Lost to our heritage Thomas Gilbert Wangra

Lost to our heritage Thomas Gilbert Wangra, a look at what we missed in our country, lost, because the system preferred to hide what our country could have been like?

As you walk down towards Tamatie-vlei, directly opposite the Lollan home, is the property that belongs to the Wangra family. I believe that I have read some information on this family, and the relationship with the Queen; be aware, it may just be some input from my spirit, as I have not yet been able to confirm any of this information.

It was only recently that I ventured onto the Wangra property; I had once read that during the Royal family visit in 1947, they stopped for a visit in Kliptown, and for some reason I associated the stop with this house. Papie had not heard of this and we enquired from the family. Archie, born in 1945 was too young, but he thought that the REO car, owned by his father, had at some stage belonged to the royal family.

This really spurred my interest and I waited around for three hours for his sister, Gwen, a teacher, to arrive home. Gwen is younger, and was unaware of this stop, but confirmed that her father had owned a car that the Transport Museum swapped her father for a newer vehicle. I was shown photos of the REO, but not being an enthusiast it all passed over my head

Then Gwen confirms that her father ‘cooked for the Queen’. As a 28 year-old seaman,  Thomas Gilbert Wangra was a waiter on board a British Mercantile Marine Vessel, to November 1902. Gwen tells me that her father then claimed to have worked for the Royal family, as a cook, between 1902 and 1912.

Gwen recalls how her father used to talk to the family of ten children, about his colourful history, and none of them took much interest in his many stories.

I visit the James Hall Transport Museum and do not find the vehicle that had belonged to the Queen. I returned a few days later with the news, and Gwen sends for her slightly elder brother, Louis, who may have more details.

Louis confirms his father, born in Ghana, served in the British forces and worked as a cook for the Royal family. On settling in South Africa, he was employed as a chef at the Carlton Hotel.

Louis shows me the Royal Family Discharge Papers, confirming the employment at the Royal House.

The Royal family stayed at the Carlton Hotel in 1947, and when they returned home, dad Wangra arrived home with the REO motor car, that the Royal family had been using.

The 1927 REO Flying Cloud, was not the vehicle that found its way to the museum, but the car in their garage was the car in question.


Thomas Gilbert Wangra 1927 REO
Thomas Gilbert Wangra 1927 REO

During the years in Kliptown; dad Wangra was a healer, herbalist and prophet, consulted by numerous whites, including Nationalist Party Ministers.

Nelson Mandela, often stood at the goat pen, talking to this ‘interesting old man’.

Dad Wangra passed away at the age of 103, in January 1978.

I stand on the large piece of ground that is the Wangra property, and for the first time can feel just how magic the old Kliptown must have been. Archie is talking to me, I am aware of the discussion, but my mind goes back to what this property must have been like forty years ago. I look at the setting and see the potential of the owners creating a ‘tea-garden’, where the visitors to ‘Inside Kliptown’, can relax and be part of the local community, while hopefully getting a glimpse of the REO, used by the Royal family in 1947.

As part of the interaction with both Gene Duiker and the Wangra family, is the old San Souci theatre, the following picture will not only link you to the elders in the community, but many of the youth that frequented the derelict building;

San Souci Theatre
San Souci Theatre

Just how many interesting black people were lost to our society by the system?

Cedric de la Harpe

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