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A Brief History

The town of Blerick (occasionally spelt Blerik) is in the Netherlands, in Limburg province, and today forms part of the city of Venlo. The river Maas runs between Blerick and Venlo proper. The town is close to the Dutch-German border. The closest major cities to Venlo are Eindhoven (Netherlands) 42 km to the west, and Dusseldorf (Germany), 42 km to the east.

History:
Some 2000 years old, the town of Venlo evolved around a river crossing to the Roman villa at Blerick. The Romans settled down in the area in 50 BC and called their settlement “Blariacum” which means “belongs to Blarius”. Blarius is derived from the celtic word “Blaros” that means “gray” or “gray-headed”. It is generally accepted but not proved that Blarius was the first owner or lord of the settlement Blariacum. Down the centuries there were several variations of the name Blerick like Blariacum, Bleirvicus, Blericum, Blerke, Blercq, Blericke and Bledericke. Those in existence today are Blerck and Blerk.
Blariacum should not be confused with the very similar “Blaricum”, a village in the province of North Holland. The town of Blaricum is the origin of the surnames “van Blaricum/Blaricom/Blarcom” which are found in the Netherlands and the USA.
The real expansion of Venlo came in the early Middle Ages, while it received its city/town charter in 1343, granted by the Duke of Gelderland. At this stage, the city was a bustling cross-roads among Antwerp, Brussels, Cologne and other European commercial centres of the middle ages. Venlo joined the Hanseatic League in the 15th century, and was effectively a frontier fortress of the League, surrounded by deep moats and high brick walls. The city was besieged six times during Holland’s Eighty Years War with Spain (1568-1648). Numerous structures from that era still stand today, including the historic City Hall built in 1598.
In 1715, Venlo became Dutch territory again, but only for a brief period. From 1794 to 1814, it was French territory, as a consequence of Napoleon’s expansionism, and Napoleon himself visited Venlo on his campaigns in the early 1800s. After Napoleon’s fall, between 1830 and 1839, the city became part of Belgium.
A century later, in World War II, in September 1944, Venlo was annexed by Hitler’s Germany. Consequently, from December 1944 to March 1945, Venlo was in the front line and suffered heavily through thirteen Allied bombings.

Present day:
Venlo with its ‘twin’ of Blerick across the Maas River is a centre of industry, agriculture, service, art, shopping, entertainment, and (border) tourism, as well as a hub of international rail, water and road shipping. The Maas arises in northeastern France (as the Meuse), and then flows through southern Belgium and the southeast Netherlands.
As already noted, Venlo is approximately half-way between Eindhoven and Dusseldorf. As a consequence of the abovementioned heavy bombing damage World War II, the rebuilt city is far more modern in appearance than many of its regional neighbors. It remains relatively small – the population in 2000 was about 90 000. Other ‘suburbs’ of Venlo are Tegelen and Belfeld.
Interestingly, the ancient Roman name “Blariacum” (see above) is still in use in the area. Blerick has a secondary school named Blariacum College. There is an annual “culinary cycle tour” called the Tour de Blariacum, which runs through Blerick, the adjoining Hout-Blerick and Boekend (amongst others). The annual Blerick Carnival features dozens of traditional songs, including Blariacum Baeregood, which includes, in its refrain, Blariacum baeregood. Dich hebs `t Bliëricks in dien blood. The name Blariacum also survives in commercial establishments, including Venlo’s Fitness and Sports Centre. Finally, there is also a Woningstichting Blariacum.
The main attraction at Venlo is generally agreed to be the abovementioned 16th century (1598) City Hall at the Market. Other features include the 13th century Martinus Church, restored and renewed in 1953, the early 17th century Minderbroeders Church once part of a large monastery, the Schreurs Mansion built in the 16th century, the Meuse Boulevard with remnants of the old bastion, the Limburg Museum of local and regional history and folklore, and the Van Bommel-Van Dam Museum with contemporary Dutch art.

Famous citizens:
The early 20th century politician Willem Noles; the 19th century composer Karel Fodor, the contemporary composer Hein Jordans; the 16th century painter Hendrik Goltzius; the Schrijnen brothers: the 20th century classicist Jozef and the bishop Laurentius.

Other connections:
Interestingly enough, there is a farm (and bed and breakfast) called Blerick in Australia as well, in Victoria State, about 60 km east of Melbourne, in the Neerim South area. It is called Blerick Tree and Rose Farm, and was established by Ron and Michelle Geritz, who moved there from Venlo-Blerick, and who still live there (July 2001). There is also a Blerik cottage in the Kittel Mountains in Sweden.

 

An interesting item compiled by the late BUCK RICHARDSON

THE VAN BLERK FAMILY CONNECTION.
 

Elizabeth Johanna (Babes) Price’s parents, Johannes Petrus (Jan) and Helena (or Margriet) van Blerk, (née Horak of Paarl), lived in Kalk Bay, towards Clovelly, in the area known as “Die Trappies” at the foot of “Die Trappies Kop” in a white house with blue window boxes standing today at 228 Main Road and also, some say, in a house named “The Clouds Rest” at today’s 232 Main Road, just above and to the left of this house. It would appear that J P (Jan) van Blerk moved from “The Homestead” to this area after his marriage. Most of the children appear to have been born here. These houses are still in existence in 2005, near the long defunct Clovelly railway station. Their second last child, Johannes Pietrus Stegman (John) van Blerk was born in 1902 at “Oasis” the house his father had built at Lakeside and which is now named “Harmony”, at 26 Norfolk Road.

Babes’ Grandparents, (J P (Jan) van Blerk’s parents), whose first names are unknown, owned virtually the whole area of Kalk Bay extending from and including Clovelly towards Muizenberg as well as land above and over the mountain where they ran cattle. Their farmhouse, Die Opstal, (the Homestead), where her father J P (Jan) van Blerk was born in 1855, is still in existence today, in 2005, just below the start of Boyes Drive, bounded by Clairvaux Road, Lock Street and Anderson Street, with its entrance at 2 Anderson Street. Besides J P (Jan) van Blerk they had daughters and at least 4 other sons, i.a. G C (Gert) van Blerk, and the youngest son, Japie, who never married. One daughter married Alberteyn after whom Alberteyn Street in Muizenberg is named, and another married Mills. (Perhaps the Auctioneer family Mills).

According to her brother John who did some research on his forebears, Elizabeth Johanna (Babes) Price’s great grandparents, (J P (Jan) van Blerk’s grandparents), whose first names are also unknown, had a farm with large herds of cattle which encompassed virtually the whole of Silver Mine, extending over the mountain nearly to Noordhoek. It is thought that sometime in the past the van Blerk family had been granted this land by the Governor as was customary in earlier days. As far as John knew, his great grandparents had only 2 sons – the one built his house (The Homestead) in Kalk Bay and the other son, also unnamed, built his house on a portion of land at the back of Simon’s Town mountain towards Olifantsbos, at Klaasjagersberg. He had married a dark woman and was disowned by his father and had changed the spelling of his name by adding the letter C, making his surname van Blerck. He is said to have had 2 sons.

J P (Jan) van Blerk’s parents had given him that portion of their land known as Die Trappies Kop – the steps hill. It is interesting to know how it came to be so named. In early times it was at first virtually impossible to travel along the coast from Muizenberg to Fish Hoek and on to Simon’s Town because in places the mountains reached all the way down to the sea. At Kalk Bay, St. James, Die Trappies and Sunny Cove large boulders extended down to the breakers. The old wagon road – die ou wapad – die ou Kaapse weg went up the Steenberg mountain and traversed what was once the van Blerk farmland, over the top of the mountains to Fish Hoek and over Brakkloofrand (now also known as Black Hill) on to Simon’s Town. The present and much more recent motor road of the same name does not quite follow the same route.

A passable track along the coast at the foot of the mountains was eventually developed when dynamitards arrived in the colony. Approaching Fish Hoek beach there was a series of ledges, which were likened to steps that traffic had to negotiate before the track continued along Fish Hoek beach. The beach had to be utilised because the remainder of the area consisted of sand dunes and was not traversable. Before these steep, zig-zag ledges were adjusted enough to be used by animal drawn vehicles they were suitable only for pedestrians though it would appear that daring cart drivers could manage them. Fishermen first called the shortcut die trap reis – the steps journey, but as years passed the area became known simply as die trappies and the hill at whose foot it lay, die trappies kop.

J P (Jan) van blerks portion of land, Die Trappies Kop, extended towards Clovelly from today’s Clairvaux Road, which leads from Main road to Boyes Drive. Different sections of the Muizenberg side of Clairvaux Road became the property of other brothers. The first section belonged to the youngest brother Japie, the second to G C (Gert), followed by N J van Blerk’s section.

On N J van Blerk’s section near the waterfall the family had established a dam which supplied the wash-houses and steam trains with water.

Before her death the van Blerk brother’s mother, (J P (Jan) van Blerk’s mother), had donated for that purpose, the piece of ground on which the present school is built.

When, on his mother’s death about 1908 or 1909, the youngest brother Japie inherited his piece of land which included “The Homestead”, G C (Gert), although he had previously been given a large tract of ground, felt it should have come to him. He contested the will in the Supreme Court, but at great financial cost to the family and the estate, failed in his attempt.

Yet Vincent Cloete of Godfrey Street, Kalk Bay, who knew G C (Gert) van Blerk, told me in 2003 that the area from Clairvaux Road towards Muizenberg as far as St Johns Road had belonged to Gert.

John van Blerk, whose father J P (Jan) van Blerk was born there in 1855, thought that “The Homestead” may be the oldest house in Kalk Bay and that it may be worthy of national monument status. He said that there used to be a very old tree in the grounds with a circular bench around its base. A pane in the small glass window in the front bedroom had a verse cut into it with a diamond. A widowed sister-in-law of his father with her 2 children Freda and Johannes van Blerk had also lived at “The Homestead”. J P (Jan) van Blerk’s father and mother and J P (Jan) van Blerks little son Michael were buried in the grounds but their graves are now thought to be under Lock Road. John said that G C (Gert) was too full of himself and was not a likeable man.

G C (Gert) van Blerk became a member of the Kalk Bay Council and was instrumental in getting the breakwater and harbour established. Before that the dinghys used to lie on the little beach and for that reason, according to Vincent Cloete, had no keels which made them difficult to sail. 3 grainbags of sea sand which were shifted as necessary, were carried as ballast by each boat. This sand was replenished daily from a sand dune which existed just below the present school, which accounts for that area being hollowed. These boats were rowed with 11 foot oars. The thallpins to hold the oars while rowing were made with ysterhout found on the mountain.

Vincent Cloete, 76 in 2003, told me that G C (Gert) van Blerk was a respected but not well liked man. He described him as an egte Afrikaner who used to settle any trouble amongst the fisher folk with a whip. His wife was also disliked. When members of the community came with their containers to her dairy for milk she had a pot of boiling water into which she dropped their money. “Gert’s Koppie” above Clairvaux Road is named after him. He gave a daughter a block of flats as a wedding present. He died suddenly on 29 September 1938 (when Vincent Cloete was about 12 years old). Gert had lived in the still existing, though altered house “Clairvaux” about half way up Clairvaux Street on the left side, just above the small café on the corner of Harbour Road. Vincent Cloete gave me the following rhyme which the folk used to quote, though in his opinion Gert was not lazy.

Gert van Blerk, Styf en sterk, Gou by die bak, maar lui om te werk.

Meaning:

Gert van Blerk, upright and strong, Quick to dish up, but lazy to work.

Sheilagh says that her mother who was G C (Gert) van Blerk’s neice had also quoted that verse.

Shortly before G C (Gert)’s death, Joe van Blerk had died in Cape Town on 11 July 1938. I’m unaware of how he figured in the family, perhaps he was the N J van Blerk mentioned earlier. J P (Jan) van Blerk died aged 61 in 1916 and his first wife, née Horak had predeceased him aged 46 in 1906. She was buried at Fish Hoek where a headstone was erected on her grave on 21 March 1934 (unconfirmed). In the 1950’s the Dutch Reformed Church sought permission from the family to build the Church hall over her grave. It is not known what became of the headstone. Perhaps it was removed to Muizenberg cemetery. Joey, J P (Jan) van Blerk’s second wife, whom he married in 1907, outlived him by about 30 years and lived to be about 90 years of age in her stone cottage on the lower side of Main Road, Lakeside where family members including grandchildren who knew her as “Munna”, often visited her. Very frail, she celebrated her 89th birthday in her home on 16 May 1945. Born 16 May 1856.

John thought that Nikolaas V van Blerk who had 3 daughters and ran a bakery in Kalk Bay was a son of a dead brother of J P (Jan) van Blerk. His youngest daughter, Carter, won a number of medals for swimming.

J P (Jan) van Blerk appears to have been the founder of the fishing village of Kalk Bay in the early 1900’s when he built about 20 wooden fisherman’s cottages on his section, “Die Trappies Kop”, using wood he had collected by wagon from the many old sailing ship wrecks on both coasts, which he hired to the fisher folk who had previously had no accommodation, some of whom had lived in the many caves on the mountain. He also built a shop nearby, which was run by his wife. There were also other buildings such as houses, cowsheds and stables. His son John said he was a good landlord and never charged the fisher folk rent when times were bad due to bad weather or when fish were scarce. The cottages were eventually demolished after the existing blocks of flats were built for the fishermen by the Council in the 1940’s.

For a while J P (Jan) van Blerk was engaged in transport riding between the diamond fields at Kimberley, where the railway ended, and Mafikeng. It was during this venture that he and Dawie Hendrickse, also engaged in transport riding, are said to have made their fortunes, in which dabbling in diamonds may have played a part, which enabled them to purchase large farms at Lakeside. He operated mule wagons and it was said to be during this time that an injury caused his left arm to be amputated above the elbow.

Amongst his children’s families various versions of how he came to lose his arm circulate. His son John van Blerk who said it occurred at age 19, gives the following account:

“One night while on trek he heard a lion roar so he went for his gun which was in the wagon and he pulled it out by the barrel of the gun which was fully loaded and the trigger caught and the buckshot got him in the left arm just above the elbow smashing bone and flesh and the lower arm was hanging on skins. They bound the arm near the shoulder to stop the blood and for a day and a half they retraced their journey to Kimberley Hospital where they removed the lower arm”.

J P (Jan) van Blerk’s daughter Helene had married Willie Hendrikse, a son of Dawie Hendrikse who had a Church, still existing at Lakeside, built for their wedding. Members of her family relate the story of the amputated arm as follows:

He was a transport rider between Cape Town and the diamond fields and was assisted by a coloured driver, Baron. Once at or near Beaufort West, Baron in removing the gun from under the seat accidentally fired it severely injuring J P (Jan)’s left arm resulting in it being amputated above the elbow in Beaufort West Hospital where he became attracted to the head sister or matron. After his wife’s death (1906) he married this lady and brought her back to his home at Lakeside (1907).

This account suggests that the accident occurred much later in life than at age 19. (1874)

J P (Jan) van Blerk’s daughter Elizabeth Johanna (Babes) Price’s family were told the story this way:

J P (Jan) van Blerk climbing the mountains at Hout Bay found a baby baboon which he picked up. On being confronted by the angry mother baboon he threw the baby back to her and ran. Unfortunately, in so doing he slipped and fell, causing the gun to fire and blow his arm off.

There is another suggestion that the shot may have been fired in anger, perhaps during a diamond transaction, but this surely is pure speculation. In any event he appears to have made his fortune whilst transport riding, before retiring to the farm he had bought with the proceeds at Lakeside, where he had built a house for himself and one for Baron and where he became a member of the Muizenberg Council.

His vegetable and dairy farm at Lakeside extended from the Steenberg mountain right down to the lake and on the main road he built a number of stone cottages, since demolished, which he rented out. He also established a grocery shop, dairy, butchery, a blacksmith shop and a bakery. Most of these premises were on the lower (lake) side of Main Road. Vegetable crops and cattlefeed were grown on the wetlands. Bread and milk and other farm products were delivered by horse-drawn wagons and carts.

Above the bakery, against the Steenberg mountain, J P (Jan) van Blerk had built an 8 roomed house in which John van Blerk was born on 8 April 1902. After the death of his first wife in 1906, J P (Jan) van Blerk’s English second wife had named this house “Oasis”. It was built near the foot of the oudeweg, die ou wapad, the historic forerunner of the present motor road ou Kaapse weg which does not entirely follow the same route. The wagon road ran to the top of the mountain and, later, when the reservoir was established, became known as the pipetrack.

When this old wagon road, which is the oldest colonial road pass in South Africa and was the only way from Cape Town to Simon’s Town until 1780, was discussed in the Wanderer’s column in the Cape Argus in August 1957 John added his input:

“I remember when as a lad 46 years ago, my father, who owned a dairy at Lakeside had most of our dry cattle taken to the top of this mountain for grazing. Sometimes we took them as far as the Noordhoek ravines, and I as a lad often walked that historic road. Many a night I spent on these mountains and often came across old articles such as broken wagon wheel bands (iron tyres), old steps, portions of trek chains and other corroded articles, also a broken yoke, very old and worm eaten. All these old parts must still be at the side of this ancient track. They must have belonged to the pioneers of this old pass.

According to the family the house, Oasis, was haunted. I quote John:

“There was a very old tomb on the property, the roof had fallen in and many bones of the dead were scattered all over the sandy floor. The coffins that were still moveable were taken away and the rest of the bones my father had buried behind the retaining wall. The back portion of that house was built over the area where the old vault once stood, and did that old house spook? I had a room right next to the kitchen and I used to hear cries in the night and groans, and hear pots, pans, cups and plates moving and falling, and someone walking on the wooden kitchen floor. Sometimes I thought it was my stepmother but calling, I got no answer. The next morning everything would be in its place. My room had its outlet in the kitchen and its window was in the breakfast room and at times I saw shadows there in the semi-darkness but nothing else.

“My brother Nick was a baker for my father and also my cousin Japie. Nick would not come home alone when it got dark at night, Japie had to come with him. Sometimes Japie used to come as far as our front gate and shout “look there” and run back to our bakery and Nick would run back with him. During the time that Nick was our baker he had a room at the bakery rather than sleep at the haunted house. My sister Matty, too, for the same reason, left home to stay with my aunt in Salt River where she met her husband Jim Verwey who was a machinist in the railway workshops there”.

Babes Price had also told her children these stories. She said that sometimes one would think that the whole kitchen dresser had fallen. She also said that after her father had died, with some unfinished financial matter on his mind, they used to hear him rustling through the paper files. She also told a similar story to the following one told here by John:

“I was glad when my stepmother sold that place. In 1916 aged 61 my father died there at 6/10 p.m. and the day before while Mr J Hendrickse, who used to help keep watch over the sickbed at night, was having his supper at 8/10 p.m., the double doors to the front door opened, first one and then the other. There was no wind. The doors stayed open for about a minute and then first one and then the other closed again. Mr Hendrickse looked at the clock, it was 8/10 p.m. The following evening they carried my father’s body through those doors at exactly 8/10 p.m., so he said that had been a pre-warning.

“A week before my father died our dog Toby sat outside his bedroom window and howled. I took him away but as soon as I left him he was back there again. Yes! What a death he had. When he died he was off his mind and called for us to bring the bushel baskets to load all the fish. In all my years I’ve had pre-warnings, even when my son Claude died”.

John’s older brother Nick was one of the 4 bakers but he later left to become a ships baker on the overseas runs and afterwards joined the regular army where he appears to have remained until his death, aged about 25, in 1918. He contracted the Spanish flu whilst in the army in Simon’s Town and was transported by lorry to Maitland. Family members waited at the roadside (in Lakeside?) to see him as he passed by and waved to him, covered with a blanket with his legs dangling off the lorry. He died on 13 October 1918 and was buried in the Military section of Woltemade cemetery. One account relates that he and his fiancée at Paarl both died on the same day unaware of each others deaths. Another account says that he had received a letter from his fiancée on the day he died which he had torn up and on his death was found in his mouth. We have a framed coloured picture of Nick wearing military uniform.

John said that his father’s health deteriorated after about nine years at Lakeside and the Bakery and Dairy were taken over by others and he had died 2 years before his son Nick, at age 61.

It may be appropriate here to relate another of Uncle John’s ghost stories, which had also been told to Babes Price’s children:

“This is a true story told by my father which happened in the last century (19th) at the Kommetjie, just off the reef then known as the island.

“A certain party came camping at Kommetjie. A father and son set out on an afternoon’s crayfishing in a small 2 man rowing boat with oars. When it started to get dark they started rowing in but a heavy southeaster came up and they could not row against it. As it worsened they started to call for help but no one could help them in that terrific wind. Quite a number of people were now on that island reef including the mother and future daughter-in-law, and it wasn’t long before they saw the boat capsize. Faint cries for help came for a short while then only the crying of the women could be heard on the reef. Most of the people remained there until midnight as no bodies washed up, then suddenly while everybody was looking out to sea the young girl flung herself into the sea and was drowned before they could help her.

“This is a true story, many old people of Noordhoek told me it was the truth, this did happen in later years of the last (19th) century. Many of these old people who are now dead said that they often went out crayfishing on moonlight nights and have seen this lady in white standing on the island reef, and if they didn’t go in to shore you can be certain that the wind will come up either suddenly or in the early part of the morning.

“That lady in white was well known by the folk now long time dead. This is not just a tale, it is the honest truth. This lady cannot be seen from the land but there are now few that know about it as it happened last century (19th) when people went to Kommetjie by cart and wagon to camp”.

John went on to write that when he was between 8 and 12 years old (1910—1914) he used to go camping at Kommetjie and Witsands with his father J P (Jan) van Blerk. They travelled in a horse-drawn wagon and took a coloured boy with them to do the chores, gather firewood and take care of the horses. At first they used to sleep under a sheet of canvas but they later made a marquee tent which was hand-stitched by John and some of his sisters, a job at which they became adept. They also assisted in making the haarder and galjoen nets at which he and his sister Matty excelled. Their first camp was at Witsands in 1909. John, who says he was his father’s left hand, had to bait the hooks. His older brother Nick used to swim across the Kom with a rope at high tide to pull a net across to trap the fish. Later a wall which was demolished in 1996, had been built across for the same purpose. At low tide after removing the haarders trapped in the mesh they pulled the net right across the kommetjie and got up to 13 bags of haarders bokkoms and springers most of which were given away free to folk from Noordhoek as J P (Jan) never charged.

NOTE.

(Besides being a fish trap the wall also improved the ideal conditions for bathing and swimming and Sheilagh’s earliest memories, and my own from 1949, are of the pool always being crowded with happy adults and children whose shouts of glee could be heard far afield. The adjacent beach, today known as Fisherman’s Beach, was also pleasant and popular until the Divisional Council in a misguided, though well intended, effort to upgrade the recreational facilities at the Kom in about 1960, filled in the natural sea-channel, thus creating a permanently dry approach to the island. Vegetation, roadways and parking was then established on this area, embraced by the Kom, the island, the road and the beach. Palms were planted and lawns established.

Filling in the channel was a big mistake. Before that, the high spring tides periodically flushed through the Kom and to a great extent kept it trouble- and maintenance-free. From then on the Council had to continually spend money cleaning it out. Decaying seaweed and kelp in the semi-stagnant water caused a bad odour and although water tests detected no pollution from ground water, Dr Midgely and some other residents raised fears of septic tank water seeping into the Kom and the Council erected notices stating that the water may be contaminated. Very regrettably, the Kom lost its popularity and declined into what it is today — a hardly used amenity. In 1996 in an effort to improve the in and outward flow of water, the Kom wall was demolished free of charge by a kindly contractor at the behest of the Kommetjie Ratepayers Association.

Deterioration to the beach, popular with residents and local boatmen alike, was further spoilt and became out of bounds to the general residents in the 1980’s when, for the purpose of launching boats, the Kommetjie Boat Club was given control of it, ostensibly for conservation reasons urged by Mr John Wiley, Minister of Environmental Affairs. It is today a very useful facility for the pleasure of fishermen but it is unfortunate that the general residents of Kommetjie have been robbed of what, not too long ago, were a large, safe, pleasant swimming pool and a delightful little beach, both of long-standing, which were contributory reasons why the village sprang up around them. Today, even if the previously existing natural channel which ran to the kom between the island and the road was reopened and tons of fresh sea sand were dumped on the beach to replace that bulldozed away by the boat club, it is sadly doubtful if the kom and beach would ever return to the popularity of their heyday.

Additional to the above despoiling caused by the Divisional Council in the well meant but misguided interests of progress, since the channel was closed unprecedented severe storm damage such as occurred due to gales and high seas in 1984 and 2002 will be repeated from time to time. Periodic damage to boats, streets, vehicles, garden walls and houses will continue to occur and more insurance claims will ensue.)

John says the little house at the Kommetjie, Lord Charles Somerset’s (1814—1826) getaway cottage, known at the time of which he writes as ‘The Kom House’, was occupied by Willie Kirsten who had the little shop and a Bedford car and used to fetch fresh bread, meat and post weekly from Kalk Bay. This house, though altered, at one time was also known as Honeysuckle cottage. Still later it was incorporated into “Buitenzorg”, the home of Johannes Frederick Dreyer who kept horses at Kommetjie. Today Gea Smith’s Palm Villa stands on the site.

John remembers the Kakapo wreck (1900) when it appeared to be still in sailing order, before the Noordhoek people started to strip it. On 15 September 1909 the “Umhlali” was wrecked on Albatross rock at Olifantsbosch Point and he collected hundreds of broken candles from the wreck which were washed out on the beaches, from which his father, J P (Jan) van Blerk, moulded hundreds of new candles. He also picked up pieces of amber “that glassy yellow stone” along the beach.

At some time during J P (Jan) van Blerk’s lifetime there were two poor German Jews, the Wolfsohn brothers, who were eking out a living pushing hand carts around buying and selling empty bottles and bags. He took pity on them and gave them financial assistance in opening shops in Lakeside and Kalk Bay in which they prospered. The plot where Wolfsohn’s shop was eventually demolished in Kalk Bay is still vacant on a corner of the mountain side of Harbour Road. Wolfsohn’s shop in Lakeside was on the lake side of Main Road.

John says that after his father died his stepmother Joey van Blerk wasted a lot of money in helping friends to acquire houses on the cheap and shops which was money she never recovered, and within a year of J P (Jan)’s death Joey had sold all his property at Kalk Bay and Lakeside to the Wolfsohn brothers for, as John says, well over R1 000 000 and invested the money through a lawyer (Beardman?) who over the following 8 years (1917—1925) lost all her and other peoples’ money in gambling on horse-racing and from then until her death aged about 90, Joey lived on a small pension. Sheilagh thinks that she also had financial assistance from Helene Hendrikse’s family. The lawyer was given a five year prison sentence. The Wolfsohn brothers became very rich and their sons became doctors. Two or three years ago a member of the family, a dentist, committed suicide.

“Oasis”, situated at 26 Norfolk Road, Lakeside, and renamed “Harmony” many years ago on its acquisition by Boet Kotze, the principal of Muizenberg School, whose daughter was Dr Kotze, has quite recently been acquired for what is said to be the bargain price of R400 000 by James and Di Rattle who have carried out extensive alterations and retained the name “Harmony”. Sheilagh and I visited it very briefly on 9 February 2003 when we met the friendly James Rattle and took some photographs. We also took some photo’s of “The Homestead” which was difficult because the house is now well hidden and inaccessible at 2 Anderson Street, Kalk Bay. The present owner didn’t take kindly to our enquiries over the intercom, disputing that it was the old van Blerk homestead, and we did not gain entrance to the property. Clairvaux, at 6 Clairvaux Road, Kalk Bay, the house J P (Jan) van Blerk had built for the Hollander who looked after his properties and which G C (Gert) van Blerk had also lived in was also photographed, as was “The Clouds Rest” at 232 Main Road, Kalk Bay and the house below, 228 Main Road, with the blue window boxes, in which Sheilagh’s mother was born and lived as a child.

There is a story told by family members that the Hollander (who habitually wore a Homburg hat) who oversaw the letting and maintenance of J P (Jan) van Blerk’s cottages, was thought to have colluded and conspired with the lawyer in swindling the estate and afterwards disappeared without trace.

John says that his mother had only lived in the Lakeside house for a short period before she died in 1906 aged 46. John was born there in 1902, so perhaps they had moved there about 1900 when J P (Jan) was about 45. His wife died when the children were still very young – Sue would have been about 16, Babes claimed to have been 14, Nick about 12, Michael would have been about 10 but he had previously died and had been buried at the “Homestead” in Kalk Bay, where his grandparents were also buried. Matty was about 8, Helene about 6, Lynn about 5, John was 3. Bertie had died before his mother’s death and was buried at Paarl but would have been 1 or 2 had he still been living.

J P (Jan) van Blerk had married the children’s stepmother, Joey, surname unknown, a year later in 1907. He was married to her for 9 years before he died in 1916 aged 61 when his children’s ages were: Sue about 26, Elizabeth Johanna (Babes) 24, Nick 22, Matty 18, Helena 16, Lynne 15 and John was about 13. Joey was an English woman and by conversing with the children in English and Anglicising their names, they became an English speaking family. She named their house at Lakeside “Oasis”.

On J P (Jan) van Blerk’s death his artificial arm which had been imported from England, and which he had never become accustomed to using, was buried in it’s lead-lined wooden box in the garden at “Oasis” in an area where they had a plant nursery. I do not know where his grave is but he was probably buried in Muizenberg cemetery.

After their mother’s death in 1906 the children (or some of them) had lived at Agter Paarl with auntie Maggie Dreyer (their mother’s sister?) who had a daughter, Maxie. She also had at least 2 sons, one of whom, Albertus, in later life occasionally sent grapes from their farm to the Prices in Kommetjie. Chris Dreyer, one of the younger family members won the Berg River canoe marathon a number of times in the 1950’s or 1960’s. Another member (sister?) of the Horak family, auntie Nellie (“Horak, Joubert, Marais”), died suddenly at Maxie’s (Max Texeira’s) house in Goodwood on 20 June 1947.

After their father’s remarriage aged 52 to Joey aged 51 in 1907 the children were brought back to “Oasis” where on arrival they encountered this tall, stern lady standing at the top of the front steps with folded arms saying firmly “I am your new mother”. They came to know her as “Munna” which perhaps came about through the younger children’s pronunciation of mother. She was strict but not unkindly so, and it would seem that they lived harmoniously together.

John said he remembered his grandmother, who had looked after him at The Homestead for a year after his mother had died, telling him that if he would speak to her in Dutch she would give him a calf.

John van Blerk’s research records that his family stems from Nikolaas van Blerk who came from Venlo in the Netherlands and was employed in the castle at Cape Town, who on 6 December 1739 married Catharina Maria from Nejimen (or Nemwegen), the daughter of Bernhardus Magetski and Catharina Drussen. The house they occupied at the Cape was already in existence near the castle before their marriage and is indicated on old maps of Cape Town amongst about 12 other houses which existed then. The names of the houseowners are printed below the houses and on another old map of Cape Town the owner of the same house is listed as J van Blerk.

If this research is correct, and a generation is taken to be about 25 years, then there are only 2 unrecorded generations between Dutchman Nikolaas van Blerk and Elizabeth Johanna (Babes) Price:

Babes. Born 1891.
Babes’ father J P (Jan). Born 1855.
Babes’ grandfather (The Homestead, Kalk Bay) Born about 1830.
Babes’ great grandfather (Silver Mine Farm) Born about 1805.
Babes’ great great grandfather (Unknown) Born about 1780.
Babes’ great great great grandfather (Unknown) Born about 1755.
Babes’ great great great great grandfather Nikolaas. Married 6 December 1739. Died 1760

I find a discrepancy in so far as John van Blerk’s information concerning his parent’s marriage is concerned. In a family tree drawn up by Alec Price only days before his death in 1954, he recorded his wife Elizabeth (Babes)’s mother’s name as having been Marg. (Margriet? Margaret?) Horak. John states that she was Helena Horak and that she married J P (Jan) van Blerk when she was 14 and he 19 in 1874. So we are not sure if her name was Marg. or Helena. One of their children, Mrs Willie Hendrikse was named Helena and another, Mrs Jim Verwey was named Margriet (Matty).

It would seem likely that auntie Maggie Dreyer’s name was a shortened version of Margriet, so perhaps in his failing health Alec had confused her name with her sister’s name when he wrote ‘Marg’. Also, we are certain that Elizabeth (Babes), J P (Jan) van Blerk’s second eldest daughter, was born in 1891. If their first child Susie (Susanna?) was born say 2 years before in 1889, then perhaps they married 1 or 2 years before that, say in 1887, when J P (Jan)’s age would have been 32 and his wife’s 27. If they had married in 1874 as stated by John then there would have been a lapse of 17 years between their marriage and the birth of their second child, after which they had 7 more children in quick succession.

Born perhaps about 1889, their eldest daughter Sue van Blerk was married to Wally Lunnon who was a postmaster at The Strand or Gordon’s Bay. Their children were George, Guy, Herby, Peggy and Doreen. The Price family had very little contact with them. Sheilagh and I knew only Herby who worked at de Beer’s explosives factory at The Strand. For a while when we were stationed at Cape Point Lighthouse our respective families used to visit each other. On a visit to Herby and his wife Doris in Gordon’s Bay in the late 1960’s, we briefly met his brother Guy who was then Controller of Customs.

Their second daughter Elizabeth Johanna (Babes) van Blerk, whose family history has already been dealt with under “PRICE FAMILY CONNECTION”, was born on 9 March 1891. About 1913 she married Alexander James Price and their children were Joan Joyce Helene, Bubbles, Billy, Handley Page, Stanley William Meredith (Bunny), Myrtle Stella Maris and Sheilagh Rosemary.

Their third child Nicolaas van Blerk was born about 1893 and aged about 25 and unmarried he died from the Spanish Flu whilst in the army during the first world war in 1918. He had previously been a baker.

Their fourth child Michael van Blerk, who would have been born about 1895, died very young and was buried in the family cemetery at “The Homestead” in Kalk Bay, where his grandparents were also buried.

Their fifth child, Maria Margriet/Margaret, (Matty) van Blerk was born 22 March about 1897 and married James Philip (Jim) Verwey, a machinist employed in the railway workshops in Salt River, whose blind father Philip Verwey was Dutch. The name ‘Matty’ was given her by her English stepmother. Their children were Rietha Isobel, who married her cousin, Handley Page Price. (See Price Family History); Christian (Son) who died unmarried about 2000; Dorothea (Dora), who had a childless marriage to Bill Knott who held a clerical position on the South African Railways; James (Jimboy) who married Winnie Watt. Their children were Charles, Lynne, George and Catherine; Peter, a railway storeman, who married Enid Hanekom. Their children were Allan, Michael and Christopher; Carol who married Norman Fraser who was employed by Shell Chemicals. Their children were Stephen, Russel, Gillian and Helen. Norman Fraser died about 2001 or 2002.

Their sixth child, Helene van Blerk was born 21 March about 1899 and married Willie Hendrikse who had a dairy farm, Raapkraal, at Lakeside. Their children were Willie, Enid, Edwin, Sydney and Raymond. Sydney married Maureen Norman and their children were Verena, Michelle and Steven.

Their seventh child, Lynn van Blerk was born about 1900 and died on 26 January 1935. She married Clarence Hendrikse, a cousin to Willie Hendrikse and their only child was John. John Hendrikse married Helen Tattersall and became an Apostolic Faith minister. Their children were Sandra and Steven.

Their eighth child Johannes Pietrus Stegman (John) van Blerk was born on 8 April 1902 and married Violet Harris, a Jewish lady. They had Cynthia, Gwendoline, Stegman, Claude and John. Claude died at an early age of a heart condition on 27 June 1970 and left his wife Maureen, née Botes with 3 small sons, Kevin, Neil and Carl as well as his two daughters, Linda and Loretta.  Neil and Carl became schoolteachers. John’s second wife Valmay had Darryl, Jonathan and Ashley. John died in August? 2003. Stegman married Doreen and their children were Michael and Greg. Gwendoline and Stegman have also died.

Their ninth child was Bertie (Albertus?) who died very young and was buried at Paarl.

Myrtle Stella Maris Price (a daughter of Elizabeth Johanna (Babes) Price, née van Blerk) who married Fairman and Randallhof, states that she boarded at the Homestead in Kalk Bay in the early 1940’s during the time she worked at the Olympia Bioscope in Kalk Bay as an usherette. It was occupied at that time by a cousin of her mother, (a neice of J P (Jan) van Blerk, Louie van Blerk, a tall, thin lady who was unmarried and wore her hair in a bun. She shared the house with a Miss Bester.

The following undated cutting from the False Bay Echo was published about 2003. It is by Joy Coburn, the curator of the Fish Hoek Museum.

THE NOORDHOEK SALT PAN.

When farming began in the Noordhoek area in the 1700’s, the cattle soon discovered that the vlei, which dried up in the summer, provided a good salt lick. The early farmers probably used the salt for their own consumption, but it was not until about 1830 that the salt was harvested commercially. No one seemed to have had the expertise to turn it into a successful business and it changed hands several times until a Mr van Blerk of Kalk Bay, who was then the owner of Clovelly, bought the rights to work the pan.

With sufficient finance, and proper methods of collecting the salt, he raised the output from 65 bags a year to 6 000 bags a year, so he obviously had a good business operation. The salt was very pure and for many years was sent all over the country. Eventually, as more farming was taking place in the valley, cattle roaming in what was an unfenced area started damaging and fouling the pans. Not being dependent on the business for his income the owner lost interest and allowed the salt pan to return to its natural state.

The following piece of information was extracted from The Cape Odyssey. Vol 3. Issue 4 dated April/May 2003. Page 21. 3rd paragraph. Perhaps it refers to J P (Jan) van Blerk’s father. More likely, perhaps, his grandfather.

NOORDHOEK.

There was a saltpan nearby that was the source of considerable activity. A traveller inspected the enterprise and had this to say, early in 20th century. “I did look around and saw how the salt was gathered but only once a year. From information given me by the most reliable authority, I found the saltpan and land is some 132 acres in extent and was first worked about 70 or 80 years ago (about 1830—1840) on a very small scale. The old method was to wait until the rain water was evaporated and the salt laid in sight once a year only. I found Mr van Blerk of Kalk Bay, had worked it for many years and one year his output grew from 65 bags to 6 500 bags. It was a matter of taking care to prevent cattle wandering over the pan and not allowing sand to be washed down from the hills so that the salt could scarcely come through the sand and dirt on the surface of the pan.” The visitor was most enthusiastic about the future of the saltpan and declared that it was better than any diamond or gold mine in the Orange River Colony and the Transvaal.

The following is an excerpt from “Southern Lights” — Harold Williams. Page 36, paragraph 1.

“The following description of a journey to Cape Point Lighthouse at the turn of the century (20th) by A Godsiff, who was a small boy at the time, the son of a senior naval officer sent to Simon’s Town in 1906, gives a vivid impression of the journey to the lighthouse.” He wrote:

“We were met at Jubilee Place, opposite the clock, by Mr van Blerck who had a two-wheeled cart drawn by 6 oxen. We left Simon’s Town at 8 a.m, and after going up the old Red Hill road, led by a coloured boy on foot, we stopped at the top for 10 minutes to admire the view of False Bay, before going down the other side. Then on to van Blerck’s farm where we outspanned and had a lunch break. We left van Blerck’s farm after an hour’s stop. With 6 new oxen we arrived at Smith’s farm (now The Homestead in the nature reserve) about five hours later. In those days there was no road to Cape Point, only a sandy track from van Blerck’s farm to Smith’s farm.”

The following is from an old police report:

Detective Department, Cape Town. 7 February 1900.

The alleged theft of a mailbag at Simon’s Town.

Sir, “I beg most respectfully to report for your information that I proceeded to Simon’s Town today, and made careful enquiries into the complaint of alleged theft of a postbag and two parcels from a youth conveying them to Cape Point Lighthouse on Saturday the 20th Jan, last.

“The postmaster says he handed the postbag which contained nothing of any value and one parcel to the youth about 12.20 p.m. on the 20th. The youth was then sober and appeared alright, he heard nothing about the loss till Sunday when the youth whose name is Wessell Wessells came and told him that the postbag and parcels had been stolen from him, he then took Wessells to the police.

“The youth Wessell Wessells, who resides with his parents at Smithswinkel about 9 miles from Simon’s Town, he comes from Griqualand West and has been down here about 5 months, is about 18 years of age, and is a real silly fool of a boy. His story to me is as follows:-

“He says between one and two o’clock on Saturday when he was going up the hill just near the reservoir, he met 2 men who asked him where he was going, and what he was carrying, he says they then took the postbag and the 2 parcels from him and walked away towards Simon’s Town, in the direction of the refugee hut, he says he did not follow them or report the matter to the police or postmaster, he pointed out this spot where he alleges this took place, and it is only 10 minutes walk from the police office, yet he did not report the matter to any person, but went home to Smithswinkel, 9 miles away, and the following morning he told his father who sent him to report the matter, he says he was sober and had nothing to drink, but on telling him I had witnesses who saw him drinking in van Blerck, Prince Alfred Hotel, he then said he only had one bottle of beer.

“Donald Friscler says he saw Wessells drinking in the hotel, that he was under the influence of liquor, this was about 1 p.m. on Saturday the 20th January. Two men who were going up the hill between 1 and 2 p.m. on Saturday whose names are Paul Jargens and Ludwick Jargons state:- They saw the youth Wessells going up the hill near the reservoir carrying 3 parcels and a postbag. Wessells was very drunk, and was staggering about as if he was going to fall, in fact they remarked it will be a wonder if he does not lose that postbag. Van Blerk the hotel keeper is a relative of Wessells, and he says he only saw him have one bottle of beer, it is very clear that this bag and parcels were not stolen from Wessells, he must have laid down some-where and slept himself sober and very likely left the parcels and bag at the place on the hill-side where he was asleep”.

I am,, Sir, Yours obediently (sgd) Geo. Easton.

A Clark Esq,
Inspector of Police
Cape Town.

Compiled by R V Richardson. Kommetjie, South Africa. 20 December, 2005.

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