Wayne Coetzer has long occupied a space in our minds that counts him among the world's great hoteliers. Possessed of a street wisdom that entitles him to get up several hours after the rest of us and still win the race, Coetzer's peoples' skills have been honed in the front row of hospitality's 'hurly-burly'. His understanding of the mechanics of his trade borders on the Biblical, he has an intuitive knack of knowing his customers, and polishes it with an impish sense of humour which he maintains whatever the job throws at him.Read More
Filtering by Tag: David Rattray
Gossling Suite 3
Most recently occupied by Mick and Cheryl Goss' youngest son, Nicholas, this suite's most famous resident from the past was Mrs. Bridget Oppenheimer, the first lady of South African racing, and arguably the First Lady of South African society for decades as the wife of the late, great Harry Oppenheimer.
In the days before heaters became voguish, and in the context of the Ellis era and a somewhat spartan approach to their furnishings, Mrs. Oppenheimer spent her first visit at Hartford in this room. She once remarked to Mick Goss that she was so cold (at the height of winter) that she used to go to bed in her fur coat! That has all changed of course, and we trust your comfort will not be compromised by a lack of warmth.
Since the re-opening of Hartford House as a hospitality establishment in 1997, this little suite has provided access for many a young couple, a Michaelhouse, Hilton or Treverton student, the odd granny or grandpa and several storied tour guides, fabled aviators and historians, among the most celebrated of whom was our late and greatly lamented friend, David Rattray.
It's our smallest suite, but it's been the debutant introduction for countless enduring relationships and visitations to Hartford House, and its popularity has survived the subtle but extensive developmental changes in the rest of our accommodation during the past decade, all aimed at the increasing comfort of our treasured guests.
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(Photos : Leigh Willson, Amorette Kramer and Michael Nefdt)
Summerhill Group Conference
Summerhill is lucky in its friends and its people. One of our most treasured associations is with a group who call themselves (appropriately,) the Land Of Legends. It is the only collection of properties whose raison d'etre lies in their histories, their culture and their tradition. It was founded by ourselves (Hartford House) and the late David Rattray's Fugitives' Drift Lodge, and these days it includes the The Oyster Box, the Beverley Hills,Fordoun Spa, Rocktail Bay Lodge, Ardmore Ceramics and Phinda Game Reserve. By now you'll have spotted the fact that these are KwaZulu-Natal's pride in hospitality, establishments of legendary repute that rank with the best in the world.
For our twelfth annual conference, we've been hiding out at Bayete camp, deep in the nether regions of Phinda's spectacular bushveld. No cellphone signal, no radios or televisions, no pack drill. And in a matter of days, the Big Five, in every shape or form. Phinda isn't South Africa's finest bush experience for nothing. Authentic, wild, professional, diverse, down-to-earth, riveting. Oh, and luxurious, but at Phinda, luxury is just the journey, not the destination.
Summerhill has faced many challenges in its three decades and more. The rich and the powerful, the cunning and the envious, the enterprising and the resourceful. There was no inheritance at Summerhill, no big business to fund its growth, just relationships and the sacrifice of our people. That means we have to get up that bit earlier in the mornings, we have to box that bit smarter, just to stay in the swim.
These gatherings in the bush are moments of reflection, for galvanising the spirits, and for recharging the batteries. When the stormclouds approach, don't seek shelter. Put on your raincoat, and get back to work. At the end of the day, you have to decide whether you want to spend the rest of your life sipping sugar water, or do you want to change the world? At Summerhill, that's a rhetorical question. We are what we are because our people chose to write their own histories.
By the time the curtain came down on this jamboree Friday morning, I was more convinced than ever that this team is in better shape to deal with the future than any time in our past. Given they already have seven Breeder's titles under their belts, that's some statement. But a few days in the bush reminds me that these are paragons of enthusiasm, good humour and curiosity, Renaissance people in an era that badly needs them.
They've already prepared themselves for the day they come second, and they've already defined the benchmarks by which they want to be measured down the road. This team knows the equations others don't know. Times may be unbelievably tough, but great harvests come from arid sources. Pleasure comes, often enough, from restraint.
The other thing that drives them, is knowing that one day you're going to get beaten. It's the best way of avoiding the trap of thinking you have something to lose; you are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart. Be a pirate; don't join the navy.
And speaking of challenges, you're not to worry. I know the authors well and I already know how this narrative is going to end. This team will make sure the good guys win.
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LAND OF LEGENDS
"Legacy of the Zulu Kingdom"
The late David Rattray was mesmerizing company. From the Royal family of Britain, across the waves to Los Angeles in the west and to Hong Kong in the east, he was one of the world's most welcome dinner guests, and when Cheryl Goss embarked upon her life's work, Hartford House, one of the first things we did was to engage with our old mate on the idea
of the formation of the Land Of Legends. That was 1996, and today we host a gathering of the "legends" for the first time in several years.
For those who are unacquainted with the concept, the idea behind the foundation of the Land Of Legends, was to breathe a new awareness of the offerings our region held for visitors to this country. In our hearts, we knew that this was the real Africa, that if you were visiting South Africa, and you wanted to feel its authenticity, its culture, its history and its traditions, you couldn't afford not to include KwaZulu-Natal in your itinerary. Too many travellers would "do" Cape Town and its environs, Kruger and the Eastern Transvaal, Victoria Falls and perhaps a bit of Botswana, but most of these events were packaged into relatively tight modules, and there was little or no contact with the customs, the language, the land, its indigenous architecture and its smells.
In those days, only 4% of our first-time international travellers to South Africa included KwaZulu-Natal on their itineraries, but such was the awareness created by the Land Of Legends, that today the figure is closer to 40%. This is a healthy turnaround, and comes about because the Land Of Legends is the only collection of top quality hospitality and tourism facilities in the world, which is bound by its common interest in culture, history and tradition, and its reverence for the environment.
Gathering at Hartford today are representatives of Phinda Game Reserve, The Oyster Box, The Beverley Hills, Fordoun Hotel and Spa, Rocktail Beach Camp, Hartford House and Fee Berning's celebrated Ardmore Ceramics. That's as august a collection as you'll find anywhere, and it's our privilege to have them on board, together with our recent Ingwazi awardees, the famous conservationist, Dr. Ian Player, and KZN Premier Dr. Zweli Mkhize, who are automatically welcome at any gathering of this clan, as patrons of the organisation.
(Photos : Paula Mackenzie)
Some years ago, we teamed up with the late great David Rattray and his wife Nicky, to form what is now popularly known as the Land Of Legends. Our purpose was to highlight the virtues of some of the finest properties in hospitality, but specifically the best in the land of the Zulu. In those days, only 4% of the international traffic patronising our respective hostelries included KwaZulu Natal on their first visit to South Africa, and the success of this venture lies in the fact that today, this figure is closer to 40%.
But then, the local offering is quite extraordinary, and this turn of events comes as little surprise to those who know the diversity, the history and the culture of our region. Couple that with the fact that 2009/10 House and Leisure/Visa Best Of South African Awards recognised the Hartford Restaurant as the best in the land, the Phinda Homestead Lodge as number one in its category, and Fordoun's Spa as the standard bearer too, and you realise that there's not much left that wasn't covered by our membership, in the realm of national hospitality establishments.
You can take none of these things for granted though, and unless you keep the propaganda flowing, you quickly join the ranks of the forgotten. Ordinarily, we wouldn't be so pretentious as to speak for others, but with a long association with the Cape ourselves, this is a topic on which we have some understanding, having lived there and been partly educated there in our own time. We tend to forget sometimes when we live in the "mother" territory, that there is life beyond the Hottentots-Holland mountains, and sometimes, when it comes to the other side of Drakensberg, we can be quite oblivious.
So last week, the "Legends" took their products to the Western Cape to share the delights of their local properties with journos, travel agents and corporate representatives. It had been raining for a week before we got there, and then the "Sunshine Boys" turned up. What a glorious day in glorious surrounds, from The Vineyard to Waterford, in glorious old cars.
We are often blessed at Hartford House with the visitation of very interesting guests. This week was no exception as Duncan Hay and his lovely wife Vicki joined us for a few days.
Duncan is a researcher from the University of KwaZulu Natal (UKZN) with expertise including; biodiversity and conservation, community based natural resource management, integrated catchment management, project and programme planning as well as rural community development.
Duncan is also a keen fisherman, as can be seen by the photo above. He caught this healthy Rainbow Trout, weighing in at 3.0kg, early on Wednesday morning in our main trout dam, Preston Pan. His tool of the trade was a "Black Leaded Woolly Hopper".
An interesting note is that Duncan was a friend of David Rattray from university, and they would spend time exploring Fugitives' Drift where survivors escaping the Battle of Isandlwana crossed the Buffalo River, where Lieutenants Melvill and Coghill lost their lives saving the Queen's Colour of the 24th Regiment and where David Rattray later established the world-renowned Fugitives' Drift Lodge.
(Photo kindly supplied by Duncan Hay)
Those that know us, know too, that friends count. Ten years ago, in an attempt (and a very successful one at that) to develop an awareness that, as a tourist destination, the best places in KZN provided travelers with as enchanting and diverse an experience as anything in the world, we started the Land Of Legends with our great mate, David Rattray.
It’s a matter of great pride to us that he should be posthumously honoured by the University of Natal. We salute you, Doctor!! The Star reported:
World-renowned historian David Rattray has been posthumously made an honorary graduate of the University of KwaZulu Natal.
His father, Dr Peter Rattray, accepted the doctorate in social science at a graduation ceremony held at the Royal Agricultural Society showgrounds in Pietermaritzburg yesterday. Dr Rattray said he was honoured to accept the degree on behalf of his son, who was murdered on January 26 last year at his Fugitives' Drift Lodge, near Dundee, during a botched robbery. He said his son's death had shocked the country, and messages had been received from far and wide, including from Britain's Prince Charles.
"David had lived among Zulu people most of his life and was steeped inZulu history and could speak the language."
Dr Rattray said the degree was one of the best tributes to a man "who loved South Africa unreservedly".
Presenting the honorary degree, vice-chancellor Professor Dasarath Chetty said David Rattray had been a brilliant and extraordinary orator who shared his deep love and passion for the environment, Zulu culture and the country through his work. "The University of KwaZulu Natal is privileged and takes immense pride in honouring this unique individual, whose work symbolised the very essence of African scholarship."