There is no doubt that this month yet another grey cloud settled over Cape Town’s Cultural Heritage. Though still inadequate, our City and Province have the greatest heritage resource capacity of all South Africa’s Provinces and yet we continue to see our heritage assets being lost, or worse still, destroyed.
Our Mother City is not just the oldest surviving formal settlement in the country it is also the richest in terms of cultural heritage assets, which once lost, are invariably never recovered.
However, Cape Town’s current heritage cloud has a distant ‘silver lining’, which is remarkable and which gives heritage societies like ours hope that cultural heritage conservation is still alive and well, though hidden in communities like ours where there’s still a chance that it might be saved.
The silver lining to which I refer is around Villiersdorp, a small town which is proud of its heritage and refuses to lose what it has and is anxious to acquire more.
Villiersdorp’s latest acquisition is the Steam Tug the “Alwyn Vintcent”, the last steam vessel in South Africa, which once served Cape Town’s Harbour for many years. Built in 1958 as a ‘pilot tug’ in Venice it was finally retired from harbour service in 1983.
The Alwyn Vintcent would have been scrapped were it not for a ‘stubborn’ Harbour Master and the enthusiasm of a group of Villiersdorp farmers who are obsessed with engines and