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URSULINES OF THE ROMAN UNION

PROVINCE OF SOUTHERN AFRICA
THE ARRIVAL OF THE FIRST URSULINES IN SOUTH AFRICA

CAPE TOWN

On 17 December, the ship cast anchor in Table Bay, and, coming from the flat country of Holland,
the Sisters gazed in awe at the majesty of Table Mountain. The "Tantallon" was to remain in port
for a few days and the travellers were hospitably received by the Dominican Sisters, who were
already established at the Cape. The Ursulines had hoped to continue their journey to Barberton
by train, but that was impossible. There was, as yet, no railway line from the Cape. They were
advised to continue by sea to Lourenço-Marques. Stormy weather delayed the "Tantallon" a further
three days in Port Elizabeth and, again, the new missionaries were warmly welcomed by the
Dominican Sisters there, and could learn something of the work and customs of the country.
On Christmas Day their ship docked in Durban where they were met by Monsignor Jolivet, Bishop of Natal, and they spent the
next four days at the Convent of the Nazareth Sisters, doubtless very happy to have the opportunity of celebrating the
Christmas festivities.

LOURENCO-MARQUES

The travellers left Durban on 29 December, arriving next day at Lourenço-Marques, a day they would remember! There was
no one to meet them. A telegram they had sent, had not reached its destination, and they found there was no rail
connection to Barberton. They spent a worried night on board, and next morning, after making enquiries, found that they
could get a train as far as Avoca, the nearest station to Barberton.
BY COACH TO BARBERTON

In Avoca, they managed to hire a wagon drawn by a team of five pairs of mules. After a very
uncomfortable journey, their conveyance pulled up in the main street of Barberton on the 31st
December, 1895, at 8 o'clock in the evening. It was dark. Their driver had no idea whether there was
a priest in the town or where to find him. Where could they go? Providence intervened in the persons
of two Jewish ladies who had seen them arrive. They kindly invited the exhausted nuns to their home
for a meal and a rest while they tried to find the priest who should have met them. He was Father
Vernhet, who, himself, had arrived in Barberton only eleven days before. He was very grieved not to
have been present to welcome them but, again, their telegram had not arrived - nor had their luggage!
The house which was to have been ready for them was not yet vacant. Fr. Vernhet offered them his
own small dwelling while he stayed with a charitable family. It was a very depressing and frustrating
start to their life in this new country. They must have felt sad and homesick as they ended this first
day in their new surroundings.
Avoco Mail Coach using the first route
To Barberton, by which the first
Ursulines would have arrived.
Premises of
Mastertreads
BARBERTON

Barberton, at that time, was a small gold mining town. The years have changed it. The site of the first modest
Ursuline Convent and school there, has been built over by private houses. The site of the permanent new school
they had planned to build is now covered by the premises of Mastertreads, in the Barberton of today.