The tree of happiness flowers and fruits most abundantly for the creative man
Queen Elizabeth ii Golden Jubilee celebrations this year brought to mind the Jubilee Fountain that once graced Farewell Square and the Town Gardens in Durban, Natal.
In 1887 when Queen Victoria had reigned for 50 years over the sprawling British Empire, the loyal subjects and citizens of the city of Durban celebrated this milestone with several official functions and unveilings, one of them being that of the Jubilee Fountain. In addition, Durbanites were celebrating the commissioning of the Umbilo Water Works begun the previous year in 1886 that delivered large quantities of much needed water to Durban, its citizens and gardens.
Appropriately for a maritime city – the fountain sported five heraldic dolphins and five pelicans, with three stone basins that poured water into a circular collection pond which was surrounded by seating for the weary or appreciative burgess.
Located in front of the then Town Hall (now the Post Office) the fountain survived for many years, until it was dismantled when the great War Memorial was erected at the end of World War 1. Thoughtlessly and typical of all Durban Councils (both then and now) with no appreciation of the historic, the fountain catch pond was demolished and the fountain head was relocated to the paddling pools adjacent to the Ocean Beach, Promenade and beach hotels.
In this incongruous location, it resided for many years until it disappeared forever. Here, surrounded by a crude ring of ugly rocks, Durban children splashed themselves on hot sunny days under a stream of salt water. What became of it I do not know, but what I know of corrosive salt water and Durban’s rusting atmosphere, we can likely guess the fountain’s ignoble ending.
(above) A remarkable and historic photograph of the Paddling Pools, Jubilee Fountain and a hot air balloon in the sky.
And what can be said of the wanton destruction of historic Durban? Not much survives, but ironically what has – are the thoughtless successive municipalities , who have crassly disrespected the historic. Over the past 130 years successive Councils have wantonly destroyed virtually all of Durban’s Victorian buildings. Thus they have disconnected the present from the past.
The present Durban Council, in an attempt to out-compete previous councils, has changed the names of virtually all of Durban’s historic streets. Among many – Gardiner, Smith and West Streets – named originally after three of Durban’s notables, namely – Captain Gardiner, Captain Smith and Governor West. For generations to come, scholars and historians doing research on Durban’s past will be endlessly confused. Finding locations and siting events will forever be a difficult and frustrating task. How mindless of the Council – as if a growing and thriving Durban was not building enough new roads to rectify the historic naming imbalance.
Perhaps it is my appreciation for history that I rebel against this name-changing, this futile and ridiculous attempt to rewrite history and to erase Durban’s past. For no matter what the present Councilors now call Durban’s main thoroughfare, the street will maintain into perpetuity the historical fact that it was named West Street first. The name-change merely becomes another historical point that fails to negate the past.
And who do we have to thank for this idiocy – Councilors whose loyalties are to the agendas of their political parties and not to Durban.
Which brings me full-circle to the Jubilee Fountain. Although no more, is it not amusing that here I am writing of this monument a hundred years after its demolishing? And so it will be for West Street, and Sparks Road, and Essenwood Road a hundred years from now.
And so to end this posting – allow me to quote the much used proverb – he who laughs last laughs best.
(above and below) The fountains can be observed in the lower right quadrant of these photographs.
(3 images below) An image that records the new position of the Jubilee Fountain in the midst of the Paddling Pools and adjacent to Model Dairy Tearoom and the Bandstand, Ocean Beach and Promenade.
(3 images below) In these photographs we can note that the Jubilee Fountain has now been removed, and all that remains is the ring of stones in the pool.