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Happy Sedgefield Memories
by Derek Suckling (shared by email)

Houses overlooking the Swartvlei Lagoon in the1960sHouses overlooking the lagoon near the boat launch 1960s

I first visited Sedgefield in Dec 1960 after writing my matric exams at St Johns College in Johannesburg. A few of us boys, including a school friend, Ken Gilson, came down and stayed for two weeks with Copper and Bobby Gilson at their cottage "Gum Inn". 

Bobby and Copper Gilson (1960)Bobby and Copper Gilson 1960

The story goes that the Gilson family first came down to a rented cottage at Sedgefield and found on arrival that it was in bad condition and not really habitable. On their first day in the cottage,  Copper Gilson went on down to the local store to buy some paraffin and came back a few hours and a few brandies later with the news that he had bought a house- Gum Inn - but he had forgotten to buy the paraffin.

Gum Inn was a small corrugated iron cottage set in the middle of about two acres of land surrounded by gum trees next to the railway line. The Outeniqua Choo Choo would blow it's whistle every time it steamed past and it was always dressed up in finery for Christmas. The next door neighbour had built a boundary wall of prancing horses that became a well known feature on the main road and I think it still exists.

Outeniqua Choo Tjoe at Sedgefield Station before the platform was builtOuteniqua Choo Tjoe at Sedgefield Station before the platform had been built

As a young boy I was totally mesmerized by all that Sedgefield had to offer:  we swam at the mouth when the tide was right as well as at Sedgefield beach and were blissfully unaware of the dangers of currents and tides. We walked out to Gericke Point and swam in the rock pools and bought fish from the fishermen who lived overnight in the shacks at the point, watching them launch their boats over the rocks.

Fishermen's boats and hut at Gericke's beachFishermen's boats and hut at Gerickes

We had a small sailing boat which we used to sail round at the Outward Bound club on Swartvlei as well as a big clumsy boat that we had at Lake Pleasant where we used to spend hours fishing.

Gum Inn was managed by Oom Dirker when the family were not there. He lived along the main road in an old house somewhat raised above the road and beyond Stop 'n Stay, the local shop. There were no other shops in Sedgefield and we had to buy our beer from the offsales at Lake Pleasant.

Stop n Stay -Gerry Stavros photos

The magic of that holiday stayed with me for many years until I eventually returned together with my wife, Hilary and our own two boys. Things had changed a bit by about 1975 and Gum Inn had been upgraded to receive municipal water as well as ESKOM power. It had previously been a well in the back garden for water and paraffin lamps, stove and fridge. 

Sedgefield youngsters associated with Gum Inn1.The Gang outside Gum Inn - 1964 2. Matric friends from St Johns-Peter,Ken Gilson,Tony, and Derek Suckling 3. Boys and Jane Watney & friend 4. Young crowd hanging out at the beach

Gum Inn was sold by the Gilson family in the nineties I think but they bought a lovely cottage on the lagoon on the road past the Post Office and called it Gum Over. I'm not sure if it is still in the family as they have moved on and grown up as we all do sooner or later. 

Boats pulled out the water onto the Lagoon riverbank

As a family we loved Sedgefield and would dream all year of setting off from our home in Howick, Natal, for a holiday at Sedgefield. We had by now also upgraded to windsurfers and we sailed for hours on the lagoon. We often drove the long road down to the Cape and the journey, in its self, was a holiday as we stopped off overnight at so many interesting places en route. 

From those days, our "boys" began their own love of Sedgefield and it became a family icon for everything that was fun, sun and happiness. Although our boys now live with their own families in Sydney, Australia and here in England, they still still regard Sedgefield as their measure of holiday bliss. And so do we.

Gerickes Point 1960's