Towards the end of last year I came across an entry in the book Port Elizabeth in Bygone Days, written by JJ Redgrave and published in 1947, that detailed the opening ceremony of St Georges Park on 6 August 1861.
I stopped and said to myself; “Self, this is such a great opportunity to embark on a little bit of marketing for old Port Elizabeth, not to mention a great opportunity for the tourism industry to promote Port Elizabeth AND make a little bit of loot.”
So I sent a heads up to a number of people in our splendid city – seeded the water with bait you may say – and waited. Of course a little bit of quiet lobbying on the side also happened!
And, like the proverbial one eyed horse racing around the track, WE ARE OFF!
Today marked the first gathering of stakeholders from St Georges Park and surrounds who are embarking on making this little vision come true – fair brings a tear to me eye just thinking about the enthusiastic commitment displayed by people in the room today.
The proposals around the upcoming commemoration festivities were given an excellent boost after viewing a ‘shortened’ presentation on the history of St Georges Park by Ivor Markman with valuable input from Margaret Harradine.
Some suggestions that were made:
- Planting of commemoration tree
- Presenting the Athol Fugard play, Master Harold and the Boys in the St Georges tea room that gave birth to the play and was run by his mother.
- Burying a Time Capsule.
- Period piece Bowls, Tennis, Rugby and Cricket matches.
- Commemoration of the first Balloon flight by the ‘Celestial Empire’ on 2 March 1892.
- Bumper Art in the Park.
- Folk Club.
- Mannville Open Air Theatre Plays.
My vision for the commemoration is to act as a huge attraction that will bring people to Port Elizabeth from other towns. I am sure that we would get many oversease visitors to PE if we had to get Athol Fugard himself along with actors such as John Kani to present Master Harold and the Boys in the Tearoom that inspired the play.
We could even, at the very least, give Athol the freedom of St Georges Park.
The first prize for the month of August would be to have events that cover the entire month – what a bonanza for the tourism industry that would be.
Do you want to get involved?
If so then please do one or more of the following:
- Go straight to the comments section below and tell us what you think WE SHOULD DO or who should be involved with marking the 150th Anniversary of the opening of St Georges Park.
- Contact Phrosne at NMBT – 041 582 2575 or 082 783 5880 or at events[at]nmbt.co.za– to join the merry band of stakeholders – anyone with the remotest tie to St Georges Park is extremely welcome.
- Graphic Designers – how about coming up with a logo for the 150th Anniversary – giving back to your community will reap reward.
- Big and Small Business – creative sponsorship packages will be welcomed.
- Readers – pass this on to everyone you know and lets get the ball rolling.
The original MyPE article published on 29 November 2010 is below:
www.MyPE.co.za: I am having great fun reading Port Elizabeth in Bygone Days written by JJ Redgrave and published in 1947.
As fortune would have it I came across an entry on page 283 detailing the opening ceremony of St Georges Park on 6 August 1861. 6 August used to be marked as Prince Alfred’s Day.
Unlike my fellow 10d woodworking peers at the old alma mater I do possess the ability to do sums in my head and, to my delight, realised that this would mean that St Georges Park celebrates it’s 150th Anniversary of establishment in a scant 9 months time on 6 August 2011.
The scene is described in Port Elizabeth in Bygone Days thus; “Flags and streamers were flying in every direction, all shops were shut, people dressed in holiday attire, and expectation stood on tiptoe. By a sort of instinct the Market Square (now Vuyisile Mini Square) seemed to be the centre of attraction. Here the naval brigade all dressed in blue and white stood mustered under Captain Chapman and Lieut. Wheatland. The worshipful concillors in ‘tails and gloves’ began to assemble at the Town Hall and looked most grave and dignified. Presently the band struck up and matched smartly down Main Street (now Govan Mbeki Avenue) and up Donkin Street past the Scotch Church. The concillors then proceeded to the Hill and by the time the brigade had reached the spot, a good crowd of people had assembled to witness the ceremony of planting the first tree in the newly-named St Georges Park. A fellow townsman, Mr Birt, had presented the Mayor with a young oak and this was to be the tree.
The Mayor, Mr William Smith, then explained to the assembled crowd the purpose of the meeting, after which he called upon Mr Pearson, the originator of the idea, to address those present. In brief, it was to the effect that for some time a public playground had been needed in Port Elizabeth and that the Mayor was about to plant the first tree in what it had been decided to name ‘Prince Alfred’s Grove’. In later years when people would assemble in St Georges Park they would point to the Prince’s Grove and say; ‘for that and for this spacious playground we are indebted to the foresight and kindness of a former Municipal body who commemorated the first anniversary of a Royal Prince’s visit in inaugurating for the comfort, health, and recreation of their fellow-townsmen for all time these shady walks and extensive beautifully laid-out grounds.’ After this, champagne was produced and amid a volley of popping corks and several repartees, healths innumerable were drunk, and success to St. Georges Park and to the Prince’s Grove pledged over and over again.”
Read more about St Georges Park on the excellent St Georges Park History Web Site by Debbie Derry and Ivor Markman.