GOING by the responses to the glorious old photographs we have shown over the past years; fishing seems to clutch at memories, given that at one stage Port Alfred was known, as ‘the fifth largest hand line fishing resort in South Africa”.
This historical industry was the mainstay of the village from inception, circa 1821, when ships would anchor offshore, and send in small rowing boats to trade for fish and meat.
So excited were the entrepreneurs of the day that massive planning was conceptualised around the trade that would see goods such as iron, flour, sugar, and all manner of necessities arriving in exchange for the food. And, naturally, when the harbour was completed, the thriving port realised everyone’s dreams.
Fishing was the mainstay of the village, with wagons being dispensed into the smaller areas, and returning with meat. Almost everyone who could whittle a stick would fish for the pot and eventually trade at the market, the bonus being to replenish the ships on their journeys. Later on, with the decline of the harbour, while fishing was yet the food of need, the train to Grahamstown carried the wares.
One of the most famous fishing families were the ‘clan Samuels’ who, even up to the late 1900’s, supplied fish to hotels and townsfolk alike. This legendry family, so dear to everyone, used to go out to sea in the smallest boat and come back laden. Louise Swanepoel related a lovely snippet how she used to buy her fish for the hotel, The Grand, in her day.
A personal memory up to circa 2002 was the longboats chugging past our home late at night off to fish, and the wonderful sight in the afternoons, when the seagulls would sit all over the walls and bridge, waiting for their return. The fish were cleaned, birds fed, and then into the harbour to be sold off to customers, or loaded into vans to be taken to other towns. Sadly it is only a beautiful memory now.