As you cross the Little Tugela river from the west on the R74, stop for coffee and a slice of lemon tart at the Pig & Plough in Winterton. It’s also a delicatessen. Their pork sausages and bacon are out of this world – perhaps, dare one say, because KwaZulu-Natal is fondly known as the ‘last outpost of the British empire’.
Winterton, incidently, was originally called Springfield. That’s where one turns south on the R600 towards Champagne Castle. Its name made us wonder about how that came about. As always, there seem to be several explanations, but Peter Raper’s dictionary of South African place names explains that two climbers attached to the Royal Engineers in 1860 got into an argument up in the mountain about which one had drunk most of their bottle of champagne.
Cathkin Peak in the central Drakensberg was named after Cathkin Braes, a hill near Glasgow in Scotland, by David Gray, one of the two intrepid climbers mentioned earlier. It is derived from the Gaelic words ‘cair’ meaning fort and ‘caenn’ – a head or end.
The Zulus call it Mdedelelo, for which several meanings are proferred, from ‘leave him in peace’ and ‘he cannot be overcome’ to ‘make room for him’ – probably as the peak seems to push the others to one side.
Heading towards Champagne Castle on the R600, turn left at the sign for Ardmore. About three kilometres on a gravel road, well before the Ardmore ceramic studio, is the ‘Negosie Museum’. Be prepared for time travel into the 1960s.
My friend Sandra Lemmer acquired most of the stock of the deceased estate of J. Millar & Son, who were general dealers in Lesotho. There she also found three corrugated-iron sheds that she brought to the family farm in KwaZulu-Natal and repurposed into a shop and an old-style general store, or rather a museum for her collectables.
Sandra’s Negosie Museum is packed with household goods in their original packaging. Although she initially sold some items to defray her huge cost, museum experts advised her to rather keep it all intact for public display and heritage value.
The friendly guide David Motseki invites us in, saying shopping next door is free, but there’s an entrance fee of R20 to visit the museum. It’s worth it. Sandra designed it around her childhood experiences of buying sweets at the Indian country store up in the valley.
She knew the idea was sound when an old lady of 90 entered the museum and exclaimed: “Oh my, I’m back in the days of my youth!”
In one corner, are bolts of dress material, sewing needles, pins, colourful J&P Coates yarn, buttons, measuring tape, and advertising posters for sewing machines. There are glass jars filled with boiled sweets and wooden crates with cooldrink bottles. Along another shelf, are home remedies and medicines: Jones’ Nerve painkiller, Balsam Copaiva, Little Darling gripe water, GR gall or bile pills, earache drops, ammoniated quinine, and castor oil!
Stacked between clay pots and enamel jugs, boot laces and pocket knives, are rolls of chewing tobacco, Minora shaving blades, and homemade soap. Suspended from the rafters are paraffin lamps and bicycle wheels.
On the shelves among the brand names we still recognise like Frisco, Royal jelly, and Nestlé, there are others vaguely familiar: Fray Bentos corned beef, tinned Hugo’s vegetables, Fab soap powder, Robin starch. And check out the Shu-Shine, Zebo polish and Tomango squash.
Equally fascinating are the enamel advertisements boards for cigarettes, washing powder and coffee – collected all around the country.
This display certainly brought back nostalgic memories of my own childhood years of the 1960s.
Thanks to Andrea Abbott for taking time to offer suggestions and editing tips.