Comment to preserve ‘piece of history’

The wreck sported a moss blanket a few years ago.

A plan to move a piece of Milnerton’s maritime history is open for public comment.

Last month, Tabletalk reported on the application to the South African Heritage Resources Agency’s (SAHRA) to move the remains of the Commodore II’s wooden hull from near the mouth of Lagoon Beach to a grassed area in the car park a few metres away (“Wreck’s future in the balance,” Tabletalk, October 5).

Andre Baard, who represents the applicant, The Citylife Trust, said: “The concept is to conserve the wreck from inevitable further degradation and create an authentic outdoor maritime wreck mini-museum for the future generations to enjoy.”

One of the owners of two office blocks along the beachfront, Mr Baard said he had been oblivious to the wreck’s history, until one day when he noticed a piece of it had come loose.

He had wanted to remove it and turn it into a display piece at a nearby office, but someone had asked a security guard to tell him it had heritage protection and was not just a piece of beach debris.

This incident compelled Mr Baard to do some research.

He contacted councillor Joy McCarthy who, in turn, delved into its colourful history.

Cringing at the idea that he had almost helped to reduce a piece of Cape Town’s maritime history, Mr Baard decided it was worth the effort to save.

The wreck was once part of an elegant four-masted schooner built in America in the early 1900s. It was used as a set in the 1935 movie Mutiny on the Bounty, starring Clark Gable.

Later the vessel ferried coal during World War II between South Africa and South America, and when she was no longer in use, she was torched, and the wreck floated ashore off Paarden Eiland.

“In a world where history is so quickly buried and forgotten under the weight of ‘progress’, wouldn’t it be nice to preserve a little something that has survived the fierce Cape of Storms for so long? Why just let it rot away?” said Mr Baard.

His resolve to preserve the wreck was only strengthened once he learned it was part of his family history too.

“My mother grew up here, and she told me she used to play on the selfsame piece of wreck, although much bigger back then, way back in the 1950s. At the time, it was lodged somewhere between Brooklyn and Lagoon Beach,” he said.

If the trust succeeded in moving the wreck, a brass plaque would be mounted nearby to tell the story of the Commodore II. The Lagoon Beach Hotel would keep the site tidy and under guard, but the wreck would still be open to the public.

Mr Baard envisions family picnics around the wreck and brides and grooms posing on top of it.

“People will have 30 days to respond to the notice. If people shoot it down, I’ll step away and let nature take its course, but why deprive the community of this interesting bit of history?”

The public have until Friday December 2 to send comments, anecdotes, suggestions or objections to Andre Baard, The Citylife Trust, PO Box 367 Durbanville, or email thecitylifetrust@gmail.com