A business trip to South Africa provided Irish automotive publisher and group editor Jarlath Sweeney the opportunity to visit Stanford and trace the steps of Sir Robert Stanford. Jarlath’s interest in the heritage village of Stanford stems from the fact that he lives in Claremorris close to Ballinastanford, in the heart of County Mayo where Sir Robert Stanford was born in 1806. This was Jarlath’s third visit to South Africa but first to the Overberg. From first impression he noted the similarity between the landscape surrounding Stanford and the mountains of the West of Ireland.
Jarlath’s first stop was at Stanford Tourism where he met with locals Bea Whitaker, Marian Ferris, Sumayiya Mohammed, Le-Ann Hoogbaard, Anchelle Damon, Marie Minnaar and Liz Clarke. The group took a walk down Queen Victoria Road to De Kleine Rivers Valey House which Sir Robert owned and where he lived from 1838 after serving in the 27th Inniskillin Regiment of Foot. He bought the 27,000 hectares of land for £35,000 and went on to buy 5 more farms amongst which was Broadlands in Somerset West. Robert was only 10 when he received the title of captain but did not take up this captaincy until he weas 19. He received the knighthood from Queen Victoria in 1850.
Irene and John Tomlinson are now the owners of the homestead which is opposite the Dutch Reform Church. Irene entertained with stories about Sir Robert, his family and the house which has hosted Lady Anne Barnard on a trip to De Kelders and survivors of the HMS Birkenhead when the troopship wrecked in 1852 at Dangerpoint, Gansbaai. Irene told of Sir Robert keeping a schooner at Stanford’s Bay to take produce to Cape Town. Jacoline Louw served her famous homemade lamingtons before the group set off to the graveyard to see the resting place of one of Sir Robert’s cousins and checked to see of Irish family names buried there. The group returned to Stanford Tourism and Jarlath met William Stephans at Stanford Kitchen before setting off to meet Overstrand Municipality’s Executive Mayor Ald Dr Annelie Rabie. Amongst the presentations made were a number of Claremorris football jerseys handed to Anchelle Damon who coaches at Stanford United Sport Academy, a Mayo crystal plaque from the Claremorris Historical Society and another from the Claremorris Chamber of Commerce.
Jarlath is hopeful that this visit will set in motion a linkage between Ballinastanford, Claremorris Ireland, and Stanford and that there will be further collaborations especially with business, community projects and sports development.
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