Round about the turn of the 19th Century, there were two Delport families farming in the westerly region of the Overberg – unrelated, we are told. Each of them had three children. In the case of our particular protagonists, the patriarch was Jan Delport and his children were ‘Ouman’, Fred and Blanche. When he died, each of them inherited a farm in the Kleinmond district: Ouman got the home farm, Ysterklip on the Bot River Estuary, Fred became the new owner of Lamloch and Blanche was given Heuningklip, the farm that was closest to the small settlement of Kleinmond.

Margot Ferreira in her holiday. PHOTO: Elaine Davie

But well before that, the three siblings had each married, and what could be more natural or fitting than sticking to what they already knew and marrying the two daughters and one son of their neighbours, the Caledon Delports!

By the mid-1920s, one of these Double-Delport couples, Ouman and his wife, Marguerite (or Maggie) had settled on Ysterklip farm with their four children, Margaret (Peggy), Daphne, Helene and baby, Jack. The farm was completely self-sufficient. The Delports grew their own vegetables, especially onions, and wheat, as well as keeping cattle, sheep and hens. They even grew grapes and made their own wine – of the plonk variety, known as volkwyn – according to grandson, Peter Gibson. Maggie was a typical farmer’s wife, making her own jam, cheese, butter, bread and candles, leaving very little but sugar to buy from the shops in Hermanus.

The four children, meanwhile, lived an idyllic life of freedom on the farm. The mysterious Rooisand horses were already there – one stallion and eight mares – and each of them was given a name by the children. In the summer, the whole family would pack all their necessities onto a mule-drawn cart and trek to their seaside cottage at Hawston, where they would swim, paddle in rock pools and collect shells. As Daphne’s daughter, Margot Ferreira, notes, “My mother’s life-long interest in shells and diving for them in the sea stemmed from those holidays in Hawston. By the time she passed away, she had one of the most comprehensive private shell collections in the country.”

View from Heuningklip towards Hermanus. PHOTO: Supplied

In the 1940s, during WWII, the children, by then teenagers and young adults, would invite soldiers and sailors passing through Cape Town on war ships to spend weekends at Ysterklip and they would pitch tents on the farm and organise fishing expeditions, rugby matches and dances at the Sandown Hotel in Kleinmond, built by Ouman Delport and a Mr Pitt in the late 1930s. The Delport girls had many boyfriends amongst these young servicemen and some of them never forgot the happy times they had spent on the farm. Many years later, as an old man, one of these British sailors managed to track Daphne down, and at the invitation of Margot and her brother, Keith, he came out and spent several happy months with them all. Daphne had been, he said, his ‘first crush’ and he had never forgotten her.

Sandown Hotel , which continued to be a landmark in Kleinmond until it burnt down in December 2007, was very much a Delport project. Ouman’s sister, Blanche, was so captivated by the notion of running a hotel that she was prepared to sell her inheritance for it. Two years after her brother and Mr Pitt built the imposing structure with its commanding views of the Kleinmond Beach and the full sweep of Sandown Bay, she sold her farm, Heuningklip to Ouman, in exchange for a 50% share of the hotel. Seeing herself as something of a Lady of the Manor, she continued to manage it well into her senior years and became an iconic figure in the small town.

Painting of the Delports holiday house at Hawston. PHOTO: Elaine Davie

When in the mid-1950s, it was time for Ouman to join the Double-Delport ancestors in the sky, he left his farms to his children, as his father had done before him. Jack was given Ysterklip and the three girls, Peggy Gibson, Daphne van der Spuy and Helene Woodin were each given one small and one large portion of Heuningkloof, the property with the strange rock formation standing like a sentinel on the mountain slopes above Kleinmond.

Jack continued to farm on Ysterklip until he retired to Kleinmond a couple of decades ago, when half the farm (both above and below the R44) was sold to the developers of the Arabella Country Estate, and the other half to a different property developer, who has left if lying fallow. Sadly, the old ysterklip farmhouse on the Arabella portion has been demolished. As one of the oldest and last of its type in the Western Cape, it was a national monument and its destruction, therefore, seems both Inexplicable and wanton.

Meanwhile, the situation at Heuningklip was not without its drama. Like her sisters, Daphne placed the smaller portion of her inheritance in her husband, Dr Melt van der Spuy’s name. However, after 23 years of marriage, they were divorced and immediately afterwards, he sold the property to the municipality for R45 000 for the development of the new suburb of Heuningkloof, using the profit to take his new wife on a world cruise! Daphne never forgave him.

View from Heuningklip towards Hermanus. PHOTO: Supplied

On the other hand, Peggy, Daphne’s older sister and her husband, Jimmy Gibson, built a highly successful flower farm on their smaller 36 hectare section of the property in the 1960s, exporting proteas and other fynbos species to the UK, various European countries and the USA. Two of their sons, Peter and Barry joined them in the business and although Barry has now retired, Peter continues to run the business on a smaller scale. He recently sold this portion of land to his friend Jack Mitchell, on the understanding that he and his wife would enjoy life rights on their home and flower business. Although Jack Mitchell passed away last year, his wife Helga is planning to develop holiday cottages on the land.

The larger portion of the Gibsons’ property, which reaches deep into the mountains above Kleinmond is jointly owned by Peter, Barry and their two other brothers. Daphne’s children, Margot Ferreira and Keith van der Spuy also still own their mother’s 480 ha parcel of land in the mountains. In 2000, they built the small white house which stands on its own high above Kleinmond near the Heuningklip rock. Margot is currently converting the house into Airbnb accommodation for up to 18 people. The third sister, Helene sold the main section of her land a long time ago, but her children continue to use her wooden house, called The Shack, for holidays.

Margot, who grew up in Potchefstroom, remembers their holidays at Heuningklip. “There were so many of us cousins together here, that we didn’t need other friends,” she laughs. “We had so much fun, sailing down the Palmiet River in tractor tubes (or tjoeps, as we used to call them), swimming all day, going for walks and picnics in the fynbos; we could go anywhere, do anything – it was completely safe. It was a different time.”

And although people may come and go, the iconic Heuningklip continues to stand guard above Kleinmond. It has an air of mystery about it, like Ayers Rock in Australia, and from time immemorial it has been home to wild African bees, which do not take kindly to intruders. On several occasions, would-be climbers have been attacked by the bees and have fallen from the rock with near-fatal consequences.

From Ysterklip to Heuningklip, this special section of the Overstrand has been deeply imprinted by the people who have lived here, not least the Delport family. Their story has, indeed, become integrated into facet of the ancient history of this magnificent landscape.

For information about Margot Ferreira’s Airbnb, she can be contacted on margot@osohxrays.co.za or 083 273 0923.

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