Clan Munro CrestThe Munros of Pinetown

Their Families, Ancestors and connected families


A Settler's Story

A journey from the Highlands

  to a new life in the colony of Natal

Original work by Rory Lynsky ©2017

Updated and adapted for the internet by Don Munro ©2023

To the Munro brothers and sisters
Gordon, John, Daphne, Gwyneth and Barbara


The Munro line can be traced back to Donald and Ephy Munro. Their son, also named Donald was born about 1765, in Tullich Muir, Ross-shire. He married Catherine McKenzie (born 1757) and the couple raised a large family of nine sons and two daughters between 1791 and 1809. Donald died on November 26, 1846, Catherine having predeceased him, dying in February 1834.

Like the generations before them, Donald and Catherine's second youngest son, George Munro and his wife Margaret (nee Ross) came from closely knit rural communities on the northern shore of the Cromarty Firth in the North East Scottish Highlands.

Invergordon, where George and Margaret lived out their entire lives, began as a huddle of crofts where herring fishing vessels could tie-up. In the 1770's a local landowner Sir William Gordon planned a town here to take advantage of trade from the highlands. A harbour and houses were built leading to Invergordon soon becoming the leading distribution port in the north of Scotland.

The lands on the north side of the Cromarty Firth have since the 14th century have been the heartland of Clan Munro. At its height the clan occupied the fertile coastal strip alongside the firth, with access to the sea, and spread up the river valleys into the fringes of Sutherland, and held extensive lands east of the River Alness, and also in the Black Isle on the other side of the Cromarty Firth shown here.

After the Reformation the Clan chiefs adopted the protestant faith and supported the Crown against the Catholic Stewarts during the Jacobite Rebellions in the 18th century. The home of the chiefs was at Foulis in the heart of the Munro country, and it remains with the same family today.

George was born in Kilmuir-Easter Parish in 1806, while Margaret was born on the 27th October 1813 in the Parish of Rosskeen. Papers dating back to 1837 record that the Parish of Rosskeen contained the villages of Bridgend, Invergordon and Saltburn on the northern shore of the Firth of Cromarty and totalling approximately 3000 souls. To the east lay the Parish of Kilmuir. After their marriage in December 1834 the couple lived in Saltburn, where George practised his trade as a house carpenter.

Their first child, Margaret was born in December 1834 (two weeks before their nuptials if the records are correct). Next came a son in January 1837 whom they named David; a daughter Catherine (December 1838); Donald in April 1841. A further son John was born in May 1843 in Saltburn, then our great grandfather George Munro born on the 22nd May 1845 also in Saltburn.

Two younger daughters completed the Munro family picture. Isabella born in October 1847 and Alexanderina in 1856.

The sisters married and had families, Margaret to James Adam a porter with the railways and they had 5 children, four of whom were with their grandparents in the 1881 census, after their mother had died of meningitis in Invergordon on 22 May 1878. Their father, James, in the meantime was working as an agricultural labourer at Muirton Estate, in Urray

Catherine married a David McKenzie from Wick in Caithness and they had 4 children and moved to Wales where David was manager of a wool factory. Catherine died in Wales at Newton in Montgomeryshire in 1882. Their eldest son, John, moved back to Scotland where he married Rebecca (Beck) Edgar and settled in Glasgow. In May of 1907 George and Selina travelled from Natal to Scotland to visit their families. While in Scotland George took the opportunity to visit an Edinburgh photographer's studio and had this photo taken, kitted out in full Highland regalia with nephew John.

GeorgeMunro  and John McKenzie
George Munro
with his nephew John McKenzie 1907

John and Beck continued to correspond with his uncle and aunt after their return to Natal in the December of that year, sending a number of cards and letters with family pictures.

Isabella married an Alexander Allen and went on to also have 5 children and settled in Glasgow. She later travelled to Durban in 1901 with her only two surviving children, an invalid son David and daughter Margaret, to join her husband, a ships engineer, who had travelled there the previous year. Sadly she was to die some 15 months later, in Esselmont House in December 1902. There is no later trace of her children.

Alexandrina was living in Macclesfield Cheshire when she married James Cosgrove in 1877. She and James had a daughter Margaret before she died in 1899 in Trentham Staffordshire.

Their parents lived out their lives in the Parish of Rosskeen, the 1861 census of the Munro household records the 15 year-old George as a "scholar" which would indicate that the Munros as tradespeople were fairly settled while his elder brother Donald is listed as a "house carpenter" following his father's trade. The eldest son David is absent from the census having died, the previous year, of consumption (the name given to the disease we now know as tuberculosis). He is recorded as being a single student at the time, but seems to have applied for a passport in 1858, possibly intending to travel to South Africa. More of that later.

Ten years later in the census of April 1871 the Munros senior were listed as living in Outram Street, Invergordon with their youngest daughter Alexanderina then 16 and listed as "servant" in the census return. In the 1881 census, George although 74 years of age, was still listed as a carpenter. Four grandchildren of George (74) and Margaret (68) are reported as household members: Mary Adam (13), Davidina Adam (11), Jane Adam (10), and George Adam (7). George died the following summer in July 1882 at their home in High Street, North Side, Invergordon and Margaret survived him by five years, dying in May 1887.

The Munros as tradespeople living in a commercial centre were probably to a degree shielded from the ravages inflicted on the bulk of highlanders dependant on a subsistence pastoral economy. During the 18th and 19th century the Scottish Highlands were transformed as landowners began to seek new opportunities for wealth and power. Tenants were cleared from land they had farmed for generations to make way for sheep. Throughout the late 18th and first half of the 19th centuries many thousands moved from their farms, either voluntarily or forcibly, to be resettled or migrate. The port of Cromarty was an important embarkation point for the northern Highlands. Today a migration stone stands at the head of the firth.

A light barque similar to the Eudora

It would appear that when his brother became ill that, John made a decision, or the decision was thrust upon him by circumstances, to take David's place as it seems he applied for a passport a year after David, in 1859, and to emigrate in search of a better future. He left Scotland, probably in 1860, after his brother's David's death, for the last time and after a long sea voyage arrived at his destination, Durban in the Colony of Natal.

The lifestyle must have appealed to him, so much so that he convinced his two younger brothers George and Donald, to join him. Together with one Mr John Cox, a Durban brick maker who probably employed him and had offered employment to the two younger Munros, he stood surety for them.

This passenger manifest for the Eudora shows the two young Munro brothers aboard
This passenger manifest for the Eudora
shows the two young Munro brothers aboard

Donald (20) and George (19) left Invergordon sometime in the summer of 1864 and embarked on the immigrant ship, Eudora from Aberdeen, a channel port or the Port of London. Aboard the flying light barque were 63 souls with occupations ranging from blacksmiths; a shepherd, domestic servants to a shaving of carpenters not least Donald and George.

John settled in Tongaat and became the proprietor of the Tongaat Hotel. In November 1868 John Munro marries 19-year-old Alice Elizabeth Thring at Williamstown (modern day Umhlali on the Natal north coast), the daughter of one of the Byrne Settlers, who had gone out to Natal in 1850 under a scheme to populate the newly founded colony of Natal. In the marriage register John Munro gives his occupation as "Trader" and the young couple lived at Tongaat where four children were born between 1869 and 1876.

A descendant of John Munro says that in 1877 after the birth of her fifth child, the family travelled by ox wagon from the coast to Newcastle to visit his brother George who, according to this hitherto unknown version of family history, had become became a trader and established himself in Newcastle, but also traded as far as Harrismith. Then on the way back to Tongaat the family's ox wagon turned over and Alice Munro was crushed to death. The bereaved family went back to Newcastle and she was buried there. According to this same descendant, the two families decided that John's three young sons would stay on and live with George, and the two daughters (one only a month old) would live with Alice's older sister, Jessie, who had married and lived in Tongaat. Whether this is the case or not remains unknown. John spent the remainder of his life living with George, dying in May 1886 in Newcastle.

Donald also disappears off the radar at some point in the story, possibly moving onto Australia. But we know that George was farming and working also as a carpenter and builder at Escombe where he met Selina Jane Davie in the 1870's possibly through his involvement with her uncle in building a five bedroomed house in Pinetown for a Dr Beviss in 1876 at a cost of £356. This seems to contradict the above version that he was based in Newcastle, as does the fact that the children were baptised by the Lutheran pastor in neighbouring New Germany. A possible version is that Donald was the Newcastle based trader!


The arrival of the Davie side of the family in the Colony of Natal was the result of decisions made at the small village of Ormiston east of Edinburgh sometime in the 1860's.

Great grandmother, Selina Jane Davie was born on the 14th December 1852 at Ormiston, East Lothian (then called Haddingtonshire) the child of George and Mary Davie.

Mary and her brother, James Watt Sanderson, both born between 1818 and 1822 were the children of James and Jean Sanderson (nee Turnbull), born at Prestonpans, a small town east of Edinburgh in East Lothian. (Prestonpans was famously the scene of a Jacobite victory in the 1745 rebellion). It is believed that James qualified as a horticulturalist and at one stage was employed in this capacity on one of the many estates of the Scottish land magnate the 5th Duke of Buccleuch. Two of the Duke's estates are in the Midlothian and Dumfries Shire, relatively close to Prestonpans. At some stage in the 1860's, Sanderson became involved with a well-connected Englishman, Captain Charles Joseph Harford, formerly of the 12th Lancers, in an agriculture venture in the Crown Colony of Natal in far off South Africa. James had married Laura Selin Brain of Bristol in 1848. Laura was the governess to the Harford children and in the census of 1851 James and Selina are recorded living in Chepstow, just across the River Severn from Bristol, where he is listed as a gardener. Could he have been in the employ of the Harfords as a gardener and this is how he met Laura?

Munro family lore has it that a family decision was taken which resulted in 12 year-old Selina Jane Davie being separated from her parents and home and immigrating to Natal. There are two versions of how and when she arrived in Durban. The one is that she accompanied her uncle James Watt Sanderson and his wife Laura on the long two and a half month sea voyage from the Port of London to Port Natal on the private barque the 329-ton "The Lady of the Lake" in 1864, as in this painting of a typical barque - National Maritime Museum.

The Lady of the Lake

This version is less likely as while the both Harford family and the Sandersons are recorded as passengers in the list compiled by William Bell, the Port Captain of the time, there is no record of Selina.

The second and more likely version is that she was placed in the care of a clergyman and his wife. A Miss Davie is listed as a passenger on the barque Priscilla arriving in Durban on 16 June 1871. She would by then have been 19 on the voyage to Natal after which she joined her uncle and aunt. A rather bizarre twist to this story is that she had to walk from Durban to her uncle and aunt's home at Sarnia!

On their arrival Sanderson set about assisting the energetic Captain Harford with the establishment of his tobacco and coffee plantations on his 300 acre farm "Stapleton Grove" at Sarnia, being named for Stapleton the seat of the Harford family in Gloucestershire. A document dating from 1873 show that Sanderson was selling Harford's tobacco to Durban agents, both as rolls and cigars.

This early photograph shows Selina with her uncle and aunt, possibly dated back to Scotland.
This early photograph shows Selina
with her uncle and aunt,
possibly dated back to Scotland.

James Sanderson also started farming and growing the same products for the Durban market, on land which he purchased in Sarnia and where he built a double storey home named "Preston House" after his birthplace, on land opposite to where the then Rugby Hotel stood (On the corner of Escombe Rd and Old Main Road.)

In addition to his farming activities for Harford and himself, Sanderson over the years established himself among the Natal settler establishment and conducted his office as Field Cornet and Justice of the Peace from Preston House. These duties covered cases involving common assault, horse theft and cattle mutilation.

He was also the coroner for the area and an active petitioner, gathering and presenting memoranda to the authorities for the establishment of, among other things, a station platform for the New Germany and east Pinetown farmers that was granted and is the present Sarnia station. Also for the building of a dam on the Umbilo River (Paradise Valley today) to water the steam engines. He was also active in reporting on pollution in the Palmiet River and making available commonage for troops during the Anglo Zulu War in 1879.

Harford went on to become a member of the Natal Legislative Council and of the Natal Chamber of Commerce and a leading light in the Natural History Society in the colony. He was also by 1872 the Captain commandant of the New Germany Rifles Volunteer Corp. He later went off to the Kimberley diamond fields where he died in 1874. His son, Colonel Charles Harford, also a keen naturalist, served in the Anglo-Zulu War.

Preston House in the 1920's

Sadly Laura Sanderson, who was a few years older than her husband, passed away on 22nd September 1876. Both Laura and James (who went onto to live a full life, dying on the 25th May 1905 at the ripe old age of 87 years) rest in the churchyard on the site once occupied by St Andrew's Anglican High Church in Pinetown.

The story moves from the Sanderson's to their niece, Selina Jane Davie.

On the 30th March 1875, 4 years after arriving in the Colony, Selina Davie married George Munro at Preston House, "residence of the bride's uncle" according to the Natal Witness. (The marriage certificate records the marriage as taking place at "the house of the brides father" probably indicating that as far as people were concerned she had been "adopted" by James. Her age is recorded as 21 putting her birth year at 1854) Why the marriage took place at home and by a pastor from the New Germany Lutheran Church is not clear, as the Scots born couple were not Lutherans. Not far down the road in Pinetown were two Anglican churches, high and low, St John's and St Andrew's. It is also notable that several of the children were also baptised by the same pastor - one Theodor Glöckner

After honeymooning on horseback, George and Selina settled down to produce a large typical Victorian family at Preston House that they shared with Uncle James.

First came Margaret Mary "Daisy" in January 1876; followed by Laura Selina; James Davie ("Jimmy"); Alexanderina Ellen ("Cissy"); grandfather Alfred Charles ("Alf") on the 5th February 1883; Agnes Georgina ("Nan"); Isabella Sanderson ("Bella"); George Ross; Malcolm Bruce and finally in 1894, William Kenneth Martin ("Willie").

Selina and George

Munro names filtered down from Invergordon, Margaret, George's mother and eldest sister; his younger sisters Alexanderina and Isabella and Ross his mother's maiden name.

More weddings were to follow at Preston House. Between 1898 and 1904 the three eldest sisters, Margaret, Laura and Alexanderina were all married "at the residence of the bride's father" by a Minister from the New Germany Lutheran church. Later in 1913 Agnes was also married at Preston House, on this occasion the marriage was conducted by a minister from the Presbyterian Church at Addington. The final and sixth wedding at Preston House was in 1942 when confirmed bachelor, 48-year-old William who had inherited his parent's home was married to Blossom Williams.

Selina Munro was an astute businesswoman left well provided for by her uncle's considerable estate when he died in 1905 and which included 600 acres at what today is Forest Hills, Cowies Hill Park, Paradise Valley, the large Preston farm together with various plots of land in Hill Street, including the Rugby Hotel. The young Munros continued living at Preston House and farming in the Sarnia area and were active members of the Sarnia and Pinetown community, especially the Pinetown Horticultural Society.

George died in 1923 and Selina continued living at Preston House and later in a small cottage at the side of the Rugby Hotel where she could keep an eye on the running of the hotel in order to keep the licence as she could not get anyone suitable to run the establishment.

In 1925 she bought "Gum Tree Farm", 1500 acres of land from a Mr Dinkelman in Forest Hills. She sold the wattle plantation growing on the property for nearly half the purchase price of the farm. The Munro family used the Forest Hills property for grazing their dairy herd. The most dramatic story from this period occurred when a leopard living in the kranzes below the farm caused losses among the cows, so a plan was hatched to put a stop to the depravations of the leopard. Barbara Gillman recalled how her father and uncle "Willie" went out on horseback looking for the leopard. "My father only had a very small .202 rifle so he was very glad they never found the leopard."

Selina with leopard.
The photograph of Selina Munro posing with the dead leopard
in the wheelbarrow, appeared in a Durban newspaper at the time

According to a contemporary report in August 1928 the carcass of a calf was laced with strychnine and left as bait for the marauding leopard. Her sons George and Malcolm Munro who managed the farm not only lost valuable cattle but also a dog, which discovered the poisoned meat before the leopard did. The leopard took the bait. According to Barbara Gillman two employees brought the dead animal from Forest Hills to Preston by wheelbarrow where Selina, ever the canny Scot, put it on show. Everyone who wanted to see the leopard had to make a donation for a charity of Selina's choice. From there the leopard was taken to Durban and presented to the Durban Museum, where it was stuffed and mounted on display in the natural history room to join another unfortunate leopard which fell victim to the guns of the Campbell family from the North Coast.


Alf is kneeling on the extreme left of the second row. His elder brother James Davie is sitting arms folded on the right.
"Alf" is kneeling on the extreme left of the second row.
His elder brother James Davie is sitting arms folded on the right.

The fifth child in this large family, Alfred or "Alf" as he was known throughout his life, grew up at Preston House and his formative years were spent in Pinetown. The first glimpse we have of the youthful Alf is a photograph of the 17-year-old in the Pinetown soccer team taken in 1900. He is kneeling on the extreme left of the second row. His elder brother James Davie is sitting arms folded on the right.

We know more about his movements a few years later because of momentous events that threatened to disrupt life in the Colony.

Alfred in the uniform of a NMR Trooper
In a locket worn by Gladys

In August 1905 the Natal Government passed a Poll Tax on all male Natal Africans, which proved to be the straw that broke the camel's back. Since the end of the Anglo Zulu War and the Anglo Boer War, the colony had been economically depressed. This together with droughts and rinderpest, caused severe hardship for the African population. Unrest broke out in the Richmond, Pietermaritzburg and North Coast districts in February 1906 when the tax was due to be collected. Military force quelled the unrest, temporarily. The uprising, or rebellion as it became known, then spread to Greytown and Zululand with resistance centred on Chief Bhambata.

Both Alfred and his older brother James were volunteers in the local militia, the Pinetown Troop of the Natal Mounted Rifles. (A squadron Tongaat, Greenwood Park, Verulam, Sarnia and Pinetown troops). On 25th February 1906 the NMR was mobilised and Trooper AC Munro and 2nd Lieutenant JD Munro (in command of the Pinetown Troop) reported for duty in Durban. The regiment, 250 strong, was dispatched to Maphumulo, where they subdued the district and returned to Durban on 18th March and were discharged.

When unrest broke out again in April in the Greytown district, the NMR was mobilised again and split into two detachments. The Munro brothers were part of the regiment ordered to Helpmekaar, via Dundee where they went into laager and engaged in escort and reconnaissance duties. The NMR, part of a combined force, clashed with rebels at Elands Kraal on the 14th May.

Later in the month the detachment returned to Greytown and Kranskop via Tugela Ferry to join the rest of the NMR as part of the Umvoti Field Force and conducted kraal burning sweeps in the Tugela valley. In June they moved to Maphumulo and on the 24th June were engaged in an action at Peyana against 3000 rebels which resulted in the death of 76 rebels at Macrae's Store. The majority of the NMR took part in a series of one-sided engagements against the rebels in the Umvoti Valley with the final action at Izinsimba on the 8th July where an estimated 1000 rebels were killed. The regiment was demobilised on the 30th July.

Alf Munro

By the end of the rebellion between 3,000 and 4,000 Zulus were killed, 7,000 were imprisoned and 4,000 were flogged. In contrast, 25 Colonial soldiers died during the insurrection. King Dinizulu was sentenced to four years imprisonment for treason. The cost to Natal was almost 900,000 pounds and a hardening of racial attitudes. This in turn contributed towards the Union of South Africa in 1910 and its racially segregated policies.

In 1907 the Natal Government was authorised to issue a silver medal for service between 8 Feb-3 Aug 1906. Those who served for 50 days on active service were awarded the bar '1906'. The effigy of King Edward faces to the right and the ribbon is crimson with black edges. Both brothers were awarded the campaign medal and clasp.

The Natal Medal and Bar awarded to Alf and Jimmy Munro


On the maternal side of the family grandmother Gladys Vera Knowles was born in the mining town of Barberton on the 17th February 1888 the eldest child of Harold Gabriel Knowles and Helena Maria Knowles (nee Glaeser).

This studio group taken in Durban is the earliest photograph
we have of the young Gladys, probably dated around 1893
with her mother and three younger siblings.

The De Kaap Valley today
Harold Knowles arrived at Cape Town on board the "Durban" on 3 August 1882. His parents were John and Jane Knowles and he was born on 5 August 1858 and had been indentured in Merchant Navy for 3 years from 1877. His family seems to have had a lengthy involvement with marine matters with his brother-in-law being a master mariner. In later years he was employed as a bookkeeper for Gundelfinger, the Durban shipping company. Harold appears to have been a bit of a rolling stone, because a short five years after arriving, at the time of their marriage in 1887 he was recorded as a "broker" resident in Barberton, where he and Helena settled. Alluvial gold deposits had been discovered in 1874 and the town flourished as fortune seekers, including Harold, flocked to the area in search of gold.

Only one snippet survives from this period - in which Cecil John Rhodes no less, gave the young Gladys a puppy when passing through Barberton. It's fortuitous that Gladys wasn't the first white child to be born in the De Kaap Valley. This honour fell to the daughter of Mr and Mrs Tom Elsie born in 1882 and who was named "Nugget"! This sojourn in Barberton was obviously short-lived as by the early 1890's when their second daughter was baptised in Boksburg, they were living in Daggafontein, Heidelberg, before moving on to Natal.

Crown Street Barberton 1887

A Teenage Gladys

Gladys's mother Helena Maria Glaeser came from a long settled and distinguished Afrikaans Cape family. Helena's father Louis William Glaeser (1822-1883) was the District Surgeon in Worcester and her mother Wilhelmina Elizabeth Le Sueur (1828-1875) was descended from a line of Huguenots who came out to the Cape from Gelderland in the Netherlands in 1758. Her mother was also descended through marriage to Dutch merchants the Swellengrebels, domiciled in Tsarist Russia as far back as 1650 and to Hendrik Swellengrebel, appointed by the Dutch East India Company (VOC) as Governor of the Cape in 1739. He was the first governor born at the Cape.

Harold and Helena had a fifth child born in Pinetown in 1903 and baptised Helena Phyllis. Helena's baptism was witnessed by her cousin Emily Winifred Vickerman, the daughter of Harold's sister and, her husband, the retired master mariner William Vickerman. It seems Gladys's parents died while the family was still young, first Helena in August 1912 only 44 years and Harold in 1918. The story retold is that a family friend, a Mrs Woods "took them in" and fostered her and younger siblings.


Alf and Gladys on their Cowies Hill front lawn

Alfred Charles Munro and Gladys Vera Knowles, although both lived and met in Pinetown, were married at St Paul's Anglican Church, the newly built beautiful Gothic Revival Edwardian church in Durban on the 17th January 1914.

Three years earlier in August 1911 his younger sister Isabella had tied the knot with Pinetown farmer Benjamin Barrett at St Paul's, breaking the tradition established by her parents and three elder sisters.

The earliest photograph of the young Munro family taken in Queenstown in 1915.
Alfred is holding Gordon at the back and to his right Gladys wearing a white blouse.
Sometime after 1917 the young family left Queenstown and relocated to Eshowe,
in the post war years, the commercial centre of Zululand.

"After their marriage my father initially worked as a salesman for the Morum Bros in their Queenstown departmental store which took them to the Eastern Cape. Our eldest brother Gordon Knowles Munro was born in Queenstown in October 1914 and it is said his Christian name came from the Gordon Highlanders who were stationed in Queenstown at the time." Barbara Gillman, Alfred's youngest daughter recalled in 2015.

The second child, Douglas Ross Munro was also born in Queenstown in 1917 but did not survive infancy dying when only nineteen months old, of Spanish Flu, after the family had moved to Eshowe. Barbara's other elder brother John Hamish Munro was born in February 1920. Then followed Gwyneth Muriel Munro ("Gwinnie") in February 1924; Daphne Vera Munro in 1925; Barbara Joan Munro in July 1927, all in Eshowe, and finally Keith David Munro who died of whooping cough, in infancy in Pinetown.

Barbara recounted; "Our home in Eshowe was in Lee Street. We went back to Eshowe in the 90's but couldn't find the house. The midwife who delivered me was our next-door neighbour and she had a daughter called Barbara whom I was named after".

Alfred was involved in a transport venture between Eshowe and Durban and Pinetown according to one recalled story, although he was also working for an Eshowe company, which could have been the one and the same work.

The Photograph above taken sometime in the 1930's
shows Gladys with "Mrs Munro's Babes"

They returned to Sarnia when the children were still young and moved to a new home on a 50 acre farm detached from the Preston Estate. Barbara recalls that her mother was a trained teacher, having taught from about 1908 at the Girls Model School in Gale Street, Durban before they were married and she opened and ran a successful kindergarten at the old Pinetown Town Hall.

Alfred found employment with Bull Brand selling fertilizer. To supplement their household income on the farm he grew sweet potatoes, beans and mielies and sold them in the Pinetown market.

An amusing story published in the Pinetown newspaper recalled in the years before the Second World War when the main road from Pietermaritzburg to Durban was unsealed, vehicles stuck on the hill leading out of Pinetown "had to be helped over the hill by cows from Mr Alf Munro's farm. Hence Cowies Hill got its name from ordinary farm cows? " (Cowies Hill was named after William Cowie, an Englishman who trekked with the Boers to Natal in 1837 and who farmed in the area which later became known as Cowies Hill).

Speaking about her childhood growing up on the farm, Barbara recalled how the three sisters used to walk to her mother's school and then later to primary school in Pinetown and in a cold snap her father bought her gloves to wear. They also walked to Sunday school run by a Mrs Calvert who gave them pink sunhats to protect them from the sun. Later the three girls went to Malvern Girls High School.

Barbara recalled how when the three sisters were walking home from school to the farm, they would take a short cut through their grandmother's property at Preston. "She kept geese that would set off an alarm. Granny would sit on her upstairs veranda and seeing us she would call 'come up, come up'. She had her own little pantry and would take us in and give us a slice of bread. Sometimes she would put fig jam on the bread. She was very generous and good to us."

After their grandmother Selina's death in 1938 Preston House was passed onto William Munro and she recalled how she and her sisters used to ride from the farm to Preston to visit him.

Alfred on the farm with his grandchildren taken in the 1950's

At some point Alfred offered plots on the farm to all his children. Gordon Munro secured a plot on which he built a home during the 1950's and after his marriage John Munro took land and came to live on the farm with his parents which was conveniently close to his work at Creamline Dairies. John bred fox terriers and trained ex-racehorses stabled at the farm that he entered in gymkhanas around Durban. Brenda recalls that her mother had a horse, called "Shorty", on the property. Her grandfather also rode his horse from the farm down a dirt road to the Rugby Hotel where he would tie it up at the hitching post outside the bar.

Barbara said that their mother died on the 17th June 1950 at a relatively young age of 62 years. Gladys is said to have had a stroke and she lingered for several years before her death. During the later stages of her illness John's wife Carina, a nurse, cared for her at home.

As Pinetown developed as an industrial and commercial area, there was pressure on agricultural land for residential use. Barbara said that in addition to the high rates being charged by Pinetown Council, another factor for selling was the high water table on the lower section of the property. In 1967 the farm was sold to Maurice Nichols an estate agent in Pinetown and Alfred moved with John and Carina to a Creamline Dairy house where Daphne and Kit Henderson had lived previously. Nichols then sold a portion of the land to the Natal Education Department as a site for Pinetown Boys High School (opened 1978) and the balance to a developer named Van Achterberg.

The sale of the farm realised between R40 000 or R50 000. (a figure of £25 000 was quoted at the time). When Alfred died in 1968 each of the children received R8 000.


The Munro family has had a long relationship with the Natal Mounted Rifles stretching back to Alf and Jimmy Davie Munro participation in the Natal Native Rebellion in 1906. In the First World War two of their younger brothers joined up with the NMR. George Ross and William Kenneth served, first at Harrismith in the Orange Free State suppressing the 1914 Rebellion and then in German South West Africa in 1915.

During World War 2, Gordon Munro joined up with the Natal Mounted Rifles, serving in East Africa, Abyssinia and North Africa. Kit Henderson, Daphne's future husband served in the same NMR Company with Gordon Munro.

Gordon fourth left back row and Kit Henderson sixth left back row,
in this photograph of Pinetown volunteers taken in Abyssinia

Following Gordon's return from his service "Up North" he and Gladysella were married on the 26th April 1947 in Durban. Four months later Daphne and George (Kit) Henderson were married at St John's Anglican Church in Pinetown on 19th July 1947. The following year on the 31st July 1948 Gwyneth and William Roland Thomson were married at St John's. John and Carina Leroni were married on the 16 November 1948, and lastly, Barbara and Theodore (Tom) Gillman were married at St John's on the 15th August 1953.

Gwyneth (second left, top row) and Barbara (seated right) in the Berea Rovers Hockey team.

Gwyneth and Barbara

Gwyneth's wedding with bridesmaids Barbara and Daphne in 1948

Barbara and Tom Gillman's wedding day with Vera, Daphne, Grandfather Alfred and Gwyneth


  • Barbara Gillman conversations
  • FamilySearch
  • Roskeen, Invergordon
  • Roskeen Parish 1861 Census
  • Cromarty History Society
  • Ross and Cromarty roots
  • Natal Province Civil Marriages 1845-1955
  • Early History, Invergordon
  • Munro Family Tree
  • Clan Munro website
  • Maureen Sharpe information
  • Munro, Gillman, Browne, Lion-Cachet families
  • Pinetown Mail
  • History of the Natal Mounted Rifles
  • The immigrants' ship, Art Gallery of South Australia
  • Pioneers Progress

St John's churchyard Pinetown

© 2023 Don Munro