Journal Volume 6 2010
Sir Albert Hime, Prime Minister of Natal (continued/2)
Visit to South Africa
All of this information came to life for me when on my second visit to South Africa I crossed a bridge called Hime Bridge and realised I had just bypassed the town of Himeville. Retuning home I contacted the South African Embassy who gave me the name and address of the Mayoress of Himeville. This led to much correspondence and a visit from Beryl Robins from Himeville to Kilcoole. On my next visit to South Africa my sister and I were invited to stay for a few days with the Mayor of Himeville. We were given a great welcome and I formally presented a painting of Kilquade church and a few copies of my book on Kilcoole to an invited group at the Museum.
Himeville is situated at the southern end of the Drakensburg Park and is a world heritage site. Drakensburg means the ‘Mountains of the Dragon’. This honour was granted in recognition of, to quote, ‘Its unique richness of biological diversity, its endemic and endangered species, its superlative natural beauty as well as its masterpieces of human creative genius in the form of tens of thousands of San rock paintings’. In plain English, it is a wonderful and beautiful place to visit. It is also the home of the renowned Drakensburg Boys Choir.
During our few days there we travelled on roads and railway tracks built by Albert Hime, crossed bridges he had construct-ed, saw the rivers where he loved to fish, climbed the mountains he had surveyed and visited the caves and saw the paintings of the original Bushmen. We dined in the Himeville Arms hotel which was once owned by a Mr Hitler – no relation to Adolph, I am assured.
I started this piece with the observation that Irish people were to be found in every land. We found a number of them here. We climbed by Land Rover up the San pass to the border of Lesotho. At the top of the pass there is a rest house and pub. We had a pint of beer. It is the highest pub in the whole of Africa and owned by an Irishman. Who else but an Irishman would own the highest pub in Africa?!!
I have an email here from the present Mayoress of Himeville regretting she will be unable to attend today’s ceremonies. She is a very kind and conscientious African lady called Eugena McNamara. With a name like that, she also must have an Irish connection.
For me it has been a memorable experience to have followed in the footsteps of a Prime Minister from Kilcoole in Wicklow to Himeville in Natal which like our own garden county is world famous for its beauty.
The following is an email received from the current Mayoress of Himeville:
‘It is a great sadness to the community of Himeville that we cannot be present at today’s ceremony honouring a great Irishman who became a great South African.
Sir Albert did not live in Himeville but he frequently visited this beautiful part of our country, walked in the mountains and fished the rivers. He must be counted as being one of our very first tourists and we are proud to be called Himeville after him.
Tourism is one of our top three industries, the others being dairy farming and forestry. We boast rare Alpine flora and avifauna, many examples of San Rock Art and a few years ago we were declared a world heritage site.
It would give us immense pleasure to welcome tourists from Kilcoole, Wicklow and Ireland, and, as you say in Ireland, we would give them a ‘Céad Mile Faíilte’ to share the beauty and peace of this area.
Although currently we are unable to officially ‘twin’ with Kilcoole, it is our dearest wish that it will come to pass one day, and we believe Sir Albert would approve. Unlike others who sent their children home to be educated all of his went to school here, grew up, married and worked here. His grandchildren still live here. Had he lived in the days of air travel he might have encouraged student exchanges and we look forward to the days when we can establish such links between you and us. We have so much poverty in our area with orphanages and limited schooling for children with AIDS and T.B. that tourism and exchanges would benefit us all.
Until then please let us use the doors that have been opened by Robert Jennings and join hands in an enduring friendship.’
Editor’s note: this paper was presented by Canon Jennings as part of the La Touche Seminar on 1st October 2006. It was followed by the unveiling of a plaque on the house where Albert Hime was born in Kilcoole and the planting of a tree in his memory. This was the ceremony referred to in the mayoress’s email.