Looking back at the life of the ‘Bull’

The sign previously displayed on Richard Bull Pritchards gate can be seen in the Fish Hoek Museum.

When Richard “Bull” Pritchard came to Fish Hoek in the early 1890s with his father, who was in charge of laying the first railway line from Kalk Bay to Simon’s Town, few could have imagined that he would become one of the town’s most beloved residents.

Mr Pritchard, or Bull as he was fondly referred to, was an artist and worked as a draughtsman for the Cape Town City Council.

He lived above the beach on Jager Walk, and his home was well known to visitors and residents as Orano, the name of the steamship that came to his rescue after he had been in the sea for eight hours during World War I.

His home was also the place where approximately 4 000 “little people” lived.

Mr Pritchard had three hobbies: painting, drawing Christmas cards and developing and caring for his miniature garden.

He started his “Lilliputian” garden at the bottom of his 253m2 plot between the railway line and Simon’s Town Road, in 1923.

He laid out different types of farms and planted grass and miniature plants in the rocky garden. He gradually developed the little farms and soon there were bridges, waterfalls, steps, a wishing well, caves and rugged hillsides to which he added little figures to populate it.

It is said that he created a reproduction of Peer’s Cave where a miniature skeleton swayed in the sea breeze.

Mr Pritchard’s day started at 5am when he went out to work in his garden. When it got too hot, he went indoors to work on the 300 to 400 hand-drawn Christmas cards he sent to family and friends each year.

He did that every year, including in 1964, the Christmas before he died.

Mr Pritchard’s garden was open to the public and a sign on his fence stated: “This is a private garden, but it is open to you from 9am to 6pm daily. If you are interested, please walk in.”

Another sign, well known to visitors and residents, placed on his gate said: “Be ye man or be ye woman, be ye sune [sic] or be ye late, be ye going or be ye coming, be ye sure to shut this gate.”

The sign can be seen in the Fish Hoek Museum.

For years, his miniature garden was his pride and joy, and he would be seen at his gate, wearing his sun hat, welcoming visitors.

According to an article in the Fish Hoek Echo in April 1965, Mr Pritchard died at Groote Schuur Hospital on March 17 that year. According to his obituary, he was a great swimmer and footballer and a brave soldier who fought in France during World War I.

It is said that he had many great stories to tell from his home, which he built himself. He also corresponded with nearly 100 young men who called at Cape Town in wartime convoys, and was a talented artist, a life member of the Fish Hoek Bowling Club and the Battledress Shellhole as well as a founding member of Fish Hoek’s unique Kosy Korner Koffee Klub, which met every week-day morning.

* Information courtesy of Fish Hoek Fossickings by Dr John Clifford.