Introduction

Umbogintwini as most of us knew is the anglicized version of the Zulu word Mbokodweni or eZimbokodweni for the “river where round stones are collected” i.e. as used in grinding corn. The anglicized version was in any case too long for most with the name being abbreviated to Twini. My cousin from Durban, who also lived for a short period in the village, further abbreviated the name (tongue in cheek) to MBog. In the same way adjoining areas of Amanzimtoti to the south and Isipingo to the north were usually abbreviated to Toti or Pingo. By comparison adjoining Athlone Park retained its full name.

My name is Ken Grubb and I lived in Twini village between 1955 and 1975. I felt the need to put pen to paper after recently googling an “aerial image of Umbogintwini” and was shocked to see that the village area has been almost totally obliterated by new works including high density residential units, shopping centres and commercial works. Other than the remaining parts of Chamberlain and Oppenheimer Road, it looks like the area has been written out of history. The Jubilee Hall and war memorial, formerly opposite the corner of Oppenheimer and Highbury Roads, have even been demolished although the Catholic church cemetery is still in place. The 18 hole golf course is now covered with shopping centres. Also I could not find any composite information on the village which gave me further motivation to produce this article. Even the museum that had been established in the early 2000s appears to have vanished.

I moved to Highbury Road in 1955 when my father got a job at Kynochs, as it was still referred to until the 1960s. Growing up in Twini would fulfil most boys’ dreams with all the outdoor activities from ‘bundu bashing’ to catching karanteen off the rocks at low tide at Twini Beach. Collecting was almost a Victorian way of life whether it was stamps, coins, butterflies, birds and even snakes. The village, being almost a self-contained entity, was probably the last vestige of that classic village lifestyle of old. Everything seemed more or less as it was in my time, even up to the last of my regular visits to Twini in 2002 when I took some photographs of Highbury Road. If I had known. what devastation was to follow I would have taken many more photographs around the village.

After Umbogintwini Primary School I went to the Kingsway High School of old in Doonside then completed my compulsory military training in the South Africa Air Force in 1971 before completing my first degree in Geology at the University of Natal. My wife Tricia and I decided to make a move to Brisbane Australia in 1981 having watched a movie set on Hayman Island on the Barrier Reef. We selected Brisbane because it is roughly on the same latitude as Durban  –  amazing logic. Not knowing anyone in Brisbane, we now look back at the optimism of our youth. Anyway my qualifications and engineering geology experience held us in good stead so we made quick headway in our new land. I obtained a Masters in Applied Science at Queensland University of Technology in 1989 and then got registration as a Professional Engineer in Queensland and a Chartered Professional Engineer in Australia in the same year, having being the first geologist to my knowledge to obtain the Queensland accreditation. I subsequently set up Moreton Geotechnical Services P/L (www.moretongeotech.com.au), which has been operating for 32 years, and now specialises in building over abandoned coal mines in the Ipswich region. Our three kids are all true blue and all have completed degrees and are moving on with their own lives.

My memories covered below, which are in no particular order, are far from comprehensive and are planned to be updated from time to time. For this reason I have left a blog at the end for others from the Twini area who are interested in adding to my story and supplying photos if possible. Hopefully my article will also bring back many memories for others.

Names where applicable have been restricted to first names to protect the privacy of those mentioned unless subsequent permission is given to include surnames. The spelling of some Zulu names in particular are not necessarily correct as I have used the letters to produce the nearest English pronunciation. Both imperial and metric measurements have been used.

Finally the information below is based on my recollections as well as information from books, internet references and other sources that I have generally provided throughout my article.

Topography and Geology

Twini is located on an ancient sand dune subparalel to the coastline at between 80m and 90m above sea level. The material in the dune sand was laid down up to 2.5 million years ago and originally comprised four main components, i.e. well rounded quartz grains, shell fragments, some feldspar grains and iron–rich grains. The shell fragments were subsequently leached out with time, the feldspar weathered into clay and the iron rich grains ‘rusted’ to give the red colour that we know, also the name Berea Red Sand. It is this iron-rich clayey sand soil, together with the sub-tropical rainfall, that gives the luxuriant natural vegetation and good gardens. The Berea Red Sand is underlain by sedimentary Ecca Shale which was laid down approximately 300 million years ago and generally not visible in the village area. The shale is in turn underlain by the Dwyka Tillite formation from an ice age approximately 350 million years ago. The tillite is visible along the banks of the Twini River near the old road bridge crossing.

Beach rock is by comparison a very young rock formed where high shell concentrations have been ‘dumped’ close the shore line. I was amazed on one occasion at Twini beach to find a rusted penknife in solid shell beach rock, the leaching shells from the subtropical rainfall having formed the cement to ‘glue’ all the pieces together!

Another very modern ‘rock’ that I discovered was around a spring in the deep valley area near the factory’s Indian village. A large volume of crystal clear, but iron-rich, water exited from a vertical hole near the base of the steep slope. Rain water percolating down through the red sands carried the iron with it. The iron content on exposure to air rapidly hardened over all the leaf matter to form an ironstone with ‘fossil’ leaves.

Natal Pre-European Settlement

The area of Twini has been inhabited since the early stone age i.e. more than 250,000 years ago. Natal pre-European habitation has extended through the stone age to the iron age up to 1824 AD with the inland Duma San ‘bushmen’, and coastal Khoi hunter gather ‘strandlopers’, being present for thousands of years. The ancestors of the Zulus, i.e. the Nguni-speaking agro-pastoralists apparently arrived in the area about 800 – 1000 years ago. Bartholomeu Dias sailed around the tip of Africa in the 1480s, Vasco de Gama landed on the Natal coast in 1497, Jan van Riebeeck established a permanent Dutch settlement at Cape Town in 1652 and in 1824 the proper settlement of Durban, 23 km to the north east of Twini, commenced.

The book titled “Southern Land” by A.R. Willcox gives good coverage of South African life from millions of years ago, through the cultures in the stone and iron ages, and then up to coastal voyages around parts of African from as early as 600 BC with other voyages and human movement into European settlement times.

My own contact  with the ancient history of Twini came to the fore in the mid-1960s as a teenager when electrification of the railways involved the removal of the original road bridge to the factory and excavating downwards about 10 – 15m from original ground level to form the banks mainly on the western side.  I would scramble across the bright red exposed sandbank to collect a large range of artifacts including a stone grinder, stone axes, a lovely quartzite scraper that fitted perfectly into the palm of my hand, as well as plenty of clay pottery. No matter how hard that I collected I was never able to form a complete pot when sticking the pieces together. Drilled ostrich shell  small discs and even irregular shaped glass beads for necklaces or similar were found in the upper levels with the full zone comprising about 5m to 10m down from about 2m below ground level. The burnt out vertical charcoal ‘posts’ of a kraal were also exposed in the bank. I presumed that my deepest finds were of middle to late stone age, i.e. between 25,000 and 180,000 years of age. The glass beads in the upper levels probably went back to the 1700s or 1800s. There was no slag (left over from the production of iron) at that location however a large amount of slag became exposed close to the surface when the sports field, near the later Dickens Road bridge crossing of the railway line, was excavated. That near surface location was probably a late iron age production facility, probably of 1600 to 1800 AD vintage. Excavations for the ‘Surfview’ units above the beach at “Windy Corner” in Athlone Park in the late 60s also exposed extensive shell middens with a range of implements including a small cylindrical indurated shale implement (possible snuff grinder) and a broken bone implement about 100mm long resembling a knife blade and believed to be for prizing flesh out of opened shellfish

The factory

The factory and village came about as a result of Mr Arthur Chamberlain (uncle of British PM Neville Chamberlain) seeing an opportunity to supply explosives to the South African gold mines at a cheaper rate than he could supply from the Kynochs factory in Arklow in Ireland. Mr Kynoch had resigned by then and Mr Chamberlain became Chairman. The Natal Government in 1907  (prior to Union in 1910) granted the company a lease on 1,400 acres (566 hectares) of land  Twini which was originally part of a reserve.

The factory, originally known as Kynochs Ltd, was set up to produce explosives as well as chemicals including nitric and sulphuric acid needed in the production of the explosives. The factory came into production in 1908. The name changed to African Explosives and Industries in 1924 before the ramping up of the production of explosives during WWII when the Royal Navy maintained a presence when purpose-built double storey houses for the officers were constructed, with some porthole windows on the lower levels, in Highbury Road.

The production of phosphatic fertilizer became progressively more important until that component of manufacture passed to the Modderfontein plant in the 1960s, by which time (1966) the operation had become known as African Explosives and Chemical Industries, one of the many subsidiaries of the Anglo American empire. The nitrogen plant, the tioxide plant and the perspex plant also came into production in the late 1960s. The factory remained under the single AECI umbrella in those days. Messrs Flack, Rice, Pike and Inggs were the factory managers during my time.

Explosions at the factory were not uncommon and on one occasion a monkey also jumped into the sub-station resulting in a huge flame and explosion that shook the whole district. The weekly air raid siren fire practice, which could be heard throughout the village, was quite spine-chilling. Tanker loads of sulphuric acid going to Saicor at Umkomaas for the production of rayon were a regular sight along Oppenheimer Road beyond the bottom of our garden and the calendars supplied to employees in the 1960s were high quality prized items.

The South Coast Sun supplement of 3 July 2008, covering 100 years of the Umbogintwini Industrial Complex, provides some interesting further information on the factory and village. The supplement includes a photograph of the staff house in the village.

Reference:  South Coast Sun, 3 July 2008

The village

Mr Warner, interestingly a land surveyor from Brisbane, was contracted from Australia to lay out the factory and village. Mr Warner’s residence (after the house that had been built for him in Twini) was a farm in what we now know of as Warner Beach. Multiple generations of the Warner family to this day in Queensland have become land surveyors.

Twenty three men and their families from the Kynochs factory in Arklow, near Dublin in Ireland, moved to the area from 1908 to assist with the construction of the Twini factory with the men living outside of Twini until the first houses were built. Some of the earliest families included Scorer, Weller and Hughes. Pioneer and later families included Kelly, O’Brien, Johnston, Roach and others. The split between the Republic of Ireland and North Ireland in 1922 had as yet not taken place. In May 1910, the first white child in Twini was born to Mr and Mrs Cutler.  Interestingly my recent detailed ‘Y’ DNA test results have revealed that my male line go back to ancient times in Ireland, i.e. around 6,000 – 7,000 years ago. This was a revelation as I know my great grandfather arrived in Durban in the 1870s. Prior to that the men in my Grubb line came from Macclesfield in England and prior to that Dublin in Ireland in the 1700s having all been in the silk weaving industry – see www.frederickwilliamgrubb.com.

Highbury Road, which was the first road for residential construction in the village, became the focus of the earliest amenities buildings and residences. Additional residences and amenity buildings were constructed as the village expanded with Chamberlain Road becoming the next road for development. The name ‘Highbury’ must have had some significance to those early Irish migrants as the other road names are connected to company executives or company managers.


Highbury Road – looking north from near the Jubilee Hall, 2002.

Construction ranged from the early iron-clad on stumps type, to semi-detached single storey with underfloor ventilation, to more modern single storey slab on ground construction as well as double storey construction including for the Royal Navy houses and two small unit blocks. The “new village” as it was known was constructed in the late 50s and early 60s. Some new single storey houses in Highbury Road, constructed in the early 60s, comprised the more modern slab on ground construction. The double storey “staff” house, originally built for Mr Chamberlain, was subsequently modified for visiting personnel as well as for business lunches. The variable residential architecture, over about 55 years, represented the different eras and development phases of the factory.

African policemen, with their knobkerries, would regularly patrol the village to ensure that the ‘tsotsis’ and ‘skebengas’ did not cause problems.

The village appears to have essentially remained unchanged until December 2004 when 90 hectares comprising the village and golf course was sold to Keystone Investments for their Arbour Town Development.

My sketch above shows much of the village layout and location of its structures as I recall these. The main road access to the village, before the construction of the N2 highway, was via Kingsway and Oppenheimer Road. Oppenheimer Road extended through the village and then via Kynoch Road across the old rail bridge to the time office being the main entry gate to the factory. Pardies service station, the second post office, Theos Supermarket, a butcher and bottle store were located along Oppenheimer Road between Cocking Road and Chamberlain Road. Mr Suddards and then Mr Green were the proprietors of Theo’s Supermarket in my time. St Johns Church was located near the corner of Oppenheimer and Chamberlain Roads with the Jubilee Hall and war memorial being located on the south side of the intersection of Oppenheimer and Highbury Road. The entry to the railway station was (and still is) a short distance further along. After crossing the old railway bridge into Kynoch Road and towards the time office there was the original post office and main electricity substation on the north (right hand) side and Bjorseths original trading store (subsequent distribution centre) on the left. A weatherboard residence on stumps was also located behind the original post office along the track that followed the railway towards Durban where the dairy was located. This was the only residence located across the railway from the village. Napier fodder (a very tall sugarcane-like cattle feed grass) also occupied the old dairy grounds, the napier fodder being regularly used by coucals to make their round ball-like nests about 5 foot off the ground. The time office prevented public access into the factory grounds however Kynoch Road continued onwards past the sports field on the right and the hospital on the left. Further along the road again was the Indian village on the left and further along and downhill was the sewerage works near the head of the steep sided poorly drained valley on the right which we called the “swamp”. The road then continued downhill to the African sports field and the road bridge over the Twini River. Beyond the bridge, and all through the floodplain to later Prospecton, were sugar cane fields with the Orient club on a hill north of the bridge.

A very steep high bare clay bank on the river side of the Orient Club was the location of many birds nest holes including European rollers, bee-eaters and sand martins. Sakabulas (long tailed widow bird) were a common sight in the cane fields and I even found a black-backed Sisticola nest, with eggs, in the cane stubble close to the ground. Their beautiful uniform glossy brick red eggs are possibly the only birds in the world with red eggs.  A hilly area between the bridge and Orient Club (western side) also became a motorbike scramble track which drew crowds from miles around at the weekend. The annual burn-off of the sugarcane leaves resulted in large black smoke clouds and lots of ash at our place when the north easterly winds were blowing. That pollution differed a lot from the white powder that ended up on our verandah at regular intervals when the land breeze was blowing. Our veranda had to be regularly swept and polished as a result. More than 100 youngsters of various age groups and eras lived in and around Highbury Road in my time so there were always a lot of social interactions, perhaps a lot more written memories could follow mine? The Whitely family were one of the families who lived in our road. Mr Jimmy Whitely had a ‘skiffle band’ and they set up a session one night in a garage across the road from our place when the Bakers lived there. The Whiteleys were however more well known for the father, mother and four girls all having names that started with the letter ‘J’. Another lad by the nickname of “Eggy” who lived in the same house after the Whiteleys left, got a lot of attention when his Dad flew back to England in the mid-60s with S.A.A. in a Boeing 707, such were the developments in flying when the average person could travel quickly in style and not have to catch the mail boats.

My place

I lived at 12 Highbury Road with my parents and two brothers and my sister Jenny who was born at the Twini hospital, the rest of us having been born in Durban. In the early 1970s the street numbering was changed for some reason when our house was renumbered 18.


Numbers 16 and 18, previously 10 and 12, Highbury Road. 2002.

Our house was one of the first houses completed around 1910. Our house was very centrally located to most facilities being within 10 minutes or less walk of Pardie’s service station, Theo’s store, the bottle shop and butcher, both the old and new post offices, the Jubilee Hall, tennis courts, swimming pool, squash courts, library, club house, golf course, Bjorseth trading store, railway station, sports field and hospital. The Catholic, Anglican and Presbyterian Churches were also within close proximity. An Indian ‘sammy’ with a basket at either end of a sliced bamboo trunk slung over his shoulders would regularly walk around the village selling fresh produce. By the mid-60s however he had made enough money to do his rounds with a Toyota ‘bakkie’. A very regal Indian fellow would also come around to do haircuts for the kids sitting on chairs in the garden. This service was later displaced by Johnny Johnson who after work had a barber’s room in the distribution office, i.e. original Bjorseth store near the time office. Chemist deliveries were made from Newman’s in Toti by an African bloke on his bicycle, which was also the mode of transport for the ice-cream man and many of the boys going to Kingsway High school at Doonside i.e. for those that didn’t want to catch the train. Incidentally boys’ high school education in my day included rifle practice at the school range close to the double storey classrooms, all under the watchful eye of Mr Brunner. One high school bloke by the name of Bert would head towards the station in the morning only to often detour into a large tree in the nature strip at the bottom of our garden. He would wait for both his parents, who worked at Kynochs, to drive over the railway bridge before heading back home across the road from our place, to catch up with his girlfriend and play Elvis music!

Anyway our house was a semi-detached three-bedroom rendered brick house with the floor positioned about 3 foot above the ground with some wide undercroft access openings for ventilation purposes. The roof over a 10 foot high ceiling comprised corrugated asbestos. A verandah, with double French type doors, fronted the road with two other entry/exit side doors to the garden via the kitchen and rear of the house. The kitchen originally had a separate pantry room which was subsequently demolished to produce a larger kitchen. The chain-activated toilet, or lavatory as we knew it, was originally a small outhouse contemporary room attached to the house. A new modern type toilet was constructed over the rear garden steps (which were extended) in the mid 60s to provide all weather enclosed access with the house.  The renovations and maintenance of our house, including regular painting every five years or so, was carried out by the company.

Our garden appeared to be huge but in reality it was probably a quarter or third acre lot, with a Cape Honeysuckle fence fronting the shorter boundary to the road, an Australian Myrtle (Lillypilly) fence down the full length of the northern boundary, a Bougainvillea fence down the full length of the southern boundary and a three strand wire fence at the lower end fronting the nature strip above Oppenheimer Road. The land sloped gently to the lower rear boundary before steepening up through the nature strip. Our very long serving housemaid, by the name of Vieena, had her kiah at the bottom left hand side of the garden. Our long term garden man was Gobess, who was replaced by Phineas when Gobess passed away, both travelling daily to our house for work during the weekdays.  We also had chicken runs, bird cages and greenhouses in our garden. My Dad started with the run of bird cages and then got into collecting gems and making jewellery. I still have part of the gem collection in a nice mahogany cabinet with the old ultraviolet light removed. My Dad and brother Clive were however mainly into flowers and orchids in later times. Breeding and selling tropical fish and doing student work at the bottle store paid my university fees.

We had a wonderful garden which had views out towards the cooling towers at the old power station at Pinetown to the north, “table top” mountain beyond the large fertilizer shed in the factory to the west and we could also see the smoke from the steam engines over the trees for a long way towards Toti. Our garden included a large makushla tree (with big lucky beans) and a flat crown tree at the front gate, as well as two large mango trees and five very large avocado trees, as well as other native and exotic fruit trees including peach, guava, mulberry and macadamia nuts (which we always knew as Queensland nuts), also bananas, grenadillas (passionfruit) grapes etc. The avos were of two original varieties with elliptical or round fruit with the fruit regularly being over half a kilogram each. The avo variety currently sold in Queensland is not much larger than the size of the pip of our avos of old. The round avos, which we called “butter pears” were our favourites as the fruit was smooth like cheese or butter, whereas the elliptical pears tended to be a bit stringy. The excess round pears, similar in size to bowls, also had the benefit of being able to play bowls with, such were the wasteful conditions that we as kids never appreciated at the time. A high horizontal branch on one of our avo trees also provided good anchor points for our well–used swing. We gained a lot of interest from neighbours one season when a watermelon vine grew up our large mulberry tree with the result that full grown watermelons were hanging like large Christmas decoration balls up to 8 to 10 feet off the ground. Our mangoes were also in demand by the local Indian community, particularly the green ones which were either sliced and eaten with salt or used to make chutney. For a number of years we also had wild spinach growing around our lower fence line. An old Indian bloke used to collect the spinach in big hessian sacks and within a few days he would return with delicious large homemade samoosas with spinach filling. These were always gladly anticipated.


18 (previously 12) Highbury Road, from the rear, 1962

For good international reception my Dad stretched a thin copper wire from our solid state radio for about 30m through two of the avocado trees in the garden, so that we could get “Voice of America” and listen to the count-downs for the space launches from Cape Canaveral.

Guy Fawkes night on 5 November each year was excitedly anticipated at our place. My Uncle Ted would buy boxes of fireworks from his Chinese shop owner friends in Durban and bring these out to our place. Kids, and some adults, from the whole area would come around to take in the fun. We would have a great time with sparklers, squibs, big bangs, roman candles, spinners and rockets. The rockets, including on one occasion one with a clear plastic cylinder with a space man located at the top of the rocket, would be fired off to great heights. Extra fun was also had early the following day to see who could find the left over rocket sticks.

Other activities at different times at our place included making blow pipes, catapults (slingshots) and crossbows, whereas others were into major projects such as making ferro-concrete boats e.g. by Mike and his brother at the end of McGowan Road, where a huge hull was propped up next to their house. Blowpipes were made using different length curtain brass pipe with the darts simply being a pin with a piece of cotton wool for short pipes, or golf tees carefully trimmed for a perfect fit into the pipe with the front comprising a small nail as the point for the long pipes. The reach and accuracy of the long pipes would have made the Amazon Indians proud! Guava branch prongs were best for our catapults and the crossbows were very accurate for 20m or more.


Number 26 Highbury Road (previously number 20), 2002

My good friend John,  from Railway Road, and I had plenty of fun and adventures collecting wild orchids as far away as Shongweni waterfall as well as collecting all sorts of other things and breeding bantams and tropical fish etc. We even built in-ground fish ponds using bricks at both our places. Little did we realise at that time how aggressive cement was on our bare hands, that resulted in the skin on our hands peeling for days afterwards. To this day John has maintained an interest in plants, now having a magnificent bonsai collection of commercial scale. During some of the Christmas holidays we would travel overnight by train with his Mom and sister Su to stay with his relatives in Kroonstad or on his Uncle’s mealie farm named “Doornhoek” near Welkom. Amazingly as 15 year olds we even hitchhiked 300 km each way from Kroonstad to Kimberley to stay with another of John’s cousins and to visit the famous ‘big hole’ at Kimberley. July 20th 1969 also holds good memories when John and I sat on the steps outside my bedroom in the night looking at the moon in the vain hope of seeing a satellite land on or leave the moon during the first moon landing.  Walking to John’s house along Railway Road on hot summer afternoons was an eye opener. The fine grass clippings from the bowling greens above, which had been thrown over the red earth bank along the edge of the road, would start smouldering and smoking without any human assistance. It was only years later that I heard the expression ‘spontaneous combustion’ where the sun’s heat alone triggered the burning. That section of bank was the same place where I dug out small clusters of muscovite mica, i.e. a transparent flaky mineral used for insulation purposes.

Macoyas, i.e. wild mushrooms, would pop up magically under the thorn trees in the nature strip below our garden, during and after thunderstorms. These mushrooms, to the size of saucers, would come out of nowhere in an hour or so. There would always be a mad rush to be the first to get to the mushrooms as all the locals would also be on the look out. Anyway the sliced pieces fried in butter generated a smell like steak and a delicious taste.

In 1966 I planted our Christmas pine tree that had become too big for our house. On my last visit to Twini in 2002 the tree soared far above the other trees as shown in my earlier photograph. This tree would have been an easy location marker for my place in the event that the house and surrounds had not been demolished.

Garden Creatures

Some creatures in our garden included birds, bats, snakes, moles, shrews, chameleons, frogs, giant snails, shongalolos (long black millipedes), click beetles, cicadas and the unwelcome termites.

We had a vast array of birds in our garden and around the village. Paradise fly-catchers, barbets, sunbirds, weavers, yellow-eyed canaries, drongos, woodpeckers, Narina Trogons and the list goes on. Because we had bird cages all the locals would bring injured or orphaned birds for us to look after. One orphan was a baby African Hoopoe that I fed until it was able to walk. I then had the task of working out how to teach it to feed, knowing that these birds would walk along the ground and probe their long beaks into the soil to catch worms. Anyway I got it to follow me, with the bird walking on the ground and me pushing my index finger into the sand. Much to my excitement I found that the Hoopoe copied me and in no time was able to distinguish whether there were one or two worms in the hole, going back for a second grab when appropriate. The Hoopoe stayed in my room and would fly in and out through the window for about two weeks before it decided that it was time to go permanently.

Piet our pied crow was another example of an injured bird brought to our house. He was found with a broken wing on the side of a road somewhere, so my dad made a lovely cage out of a large cable drum placed about 5 foot off the ground on a steel pole. Some of the outer cylinder planks made a door, other outer planks were removed and replaced with bird wire with some of the inner cylinder planks removed for a night time sleeping place. Piet stayed with us from 1962 to 1975 in Twini then moved with us until 1978 in Toti before some other good person took him off our hands when we moved again. The cable drums in various forms also came in very handy for other uses. Some of the cable drums had metal internal cylinders rather than wood slats. Anyway my Dad made a great six foot diameter garden table under one of the avocado trees by removing the outer perimeter wood slats and one of the wooden ‘wheels’ and then burying the metal inner cylinder vertically into the ground with the remaining wooden ‘wheel’ as the table top.

Catching birds was a regular pastime, whether it was by walk-in traps with pull strings or caller traps, using bird lime (a sticky bubble gum-like substance made from mistletoe berries) or even spraying with a hosepipe, usually for escaped budgies. Green twinspots, lavender finches and swee waxbills were the main interest although rooibekkies and others were trapped as far away as in the sugar cane fields. The birds were either swapped or sold to blokes that came from as far away as Jo’burg.


Oppenheimer Road and nature strip near the entry to the station, 2002

Twini was alive with snakes. Mr. Blewett, who was factory manager from 1922 to 1928 and is mentioned in the 100 year South Coast Sun article, stated “since I first worked at Umbogintwini I have tramped many miles in all parts of Africa, but no other place I know has had anything like as many snakes as that area on which the factory was built”. The same applied in my time with red-lipped heralds and house snakes being the most common, but green and black mambas, boomslangs, night adders, egg eaters, sand snakes, Natal black snakes, cobras and others being everywhere. Our neighbour Ken P. got me started with snake collecting. On one occasion Ken came over to our place with a black snake around his neck like a necklace, which we kids naturally also took turns at doing. It was only after Ken went to the snake park on Durban Beach that Mr Simmons let him know that his ‘pet’ was a Natal black snake and apparently one of the most poisonous snakes in the province. The water meters in the road were the best place for catching snakes as the finger hole permitted the snakes to enter the buried pit box and either catch frogs or to rest for the day or night. On one occasion Mr Wise, from 20 (subsequently 26) Highbury Road, sent his garden boy up to our place for me to come and help with a snake that they had found in their large paper bag with chicken food. For the one and only time in all my snake catching time, my Dad instinctively decided to also go down (with our trusty Gecado 27 air rifle) to see what was going on. The bag had been placed in the middle of the lawn and the scrunched up top had partially opened. Nothing could be seen until my Dad approached the bag, and when about 10 feet away, the flared head of a Rinkals cobra came momentarily out of the top of the bag and spat venom across my Dad’s right cheek  –  the snake having aimed purely on the basis of vibrations from his feet moving across the ground towards the bag. Needless to say that bag was peppered with lead pellets from a distance and the dead 4 foot cobra was eventually retrieved. The big issue here is that my Dad and I could have been permanently blinded in one or both eyes due to the toxicity of the venom.

Three types of bats were seen. The most common were the small insect-eating bats which would sleep in the newest vertical cylindrical banana leaves during the day. We would catch them by placing a clean jam jar over the opening at the top of the new banana leaf then squeeze the bottom of the leaf progressively upwards until the bat ended up in the bottle. We were always extremely careful not to get bitten as we had been warned that they could carry rabies. A large white-winged bat variety was often found in our large avo trees. These solitary bats would constantly move around the tree trunk to hide from you. On one occasion we had a bunch of bananas ripening on the verandah which when ‘approached’ on the inside of the door window would find a very large fruit bat (similar to the flying foxes in Australia) hanging on the bananas and baring its teeth at us. Needless to say bananas were never placed there again.


Looking south along Highbury Road from near the corner with John Cope Road, 2002

Moles with their soil mounds were everywhere. These near blind, rat-like creatures had a shiny silver grey coat. Some people had an intense dislike for the moles as their mounds spoiled the look of the lawns. Moles were easily caught simply by staying dead still until they started pumping up the soil and then quickly digging below the mound with a spade. The only problem was that the underground tunnels contained families of moles so catching them one at a time was a hopeless exercise.

The termites, or white ants as we called them, were quite large and would come flying out in their thousands in the evening after summer rains. Timber (non-treated in those days) left on the ground would seldom last more than a week or two. The termites would even get up off the ground into timber stockpiles, although I did notice that they made no impact on some heavy strong Australian jarrah that I recall being left overs of some railway sleepers. Anyway the veranda was usually covered in masses of large termite wings the night after these were shed. The termites did however provide a great source of food for many of our birds.

Early Memories

One of my early memories included walking down the railway line towards Pingo with my Dad and seeing a purple crested loerie with wide open purple wings and emerald green body gliding below and away from us into the nearby trees  –  what a beautiful sight. We then took a short cut through the tropical bush, from near the later Dickens Road bridge over the railway line, towards the “new village’ only to be confronted by a large eye-height bush buck i.e. Nkonka. Both sides stared at each other for what seemed to be a long time before the buck simply turned around and trotted away at an unconcerned pace further into the trees. Walking along the railway lines towards Durban or Toti, e.g. to go to the bird sanctuary in Umdoni Road, was not uncommon in those days as the steam trains could be heard from miles away. Prior to electrification the trains running from Pingo to Twini had to negotiate the Twini Hill, the grades of which dramatically affected the speed. The following extract (approximately 1930s) from “My Story  –  A Family Saga” by Malcolm Stewart is worth quoting here as it also had relevance in my time. The article itself also gives a great insight into the early days of Warner Beach, Doonside and Toti.

“In the vicinity of Umbogintwini there was a long steep gradient which the locomotives of the time surmounted only with great difficulty, and at a veritable snail’s pace, in spite of the most valiant and strenuous efforts of the engine crew, and so, as a diversion from the tedium of the journey, young blades would hop off the train at the bottom and trot alongside, beating the train to the top where they would once again gleefully rejoin. This was quite contrary to regulations and was done in a spirit of tempting fate and retaliation, but nevertheless, they always took great pains not to reboard the train in the carriage in which the ticket examiner was working.

The lawbreaking pranksters possessed two great advantages however. One was the plumes of coal dust grit, spewn into the air, and the other was the thick black smoke billowing over the train, both of which were necessitated by the need of the engine crew to build up the required head of steam, but both of which also made ticket examiners, and guards, as well as the other passengers very averse to looking out open windows to identify culprits. In fact, one’s proximity to the Umbogintwini hill could be very accurately judged, from the crashing of train windows being raised by experienced travellers, keeping out the smoke and dust.”


Oppenheimer Road towards Twini station over rail pedestrian bridge, 2002

The article not only gives some idea of the conditions in the passenger steam trains but also relates to my time when heavily loaded sugar cane trains heading from Pingo to the Illovo sugar mill would chug up the hill. The trains were so slow that local lads would jump onto the moving wagons and strip off the sugar cane by throwing the sticks to the edge of the track until the guard at the end would go ballistic. The lads would then jump off the wagons to return later to pick up the cane sticks and have a great feast on the nature strip below our place. It was not unusual for heavily loaded goods trains to also leave half of their load on the Pingo flats and then return to pick it up after leaving the first half at Twini after negotiating the hill. Needless to say all the shenanigans came to an end when the rail was electrified.

Twini Beach

Walking with my parents from home to Twini beach, not more than half an hour, was also one of the earliest memories. A narrow dirt track zigzagged down the steep slope through the coastal silverleaf trees down to the beach about 250 feet (80m) below, the start of the track being at the sharp corner in Ocean View Road, nearby which in later years also became the launch pad for hang gliders. This was a popular beach for the locals until the 60s, particularly at low tide when about 1 mile length of beach rock was exposed for a distance of up to 20 yards (18m) off the sand line. A deep pool had also been blown out by Kynocks during the early 1900s to provide a swimming pool for the village people. Many small natural pools in the rocks were like mini aquariums that provided refuge for dogfish and other species as well as live cowries, sea urchins and even small octopus. The rock edge was also a perfect spot for fishing at low tide. Scratching around in the sand and gravel in the small tidal pools frequently produced coins and on one occasion even a nice gold ring. Going down the track to the beach was however fraught with some danger including on one occasion when a night adder lay in a rutted-out section of the track which had to be quickly bypassed, as well as when a large green mamba, at eye level in the silverleaf trees just off the seaside edge of the track, on another occasion had to be got past. My Mom gave up walking to the beach after a while because of the steep walk back and because of her fear of snakes. I have many other good memories of that beach including catching many karanteen (good eating, with fried battered roe the best) and even following a lost small penguin along the wave line heading towards Durban. The penguin was many hundreds of kilometres from its normal range toward the Cape. Large deep turtle nest holes were also not an uncommon sight in the elevated parts of the beach.


Reference:  South Coast Sun, 3 July 2008

Jubilee Hall

Mr Oppenheimer, Harry as he liked to be known, officiated at the opening of the Jubilee Hall in 1958 which I attended with my Dad. As a kid I didn’t realize how important a figure he was in the world as Anglo American for which the AE & CI factory at Twini was a subsidiary, and De Beers were intimately tied up with his family. In simple terms the main gold and diamond supply of the world was tied up with his family. The main excitement for me however was the same night at the sports field when an epic fireworks display was put on. This included metal frameworks constructed such that a goose would walk along, lay an egg and the egg would hatch with the baby following its mother until the light frame fireworks ran out. In another scene two battleships fired at each other until one of the ships caught fire at the end of the scene.

The Jubilee Hall was more of the social centre of the village than the clubhouse. The Jubilee Hall had the entrance with outside facing ticket office and opposite steps up to the projection room fronting Oppenheimer Road with glass French type doors for opening fronting the full length of the western side verandah. A small room off the verandah was the original library before it moved to the old house past the tennis courts and later swimming pool. The stage and undercroft storage was located at the far southern end. The Dam Busters of WWII bouncing bomb fame and Operation Noah are two of many movies held at the hall which I can still clearly remember today. Operation Noah came about after the construction of Lake Kariba, the largest man-made lake in the world at the time, on the border between Southern and Northern Rhodesia i.e. Zimbabwe and Zambia. The filling of the lake resulted in a huge number of wildlife being rescued and relocated. The hall was also used for multiple other purposes including Womens Institute meetings, flower shows, company Christmas parties for the employees’ kids, badminton, as well as being leased out for other functions including discos, Twini Primary School prizegivings and weddings. At one Christmas party we even had a live local band, called ‘Peter and the Dolphins’ as I recall, keeping us entertained with the “Four Jacks and a Jill” entertaining patrons on another occasion. I became a regular badminton player, with many others including Johann from down the road with his incredible backhand smash and Mr Ron Sparkes training the juniors and managing the seniors. Trish and I also had our wedding reception at the hall with all catering organised by the Womens Institute with the always energetic Mrs Flora Rice at the helm. Jubilee Hall was also a major stop for the school bus to and from Kingsway High School.

Twini River Lagoon

The Twini River lagoon and beach also holds many memories. This is another feature which has been wiped out of history due to the redirection of the river out to sea via a canal on the Pingo side –  the aerial photo indicates that this is now just an elongated dry patch. In my time this was a long narrow brackish lagoon where the river water built up to a point where the beach bar was breached and the river flowed into a small ocean bay between submerged rock shelves. The wave action then rebuilt the beach bar, with the back lagoon being a good spot for fishing. Access to the beach was originally via a steep narrow walkway along the southern side before an access track was constructed for vehicle access from the car park to the beach. Mullet, tiger fish, gobies and other small fish could always be caught. The main interest however was the rock salmon and other larger fish. On one occasion my friend Terry from the ‘New Village’ and I rode down to the lagoon on our bikes with rods. Hudd Road and Linscott Road was our usual route to Golf Course Road and then to the lagoon. Terry caught a 6 pound rock salmon which gave a huge fight. That however turned out to be the easy part, taking the fish back home with our old three speed bikes, rods and tackle, especially up the steep part of Linscott Road, was the difficult part. On another occasion my Dad caught a large queenfish using one of the lures that he made. On another occasion we also had three Kens in our fishing trip to the lagoon, so for communications purposes the eldest our neighbour Ken P. was called Kenneth, Ken R who lived next to the St Johns Church was called Ken and I being the youngest was called Kenny. The lagoon even had a jetty off the golf course level which gave better access to the deeper water for fishing. The aerial image indicates that the relict structure still exists, isolated in the middle of dry land. On another night time fishing trip with my Dad and Uncle Ted we had a fantastic view of the Skylab satellite which moved at relatively slow speed and because of its low proximity to earth was like a huge yellow ball. On yet another trip I found a bleached whale skeleton on the Pingo side of the lagoon. I ended up carrying one of the large vertebrae back home with some difficulty, for our feature garden next to the old toilet which included the ancient pottery and other interesting artifacts which had been collected. The lagoon beach itself was a very popular place for young surfers and other ‘beach bums’ from Twini and Athlone Park. I can clearly remember Richard, Gavin, Andre, Bernard, Allan, two Marks, Steven and at least ten others near the beach rock face on many occasions. Coincidentally a number of those characters now live on Brisbane’s Sunshine Coast and on Bribie Island. Fishing for green shad with my Dad in the bay was also a big thing in winter. We would get to the bay before daybreak, bait up and start fishing, usually successfully. The only problem was that it was so cold that my fingers became numb and shrivelled. The only way to provide relief was to quickly bait up and cast out by standing in the waves which were quite warm compared with the beach. My brother Mark would also regularly catch crayfish off the rock shelf. It’s also a special place to my family as my Dad’s ashes were also spread beyond the bay in 1997.


Reference: Frances Clayton collection
Picture showing the sandstone rock face, Surfview units, Benvicks house in Radar Crescent, the golf course club house, the lagoon behind the beach bar, and the partially dismantled Dakota.

This is the same beach where the Dakota aeroplane ditched in the sea on 28 December 1973 after running out of fuel a short distance from the airport, on a trip back from a Lesotho casino. I was doing student work at the bottle store when the Dakota came in so low that we all ran outside to see what was happening and realising that the plane was in trouble, virtually gliding on its last breath to land in the breakers just outside the bay at Twini lagoon. Those that died jumped out of the plane which saved most of the remaining passengers and crew when it simply floated to the shore. The beach appears to have become informally known by some as Dakota Beach because of that incident.

Sports facilities

The village was very well endowed with the adjoining bowls green, tennis courts, squash courts, swimming pool and 18 hole golf course with a club house and caddy facilities, in addition to the main sports field a short distance away.

Karen Muir the Springbok child prodigy swimmer, who held fifteen world records at the time, opened the swimming pool. Us kids, although of similar age to Karen, climbed onto the tennis court perimeter fence to get a better view of her swim. Few swimming pools existed in those days. The public sea pool at Inyoni Rocks at Toti and a private swimming pool at the Anderton’s house in Radar Crescent Athlone Park were the main locations for swimming before the Twini pool opened. In the summer months Mrs Anderton, would invite her lady friends around the pool for one afternoon per week. All the kids from far and wide would also be welcome to go swimming at the same time, with the ladies keeping a keen eye out for any silly activities.

The golf course was always kept in immaculate condition. It was a good short cut when walking to Toti provided you kept an eye out for whizzing golf balls.  I vaguely recall hearing that Gary Player, one of the greatest golfers of all time, played on the course. The well-known Indian player Sewsunker Sewgolum, known as “Papwa” also won a major title at the course. The other nearest golf course at Twini lagoon was usually referred to as the Isipingo Golf Club although officially named the Amanzimtoti Golf Club.

Sportsfield

The sports field also holds good memories where the annual factory sports was held. In addition to the usual track events, there were traditional events such as the greasy pole, i.e. a 20 foot or so timber telephone pole that had been greased up with a coconut hanging at the top. The first man to the top to retrieve the coconut received a prize. The guys tried all sorts of tactics to reduce the effects of the grease such as removing their shirts to use as rolled up grease catchers on the way up. A bloke by the name of Bevis was unbelievable as he usually won the competition. Having sack fights on a horizontal pole on a timber frame and coconut shies were other events. The announcer for the day was usually Mr Bob Hand, the chemist at the hospital across the road in real life. At one of the annual sports days we were given an amazing show with about 30 Zulu men dressed up in full black and white cattle skin battle regalia. A small bloke was in the front stirring up the ‘warriors’ who would bang their shields with sticks in unison as well as lift each bare foot and bang it again in unison with such force that the ground vibrated. I believe that some of the Zulu ‘warriors’ were also in a music group (possibly Ladysmith Black Mambazo) as my Dad mentioned that one of the plant workers had got back from a performance for the Queen in London. Informal soccer and cricket was also played on the field when word got around that a game was on.  Formal soccer was also played at the field by the Twini Park Football Club before the senior and junior teams moved to the Dickens Road field. Jimmy was the goalkeeper and manager of the senior team as I recall with others including Woody, Ronnie, Ian and others. The juniors or ‘lighties’ were later very successfully trained Mr Crawford (after his family arrived from Zambia) with Roy, Mark and others playing to quite a high standard. Those were the days when soccer supporters were fanatically split down the middle between Durban City and Durban United.

Twini Primary

Twini Primary School also brings back a lot of memories. When I started there in 1959 Mr Stander was Headmaster however beloved “Pop” Ferron was the Headmaster from 1960 for the rest of my time there. The school initially went to standard 6 (grade 8) before changing to standard 5 (grade 7).  Before South Africa became a republic on 31 May 1961, traditional English activities such as maypole dancing were enjoyed at the school. In those early days we were even supplied with milk by the school which was even delivered by a helicopter on one occasion much to the absolute amazement of all. The main playing field, on the south side and below of these original school buildings, had only been excavated around 1960. The concrete footpath, to the footbridge over the N2 at the southern end of the school field, provided a great spot for billy cart runs. A lovely amphitheatre had also been made in a clearing in the thick tropical bush across the road from the main entry to the school. A couch grass area sloped down to the near level stage with freshly cut tree branches installed vertically to form a ‘curtain’ from behind which we kids would make our entry onto the stage. Shows were usually put on at night with our parents sitting on the grass slope and some lights strung up around the place to provide sufficient light for all concerned.

The boys would play soccer or marbles and do other things before school and in the morning and the main lunch time breaks. I and many others used to run or ride our bikes to and from home during the main lunch break. During one of our soccer games before school the school bully by the nickname of “Fatty” would get a long piece of rope and with one of his henchmen at the other end would pull the rope tight and run across the field to mow down as many as possible. On another occasion “Fatty” brought a Gecado 23 air gun to school and again, during a pre-school soccer game, used green lantana berries as ammunition to fire at whoever was within range. I believe “Fatty” subsequently mysteriously left the school! When we found out that someone had the words to “Ag Pleez Daddy” we all got to school early and gathered in the assembly covered area to copy down the words.

Mrs Gardiner, Miss Gibson, Miss Pascoe and Miss Cooke were some of my teachers. Miss Cooke, who was my Standard 5 teacher and close to retirement, was an inspiration when telling us about her travels in Europe, all by mail ship in those days. I very clearly remember Miss Cooke taking our class down to the sports field on 11 November 1965 when we only had a few weeks left in junior school. An SAA Boeing 727 flew over on its final approaches to Louis Both airport when Miss Cooke told us that Ian Smith had declared UDI (Unilateral Declaration of Independence) for Rhodesia. Miss Cooke went on to explain what it meant and also to provide advice for our futures when we entered the big pond of high school.

On the sports field it was usually a tussle between Robin from Chamberlain Road and me for the high jump title, also between Peter and Ian from Athlone Park and me for the 100 yards race.

On one occasion with my desk next to the south facing window in Standard 5, I spotted a sand snake coming along the edge of the block. I immediately jumped out the window to catch the snake much to the horror of Miss Cooke and a lot of the pupils. That otherwise made me so popular that classmate Martin, who lived down the road from me, was so impressed that he even gave me a lift home for lunch on his coveted new three speed bike. Martin was amazingly knowledgeable for our age group, regularly giving me updates on how Cassius Clay (Muhammad Ali) was doing when fighting Sonny Liston, as well as the development progress of the Concorde airliner and TSR2 spy plane and much more. Anyway good cricket games were also had at Martin’s place with his brother John and other neighbours including Richard.

‘Yokkie’ another school friend from Radar Crescent in Athlone Park invited me to his place one afternoon to see his Dad’s Chinchillas, i.e. nocturnal rabbit-like animals that were in big demand for their pelts. After that we went along the road to look out to sea to see the Windsor Castle mail ship on its trip to Southampton via Cape Town. That lovely ship was not far offshore after leaving Durban on Thursdays for its run every two weeks to England.

Twini school received a number of international pupils during my time. They came from Rhodesia (Zimbabwe), Zambia, Mauritius, England and Holland. One of the girls in our Standard 5 class was Mary, whose family I recall had arrived from Kenya following the Mau Mau crisis. Her friends included Ann and one of the Karens in our class who were also new arrivals at the school.

The well known singer and writer Penelope Jane Dunlop (AKA PJ Powers) states in her book “Here I am” that she went to Twini school before she  became a singer. She mentions having lived at 33 Churchill Road Umbogintwini (actually Athlone Park) and winning Eisteddfod and tap and modern dancing competitions at the school.  I did not achieve any dizzying heights at primary school but did manage to get the woodwork prize in standard 5 at the school prizegiving at the Jubilee Hall. Penny S. and Corinne H. were the bright sparks in my Standard 5 class.

We had three Miss South Africas from our area. Disa Duvenstein from Athlone Park was the winner in the 1967 competition. I am not sure whether Disa went to Twini School however her brother went to the school in my time. Mr Duivestein was also well known in the area for his attempts, with other local businessmen, to locate a treasure ship off the Wild Coast in Pondoland where gold coins had been found along the coastline. I can’t recall which ship it was, possibly the 1554 Portuguese Sao Bento or 1782 British Grosvenor.

Highland Gathering

The Highland Gathering was a highlight of the year for me. The first gathering was held at Twini Primary School on 15 June 1963 as part of the fund-raising for the junior school. I remember Mr Steyn or possibly Mr Raath practicising as the lone piper from Athlone Park before the main event. Dr and Mrs Dalziel and Mr and Mrs Leesam were also heavily involved with the event. The gathering turned out to be a huge success with tombolas, girls competing with traditional dancing over crossed swords and the bagpipe bands being judged throughout the day. The end of the gathering culminated with the mass band marching and playing ‘Scotland the Brave’ and other music that reverberated through the whole district. There were so many bands in the mass pipe event that they could barely do any marching across the sports field before having to turn back on themselves. The Queen’s Piper even came out from England to judge the bands in about 1968. The event was subsequently moved to Hutchinson Park in Toti, possibly for extra space. That venue however failed to capture the atmosphere of the Twini site. In recent years there apparently have been up to 1,000 bandsmen and women competing, so the success story rolls on.

Aeroplanes

The regular fly-pasts of the coastal surveillance  Sunderland flying boats, based at Congella, was also one of my early recollections. The Sunderlands were replaced by the Avro Shackletons which were a variation of the famous Avro Lancasters of WWII. The Harvards, Shackletons, Vampires, Sabres, Canberras, Mirages, Impalas (aeromachies), Buccaneers, Hercules, Transals, Allouette and Puma and Superfrelon helicopters of the air force as well as all the airways Boeing 707s, 727s and 737s and other commercial planes would fly at fairly low altitude over our house to or from the now abandoned Louis Botha airport. Unfortunately I missed the Concorde’s test flight to Louis Botha Airport in the early 1970s. Watching the WWII pilot veterans keeping up their training with the Harvards on Saturdays was a scene to behold. The Harvards would do loop de loops, do vertical stalls and other antics. On one occasion a well known major even flew south to north along Highbury Road just above the power lines waving his aircraft’s wings along the way where his fishing mates lived!  On another occasion a flight of large four-engine propeller US Airforce planes (B50s ?) with their orange banding accompanying an off-shore aircraft carrier fleet came in so low that everything shook and shuddered as they passed. I was in the flower garden helping my dad with a new agapanthus bed around 1963 when the first flight of dart-shaped Mirage fighters to Durban flew over in a magical ‘V’ formation. The mirages, which required rear parachutes to land, became notorious for breaking the sound barrier with the sonic booms shattering windows up and down the coast.


Reference: “A history of Amanzimtoti”
Highland gathering, Hutchinson Park, 1973

Adventures to the South

Walks and outdoor activities towards Toti to the south were mainly via the railway tracks or along the golf course. The railway track route would take us along the edge of a large open channel, originally for effluent from the factory, and past the ‘forest’ as we named it, which I believe is now part of the Umbogavango nature area. Grey duiker (impiti), bushbuck, mongooses, monkeys and the occasional genet cat were observed. Animals jumping into the long grass-lined effluent drain were often heard but never seen. These were perhaps water mongooses or otters which were known in the area and definitely not legavaans or monitor lizards, which grew to at least 6 foot long, and had a totally different sound when jumping into water. Fortunately we never came across the very dangerous bush pigs that became a serious nuisance on some of the smallholdings in the Toti area in the 1970s. Occasional leopard sightings were mentioned by others in the dense bush areas and around the cliff lines along the Twini and Umkomaas Rivers where dassies (hyrax) were common at the cliff locations. There was great excitement when a pair of crested eagles first set up nest in the ‘forest’ which included plantation pine trees. Those birds subsequently became a regular sight.

The open channel was left in place with the effluent then going in underground pipes to outlet at the end of a high gantry near Toti Beach, the effluent simply pouring from high above into the sea at the low water mark. The underground pipes were subsequently extended to about 1.5 km along the sea bed and out to sea. The construction of the undersea outfall was a huge attraction with many people visiting the beach to see progress with the amphibious ‘duck’ vehicles riding along the beach and then going straight into the waves like boats and out to sea were the main attraction. The old beachside gantry was also demolished as part of the works, so if you didn’t know the current name Pipeline Beach you would be totally unaware of what  passes under you and out to sea. In my time this was a popular spot for daytime fishing for blue shad in winter, also daga salmon (mulloway/jewfish) in the night. The daga salmon that were caught were regularly 20 – 40 lbs and their large ivory-like balance stones (otoliths) were regularly made into earrings by my Dad at the request of his fishing friends for their wives. Massive sardine runs in winter would also beach around the pipeline, with the accompanying frenetic activity with people running into the water to scoop up the sardines, the diving gannets and other birds going crazy, gluttonous sharks, so full with sardines, would often simply roll up and down the beach in the waves. There were frequent stories of night time fishermen at the pipeline hearing the drumming sound of diesel engines out to sea but relatively close to the beach. These were firmly believed to be Russian submarines getting up to nefarious activities.

My brother Mark reminded me of the sinking of the coastal trader “Griqualand” off the pipeline beach on 14 November 1970. The ship caught fire and was sunk by shelling by the Royal Navy HMS Dido as it was a danger to shipping. Our family, on hearing the gunfire, travelled to Ocean View Road to watch the sinking.  The wreck has since apparently become a good place for spear fishing for daga salmon. I don’t recall any flotsam from the wreck getting to the nearby beaches, totally different from when the Aimee Lykes ran aground on Aliwal Shoal on 26 October 1963. The 3000 tons of cargo was then jettisoned only to be found for miles along the local beaches for many weeks afterwards. The Aimee Lykes was eventually dragged off the rocky shoal with great difficulty and spent 6 months in repair in Durban before returning to the U.S.

Interestingly I note that a major international internet cable to be installed around the African coast in planned to have a landfall connection at the Pipeline Beach. The WIOCC planning report by Acer gives some really good information on all potential impacts that they need to consider.

The book tilted “A History of Amanzimtoti” by M.J. Meitiner provides a lot of short stories, information, newspaper cuttings and photographs which also covers surrounding suburbs including Twini.

Churches

St Patrick’s Catholic Church in Highbury Road and St John’s Anglican Church in Oppenheimer Road were located within the village boundaries, whereas the Presbyterian Church is located just outside the village boundary in Prince Street and the Methodist Church is located further away in Athlone Park.

Our family are not particularly religious, or political for that matter, however as kids we went to the Methodist Church for a short while. Any religious inclinations that we may have had were dashed due to an English fellow by the name of Reverend Polly who had very little to say other than giving us endless ear bashings on South African politics. My brother Clive and I ended up avoiding Sunday school by hiding in the garden when Mr Higo arrived on Sunday mornings whilst rounding up the local kids for church.

I can’t remember much about St John’s Church, however the well-attended St Patrick’s Catholic Church, a short distance from our place in Highbury Road, brings back plenty of memories of friends and their parents walking past our place around 6.30 A.M. on Sunday mornings heading to church. Mrs Kelly in her South Coast Sun article of 2 October 2017 (click onto https://southcoastsun.co.za/106471/amanzimtoti-catholics-look-back-100-years-since-churchs-establishment/ gives a good write-up on the 100 year commemoration of the church on 26 August 1917. Information on the graves in the cemetery can also be obtained by going to the eGGSA library site with the words ‘Umbogintwini St Patricks Church cemetery’ which includes headstone details in photos of the church.


Reference: Google Maps
Presbyterian Church

I recall the building of the Presbyterian Church, the history of which is covered by clicking onto http://www.totipresbyterian.co.za/history.html. The article not only gives information on AE&CI and the Twini club, Jubilee Hall etc, but also has some photos including of Mr Wheelock and Mr Sheares. Dr McLeod, of Twini hospital fame, and one of the main movers in establishing the church, died in Kenya in 1965. His funeral service, “probably the largest ever held there”, was held at the church and his name is also apparently on a foundation stone there.

Scout Hut

The scout hut was located along Rees Road near the original road gate separating Twini from Athlone Park. This was the place where the cubs and scouts got their training, also a location where fights between some of the boys were settled. Vim Hofland has put together a nice website with photos and names including Ian Derwent and others (click onto https://hofland.co.uk/Pages/autobiography/scouting.html) for more details including a picture of three Springbok Scouts i.e. himself, Stuart Boyd and David Gurr at the Jubilee Hall.

Across the road from the scout hut was a flat mainly bare red earth area with a bank that we all knew as “sandy bank”. Much fun was had there by myself, Dux, Millie, Leonard and others. Fun included climbing the silverleaf trees, eating monkey apples, collecting “money balls” i.e. pill-millipedes with hard brown shells that rolled up to sizes larger than a large marble, also getting Millie’s fox terrier to catch rats in the mown grass mounds.

Harry’s Shack

Harry’s Shack was a local institution. It was located on the spur line platform, directly through the nature strip and across Oppenheimer Road below our place. This small square tin shed had all the essentials for the local kids when the got their pocket money, or people riding past on Oppenheimer Road or walking past to Twini railway station. “Cooldrinks” such as Coke and Pepsi, milk, bread, pies, cakes, sweets and bubble gum including Wicks and Chappies, could all be obtained from this small shop. A farthing (quarter penny) would buy one bubblegum.

Two Indian blokes did the sales whereas a retarded tall Indian fellow by the name of Gunda kept the surrounding, mainly gravel area, in immaculate shape simply by using a ‘broom’ only made from tree branches. Gunda exhibited some albinism and had slightly buck teeth, and always wore oversized longs that were strapped with string around his waist. He was always barefooted and a harmless chap who enjoyed talking to kids but was otherwise kept on a tight rein by his two bosses.

A large Chinese Elm tree was located close to the shack. The tree supported a population of European sparrows, otherwise know as “mossies”, as well as some Indian mynahs and doves. Occasional prolonged wet weather in winter would usually result in many of the birds dying and lying around the floor for Gunda to clean up.

The railways later built a fenced enclosure near the elm tree. Platelayers in their big trucks would pull up to get supplies or park under the tree in the afternoon, killing time until knockoff.

My brother Mark reminded me of the boxing matches that were also held there.

Anyway the shack was later condemned as a supposed health risk to meet new standards. This was just a pretext in my mind as I never heard of anyone getting sick from the supplied foodstuffs.

Hospital

The hospital was operated by the company for the benefit of the employees and their families. Located on elevated land above the sports field, this relatively small set-up with at least three or four wards had Dr McLeod as the very popular resident doctor for most of my time, with Dr Groves taking over in later years. Mr Bob Hand was the chemist for the dispensing of medicine with Sister or Matron Holder being in charge of the wards. The hospital provided a great service whether for general ailment assistance, medical procedures or childbirth.

Dr McLeod of Scottish origin called the children his ‘bairns’. Going to see the doctor usually started by being given some big pink calcium tablets which were sweets as far as we kids were concerned. As was the usual practice in those days Dr McLeod would also do house calls at all hours of the night if required.

Conclusion

Twini village provided a unique setting during my time; whether for the close proximity to the beach and most of the necessary facilities or for the high level of social interaction and other aspects described above.

The lifestyle, for a young boy in those days, was also many worlds away from the current sedentary digital lifestyle.

Progress must happen however it is a crying shame that the current development in Twini has totally obliterated all traces of the heritage value of the place.

My article provides some knowledge of a place that has almost been written out of history.

Finally my article may hopefully spur others on to record their knowledge and experiences of the Twini of old.

Thanks to Gavin and Tricia for all the help.


Comments

  1. Hi Ken and other twini-ites,
    Thanks for all the memories. Yes we had it good to say the least.
    Other memories were teacher Miss Tandie who was passionate about SA history especially the battles of Rourkes drift, Isandluwana etc. Miss Pascoe was my favorite.
    Glynn Crossley (Hawk) the scout master. Go cart races down John Coke hill. John had the best cart. Movies at Jubilee hall. Especially Game capture in Rhodesia when Kariba was filling. The “session’s” and Discos. Guy fawkes at the club and at “yokkies” house. Swimming at Mrs Andersons pool on Ocean way. Bicycles, skate boards, surfing, fishing, birding, camping on Sandy bank. Derek, Malcolm, Richard, Robin, Cederic, Jimmy, Niomi, Ken, Martin, Ann, John, Marlene, Karin. Mrs mac Naught Davis. Steven, Judy, and many others. I also served time at the Bottle store.
    Photos would be appreciated.
    Currently living in East London area.

  2. What a wonderful environment to be brought up in – no high walls, electric fences or security gates. Our only security was the patrol men with knob kerries which you mentioned – and the 10 o’clock curfew siren from the factory. Many of the names were after my time but the places brought back awesome memories of long ago. We stayed at No 20 McGowan Road and both my parents were very involved in the dramatic society which held amateur productions at the Jubilee hall from time to time. Great memories – thank you.

  3. In 1964 Pop Fearon persuaded me to try the High Jump event. From then on to Matric, Kenny Grubb, Robin and I competed. Kenny always first with me getting 3rd or 4th positions. Kenny’s best – was it 5 foot 11 and a half? Or his own height?

    Jumping scissors into a sawdust pit! Teaching Fosbury to my jumpers at school over the years somehow came easily. The first 15 or so years, I was able to impress my pupils by jumping scissors onto the mat, at heights some could not achieve.

    Lots of memories brought up here. Thanks Kenny! Memories in your back yard and the tamed wild birds under your care. That crow of yours!!
    Can’t remember who all was there when two Peters, Ian and ? were returning from nesting and exploring Isipingo Flats side, We had to cross the Twini river. The others were ahead of me when I sank past my knees in quicksand. Desperate screams brought my rescuers back. That was scary!

    Having taught in East London for 26 years, I missed all the hype about Twini Village being obliterated. St Johns, Jubilee Hall(remember the sessions there) Mrs Marisch’s Bottle store ( I also worked there. Remember having to enter every single purchase in the register, under spirits, fortified and unfort.ified wines! ) Theos and the village. All gone! I believe there is a lot of controversy over the condition / fate of the Catholic Church. This country of ours is so far behind the world in historical places. The systematic neglect and destruction of our”baby” history depresses me no end.

    I have been retired and living in Assagay/Hillcrest for the past 8 years. House is on the market and heading to join my daughter and granddaughter in England,

    Military training at 1SSB in Bloem and teacher training followed by 9 years teaching in Ixopo then East London for 26 years, separated me from friends and home. This I regret so much, and so reading your story brought back so many memories. Thanks for that.

    Reminder. I was Roderick Saunders up until about Std 8, when I chose to have my birth name. Cherryll Barry and Shirley my siblings. 8 Hudd Rd Then 21 Marshall Rd

  4. Thank you Ken for wonderful memories of a great place to grow up in. We lived in Blewett road then moved to Highbury Road opposite the Jubilee hall. Have wonderful memories of happy times and great friends from twini . Started school at twini in 1957. Before moving to Toti primary. Then Old Kingsway High. Got married at the Athlone Park Presbyterian church in 1970. Now living in Australia. In the same road as Tony van der Westuizen. We lived opposite in twini village. How’s that for coincidence. Thanks for the memories. Much appreciated

  5. Hi Ken
    Thank you for taking me on a journey about my childhood.
    I must have been in your class at Twini Primary and then in Std6 at Kingsway.

    We lived at 21 Oppenheimer Road. My dad Bill Bell was Instrument Engineer for many years,

  6. Wow, what great memories. I lived on a small holding in Old Main Rd Toti in my early years but went to Twini primary. Later we lived in Wave Crest Rd and then Dawn Place before getting married and moving to Warner Beach. moved to Australia in 1983.
    Had lots of friends in Twini Village so spent some special times there.
    Thanks so much for sharing these memories.
    Kind regards
    Denzil

  7. Thank you Ken for such an informative read on Twini. Although I was a Warners girl, we ended up at 616 Kingsway for my High school years and have very fond memories of the Twini that was. Thank you for sharing this wonderful article!

  8. A great read – which I plan to reread! Thank you for documenting our fortunate lives, growing up in Twini, Kenneth! Wonderful memories! I went to Twini school with you! My Dad, Allan Druce was the Assistant Chief Chemist at AECI all his working life – and was also very active in the music scene – teaching and playing the piano and organ -at most of the churches – and even for “Cocktail Hour” at the Twini Club! I now live in Qld, (near where I believe Mark is!)

    • Hi Karen
      It was so good to see your comment.
      I remember you and your Dad so well. He played at our wedding at the St John’s Anglican.
      I was very good friends with Lesley.

  9. Thanks for bringing back some wonderful memories of Twini village,I worked at AE&CI for 23 yrs and lived at a few addresses in Twini Village.

  10. What a fantastic read, it brought back wonderful memories of my early years in the area. I lived in Prince Street and my sister Helen and I went to Twini School after arriving from England in 1967. Friends for life were made at Twini Primary, Kingsway Junior High and Kingsway Senior High. Thank you so much for writing this Ken.

  11. Thank you for this it brought back so many memories. My parents and myself when I got married lived in the Village. I remember the Kynoch Xmas parades and sports days as well as the Nativity plays.
    I will see if I have some photos from my parents

  12. Thank you for a very interesting read…
    My mom and Dad, Jimmy Acker and Pauline Acker lived at 16 Chamberlain then 18 Chamberlain Rd for many years. (1970 to 1983 ish) I recall ken Grubb? Or was it Ben…We had a wonderful child hood in Twini, from my sister doing Pottery at the Hall in the grounds around Jubilee Hall, to playing around the village…wonderful memories.

  13. Hi Ken, my name is Joy Herbst (nee Whiteley). It was wonderful to read all the history of our lives living in Twini. It really was a special place. Jean (76) , our eldest sister, lives in Auckland with her family; Jennifer (72), lives in Hillcrest & is about to remarry on Saturday 16th April after her beloved first husband passed away 3 years ago from cancer; Laura Jayne (62) who was born in the Kynoch Hospital & delivered by Dr McCleod when we lived in McGowan Road is living in ‘Toti and myself (74). I live in Knysna. My Dad Jimmy sadly died when he was 57 and had been boarded from Kynoch perspex division due to a bad heart. My mother Joan died at 84 years in ‘Toti in 2011. She never left the area.
    I have many wonderful memories of the milkman who parked his cart at the Jubilee Hall. The Frangipani tree outside our house at 19 Highbury Road where my sister Jean hung upside down most afternoons. Bert Burness bunking school brought back wonderful memories. Felicity Sangster was my best friend up the road Kevin & Cheryl Cole lived over the road. The many Variety Concerts at the Jubilee Hall which our family were a part of. And. And. Thanks for bringing it all back, some of which I had forgotten. Joy

  14. Loved reading all the details in your writing. I too have wonderful memories of our time in Athlone Park and going to the Beach and walking under the railway bridge onto the Red Sandune across the highway pre 1974.
    Running to the Beach when the plane crashed with My Brother Mark Daniels. He was friends with your Brother. The scout Hall where I attended Guides. Not to forget the weddings at Jubilee Hall and Tennis Lessons. The post Office Next to the Huge tree. Garage and Shops.
    Such Special times at the beach with our family.
    So many of the famous names you have mentioned also bring wonderful memories back too.

  15. Oh my word. Reading all this brings tears to my eyes. We were so happy there. Big yards to run around ,the houses were beautiful and huge inside. We stayed at 13 Udal right next to Kevin and Kerryn Wherle’s grandparents. We played in the streets until late at night roller blading and riding our bikes. My grandfather worked at AECI Mr. J. J. Kloppers and then my dad Louis.B. Kloppers thereafter dad went over to Polifin. I was about 16 when the plant shut down then we moved to 1 Linscott Road. I remember the graveyard as we always use to say it was haunted. Not far from the graveyard the Swanepoel’s and de Witt’s stayed which were family friends as well as the Viljoen’s on Oppenheimer road. I never wanted to move but had no choice as it was company properties. There use to be a playground to the top with slides and swings which we always went to. The swimming pool and golf course were close to the train station which everyone went to. Playing golf with dad was so much fun and playing tennis on the courts. The small library was one of my favourite places to go to had everything we needed and around the corner from there was our cafe and local butchery where Jessie worked and now it’s a McDonald’s and Shell garage. We had the best Christmases there and don’t forget the fireworks at AECI soccer grounds where the clinic was. Wow so many memories. My dad went to Umbogintwini Primary as grandpa stayed in the village as well later he went to Kuswag. I spent my 12 years in Kuswag and had great academics and sport experiences. We use to run around the block practicing for athletics, my sister and I.My dad would’ve loved to read this, but he has passed for 2 years now. Thank you for bringing back such inredible memories.

  16. Thank you so much for that, I really took a trip down memory lane. We lived in Chamberlain Road, I Went to Twini school, had a photo taken with Karen Muir, got married in the Presbyterian church and had my reception in the Jubilee Hall with Mrs Rice as the caterer.
    Jenny was one of my friends and I often used to go home with her after school. Your mom used to fill the bath with cold water on hot days and we would put on our bathing suits, hop in and she would bring us lunch to eat in the bath! True story 🤣

  17. Brilliant all round research. I did not know much of this. My parents bought below Kingsway on Windy Corner in 1964. Beautiful home and view to die for. I still go and look at the property and could easily live there today.

  18. Wonderful. I lived in your old house from 1988 to 2008, was the last person to leave the village. Loved the village and tried so hard to save it, to no avail. I did start a museum at the AECI offices but have now retired so don’t know if it is still going. Kept some old photos and memoirs if anyone is interested.

  19. Wow, what a great journey into the past ! One of the best things I remember is being able to take long walks from my home, all the way down Kingsway, into Linscott Rd, then Dick King, and back home without having to worry about safety. My Dad was Dr ‘Bonzo’ Brand, and delivered many an infant at the hospital. My Mother Audrey was also heavily involved in the Highland gatherings, especially on the fund raising side. My late older brother Frank went to Highbury and then to Kearsney, and my younger brother Mark also attended UGS and then Kearsney
    I attended UGS for grades I and II (’63/’64), I do believe I had Mrs Harvey and Norman if I remember correctly. If anyone remembers me, I was about as round as I was tall. Lovely to recognise all these names

  20. Ken Grubb thankyou so much for the magic memories – cannot believe you found that snip of my scouting days at 1st Umbogintwini Scouts – I was astounded at what you have found so long ago about our beloved little village Umbogintwini with us living in Dawn Place & previously Iphala Rd My very best regards Stewart Boyd

  21. Hi ….so enjoyed your writings here. I went to Umbogintwini school still have friends from that era.
    Lived in Linscott Rd and spent most of my time on Umbogintwini Beach. So many magical memories of a life style gone. I do have some pics to share if anyone is interested.
    Live in N Italy now with my husband who I met at Kingsway in my matric year. Many I am still in touch with.
    Thanks for the memories
    Denise nee Arthur

  22. Thanks for the memories.. ! .. although I grew up in Athlone Park I had many Twini friends so spent a lot of time in the village. It still pains me to drive past Galleria etc thinking of the beautiful golf course that I spent many an hour on as a youngster …. best regards ….. John … (son of Dixie D’Amant .. the Twini Club legend … 😅)

  23. We were married in Umbogintwini church in July 1971 and celebrated our Golden Anniversary last year on Dornoch Golf Course. Fond memories.

  24. Wow ! Thank you. I was born in the Umbogintwini hospital in 1954. Lived at no Beach road before the bridge was built. Moved to 16 McGowan road and then to no 4 Udal road. By I remember the Grubb’s Mr. Grubb’s love of his Hillman cars. Used to hang around with Clive ( camel) .We left the village in the 70’s and lived in school rod Athlone park
    My Grandfather worked at AE&I and retired in 1938 my father Lawrence worked there 42 years. We also kept horse’s at the old dairy.
    It was a very different world

  25. I so enjoyed reading the article. I lived in Chamberlain Road for a few years in the first semi detached house then we moved to Udal Road. My late father Arthur Grimes worked in the dip plant then went to Security where he started the Dog Unit. We had such a great time living in the village. Everyone was so proud of their gardens, even remembering the village having competitions for the best kept gardens. It was very sad when all the houses were demolished. I still get a lump in my throat when I drive passed.

  26. Brilliant recollections documented. I am currently writing a book on Kingsburgh and the early days. I know exactly how much research and effort went into writing this well done

  27. Thanks for writing and sharing this – we lived in Ocean View Road. Certainly brought back a lot of memories and there were so many things I did not know.

  28. I found it interesting to compare your experiences growing up in Twini to that of mine growing up in country Victoria. I have to admit you’re were involved in a lot more activities many of which were different to mine and some quite dangerous eg. your encounters with snakes. I agree that it is a great pity that the lifestyle for young boys today is so different. As I said before, Ken, you never cease to amaze me…congratulations on a great document.

  29. Thank you so much for the memories. I still have a picture or two of your folks, sitting on the back steps of your house, with all you children, my Mom and Dad in law and Uncle Fred and his wife. Sorry her name slips my mind.

  30. Your account of your Twini boyhood closely parallels Gerald Durrell’s life on Corfu in My Family and Other Animals. You only left out the local taxi driver – Peter McNaught-Davis.
    Another memory – the mule-pulled lawnmower doing our lawn in John Coke Road.

    • Michael we had that book at school on Corfu so many years ago – Regards boet Stewart Boyd

    • Hello Mike,
      Hope you’re fit – good to see your name.
      Yup, a few memories of a wonderful time in our lives although sad to witness the loss of our heritage.

  31. A very interesting read. It brought back memories of my childhood although I did not live on the coast.

  32. Thank you for this. I worked at Twini Primary for many years and lived in Highbury Rd for a few years in the 90’s.
    Some of the most beautiful houses were in the village.

  33. Thanks Ken for bringing back all of these memories – well written! Like you mention – Twini was a self-contained village – everything you needed – even great local dramatic productions. I was born in the hospital when we lived in Highbury Road – then moved to John Coke – used to see Mr Stander walking up the hill to UGS in the morning. At about age 6 we moved to 9 Reservoir Rise, Athlone Park (not Radar Crescent, but close). Worked for Mrs Marisch at the bottle store in the vac, like you. A distinctive sound was the steam train grinding up Twini Hill – Chuf-Chuf- ChChuChuChu! – I think with the wheels spinning when the tracks were wet. When I saw StPatricks being vandalised about 5 years ago I photo’d the tombstones also and gave the photos to Star-of-the-Sea church in Toti where the ashes were moved.

  34. How wonderful to be able to read this ! As current principal of Umbogintwini Primary ,I am saddened at the loss of our wonderful village and a history that is all but forgotten. It is my intention to share this with our current learners and staff, so that they too can appreciate the rich history that surrounds us.

  35. Thanks ken, what wonderful memories you shared, we were your neighbours in Highbury road, the Schwegmann’s, Carol, Colin, Linda and Sharron

  36. A truly brilliant read resurfacing many childhood memories a time sorely missed and never to be repeated


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