Wednesday, 3 June 2015

An Old Country Hotel filled with history and interesting stories

Our town, Harrismith, is filled with history and interesting stories.
Part 1
As told by the hosts of De Oude Huize Yard 
The old photo's of the hotels from a bygone era always fascinated me.  In short in the late 1800’s Harrismith boost 11 hotels.  These hotels were: 
The  Spillsburg, Jones, Dodds, Donaldson, Chancey, Imperial Royal (previously the Railway), Devonshire  Central and the Caskie later the Commercial and currently the Grand National but in a new building,


The beautiful old National Hotel
In March of 1880, a mysterious robbery took place in The Caskie Hotel. 
A certain gentleman by the name of R.J. Barns of the firm, Barns and Mcfie, 
dealers in livestock, spent a night at the hotel on his way to Bethlehem. 
On arrival he placed a chest containing 5000 pounds in gold in the bedroom. 
The following morning the money had disappeared! 
A reward of 300 pounds and later 1000 pounds was posted but no 
information was ever forthcoming. Barns summoned Caskie to Court and 
demanded “damages” be paid. He lost his case. The thief was never found and the money was never recovered.

Harrismith’s news correspondent at the time, reported in the Natal Witness that, 
“This being a border town, we get more than our share of deserters, runaways and loafers.” 
The outcome of all of this was a petition to the “Volksraad” and a request for more policemen.
The Grand National is the last hotel that survived.
Originally built with 8 rooms upstairs  with only a basin in each room.
 Downstairs one would find the dining room, kitchen,
pub and reception area and the manager’s office.
In 1896 ZA Breweries took over ownership and the name was changed to the Commercial Hotel. 
The name would change again in the 1920’s to The National Hotel 
and again in the 1940’s to The Grand National Hotel. In 1961 the hotel was bought by John and Phyl Annandale.
A fire destroyed a section of the old hotel and it had to be rebuilt.  
It was then when modernization also had a huge effect on the old / new hotel.  

The "Grand" as it now looks 
"Big John" Annandale in the Assegaai pub and the photo was taken in 1962. 
The beautiful bar counter polished to a special shine. The pub was then known as the ladies bar. 
The Grand was bought by John and Phyl Annandale in 1961 bring about the first change of ownership 
since the hotel has been bought by the ZA Breweries in 1896. 
The hotel was built by mr Caskie in 1876 and the name was changed to the 
Commercial Hotel in 1896. 
Again the name was changed to the National Hotel in the 1920’s and in the 1940’s it was
changed to the Grand National Hotel. 
Mr. Annandale had hit a novel idea to raise money for charity. 
The walls of the bar are lined with tiles which were “sold” to customers whose name 
painted on the tiles by an artist. 
Every one that made a donation of R1 or more names was painted in gold on the face of one 
of the tiles which made an eye-catching recorded of a generous act. 
The funds were donated to the retirement home for those old people of Harrismith 
who need and perhaps, will need help, to live out their lives without too much suffering
and with all the comfort.
The cheque that was handed over was for the amount of R1010. 
The old room key and message holder
As history proved the Grand belonged to the ZA Breweries and beer was the main ingredient 
to fill lives with joy. According to legend the wagon with the beer barrels would park
in Warden Street and then the barrels were rolled into cellar situated underneath the 
pub via a shoot. 
This is the trap door through which the beer barrels were then hoisted into the pub. 

Was this be the old beer wagon 

The section marked was the old wagon and cart parking area.
In modern days this area was converted into a pub

Close-up of some of the trophies 

Trophies eared during dart competitions
The old wooden ice boxes 

Lots of blessing from South Africa 

Thanks to Biebie de Vos for his help with photo's and information