A six-page ode to Milnerton’s past

One of the early buildings in Blouberg.

Many Capetonians will be camped around a braai fire enjoying the crackling sound of melting fat dripping from meat sandwiched between a grill and the mouth-watering aroma it creates on Heritage Day, Saturday September 24 . But “chop en dop” aside, the day is also a great opportunity to reflect on the culture and diversity of the people who make up this beautiful land.

Milnerton, in particular, has a rich history of culture and generations, sadly long forgotten, who shaped its landscape and personality against what could arguably be the most magnificent backdrop in the Mother City.

Who remembers The Homestead on the farm Janbiesieskraal which stretched from Paarden Eiland to Potsdam?

How about the beautiful jarrah wood boathouse that burnt down in 1918? Anyone recall Louis Langerman?

“No one could write about Milnerton and leave out Louis.”

This is according to Winifred McPherson (nee Von Buddenbroch), one of Milnerton’s residents who took the time to capture the area in its early days through paintings and a beautifully written and well detailed story.

From a little seaside village called Great Brak River, Winifred moved to Milnerton with her husband, Quinton, and their children in 1944.

She was an artist who also made a living teaching art at a high school in Rondebosch for a while and was often commissioned to do paintings.

Two such paintings were of August Henry Ludwig Burmeister and his wife. They were the first mayor and mayoress of Milnerton.

Winifred’s son, Andy, who will soon be moving from Milnerton to Great Brak River, recalls the house he grew up in Milvalle Road.

He remembers his mother painting the walls of his and his siblings’ rooms with the characters from a children’s book.

“When I close my eyes, I can still see the paintings on the wall,” says Andy, closing his eyes. Sadly, the house, which was called Wavertree, was demolished a few years ago. It was one of four houses built by a Liverpudlian called Mr Mathers.

In Winifred’s six-page story, Our Town – Milnerton, she speaks of Mr Mathers, a caretaker, who, in his spare time, built four houses in the area and named them after suburbs in Liverpool: Brixton, Edmonton, Wavertree and Edgehill.

“They are by no means stereotyped houses, which is not surprising, for he was quite a character,” Winifred writes about Mr Mathers.

As Andy and his partner, former sub-council chairwoman Heather Brenner, pack their lives into boxes, ready for the move to Great Brak River, his mother’s paintings still hang on the walls.

He points to the painting of the original Janbiesieskraal homestead, which was published in Eric Rosenthal’s book on the history of Milnerton. Another painting is of a Blouberg house not far from Ons Huise.

It is refreshing to see these images without the hindrance of wires and electric poles. But where the paintings capture Milnerton’s aesthetics, Our Town – Milnerton captures its people, including Milnerton’s first estate manager, Mr Rust, who was originally a prison warder.

“He was very Scotch, very large, and rode what seemed to be a very small bicycle slowly and deliberately,” writes Winifred.

Another “impressive character” from the past is Albert Coates who wore a dark “dramatic looking cape” on chilly evenings and loved to walk down to the beach.

“He was a tall, strong figure with a wonderful massive head of silver hair, and he would have looked outstanding anywhere, but against the backdrop of Table Mountain and an evening sky, he was magnificent.”

Winifred died in the early 1990s at the age of 87, but her memories of Milnerton, captured in her writing and on her easel, echo through history.

At the end of her story, she says: “Milnerton has grown from a gangling uninhabited Huckleberry Finn into a well-groomed law-abiding citizen. The freckles, the bloom and the sparkle of youth have gone forever, but a very interesting personality remains”.