Small places are often guardians of wonderful tales. Darlington, a tiny hamlet, which ended in a dam, is a case in point. It was officially founded in 1905 by a hawker and Eastern Cape farmer, P.W.F. Weyers, who harboured a life-long grudge against the Boers because they shot and killed two of his cows on Bedrogsfontein Pass during the Anglo-Boer War. Weyers’s farm in time grew into a settlement with fruit orchards, vineyards, hotel, post office, shop, smithy and several houses. One of the hamlet’s best-known inhabitants was Dr Reginald Koettlitz, the senior medical officer who travelled with Captain Robert Scott’s first expedition to Antarctica (1901-1904). When blame was laid at his door because Scott’s men contracted scurvy, he returned to South Africa and took refuge in Darlington. He later moved to Cradock where he is buried. Darlington disappeared when Lake Mentz was built to supply irrigation water to Sundays River Valley farmers in 1922. The first chairman of the Irrigation Board was Sir Percy Fitzpatrick, author of Jock of the Bushveld, who said: “Colonel Hendrik Mentz, then Minister of Land Affairs, granted permission for the building of the dam, but he was not popular, so when it was suggested that the dam be named in his honour someone exclaimed: ‘Oh, damn Mentz!’ ‘No,’ came a prompt retort, ‘Lake Mentz!'” The name was changed to Darlington Dam in 1990.
© Rose’s Roundup, vol. 2, no. 71, August 2009
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