Kowie Museum “Bins” Project

Kowie Museum “Bins” Project

Bins image
Examples of bins painted for Kowie Museum

Bins for Heritage Day
We want to add to the attraction of Port Alfred and to control litter, so we asked our friends to paint nineteen large bins in bright colours to mark Heritage Day 2018. Sunshine Juice donated the bins and we handed them out to schools, art clubs and individual artists to decorate in a “Heritage” theme.

The results have been outstanding! Cheerful, original and varied, they reflect the people of South Africa, typical activities, environmental and social issues, historic buildings, and more.

We would like people and businesses to buy the bins to use for rubbish and to brighten up their premises and the town. Jeremy Maclachlan will auction the bins on 20 September at “Harry Bs”, upstairs at the Ski-boat Club. It promises to be a fun event.

Join us for a social occasion so that you can have a good time and make a difference to our town. Please diarise the date!

More bins!
More bins for auction!
Golf Day Sponsors

Golf Day Sponsors

The Trustees of the Kowie Museum wish to thank the sponsors of our recent Golf Day at the Royal St Andrews Golf Course in Port Alfred.  The event brought in much needed funds for the museum which operates entirely on donations like these fine people and companies.

The sponsors on the Golf Day, in alphabetical order, were:

Albany Classic and Vintage Car Museum
Bargain Books
Bathurst Agricultural Museum
Bruce Yendall
Café Reset
Classics at the Castle
David Freeme Consulting Engineers
Graze by the River
Halyards Hotel & Spa
Harcourts Real Estate
Home Base
Jimmy Campbell
John Gie
Kenny’s Sports Bar
Kowie Veterinary Clinic
Laughton Amos
Leach Pharmacy
Let’s Go Tours
Lew Geffen Sotheby’s International
Multi Security
Neville Gordon
Pam Golding Properties
Pick ‘n Pay
RE/Max Kowie
Royal St Andrews Hotel
Richmond House Museum and Music Room
Standerwick Nursery
Stenden South Africa
Spur Tahoe and the Rosehill Cinema
Tim Ord
The Historic Pig ‘n Whistle Inn
The Wharf Street Brew Pub
2 The Public

Our sincere thanks to you all!

Trustees of the Kowie Museum

Heritage Bins Project

Heritage Bins Project

Bins being prepared
Bins being prepared for painting by local schools.

Museum volunteers on the Heritage Bins Project were kept busy recently sanding and painting the base coats on 44 gallon drums.  These will later be sold as a fundraiser for the museum. Once decorated, the bins will be positioned around Port Alfred as refuse bins, sponsored by local companies.

The drums are to be decorated by local schools and art groups as a way to include the community in the project and the theme is to be “Our Heritage”. Local artists and art teachers are encouraged to take part in this initiative to create awareness of the cultural diversity in our town.

The drums will be auctioned in September, around Heritage Day, and we hope that local businesses will support this initiative to make our town a cleaner and more colourful place.

Sport in the Kowie

Sport in the Kowie

The Kowie has a rich sporting history and to mark the recent Olympic year, 2016, the Kowie Museum has consolidated several existing exhibits with seven new displays on a Local Sports Wall. Tribute is paid to a wide range of sportsmen and women over a long period of history, from a 1902 photo of the Cuylerville cricket team in the Pineapple Tournament to a photo of young gymnasts from Nemato who have recently represented South Africa. Those who have achieved national colours are given special mention.

It is interesting to see how several family names keep recurring. The 1902 cricket photo has one Bradfield, three Timms and two Claytons. The 1952 photo has three Bradfield’s and one Clayton. In relatively more recent times Clinton Bradfield obtained South African colours in kneeboarding. Surfing is also represented by the MacGregor family who has produced four generations of competitive surfers. The Peterson and Marais families each include a father and son who have national colours for angling, and Lloyd and Margie Stephenson (husband and wife) both have Springbok colours for volleyball. Kowie also boasts a double Springbok in Tjaart Coetzee who gained his colours in amateur wrestling and u/23 rugby.

It is fitting that many of our locals who have represented South Africa have participated in fields related to water sports: rock and surf angling, board surfing, power boat racing and rowing. Then there is the account of young Kevin Anderson, who swam the English Channel in 1979 at the age of 12 and received a telegramme of congratulations from the Prime Minister of South Africa.

Historical sporting equipment on display includes a set of vellum ping-pong bats, an old leather golf bag and clubs and an antique set of four wooden lawn bowls. The now defunct Langholme Bowling Club is remembered.

Cricket and golf are still played in Port Alfred, but horse racing which took place on the ‘flats’ – now the Marina – and golf putting on the river bank, are no longer with us. – Joy Billing



The Museum is delighted to have recently acquired an old ship’s compass and an original watercolour painting of Thomas Berrington’s home on the Kowie east bank. We thank descendant Jon Green of Johannesburg for contacting curator Yvonne Surtees about this donation some months ago. The treasures arrived with notes compiled in 1934 by three generations of Berringtons: Ina Melvill, Sarah Ann Francis Berrington and Arthur Tozer Green.

Thomas Berrington, his French Huguenot wife Diana and their 7-year-old son Thomas had wanted to sail out with the 1820 settlers, but initially could not get a berth. A family of similar size was unable to travel at the last minute, so the three Berringtons went in their place, probably assuming the other family’s name until disembarkation.

Thomas Berrington traded between the West Indies and England so spent his life at sea. On one occasion his captain died and he had to get the ship back to England; the compass which brought this adventure to a safe end has now returned to Port Alfred! The Berringtons being settlers of means (Diana’s grand piano was the first one landed in Algoa Bay), they acquired prime parts of the east Kowie riverfront, ‘where the ships put off their cargo.’ The family thus gave Berrington’s Bay/Cove the name that is still used today.

Thomas Berrington’s compass


The watercolour painting shows the house and flagstaff made by Thomas Berrington himself. ‘The Jack was flown every time ships came into the river.  His house – where Cole’s Hotel later stood (1891/92)’ became Berrington’s Inn in 1834. It’s generally believed this was where The Lookout is today, although some say Berrington’s was a forerunner of the Victoria Hotel (now The Lodge). The Inn was burnt down in 1835, rebuilt the following year, destroyed again 1846 and again re-opened later that year. ‘The property was eventually abandoned by the Berringtons who moved to Sidbury after 1849.’

Berrington’s Inn

The artist and date are not known, but because Cock’s Castle (top left) is unaltered we know the painting dates from after 1840 but before 1876. 

See painting and Thos Berrington’s Captain’s compass at the Kowie History Museum

Fikile Bengu Senior Primary School Visit

Fikile Bengu Senior Primary School Visit

Fikile Bengu learners with the curator
Fikile Bengu learners with the curator

An excited group of 56 learners in grades 5 &6 and their teachers from the Fikile Bengu Senior Primary School, Mdantsane (East London) arrived in Port Alfred on Thursday. After a boat trip up the river they visited the Vintage Car Museum, and discovered something of the history of the town at the Kowie Museum. Amongst other things it was interesting to see the shrapnel cannon and they were fascinated by a very large stick insect, scorpion and tarantula, and the collection of egg cups. They learnt that this is the Ndlambe district, named after a Xhosa chief and enjoyed exploring the old station grounds. Well done to the teachers who organized this educational outing!

Learners with Xhosa model
Five friends
Interesting insects
A River Runs Through It … and other books

A River Runs Through It … and other books

The Kowie Museum, a repository of fascinating artefacts on various aspects of local history, also sports a small but excellent collection of books.

Some cover subjects of general interest: fish, seaweeds and shells found in Southern Africa, shipwrecks along our coastline, history and exploration in the Cape of Good Hope and the Eastern Cape, flora and fauna specific to this area, and the art and culture of the Xhosa people.

There are naturally many books on the 1820 Settlers, the history of the Lower Albany district, churches and missions. Family histories form an important part of the collection, as do books of old photographs, particularly of Grahamstown and Port Alfred.

One of the most interesting books of photographs is “A river runs through it” by Dr MC Erasmus. This is a significant selection of black and white historical (and some modern) photographs of Port Alfred, Lower Albany and some of the forts and outposts of the Eastern Cape. Originally a limited edition of only 100 copies, several additional copies were found recently, and these have been snapped up by local collectors. Only one of these remains for sale at the Museum, but it is hoped that we may be given permission to reprint this very popular book.

No more trains in Port Alfred but lots of history remains

No more trains in Port Alfred but lots of history remains

Port Alfred’s new railway station was the place to be on 24 December 1883 when the first train departed from the town heading for Waaiplaats amidst great fanfare.

Then, following the completion of the Blaauwkrantz Bridge, the first train to run all the way to Grahamstown, left Port Alfred on October 1, 1884.

And it was again amidst great fanfare when on May 11, 1993, 118 years later, that the last train, now no longer pulled by a steam engine but by a diesel locomotive, departed from Port Alfred.

Although the trains have gone from the station there are many reminders of the railway in the Kowie Museum, suitably exhibited in the old railway station.

The centrepiece of the collection is a model approximating the layout of the railway system in Port Alfred showing the track which led from the Nico Malan Bridge past the station to Bathurst and beyond.  In earlier days when steam locomotives provided the power, there was a triangle in the grounds allowing the locomotive to turn around to run forward on the return trip to Grahamstown.

The museum is lucky to have examples of signals, signs and lamps used on the railway as well as items from the carriages such as crockery and floor mats. There is a wide collection of documents and photographs from the years the railway operated, including the first steam engine to pull a train out of Port Alfred and pictures of the last train from the station.

The Blaauwkrantz Bridge disaster in 1911 is well documented with photographs, and articles.

In about 2001 for a few years there was a revival of the railway when the Kowie Chu Chu operated as a tourist attraction between Port Alfred and Bathurst.  Unfortunately, it has stopped operating.

If you are interested in railways there is plenty for you in the museum and you can stand on the platform and imagine days gone by with the 11 am from Grahamstown steaming into the station. – Mike Coleman.

Busy day at the Kowie Museum

Busy day at the Kowie Museum

March started with a buzz for the Kowie Museum as 20 El Shaddai Grade 4 learners and their teacher, Sophia Herselman, arrived at the station as the museum opened. The learners ran around the station excitedly exploring the platform and buildings, exclaiming at the thought that a train once ran on the railway lines. Some of them did not know that a station existed in Port Alfred.

Then into the museum they came, to discover the early days of Port Alfred and how it has had three names, Port Alfred being the last.  They were ‘introduced’ to Chief Ndlambe, after whom the municipality is named, and learnt why the Nemato township is so called.

They studied the pictures on how the piers were built at the entrance to the river by big cranes called the Hercules and the Goliath, and heard about the bridges across the river and how the land on which the Marina now stands once held a swimming pavilion and cricket ground. It was fascinating to discover the use of items of days gone by; chamber pots before the luxury of indoor toilets; bed-warming pans before hot water bottles; moustache teacups made especially for men in those days.

They particularly enjoyed the model of the station and were amazed to hear that a local 12-year-old had swum from England to France across the English Channel.  At the end of a brief tour of the museum, they were able to explore independently and then answer a 15 question quiz on what they had discovered.  The staff enjoyed the excitement as much as they did! “We would like to encourage more schools in the area to include the museum as an educational outing for their learners,” curator Yvonne Surtees said.

At the same time, the museum hosted a SAMA (South African Museum Association) meeting which continued sedately in the cool shade of the platform on one of the hottest days to hit Port Alfred. Committee members came from the East London, King Williams Town and Grahamstown museums, and the Kowie Museum was very happy to host them once again.

In addition, there were several overseas visitors who arrived through the morning, making this a most worthwhile day!

General news from Kowie Museum

General news from Kowie Museum

The Kowie Museum recently, on a cold, blustery evening, held their AGM in the elegant setting of the Richmond House Museum.

The weather kept many people indoors, but after some initial concern a quorum was reached and a successful meeting was held, leaving no doubt that the museum is forging ahead and in a very healthy position despite limited finances.

The new committee elected for 2016-2017:

Chairman: Rob Crothall, Secretary: Heather Howard, Treasurer: Gwynn Crothall

Members: Joy Billing, Mike Coleman, Erika Freeme, Sue Gordon, Hennie Marais, Mitch Ramsay and the Curator, Yvonne Surtees, ex Officio.

New members Gwynn and Erika were welcomed to the team. Gwynn has extensive experience in corporate librarianship and Erika has worked in the education field for many years.

The very committed and enthusiastic team is led by Rob, who has a vision for the future and who is backed by experienced, talented and capable people.

Juan Southey has very kindly agreed to audit the museum’s finances pro bono, and the committee is very grateful to him.

New Website

Hennie Marais has been working very hard on a total overhaul of the museum’s website and this has just been launched. It has a fresh, contemporary look in keeping with the committee’s aim to be moving with the times.

At the same time interest in the museum’s Facebook page is growing so please ‘like’ us on Facebook and let your friends and family know.

Sports Display

A new, local sports display is in progress and the first three frames are up thanks to Joy Billing who has added her stylish touch to the panels.

With the Olympics just behind us, we plan, in the last panel, to honour all the sportsmen and women from the Albany/Ndlambe district who have represented their country in any sport through the ages. 

Curator, Yvonne Surtees, made a call to the public to assist the committee in doing so. “We are calling on the public to help us find them,” she said.

Please contact the Curator or Joy Billing if you know of any Springboks or sportsmen with national colours from this area, past or present. The committee’s aim is to not leave anyone out!

This is proving to be a very exciting search and it’s amazing what have already been found.

Contact Yvonne by email on curator(Replace this parenthesis with the @ sign)kowiemuseum.co.za 

Visitors’ Statistics

Despite entry numbers being slightly down on last year visitors from around the country and many from overseas popped in, all of whom have been very complimentary. The dolls’ house, which is on loan until January, has elicited much interest. 

Through actively engaging with Tourism visitors are informed about the museum and are encouraged to discover the history of the town.

Recently a ladies’ group from Kenton-on-Sea paid a visit to the museum and had a talk by the Curator after which they enjoyed the tea they had brought with them, on the platform.  “We would like to encourage such groups to plan similar outings to the station. Visits can be arranged out of normal opening hours,” Surtees said.

Of course, educational outreach is still a priority and will be possible once funding for transportation was found.

Technology Issues

Mike Coleman has been kept busy keeping the technological side of things going. It seems there is always a problem somewhere when equipment is old! Currently, the desk computer has given in and Mike is trying to resuscitate it.

Basil Clark donated an unused laptop to pick up the revolving display of old photos of Port Alfred which was on the now defunct desk computer. These photos always interest visitors. The Crothalls have also very kindly donated a brand new laminator which will be of great assistance in the museum. “We are most grateful,” Surtees said.

Residents who are in the process of replacing their computer equipment are requested to kindly consider donating the old ones to the museum.

Desk Helpers

The museum could not function without the support of the desk helpers. This team is always willing to go the extra mile and help out when needed. Sadly, Theresa Coetser has decided to retire from the museum to make way for other involvements. She has been a loyal helper for 18 years. In her charming, quiet way she has made visitors feel welcome and warmly engaged with them. Her dedication is enormously appreciated.

Linda de Kock and Lesley Futter have volunteered to take over her duties. “We thank them.  We hope they will find it an enjoyable way to make new and interesting discoveries,” Surtees said. 

Surtees who will be visiting the USA and be away for six weeks said, “As Curator I am particularly indebted to the ladies who have held the reins when I have been away and to those who will take over when I travel to the States for six weeks in September to visit my daughter. Thank you all very much!”

A River Runs Through It

Two copies of Dr Mike Erasmus’s book “A River Runs Through It” is still available at the museum. It contains a vast collection of rare, historic photos and information on Port Alfred and surrounds. Dr Erasmus took four years to complete it and only 110 copies were printed. This makes it a true collector’s item and well worth R700 which might at first seem an expensive purchase

Become a Friend of the Museum

The Committee appeals to all residents to join the Museum and, in doing so, support the ongoing preservation of the history of our area.

Membership can be obtained annually at R60 p.a. or Life Membership for a once-off R600.

Paid up annual members are entitled to free entrance to the museum, use of the library and Morse Jones cards for research.

Life members and their spouses have free entry to the museum for life and permanent free access to the library and Morse Jones cards.

The more you know about the past, the better prepared you are for the future – Theodore Roosevelt