On a clear, azure autumn day, five men ascended the mountain above Fernkloof. Their route took them from the Hemel-en-Aarde Valley to the summit above the golf course. Ion Williams drove his Jeep and his companions were Fernkloof curator Harry Wood, Cyril Gillespie, Eric Jones and
Bill Le Barrow. Their mission was to establish the boundaries of Fernkloof. It was 1960.
Bill could not walk and sat down while the rest of the party went off to find the boundary pegs. On their return they joined Bill who was overwhelmed by the sweeping beauty of the scenery below. He felt determined that a road should be built, giving access to the mountain, allowing everybody to enjoy the magnificent panorama. They all agreed and set about doing something about it immediately.
Bill and Ion approached the Rotary Club who contributed $100. The municipality provided labour, and the Divisional Council road making-machinery. Ion surveyed the road and work started. In ten days a dirt road was completed to the parking area. The Rotary Anns held a Sunday afternoon tea-party for funds. The road was continued to its present length and tarred to the parking area. Rotary Way soon became a feature of Hermanus and is used by many residents and visitors who enjoy the scenery.
But who was Bill Le Barrow? His widow, Betty Le Barrow and daughter, Mary Lynne du Toit who live in Hermanus could tell us more. William Le Barrow was born in East London in 1913. At age 14 he entered the General Botha Naval College and fell in love with the sea — a love which lasted a lifetime. He joined the merchant navy and while in Colombo, in a nasty accident, a 1½ ton derrick crane fell across his back. A doctor, who had only one hand, successfully performed the first spinal operation ever. Bill returned to South Africa, severely handicapped but through exercise and perseverance became fully active again.
When war broke out, he joined the SA Navy war office in Cape Town. He most likely held the record as the only officer with a smashed spine, serving in the last war. He married Miss Betty MacLennan and the couple had two children. They moved to Hermanus where he joined the accounting firm of John Pulker. Although his health was deteriorating and he was in constant pain, Bill served the community in many ways, with cheerful courage
In 1960, the family moved to Jagersfontein where Bill worked with the De Beers Consolidated Diamond Mine. In 1971 the company commissioned him to write the history of Jagersfontein, which he completed capably and with great charm. His love of the sea led to the first Free State Sea Scouts on the dam near Jagerfontein where Bill taught all the scouts the art of sailing.
This man of vision, the man who gave Hermanus Rotary Way, died in Jagersfontein in 1971 and is buried there. It would be a token of honour to have his name immortalised at the parking area on the mountain.
Article extracted from SJ du Toit – Whale Capital Chronicles III, Page 35.
Should you wish to use any of her stories please contact SJ du Toit directly.