Three cheers for the To­po­scope

Talk of the Town - - News -

he To­po­scope at Bathurst has a new look. Af­ter a few years of ne­glect and some van­dal­ism, it has been beau­ti­fully re­stored, and its com­ple­tion was cel­e­brated re­cently dur­ing the mon­u­ment’s 50th an­niver­sary by more than 60 ad­mir­ing mem­bers of the Lower Al­bany His­tor­i­cal So­ci­ety.

The To­po­scope stands atop its windy hill site where, in 1820, Colonel Ja­cob Cuyler’s camp stood when he su­per­vised the set­tle­ment of the 1820 Set­tlers on their al­lot­ments. The plaques on the low cir­cu­lar wall around the cen­tral cairn

Tshow the di­rec­tion and dis­tance from this site of each of the 56 lo­ca­tions vis­i­ble on a clear day.

The name of the Set­tlers party, where they came from and the ship they sailed in, are also recorded.

The first plaques were bronze and even­tu­ally many of them raised good prices with scrap mer­chants af­ter they had been felo­niously chis­elled off. But the new plaques are gran­ite, set in con­crete cre­ated and en­graved for the project by Luja Gran­ite of Port Al­fred.

Not only has the To­po­scope been re­stored, but it has also been en­larged to in­clude six cairns with plaques nam­ing five chiefs and one king who were in the area at the time.

This has been done with metic­u­lous at­ten­tion to de­tail with Prof Jeff Peires giv­ing in­valu­able ad­vice about the Xhosa peo­ple named on the plaques, and His­toric Bathurst, par­tic­u­larly David Fors­dyke, en­sur­ing the fi­nal out­come was aes­thet­i­cally pleas­ing and tech­ni­cally cor­rect. For ex­am­ple, ex­act di­rec­tions and dis­tances for each Xhosa plaque. This has all been done with the per­mis­sion, and en­thu­si­as­tic sup­port from Africa Fishile of the Pro­vin­cial Her­itage Re­sources Au­thor­ity.

Many of the hand-hewn stones of the orig­i­nal mon­u­ment were gath­ered from the ru­ins of early Set­tler homes, thus cre­at­ing a link with the past. The stones for the new cairns were not con­ve­niently soft sand­stone but a much harder rock, mak­ing the task of form­ing the cairns very much more dif­fi­cult.

The restora­tion has been funded mainly by the His­tor­i­cal So­ci­ety, the Rotary Club of Port Al­fred (with the help of a District Grant), and also His­toric Bathurst. Other gen­er­ous dona­tions were made by the Lions Club of Port Al­fred, and in­di­vid­u­als. The prime mover has been Ro­tar­ian and So­ci­ety vice-pres­i­dent David Hawkins who has spent many hours on site, in all weath­ers, de­ter­mined to get the project com­pleted. It was Hawkins’s vi­sion that mo­ti­vated the restora­tion and his en­thu­si­asm and hard work that saw it through.

As Hawkins said at the open­ing, “We hope that, in mak­ing this an in­clu­sive mon­u­ment as part of the her­itage of the East­ern Cape, it will be seen as an im­por­tant com­mem­o­ra­tion and a prime tourist at­trac­tion for the ben­e­fit of ev­ery­one in our com­mu­nity”.

Hawkins took the op­por­tu­nity of thank­ing ev­ery­one who had as­sisted with the project.

“A great many peo­ple and firms do­nated goods and ser­vices to this project and they are warmly thanked for their con­tri­bu­tions. This in­cluded Neville Gor­don who of­fered free labour for clear­ing, foun­da­tions and con­crete mix­ing; Okkie Pi­eterse of PA Bricks who gave 500 ce­ment bricks for the foun­da­tion wall; Bathurst Co-op and Craig Han­d­ley gave bags of ce­ment; the McCreaths and VivDell gave loads of sand; Ben­nie Hoek, in charge of the R72, up­grade gave a load of rock; Mooi­fontein Quarry gave crusher dust and in­side the new cairns are ce­ment pots do­nated by Unique Stone in Bathurst.

“The slate roof­ing tiles were do­nated by Alan Pike while, be­tween Tom, Dave and Harold of His­toric Bathurst, wa­ter, tools, ex­tra labour and site su­per­vi­sion were of­fered in a won­der­ful spirit of get­ting the job done. Then, IHire loaned a con­crete mixer and Mike Wil­liams as­sisted with lev­els.”

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