Sir Lowry Pass Dr Dawn Gould

The road of Sir Lowry Pass is curvy, going up or going down its length. At the top of the Pass there is a parking area from where one has a magnificent view of the False Bay, also the town of Gordons Bay.   But going back in time one finds trying to get to the hinterland was a very hard and difficult matter.

The men of the Dutch East India Company observed how the Khoi found other pastures for their cattle. They had for years trekked their cattle over the mountain side.  Eventually the DEIC employees copied what they saw.  Slowly others were encouraged to try and follow suit. Farmers began to grow vegetables and sell them at the Cape.  But endeavouring to get a wagon pulled by oxen over a height was not an easy undertaking. The usage of remskoene ( brake shoes) were of little use in trying not to move at an unsuitable speed. Accidents happened, strong winds added to the difficulties. Those poor oxen using every bit of their strength despite often being whacked hard with a shambok, heavily cracks with a whip as well has hearing all the noise around them. Then horses were tried and more people followed. But improvement did not happen.  This continued for over a hundred years.

But although the English had taken firm control of the Cape of Good Hope in 1806, it was only in 1828 when a new governor, Sir Galbraith Lowry Cole, had arrived that more action began to be undertaken. It did not take him long to realize that unless a better quality of road movement was hugely improved, the country was not going to develop further.  Around the same time the new governor found someone who thought like himself – Charles Cornwallis Michell. He was given the post of Surveyor General, Civil Engineer and Superintendant of works. Michell had experience, he had fought in Peninsular war (1807-1814) against Napoleon, the two men got on well but they lacked money to go forward. Sir Galbraith understood what the British government wanted – what was there over the mountain that would be of value to them.  He then decided to go ahead with Michell’s plan to build an entirely new pass. An advertisement was placed in the Cape Gazette for tenders for building equipment, food, clothes, blankets for the convict labour. It was not long before the construction was under way.  But Cole had not informed the British Government.  When the British Secretary of State was informed he actually warned Cole that he might have to pay for the cost of the pass, himself.  At that the people  who had suffered the poor pass,  rose up enraged and offered to pay for loss incurred.  Construction went forward. The new pass was opened on 6 July 1830 with much noise and excitement.  It was named the Sir Lowry Pass.

As time passed more and more people drove over the pass. Motor cars with greater power and more speed were moving daily over the pass.  It was not too long before it was obvious that improvements were necessary and were undertaken at different times.