The evocative names of places and landmarks up the West Coast have either an enthralling story or loads of humour behind them, sometimes a bit of both
Words and Pictures Keri Harvey
*This feature has proved a popular read in our February edition. Here are snippets explaining just three of the fabulously peculiar place names on the West Coast:
André Kleynhans has lived in Paternoster, the oldest fishing village along our Atlantic coastline, for more than 20 years. A self-described fisherman (and successful property developer), in his spare time he soaks up local history wherever he finds it, and when it comes to the West Coast his stories are captivating and his knowledge encyclopaedic.
“The first settlement of people here was on the Groot Paternoster headland, named for the Groot Paternosters that were rocks mapped on the old maritime charts,” he explains. “Then the people moved down along the bay and to the site of the current village of Paternoster, which was first called Klein Paternoster. Nowadays the village is simply known as Paternoster, and Klein Paternoster is a ‘suburb’ where I live, just about a block big.”
Paternoster might be the oldest fishing village along our Atlantic coast, but the origin of its name remains a mystery. André tells me there is no shortage of theories, one that the village was named for Khoi beads called ‘paternosters’, another that shipwrecked Portuguese sailors named the settlement. It’s believed they said the Pater Noster (Lord’s Prayer), and made it to shore and safety. “But even so, we don’t know the definite origin of Paternoster’s name and
I am happy with that,” says André. “I like it staying a mystery because I might be disappointed if I knew.
Yzerfontein, some 80km south of Paternoster often is also mispronounced Ysterfontein, even though it’s believed to be named after the farm it’s located on, which had a spring that bubbled through ironstone. As you drive up the R27 from Cape Town, there is a set of crossroads where Yzerfontein is to the left towards the Atlantic, and Darling to the right.
Firmly placed on the map by Pieter-Dirk Uys and his Evita se Perron theatre and restaurant, Darling is also visited for its enchanting name. So it might come as a disappointment that the town is simply named after a British governor from the mid 1800s, Charles Henry Darling, who couldn’t possibly have imagined what curiosity the town’s name would stir.
*Grab our February edition (in stores or online) to discover the origins of more names, like Tietiesbaai, Jacobsbaai and Hopefield