Then & Now: A drive down West Street

By Duncan Guy Time of article published Mar 24, 2020

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Durban - In the old picture, medical doctor and motor car driver William Henry Addison (junior) takes a drive down West Street in a Model T Ford, in the early 1900s (right).

He was born in Natal in 1852, the son of Durban’s first district surgeon, with the same name, who named Addington after Addison Park, in Kent, England, where the family had its roots, writes Duncan Guy.

In his teens, William (junior) wrote in his memoirs that, Durban’s streets had not been hardened.

“They were deep, soft and churned up by ox wagons. There were a few wells about the town for drinking water, with no sanitary arrangements. Most of the Berea and along the present beach parade was dense bush, with many wild buck.”

He left Durban on board a steamship in 1875 to study medicine in Britain and returned in 1880. “The steamboats at the time were seldom able to get into Durban Harbour on account of sandbank or bar across the mouth of Durban Bay. Passengers were taken out by tug and slung on board in baskets,” he wrote.

William (junior) offered his services as a surgeon during the Zulu War, but was rejected. On his return, in November 1880, hearing there was a shortage of medical men in the Cape Disarmament Rebellion, he volunteered and was appointed surgeon to the Ibela Hospital in the Eastern Cape.

Later, he became the part-time district surgeon “of the Umlazi Division of the County of Durban” and then followed in his father’s footsteps and became a district surgeon in Durban for 36 years.

In the “now” picture, taken by Bongani Mbatha, William (junior)’s great grandson, Mark “Macco” Addison’s NUF registration represents the legacy further Addisons have left in Empangeni, both in the business and sugar cane industry.

West Street’s name has since been changed to Dr Pixley KaSeme Street.

William (junior)’s brother, “CB”, was the first of the Addisons to go to Zululand and planted sugar cane on the Mhlatuze Flats, pioneering the transport of cane to mills by rail rather than ox wagon.

He died a bachelor and left his farm to his brothers, sister, nephews and nieces, including William (junior’s) son, Lewis, whose son was well-known Empangeni businessman and community figure Puck Addison, who died in 2017.

He was Mark’s father.

In the “now” picture Mark is with his grandson, Luke Jansen, the great, great, great grandson of William (junior).

The Independent on Saturday

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