Apart from the vehicle entrance, the pedestrian entry to the campus of the school I used to teach at was a small lych gate. Lych gates are more commonly seen as entrances to a churchyard or consecrated ground.

This is a church school and the gate is really only a stone’s throw from the school chapel, so the choice may be forgiven – I believe it was erected as a memorial to someone, although there is no sign of that on the gate. When I was there, very few of the girls attending the school knew what a lych gate represents. To them it was simply the name of a place: “meet me at the Lych Gate” was no different from “meet me at the drinking fountain”. The school, well over a century old, is peppered with names commemorating people or events from the past that have simply become names in the present – the historical significance gradually disappearing over time. The amusing aspect of this particular lych gate though is that a long-serving member of the administrative staff would regularly refer to it as the LYNCH gate! This might have been related to the spellcheck in MSWord – which duly underlined every ‘lych’ in this paragraph and suggested it be replaced with ‘lynch’. It was an interesting slip though for the word ‘lych’ comes from the Old English līc, meaning corpse.

In practical terms, a lych gate is a covered gate that was traditionally where the corpse bearers would wait for the priest to receive the corpse for burial. The one I mentioned earlier has low wooden gates, but this modern one at the entrance to the New Cemetery in Grahamstown, is a drive-through one.

Following tradition it has a pitched roof, this one covered with clay tiles. It also has small bench seats on either side, which would originally have been a resting place for the shroud-wrapped body or coffin. In these days of hearses, the best these narrow benches could offer perhaps is some shelter for a few people from the rain.


These were the first two animals of one of the Urban Herds to walk past my front gate on Sunday.

Another Urban Herd temporarily blocked our way along Somerset Street later in the morning.

They ambled down African Street quite oblivious to the vehicles travelling in both directions.

Part of yet another Urban Herd had made itself at home in someone’s garden. I couldn’t help wondering if they have become adept at opening gates.

We saw these two looking bewildered at the side of the road on our way home. They both sniffed at the air and turned their heads in different directions. One mooed loudly and they seemed to be listening carefully for a response. After a few minutes they set off at a steady pace in the direction of the bridge on the main road – doubtless to join the rest of their herd which had gathered on the outskirts of the suburbs.

Having seen enough of them for one morning, we didn’t follow them.


The Urban Herd(s) – there are so many of them roaming around the suburbs now – look benign during the day.

This is a small section of one of them grazing in the open park below our house. Many of these beasts are attractive to look at and, as I have mentioned before, we have actually got to recognise several individuals over time. The white cow on the right, for example, we call the Bell Cow.

Usually at night the various herds fold themselves on what used to be grassy pavements or settle down on school sportsfields – where they are fine. Cattle do not spend the night sleeping though and their wanderings take them all over the town – where they pose a real danger to traffic.

Fortunately, in this case, the lead animal was white and showed up clearly in our headlights. These are only four of what proved to be several animals crossing the main street into town.

And the municipality does not appear to regard this as a problem.


It broods on Gun Fire Hill and dwarfs Fort Selwyn that once provided the town below with a sense of security. It dominates the skyline on that side of town. From some angles it looks like an enormous concrete block. From another aspect it is meant to provide a stylistic image of a sailing ship – an image brought to mind more easily when flags are flying from the masts during occasions such as the annual National Arts Festival. It is the 1820 Settlers Monument in Grahamstown.

This is no ordinary monument made of marble or bronze. Rather, it is a solid structure built of brick and mortar, steel and glass. It is a living monument – a useful one that is in constant use: conferences, meetings, performances, graduations and prize-givings. It has become the hub of large gatherings for the whole town. Schools use it, the university does, cultural groups do, visiting musicians do … and that is what it is meant to be: a useful monument that honours the English settlers who arrived in this area 1820 and who made a significant contribution to the development of this country, such as promoting the freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom of association and promotion of the English language, art, literature, poetry and music.


The day began before 6 a.m. while the morning mist still hugged the hills around Grahamstown and the sun was struggling to break through the cloud cover.

This was when a group of four pipers and two drummers gathered at the 1820 Settlers’ Monument that overlooks the town to join in a world-wide commemoration of the signing of the armistice a hundred years ago.

The annual Remembrance Day Parade took place in Church Square later that morning:


The area surrounding Grahamstown is rich in clay deposits and so it was no surprise to find a thriving pottery industry when we arrived here.  It employed a number of people – much needed in this small town – and produced ceramics under the brand name Drostdy Ware. Sadly, the Grahamstown Pottery closed many years ago. Even then trucks carrying enormous bags of kaolin used to grind their way up the hill en route to Gauteng, where it is used both for the ceramic industry and as a composite in the manufacture of paper. At one time this area produced over half of the kaolin required for these industries.

A relic of a past industry that provided local employment is this clay brick – photographed in Port Alfred, although some of the older homes in Grahamstown still sport these on garden paths or verandas. It points to a time when the area was more self-sufficient because there were no alternatives.

This is a nod to the past: