How Walkerville got its name - The Story of the Walker Family
Arthur Walker (the first) came out from Britain in 1901 at the age of 15 with the Rough Riders (scouts) group of the Imperial Yeomanry (volunteer cavalry force), looking after their horses on the long sea journey to the Cape. On arrival he was allowed to go into action with them as a frontline scout. He was subsequently badly wounded in the left arm and leg in action. Despite the severe wounds he rode his horse back to the base camp and whilst receiving emergency medical treatment, was able to report what he had seen before the Boer forces spotted him.
For his brave action he was awarded a good conduct medal and was given a disability pension of one pound eleven shillings and five pence per month for life which was later increased to three pounds nine shillings and seven pence. At the end of the war he was allowed to remain in this country and he became a property salesman operating from Cape Town and later upcountry.
In his new civilian job he again proved his mettle and was most successful. Some of the properties he bought, probably farms at that time, are now well-known suburbs, e.g. Pretoria Gardens, Bon Accord, Claremont, Mountain View, Fairlands, Lyndhurst and Birnam.
In 1918 he acquired about 25 square miles to the south of Johannesburg. A portion of the area had previously been a dairy farm belonging to the Butler family, who had decided to sell as the lady of the house found the life very lonely.
This painting of The Homestead situated at the base of the koppie on the right hand side still hangs in the family home in Walkerville. On the left is the road to Vereeniging, still a dirt track, and left of that is Weilbach's Farm. The orchards at the back are today the suburb of Homestead Apple Orchards. The foreground is now Ohenimuri Golf Course.
Arthur Walker felt that the area would be ideal for apples and eventually planted half a million fruit trees. Among the varieties he planted were Rome Beauty and Ohenimuri. The trees were planted in the area known today as Homestead Apple Orchards and Walker's Fruit Farms. In the area known today as Golfview, pears were planted. Ohenimuri apples predominated in the area which is now the golf course.
Some years after the establishment of the orchards, the editor of the Rand Show Annual for 1931 was to give these details:
"This property was purchased by the Company some twelve years ago and comprised the freehold farm of Faroasfontein no. 214, comprising 3, 367 morgen. In the years that have elapsed the Company laid out on the former barren, windswept veld the largest apple orchard in the Union, comprising over four miles of trees
This article appeared in the 1930 issue of The Johannesburg and Rand Show Annual.
A DAY'S WORK ON THE WALKER FRUIT FARMS
INTERVIEW WITH MR ARTHUR WALKER.
Chairman and Managing Director of the Walker Fruit Farms and Founder of the
Transvaal Apple Industry by Our Special Correspondent
In this interesting review, Mr Arthur Walker, the founder of the apple industry of the Transvaal, gives us a graphic description of a day's work on his fruit farms, and shows how the growth of the ruddy-faced commercial apple has led his Company into such diverse by-paths as cider making, pig-farming and afforestation.
The Walker Fruit Farms are situated on the main road to Vereeniging, some eighteen miles south of the City of Johannesburg, and some twelve miles from Meyerton and five miles from Grasmere Station on a loop of local line. The property was purchased by the company some thirteen years ago and comprised the freehold farms of Faraosfontein No. 214, consisting of 3,367 morgen. In the years that have elapsed the Company have laid out on the former barren, wind-swept veld, the largest apple orchards in the Union comprising over four miles of trees, and have also developed a very successful cider industry in the Homestead Factory. Recently, the Company have turned their attention to pig farming, and the laying out of commercial timber plantations. THE EDITOR
Readers of this Annual would like to know something about the work carried out on the Walker Fruit Farms.
With pleasure. Our operations start as soon as the sun is up and there is an enthusiasm and keenness to get to work in the freshness of these crisp summer mornings, which is often lacking in the case of those workers who have to go to labour in a close and crowded factory. Indeed, I do not know of any manual work more congenial and more healthful than that of picking fruit in what may be termed a "Sunshine Factory" , and occasionally tasting a fruit of your fancy. For it is clean, healthy and interesting work. With the rising sun, quite a little company of our employees are trooping to the pack house where preparations are being made for the reception of the fruit. In a very short time, the first of the specially constructed fruit wagons are being dispatched from the orchards fully laden with apples, and presently you see a stream of ox-wagons coming from all sections of the Estate, and converging towards the pack-house, and so the work goes on from sunrise to sunset.
The peaceful orchard must seem slightly different from the packhouse scene?
That is very true. The stillness and quietness of the fruit farm on the veld forms a strange contrast to the activity and ceaseless din of the packing shed. Here a bunch of natives are hammering away knocking scores of fruit boxes together, nearby the wood-wool shredding machine emits a dull monotonous sound, while the grading machine, conveyor and elevator all seem anxious to show the visitor that they are also doing their bit in developing the fruit industry. In this busy hive of industry you will observe that our packers are all white youths who are all working with the keenest of enthusiasm. They are automatically kept working at a high speed owing to the fact that while they remain in a stationary position, the boxes, fruit, wood-wool wrappers, etc are all conveyed to them. Having completed the packing of a box the packer with a short half-turn pushes it on to the moving conveyor, which takes it to the nailers and then on to the strappers and labellers. Finally, these boxes pass to the transport department where they are quickly loaded into the transport lorries for conveyance to the railway.
What is the nearest station to the packing shed?
Grasmere. It is just five miles away from the Homestead on quite a good road as far as country roads go. It is situated on the loop line which runs out from Johannesburg via Langlaagte, Nancefield and Lawley. But we are only a mile and a half from the excellent main road that runs between Johannesburg and Vereeniging, and just 18 miles from the "Golden City", so that you will see that we are very conveniently situated. From Grasmere our fruit is sent by rail to all parts of the Union and Rhodesia, and even travels as far as India.
What do you do with your "culled" fruit?
That has become a very important branch of our apple business. Fruit which is unsuitable for marketing purposes, either from bruises or insect marks, etc, is carefully examined and graded into two classes. One lot is sent to the Cider Factory, while the other goes to our piggeries. The cider mills crush about 20 tons of apples per day, and the piggeries, which are not yet fully established, absorb about 3 tons daily. I may say that each of these subsidiary enterprises have arisen from our primary industry which is apple growing.
Your Company is really the pioneer in Africa of feeding apples to pigs on a large scale?
That is so. I am convinced that we are just on the threshold of a very great rural industry. We feel certain that the Homestead Apple-Fed Pork will appeal to every householder in the Union. It is sweet and delicious with just a faint flavour of the apple, and so the chef or cook need no longer trouble to serve apple sauce with pork. The Homestead sun-kissed, apple-fed pork will certainly appeal to thousands of housewives throughout the Union. Our pig sties have been constructed on the most up-to-date lines and special attention has been given to the problems of cleanliness, hygiene, and the general sanitation of the pens. At present, we have only got mid-way through our constructional programme, and our ultimate goal is to place on the market 3000 apple-fed pigs each year.
To place on the market such a large number of pigs will be a considerable undertaking?
Certainly, since each pig must be given a well-balanced ration in order to produce the proper weight, and ensure the right size for marketing. It is quite possible that our latest move will entail more labour and organization than some of the enterprises previously established. This estate gives employment to 28 white men and some 200 natives. The apple has caused the establishment of our cider industry, our piggeries, and our timber plantations which have recently been commenced, and I sometimes ask myself the question: "Where is this fascinating, ruddy-faced fruit leading us to?"
Before closing these remarks, I will just touch upon our latest moves towards afforestation. Today, we are planting a million forest trees consisting mainly of pines and gums. The primary reason of this new development is to produce timber suitable for box-making. Already we are spending 2500 Pounds per annum on fruit boxes alone, made from wood grown in Sweden. And so we are determined to eliminate this unnecessary importation, because we fully realise that in a few years we will require double the number of fruit boxes that we are using at the present time. I grant that it may be some years before we can achieve this goal, but at any rate, we hope to be able to produce every piece of boxwood required by our packhouse from our own fruit lands, namely the Homestead Apple Orchards and the Walker Fruit Farms.
Arthur Walker's apples were soon being exported overseas. A packhouse and cold storage was built where the apples were sorted, graded and packed prior to being railed from Grasmere station on their long trip overseas. The packhouse and cold storage no longer stand on the home farm having sadly been reduced to ruins.
These photos were taken in the Apple Orchards / Fruit Farms area, possibly in the mid to late 1920's. Apparently the unfortunate Blesbok had acquired a taste for apples which turned out to be bad for their health. In the top photograph Mr Walker is third from left and second from left in the bottom pic. It is not known who the other men are. Could anyone help with their identification? Ties and dickie bows seemed to be the order of the day throughout.
In 1924 Arthur married Muriel and in 1925 the young Mr and Mrs Walker took up residence in their new home, on what was the largest apple farm in South Africa.
The success of the Walker family continued and because there was no demand for the third grade apples, it was decided to start the local manufacture of cider. A cider factory was built and the most modern equipment of the day and the best quality vats for the storage of the cider was imported from Europe. Unfortunately, although the quality of the cider was good, there was little demand, and eventually the factory was closed.
In 1946 the disused factory was purchased by a Mr Blades who lived in Walker's Fruit Farms. With the assistance of friends of his in the area it was converted into a social club after all the machinery and beautiful vats had been sold by public aution. This was also doomed to failure as the support from the local population was insufficient to cover costs, and the well constructed building was eventually sold back to Mr Walker.
The building stood empty for years until the St Francis Anglican Church was established and a portion of the building was then used as a church. The remainder was utilised for social functions organised by the church committee to raise funds for the building of the present church in Golfview/Walkerville. After the present church was built, the building again stood empty until it was bought by the Baptist church. Today we know it as the Southern Christian Fellowship building.
After the failure of the cider venture more troubles were in store for the Walker Family. The once thriving trees were hit by two successive years of hail storms at Christmas time, and, as the fruit farming losses mounted, it was decided to discontinue large scale fruit growing.
The land was sub-divided into 5 and 10 acre plots, now known as Homestead Apple Orchards, Walker's Fruit Farms and Golfview; and the avenues of trees were planted. In 1934 the Ohenimuri Golf and Country Club was established by Mr Walker. Around this time, he had the opportunity to buy the land north of Golfview which was then sub-divided and called Walkerville. During the fruit growing and cider manufacturing years Mr Walker also had property investments in northern Johannesburg, Pretoria and a farm in Naboomspruit.
Breaking ground at the Ohenimuiri Golf Course.
Around 1950 Ishmael Lehari, who has worked for the family for fifty years, asked Mr and Mrs Walker to assist him in establishing the Walkerville Combined School on the family farm, to provide primary school education for the black children in the area. For the last twenty years, Joyce Walker (Arthur II's wife) has been the official manager of the school which eventually accomodated 260 children and had five teachers who were paid by the Department of Education and Training. In 2009 the school was closed and the students were moved to Michael Rua.
Arthur Walker II who was born in 1929, learnt to play golf at Ohenimuri and after winning junior competitions he won many provincial championships, the English Amateur Championship in 1957 and the South African Amateur Championship in 1959. From 1957-1960 he represented South Africa in international matches. He retired from tournament golf when his father died in 1961 to run the family business. He then devoted most of his spare time for the next twelve years to golf administration. During this period he served for two years as president of the Southern Transvaaal Golf Association and as captain and the president of the Royal Johanesburg Golf Club, of which he is now a life member.
Arthur Walker II also has two daughters: Brenda Joyce aged 28, B.Com. LL.B, who is a qualified attorney, notary and conveyancer, and Linda, 19, who is currently a second year B.Com (accountancy) student at Pietermaritzburg University.
Mrs Muriel Walker, now aged 86, Arthur II and his wife Joyce still occupy about 150 acres, bordered on two sides by the Ohenimuri Golf Course and virtually in the centre of the area known today as Walkerville.
. ARTHUR WALKER 2nd 1929 - 2005
It is with regret that we heard of the passing of Arthur Walker following injuries sustained in an attack at "The Homestead" at Faroesfontein. Arthur Walker was born in 1929, the only son of Arthur and Muriel Walker, the founders of Walkerville.
He is survived by his wife, Joyce, son Arthur and daughters, Brenda, Joyce and Linda.
1953 saw the birth of Arthur Walker 111, who grew up in the area and attended General Smuts High School. He became pilot in the South African Air Force in January 1976 with the rank of Captain. In July 1982 he was awarded the Honoris Crux Gold Medal and Bar for his outstanding bravery whilst in extreme danger. He also received the Southern Cross Medal for exceptionally meritorious service and particular devotion to duty.
Official Citation as read at the presentation on the 1st July 1982 to
Arthur Walker 111
During January 1981, two Alouettes, with Captain Walker as flight leader, carried out close air support operations resulting in the Alouettes coming under intense enemy artillery and anti-aircraft fire. He only withdrew when ordered to do so. Later Captain Walker returned to the contact area to provide top cover for a Puma assigned to casualty evacuation. Again he was subject to heavy enemy anti-aircraft fire. During the withdrawal the second helicopter developed difficulties and called for assistance. Yet again Captain Walker returned to provide top cover drawing virtually all the anti-aircraft fire to his Alouette. His courageous act prevented the loss of an Alouette and crew.
Captain Walker's actions were not only an outstanding display of professionalism, devotion to duty and courage, but also constitutes exceptional deeds of bravery under enemy fire and make him a worthy recipient of the Honoris Crux Gold.
During December 1981 Captain Walker was again requested to provide top cover for the evacuation of a seriously wounded soldier. On take-off with the evacuee his number two helicopter was hit and crash-landed. Without hesitation and with total disregard for his personal safety Captain Walker landed near the wrecked helicopter and immediately searched for the crew. Eventually the situation became suicidal compelling Captain Walker and his crew to withdraw. When he was airborne he spotted the missing crew and yet again, without hesitation and despite the fact that virtually all enemy fire was now directed in his direction, he landed and uplifted the crew to safety.
Through this courageous deed he prevented the loss of two men. His distinguished actions, devotion to duty and courage make him a credit to the South African Defence Force in general, the South African Air Force in particular and makes him a worthy recipient of the Bar to the Honoris Crux Gold
Courtesy of the Walkerville News, August 1982, November 1984 and February 1985. If anyone can supply photos, pictures or drawings from this time we would be very grateful.
Kindly e-mail email@example.com.