Weathering the storm to reclaim historic beauty

Judging by the cars, this old picture of Margate Beach was taken in the 1970s.

Judging by the cars, this old picture of Margate Beach was taken in the 1970s.

Published May 12, 2024


Durban — High winds and heavy rain, estimated to be about 300mm, swept through the South Coast tourist town of Margate on Sunday, April 14, causing flash floods that left five people dead and damaged businesses and infrastructure.

Speaking to sister title the Daily News the day after the storm, Margate Business Association’s Surina Smart said the damage was expected to run into millions of rand.

Volunteers rallied behind the Tidy Towns Margate organisation, spearheaded by Stephen Herbst, and most of the beaches were cleared of debris within 48 hours.

The Independent on Saturday featured the Tidy Towns initiative, which started in 2021, on May 5.

Margate took its name from the original farm named Margate, named by English surveyor Henry Richardson after Margate in England.

The farm was bought in 1919 by Hugh Ballance for £466. Ballance chose the farm for “its beautiful beach and congenial scenery” – but farming was not to be its destiny.

In 1921 he subdivided it into half-acre plots and formed a township which he initially called Inkongweni, after the river.

Because of its remoteness, sales were understandably sluggish but a “globster” saved the day.

Flim-flam or fact? The picture posted on the unverified Trunko Wikipedia page, allegedly taken by “AC Jones” of the Margate “globster”.

In 1922 the “Margate Monster” brought the town fame around the world.

Called Trunko, the 14m-long marine creature was described by the then Daily Mail as being a “Fish like a polar bear”.

Reports said its fish-like body seemed to have no head, but rather a 1.5m-long trunk coming straight from the torso and a long, lobster-like tail. Its body was covered in 20cm-long white hairs.

On November 1, 1922, it was reported, Ballance and a handful of witnesses spotted two whales fighting with this creature off Margate Beach, in a three-hour battle that resulted in the death of the mysterious creature.

The corpse washed up on the beach later that day. Although the carcass lay on the beach for two weeks before it was washed away by the spring tide, not a single verifiable photograph was taken of it nor any sketch made.

A Wikipedia site for “Trunko”, clearly marked “unverified”, contains a picture of a white blob allegedly taken by “AC Jones”.

Did it really happen or was it an attempt to draw attention to the area to boost income?

We will never know, but it did ensure Margate became the hugely popular holiday destination it is today.

It’s a slightly different angle, but the beautiful view of the Indian Ocean through the Margate Beach palm trees remains, in spite of a heavy storm last month. | SHELLEY KJONSTAD Independent Newspapers

Independent on Saturday