Hayward Young & Co

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A Blog Post

Centennial Walkway

The Hayward Young Centennial Walkway was erected by the Young family as a gift to the people of Port Elizabeth and in commemoration of the centenary of Hayward, Young and Company, founded 1903.

It is a good land which the Lord our God doth give us

Deuteronomy 1:25

You have reached the end viewpoint of the Hayward Young Centennial Walkway. Look east; to your right is South End which was once the home of ‘coloured’ people until they were cleared out under the Group Areas Act and moved to the northern areas reserved to ‘coloureds’. It was a lively community – much like District Six in Cape Town – and one or two mosques survive. Otherwise scarcely a trace remains. [15]

Now, looking directly east towards the sea, you will see the harbour. But for more than 300 years, before there was a harbour, ships had anchored in Algoa Bay to re-supply with water. The Dutch East India Company placed a beacon – hence the name of the river, the Baakens – on a cliff at the mouth of the river. This beacon has however never been found.

Just round the corner to the north-east, hidden from view, is the beach where the 1820 settlers landed in boats, and were welcomed by Captain Evatt, the local British commander, and Dutch farmers from round about.

Turning further north, Fort Frederick comes into view. It was built by the British in 1799 and named after the Duke of York, the commander-in-chief of the British Army. It was intended to provide a secure rear base for possible sorties into the troubled hinterland. It never heard a shot fired in anger.

The Baakens Valley below you is a municipal park where indigenous flora are protected. It is a fine and sheltered “green lung”. It runs for 23 kilometres through the city. Three of South Africa’s nine biomes are represented (fynbos, Albany thicket and forest). Over 200 birds species have been counted. [16]

Look down towards the lower end: there is Valley Road, where the world-renowned playwright Athol Fugard set Hello and Goodbye, which portrays the lives of a poor white family.

Above the parking area for Settlers’ Park on the other side of the valley, are remains of the trenches dug in 1901 during the Boer War when the British feared a possible assault on the town by Smuts’ commando, raiding down from the Orange Free State.

Not visible from the walkway, but all within just a kilometre or two, are the institutions which are associated with the Young family and many other Port Elizabeth families. There is the City Hall, erected in 1860-2 where John S Young was a councillor for 53 years, and mayor three times; and where his son Graham Young was also a councillor, for forty years, and twice mayor.

There is the Drill Hall, the headquarters of the Prince Alfred’s Guard, in which Jimmy Young was an officer before and during the second world war.

There is the Hill Presbyterian Church in Belmont Terrace where members of the family have worshipped for over 100 years.

The old Collegiate School for girls has gone, replaced by the High Court, and moved to Linton Grange, but the Grey High School built in Mill Park in 1914 is the same school attended by three generations of Youngs. On a clear day you might hear the bells in the school tower sounding the hours. Jimmy Young was chairman of the school committee for many years; his sister Nancy Young was a teacher there during the Second World War. John Young wrote the school’s history, Spirit of the Tower, on its 150th anniversary.

[15] See Roy H du Pre (Editor), South End as we knew it, Western Research Group, 1997, and Raymond Uren (editor), South End, the aftermath, Western Research and Historical Association, 2003.

[16]See the excellent guide to the Baakens Valley:  Marianne Lear, The Baakens Valley, an ecological and historical field guide, Baakens Valley Community Partnership, 2013.  www.wessa.org.za.