Museum a treasure chest of local heritage

Displays depicting the history of Fish Hoek.

If you are a Fish Hoek resident or visitor to the valley and you have not been to the Fish Hoek Valley Museum, Heritage Day is the perfect day to treat the family to an informative and fun outing.

Each year on September 24, South Africans are encouraged to celebrate their cultural traditions and beliefs, and this is exactly what the museum can offer you – a look at the cultural beliefs and traditions of the people who inhabited the far south hundreds of years ago.

The museum offers four display rooms. The first room on the left contains information about Fish Hoek’s early stone age site, Peers Cave, where the remains of the Fish Hoek Man, estimated to be 12 000 years old were found.

Peers Cave was discovered by an amateur archaeologist, Victor Peers in 1927. Peers and his son, Bertie, who lived in Fish Hoek, excavated the cave over a number of years and discovered Khoisan rock art, stone tools, and an ancient burial site.

In January 1941, Peers Cave was declared a national monument.

There are photographs from the Peers excavation in the 1920s and stone tools found in the Fish Hoek Valley.

If you are a history lover, the second room, on the history of Fish Hoek, will excite you. The room contains interesting facts about the town and a selection of photographs on Fish Hoek dating back to its early years.

The third room contains information and history on whaling in Fish Hoek as well as some interesting displays, while the bathroom displays items from one of Fish Hoek’s most colourful residents, Richard “Bull” Pritchard, who had a miniature garden in his backyard, (“Looking back at the life of the Bull,” Echo August 16).

In the fourth room, you can see the typewriter on which historian and author Eric Rosenthal banged out the many books he wrote. He was one of the Three Wise Men on Springbok Radio’s long-running Test the Team quiz show.

There is also model of the Dutch ship, Yselstein, which arrived in the bay in 1670, and a patchwork bedspread which was gifted to the museum in commemoration of Fish Hoek’s centenary and made by a direct descendant of Izaak and Hester de Villiers, the original owners of Fish Hoek Farm.

The museum itself has an interesting history. The idea of having a museum in Fish Hoek had been talked about for a long time before it became a reality, and in 1978 the Fish Hoek Town Council had a public meeting to discuss the idea. Following the meeting, the Fish Hoek Valley Historical Association was formed.

A new building for the museum was envisioned, but there was no budget, so for years there was no museum, and items of historical interest were stored at the Fish Hoek library.

Then in 1993, the Fish Hoek Town Council gave the historical association the use of a municipal house and the museum opened in February 1994.

Prior to this, the house was home to Desmond Ball, the great grandson of Amelia Ball, the founder of Mrs HS Ball’s chutney for about three years .

At the time, he was the harbour master in Kalk Bay. He said he could not remember much of his stay there, but his family believed it was haunted, although he never encountered any paranormal activities while living there.

The museum is a private museum and the Fish Hoek Valley Museum Trust is the governing body and all collections and monies are held in its name.

As a private museum, there is no outside funding, apart from the use of the building, and all the staff members are volunteers.

Museum curator, Sally Britten, said they were very proud of the museum, which has a collection of local archives and often answers local research queries as well as queries from all over the world.

“We have over a thousand photographs of the area from Lakeside to Kommetjie and an almost complete collection of Fish Hoek Echoes, which tell the social history of Fish Hoek,” she said.

* The museum is located at 59 Central Circle, directly opposite Fish Hoek Medicross and will be open on Heritage Day, from 9.30am until 4pm and entry will be free.

For more information, call the museum at 021 782 1752 on Tuesdays to Saturdays, between 9.30am and noon.