel het ‘n winkel gekry – Mr McKay se winkel. Mr McKay was natuurlik Tannie Glen se pa. Hy het vir jare die winkel besit, maar die beste was die stories oor die mak kraanvoël, Jock, wat almal gejaag het.
Die winkel is later jare deur Oom Daan en tant Lizzi bedryf. Nadat hulle vertrek het, het oom Russel en tannie Corrie Olewage die winkel bedryf. Later jare sou my ouers die winkel bedryf. Nadat hulle genoeg gehad het, het Patrick, my broer die winkel bedryf en later jare het hy dit verhuur. Toe die laaste huurders van die winkel hom, na vele kere gesoebat het om die winkel terug te neem, het hy die bul by die horings gepak en die deure van Wilrick Kontrei winkel geopen.
Daar was ook die Italiaanse kryggevangenes wat op die plaas kom uithelp het na die Tweede Wêreld Oorlog. Pa Gerald het hulle by Zonderwater gevangenes gaan haal en weer teruggevat. Renato het vir baie jare kontak met die familie gehou.
Oupa Victor is in 1954 oorlede en ouma het die Cafee langs die treinspoor begin.
Kameel is een van die dae ek en Hennie se nuwe tuiste ons hoop om in die voetspore van ons ouers, groot-ouers en geliefdes te kan stap.
We are part of the street as much as we are part of the town.
Our house address is 17A Stuart Street.
The name Stuart relates to two possibilities.
*Major Warden named all his children after the Royal house of Stuart. Rumors were that he was an unofficial grandson of Bonnie Prince Charlie.
* Stuart Jacobus, 1803 – 1878, author, diplomatic agent and advocate of emigration, took part in the Sand River Convention in 1852.
After the Boer War in 1904, the British had a huge camp on Kings Hill. Here they broke many stones, cut and trimmed it to be used for building purposes. To get these stones in the town a track was laid from Kings Hill to the town. Some of these stones were used when the Town hall was built. This information probably also explains the existence of many houses and buildings in Stuart St, which were built of stone. There were also traces of the track in Vowe and Bester streets.
The early magistrates were Bester, Chauvin, Theron, D Cloete, J De Kock, Bramley, (that was accused of high treason), Canisius, J N Boshoff, J Z de Villiers, F W van der Riet, Charles Warden. (Steytler 1932)
Mr. Joseph De Kock resides at De Oude Huize Yard from 23 July 1861 till 23 April 1903 almost 42 years.
Concentration camp at the foot of Platberg
After an incident with Lord Kitchener the women were transported to “Tin Town”
Some women were lucky and did not travel in open carriages
An almost mad Kitchener was tormented by the Concentration Camp women and children when they did not show respect when the funeral procession of Dr Godfrey Reid pass them. Instead a hissing sound was made. Reid was killed during the Groenkop battle on Christmas day. The women and children were then moved to “Tin Town” close to Ladysmith. Some were transported in open train carriages and the luck ones in proper passenger car.
Thank you to Leon Strachan, Nico Moolman en Biebie de Vos for their contribution
This farm school opened it’s doors in 1934 in a room in my grand-parents house. My Granny – Hester Fincham was very involved with the day to day issues of the school. My parents and family also attended the farm school.
Growth was evident and soon my grandfather – Victor Fincham built a school. Till today it is fondly remembered as the ‘Wit skool” due to the fact that since I can remember it was painted white.
Mrs Vic (Granny Hester) as she was known in the community was still seeing over the day to day running of the school. During break the learners would go to the post-office to get the mail. En route to the post-office was Mr Mackay’s shop and here you could buy to huge Wilson toffees for one penny.
Fifty-seven years ago, my brother, Julian headed off to school. This was a huge family celebration as he was the eldest grandchild of Mrs Vic
It looked like great fun and he even got to take sandwiches everyday too! He had a smart suitcase, BOOKS, CRAYONS AND PAPERS! After not too much persuasion, I went off to school with him. I must have been the first 4-year-old in “Grade 0!”
Binney and Smith Inc., Records 0624 Box 41 Folder 6 Crayola Crayon box about 1903
Our teacher – I can’t remember if it was Miss Betsie or not, but she let me practice writing with the left hand and when that was tired, with the right hand. My mum would come and pick me up at break time soon after all the sandwiches had been devoured.
The most memorable thing from that first school year was Julian’s speech about what happened at home just prior to his leaving for school. I have never quite understood why children must always write a speech or composition about their holiday or what happened at home on a particular day.
Getting back to the story – like most farm children of the day, Ouboet (Big brother) was quite capable of driving the Ford. Hennie says it was a Ford 100. We would catch Uncle Koos’s bus to school. With Ouboet behind the wheel, we would drive to the farm gate and then get onto the bus.
His speech went as follows, “Miss, this morning on the way to school, the Ford’s clutch slipped and the gears locked which nearly resulted in us being late for the bus.”
The following year, school really began and it was a serious business. I recall Maggie and Elmarie who had the most delicious peach jam sandwiches. The sandwiches were later replaced by the most delicious chocolate cake. Elaine could go home whenever she felt like it. She was also my cousin and I would accompany her home during many a break time. She could run like a streak of lightening. Then there was Marieta and Mariette who could both sing so beautifully. Years later they would even get to sing the Drummer Boy song in the NG Church’s gallery. The clever girls were Heila, Riana and Amanda.
It was during this time of my life that I came to meet a certain school inspector. As he walked between the desks, he stopped at my desk. I think it was quite unusual at the time that a child could cope quite well writing with both their left and right hand. Perhaps he had not yet heard of the word ambidextrous! Who would have heard of such a thing back in 1963!
With the following words, “Miss, you had better decide which hand you are going to use to write with!” I got such a fright, I decided to go with the hand in which the crayon was held at the time – it was my left hand. Fortunately, all left handed people are seen by myself as somewhat special, many of whom happen to be in our family.
I remember Mr Basson – he had his classes in the old white school building. We sat according to our classes. The standard 3’s in front, then 4’s and then the 5’s. As the standards progressed each year, we would also move further back too. The thing I remember the most about Mr Basson were his essays. He taught me to write about mountains. He would write key words on the black board and we would have to create a story around them. I always wondered if he were missing the mountains of the Cape Boland as he would spend so much time teaching us about these majestic blue giants. I must say that from where I sit right now, living at the foot of the Platberg, I could even wax lyrical about the colors of this beautiful mountain.
Later on, Andrew would arrive at school with his bandy legs. Like Elaine, he would run so fast you would just spot him disappearing into the distance!
And so, the years marched on. Many of our, “clutches,” would slip and our, “gears,” would jam but at the same time we learned of the Majesty of God’s Grace and Mercy.
May God’s blessings always fall on the Kameel Primary School like a soft and gentle rain.
The R74 is the primary route to the Northern uKhahlamba Drakensberg World Heritage site
The road runs alongside the spectacular Sterkfontein Dam and down the equally spectacular Olivierhoek pass on to the mountains.
For many years this section of the R74 that runs along the dam has fallen into
terrible disrepair but in December 2015 the newly built road was once again opened.
We took the road and like to share our experience.
First stop is the Sterkfontein Dam
The dam is located just outside Harrismith and is part of the Tugela-Vaal Water Project, and located on the Nuwejaarspruit, a tributary of the Wilge River in the upper catchment area of the Vaal River. The dam receives its water via the Tugela-Vaal Project which is a pumped-storage scheme involving the net transfer of up to 630 million m3 of water from KwaZulu-Natal.
The Sterkfontein Dam was commissioned in 1977 and a full supply capacity of
2 616 900 megalitres. It has a surface area of no more than 70 km2. The circumsphere is aproxamitely 102 km. The dam wall contains 17 million m3 of material making it the largest dam wall in South Africa with regard to volume, while the reservoir formed by the dam is the third largest in the country.
The next stop is at the vulture restaurant used to be a place where fresh and poison free carcasses were put out to feed the vultures and it contribute to the survival of the birds especially during periods of food scarcity and when young birds fledge.
Our next stop is at Kerkenberg. The site is so named because the Voortrekker’s priest, Erasmus Smit, deemed the cluster of rocks at its base was worthy of a church. The heritage markers that can be visited are the Retief Klip, a stone engraved by the leader’s daughter Deborah on his birthday to commemorate the Boer’s successful land negotiations, and Retief Pass, the old wagon trail used by Piet Retief to descend into KwaZulu-Natal.
Next up is the Kaalvoet vrou. You can read all about the history of this monument on our blog spot. Kaalvoetvrou
A visit in this area will not be complete if you do not take the dirt road to Leon and Elsa. They share a passion for the beauty of the past and have established a farm museum.
We returned to the R74 and pass the Driekloof dam
We continue and reach the summit point of 1758 m above sea level of Oliviershoek Pass and is close to the most southerly arm of the Sterkfontein Dam.
The descent is gentle and enters a wide S-bed which straightens out at the 2 km point.
it is often used as an alternative route to Van Reenen’s Pass but for us it is a scenic alternative to the Northern Drakensberg. Interestingly, and to add a little history to the mix, it was along this area in October 1837, that Piet Retief and his trek party climbed the Drakensberg.
Thanks you for joining us on this wonderful scenic drive
We paid a visit to the Platberg Shellhole. It is believed that it was founded in 1928. The Shellhole lapsed rather towards the 1930’s. With the 2nd Great War there was as great influx of returned servicemen, all keen to carry on the true ideals of the Moth’s.
In 1962 the building in Stuart Street Harrismith was purchased as a Shellhole.
The Flag was hosted it waved in the slight breeze. The dark blue of the naval service, red for the army and light blue for the air force. The Tin Hat and lighted candle reminds of of the sun which rises and falls over the world’s battlefields, above all known and unknown graves.
Then you walk into the door and the emblem greets you.
The Shellhole is dedicated to preserve the military history and the people of Harrismith has donated to keep it updated. The display dates back from the Anglo Boer War to modern day war fare.
On the day of our visit the Shellhole was giving honor to the battle of El Alahmein that took place from 8 – 12 November 1942. During this battle more than 100 000 men were killed, wounded or taken prisoner. The Shellhole was decorated according to the theme.
During the war the Cartoonist, Bruce Bairnsfather’s Old Bill sketches boosted the moral at home and on the front line. The trench humour, cubby pipe-smoking British “Tommy” during the First World War. A weary Old Bill, pictured top left is also part of the Platberg Shellhole.
On the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month when the guns fell silent – we will remember
We all know about the poppies on Remembrance Day. In the spring of 1915, John McCrae was inspired by the sight of poppies growing in battle-scarred fields and he wrote that famous poem – Flanders Fields. After the First World War, the poppy was adopted a a symbol of Remembrance.
In Flanders Fields
by John McCrae, May 1915
In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.
The Platberg, the Free State’s own “Table Mountain”, overlooks the town of Harrismith. It literally means the flat-mountain; the 2377m high inselberg is a landmark & forms an imposing backdrop to the town. It is an extension of the eastern foothills of the Drakensberg Mountains. Its western slopes & the summit of the mountain are a nature reserve with a number of endemic/near-endemic alpine plants that are unique to the region. The reserve is also home to eland, black wildebeest, blesbok & mountain reedbuck.
In October Harrismith welcomes outdoor sports enthusiasts to the town to participate in one of South Africa’s toughest running events: the Platberg Marathon also known as the Platberg Mountain Race. The history of the race is legendary. In 1922 local residents, incensed by a remark from a British Major who disparagingly referred to the Platberg as “that little hill of yours”, challenged a soldier to a race to the summit in less than one hour. Major Belcher accepted, won the challenge & challenge & to this day his floating trophy is awarded to the first person to reach the Platberg’s summit top in what has become a prestigious & grueling cross-country race and is known as the Platberg Mountain Marathon. This arguably is the ‘toughest in the world’ route as it climbs approximately 600m in 5 kilometers to the summit of Platberg (2377m) The race is the oldest in South Africa, older than the Comrades Marathon.
Platberg’s altitude ranges from 1900m to 2394m. The surface area covers approximately 3000ha. The slopes are steep with numerous vegetated gullies and boulder green slopes below vertical cliffs that are 20m to 45m high. Waterfalls cascade down the southern cliffs after rain. A permanent stream arising from the Gibson Dam on the undulating plateau flows off the escarpment and cascades as a waterfall.
From a distance, Platberg appears to have a distinct flat top. However, once on the summit the plateau is found to be undulating, with rolling grass-covered slopes.
Platberg was known “Mount D’Urban” till about 1850. The name then changed to Taba’Nchu (Tafelberg) but the name Platberg stuck.
Woody patches of Leucosidea, Budleia, Kiggelaria, Polygala, Heteromorpha and Rhus shrubs, as well as the indigenous Mountain Bamboo Thamnocalamus tessellates, grow along the base of the cliffs. The shrub land vegetation is concentrated on the cool side of Platberg on sandstone of the Clarens Formation, in gullies, on screen slopes, mobile boulder beds, and on rocky ridges, Shrubs and trees also occur in a riparian habitat in the south-facing cleft, in which the only road ascends steeply to the summit. An occasional Yellow wood, a sad relic of the many that once flourished here, can be found.
There are a number of passes running through the mountain.
The longest and the easiest is the Donkey Pass. It was previously known as the Flat Rock Pass which leads up to the huge Robert Gibson Dam, ear the eastern end of the mountain. In the past farmers would hire grazing on the summit and the story is told of a tremendous storm which burst on the summit and caused a herd of some thirty cattle to move before it. As still heavier sheets of rain fell the animals quickened their pace in an effort to escape. Moving blindly towards the edge of the cliff they fell to their death on the rocks 200 feet below. As the leaders felt the irresistible pressure of those behind them.
The Donkey pass which was constructed in the early 1900’s using donkeys – which is where it got its name from, consists of two concrete strips, with a radical 3 km ascent. From the onset, due to its steepness, the Donkey Pass is only accessible via four-wheel drive vehicles & equipment. When you look back from the top, this pass beautifully frames the glittering Sterkfontein Dam & Drakensberg Mountains.
The acting Governor, HF Wilson and his sister came to plant the first trees and suggested that the plantation should be called the Alexandra Forest after the Queen. The suggestion was adopted but the name was never in general use it was better known as the Government Forestry. On this occasion tea was served in the area set aside for the nursery and for many years afterwards townspeople were allowed to make fires there and have picnics and move freely about the whole area.
Seeds of the trees came from the Cape, Transvaal Europe and the United State of America, Australia and from Paris, France. 38 varieties were planted. Within 3 years the whole area had been divided into 12 acre blocks with wagon roads between, fences had been put up, pipes or drains laid down and a dam made. By 1920 a quarter of a million trees had been planted in the streets, the Park, the Golf course and the commonage, at the Old Homestead, to the Gymkhana and the polo clubs and to the SA Railways.
In the early days picnics were very popular. Perhaps because houses were not very comfortable, and had few of the conveniences which today are considered essentials, the early inhabitants of the town found that one of their greatest pleasures was getting out-doors and going for picnics. Picnics were often arranged to the “Flat Rock” and people could climb to the Gibson Dam. Akkerbos, near the base of Donkey Pass, is a grove of oak trees that provided a picnic site during a Royal Tour by the British monarchy, including Elizabeth II in 1947.
The Gibson Dam and the Water pans on Platberg
An improvement by the British Military’s Royal Engineers helped to improve the supply of more water to the town. A dam on Platberg, built by the Royal Engineers, was named the Gibson Dam after Mr. Gibson, a member of the town board. The wall of the dam was subsequently raised three times thereby increasing its capacity to 540 million liters. The main water reservoirs were constructed in 1904 on the highest point on King’s Hill. Water was pumped from the stream which flows through the then Botanic Gardens. From the reservoir it flowed downhill to the buildings on King’s Hill. The reservoir foundation stone is seen between the two reservoirs.
The water supply of the town, which is always an important matter, was obtained from springs and surface water collected in the upland basins of the Platberg. The water flowed down the cliff through a deep Krantz and forms a clear mountain stream, which passed through bush and over basalt boulders to the town reservoirs. The large dam The Platberg dam with a wall 200ft long 9ft high and capable of impounding 120 million gallons of water was built by the Royal Engineers and completed in 1904. An account of 386GBP was presented to the council of Harrismith.
Blockhouse still stands guard over the Dams
Thanks to Biebie de Vos for his pictures of our beautiful mountain.
Thanks to Adam Truscott for the painting
Thanks to Dan Wessels for the beautiful fauna pictures.
Die brug oor die Wilgerivier by Swinburne is een van ons geskiedkundige provinsiale monumente waarvan baie min mense weet as gevolg van die bou van nuwe paaie. Dit staan ook bekend as The Border Bridge. Die grens tussen die Oranje-Vrystaat Republiek en die Britse kolonie van Natal was die Wilgerivier.
Tydens die vroeë dae het verkeer van transportryers toegeneem en is daar groot kapsie gemaak wanneer die Wilgerivier in vloed was en dit byna onmoontlik was om deur die rivier te trek. Daar is veral gekla oor die driwwe oor die Wilge-, Elands-, Cornelisriviere en Holspruit. Die destydse regering het twee bruê gebou.
Die een was te Swinburne en die ander was ongeveer 10km verder na Bethlehem. Die brug by Swinburne is op 23 Julie 1884 geopen. Die ander brug staan bekend as die Swalobrug. Ongelukkig vir die transportryers sou daar tolgeld gehef word vir die gebruik van die brug. Tolgeld is gehef tot 1905.
Friend newspaper mentioned the bridge as follows: “It is composed of three arches of thirty-tree feet 4 inches, and carries a roadway of eight feet wide, wit side walks of three feet each, to total breadth being sixteen feet. The approaches spread out gradually a thirty feet wide, are graveled with trap and iron-stone, and enclosed by a massive wooden fencing three feet six inches high. The parapets are solid stone capped by a handsome coping, and the whole structure is founded on solid sandstone foundation, one abutment partly resting also on a dyke running across the river.”
In daardie dae was die brug grootendeels deur die transportryers gebruik wat goedere vervoer het tussen die hawe in Natal en die goudvelde aan die Witwatersrand. Dit was ‘n brug wat noodsaaklik was vir “wielverkeer”.
Die publiek wat te voet of the perd gereis het, het steeds deur die vlakwater van die rivier gegaan om die tolgelde te vermy. Dit laat my nogal dink aan die alternatiewe paaie vandag waar daar ook nie tolgelde gehef word.
Ongelukkig het Rinderpes uitgebreek. Rinderpes is ‘n doodelike siekte onder beeste en die regering aan beide kante van die brug het die beweging van beeste beperk om verspreiding te verhoed. Die Transportryers het eenvoudig die Wilgeriver op ‘n veilige plek oorgesteek en die tolgeld en die verbod vermy.
Die wêreld gebruik van daardie dae – enige perd wat vier wit “stockings” gehad het kon die brug gratis oorsteek -was ook hier van toepassing Vier-wit-voet-perde het baie gesogd geword en natuurlik ‘n groot mark geopen.
Dan was daar die Trippens-Hoogverraadsaak. Hierdie saak waarin W Bramley, – lid van die Volksraad vir die dorp Harrismith, ‘n Hollander, ‘n argumenteerde aan die gang gesit wat die koerantskrywers van die dae oorvloedige stof van lang artrikels in die nuusblaaie gegee het. Die hele affêre het gespruit uit die wanbetaling van drie pennie se tolgeld vir ‘n perd wat agteraan ‘n transportwa vasgemaak was. Dit was weliswaar ‘n nietige oorsaak, maar groot beginsels in in die spel gebring. Bramley is beskou as “een bemoeizieke man die ziech gaarne omtrent verschillende zaken laat horen” Die insident wat aanleiding gegee het to die kabable was dat ‘n sekere James Day ‘n transportryer van Umgene, Pietermaritzburg met sy wa by die tolkek by Swinburne aangkom. Agteraan die wa was ‘n perd vasgemaak wat saam met die wa geloop het. Day moes 5/- betaal, maar het geweier om die drie pennies vir die perd te betaal. Hy en De Witt, die tolgaarder het woorde gehad en De Witte het hom op Harrismith gaan aangekla. Hierop het Parsons, die hoofkonstabel en Van den Bosch, die balju, Day die volgende dag agterna gesit en teen die helling van Drakensberg, aan Natal se kant aangetref. Hulle het hom versoek om terug te kom na Harrismith. Day het sy wa in die sorg van ander gelaat – daar was destyds ‘n kwaai rooiwater-epidemie onder die beeste en het heeltemal vrywillig met Parson en Van den Bosch na Harrismith gegaan. Hy het die Maandag in die hof verskyn, maar die saak is teruggetrek.
Op Saterdag het hy in aanaraking met Bramley gekom wat ‘n brief aan David Erskine – Koloniale Sekratris van Natal geskryf het. Die brief is deur Day geonderteken. Dit is by die poskatoor geregistreer vir versending na onder andere ook die Natal Colonist. Die brief het soos volg gelees:
“On 10th April I passed the toll at Wilge River and was abused by the toll keeper there by call me ——Engli8shman, who moreover did his utmost to provoke me to commit an assault. I paid 5/- toll money for my wagon and the amount due for a lead horse, I sen over from Munger’aross the river to the toll keeper, who, however returned the money and lodge a complaint against me for avoiding the payment and breach of the peace. In consequence of this a warrant was issued an my apprehension took place in Natal. Mr Webb of Harrismith was present. I was obliged to leave my wagon and charge of a coloured boy (the trail not coming off till Monday 14th April and beside the detention I stand great ri8sk in suffering heavy losses owing to the prevailing epidemic amongst cattle. As I believe a gross outrage has been committed on my person as on the Colony of Natal, I have the honour to place myself as a British subject under the protection of the Natal government and to request efficient steps may be taken to obtain redress of my wrongs and losses. You will perceive the warrant is not endorsed by a Natal magistrate and does not come under the extradition treaty.
Op dieselfde dag het Day, op ‘n voorskrif van Bramley, ‘n brief aan die redakteur van die Natal Colonist gerig waarin hy sê dat die brief nie gepubliseer moet word nie, want die saak is onttrek.
Meneer Day trek verder maar Bramley word gearrestreer. Word van hoogverraad aangekla. Bramley het ongevreer twee maande in die tronk gesit en is toe op borgtog van 1000 pond vrygelaat. Bradley het nie gaan lê nie hy het opjeksies teen die een landros gehad en ‘n ander moes die regbank opneem. Bradley het ook objeksies teen de van die jurie gehad. Hy word toe toe verhoor die uitslag waarvan was dat hy onskuldig verlaar word en ontslaan is.
Die brug is ook van groot belang gewees tydens die Suid Afrikaanse Oorlog waar dit deur die Boere sowel as Britte daarvan gebruik gemaak het.