The beautiful seaside city of Hermanus is one of South Africa’s best tourism exports to the world. And whenever the city’s story is told, a name that pops up effortlessly is Sir William Hoy. The sustained serenity, tranquility and natural ambience enjoyed by Hermanus today is a product of Sir William’s passion for the preservation of this favourite holiday destination.
Born in Scotland to farmer Robert Hoy, William left school at the age of 12 to work as a clerk at the North British Railway in Edinburgh. He earned 12 shillings per week. During his leisure, he put his beautiful copperplate handwriting to good use by learning shorthand and earning extra pocket money teaching shorthand at night school. Hoy was an avid reader who spent considerable time poring over literature from various authors. His favourite were the works of John Noble particularly the ‘Handbook on the Cape of Good Hope’.
In 1890, a recruiting officer of the Cape Town Government Railways arrived Edinburgh and Hoy saw this as an opportunity for him to relocate to the city of his dreams. He applied to be sent to Cape Town subsequently and his application was favourably considered. After relocating, he was promoted within two years to the position of chief clerk to the Traffic Manager in Kroonstad. The following year he became the Transvaal agent for the Railways. He was only 27. Hoy was competent and trustworthy such that he was put in charge of military railways, coordinating the movement of troops, supplies, horses and other logistics during the Anglo-Boer war.
In 1910, Sir William Hoy made history when he became the youngest railway General Manager ever and had control of the second largest government-owned railway in the world. His responsibilities increased by the day and his hectic schedule was so much that he needed to get away from Cape town for holiday. It was during his search for a perfect holiday destination that he discovered Hermanus, where he could indulge himself with his favourite pastime, fishing. The alluring and enchanting ambience of Hermanus made him fall in love with it over and over again that he became a popular enthusiast and patron of the town.
Hoy made friends with the local businessmen in Hermanus who wanted him to help influence the speedy completion of the railway line which was billed to pass through the town. But Sir Hoy had something else in mind. He wanted Hermanus to remain unspoilt and not overrun by the massive population that could turn up once the railway station began to function. Sir William Hoy was determined to preserve the town’s freshness against the invasion of modern civilization. Other residents and visitors who also had insight into the town’s potential supported Hoy’s opposition to the completion of the railway project.
After successfully over-ruling the extension of the railway line and completion, he set up a horse and carriage service between the two towns. As a result of this, Hermanus Station became the first station to never have a train arrive or leave from it. The Hermanus Tourism Office now carries out its daily operations from this building.
Thanks to Sir William Hoy, Hermanus is today a scenic and charming holiday destination that attracts over 250,000 vacationers annually. Many South Africans and foreigners throng this seaside town to enjoy its beaches, scenery, winery, quaint markets and art galleries.
Tourists can also enjoy stunning views of Hermanus from atop Hoy’s Koppie. This hill was the point where Sir William Hoy and his wife usually sat, during their many trips to Hermanus, to watch the boats coming. On one such occasion, Sir Hoy expressed his desire to be buried right there on the hill overlooking the bay. So when he died, his wife contacted his old friend Woensdregt, expressing her desire to honour his wish to be buried on the koppie. Danie made the necessary arrangements with the municipality and led Hoy’s fishermen friends in carrying his coffin up a newly made pathway for the burial. From that day onwards, the site became known as “Hoy’s Koppie”. When Lady Hoy later died, in England, she was brought to Hermanus to be buried next to her dear husband. Till date, their graves are situated at the summit of Hoy’s Koppie where one can gaze out across the pristine town that Sir William Hoy passionately helped to create. What a great icon he was!
Afro Tourism salutes the uncommon passion and immense contribution of Sir William Hoy to the growth of African tourism.
DID YOU KNOW?
- That Sir William Hoy was born in Scotland in 1868
- That Hoy left school at the age of 12 to work as a clerk at the North British Railway in Edinburgh
- That Sir Hoy grew rapidly through the ranks to become the youngest person to have risen from the ranks of a shorthand typist to become the youngest railway Manager in charge of military railways, coordinating the movement of troops, supplies, horses, etc, during the Anglo-Boer war
- That William Hoy introduced the first road service of South African railways from the railway station at Bot-River to Hermanus in 1912
- Sir William was knighted in 1916 and died in 1930 at the age of 62
- The hill Hoy’s Koppie was named after Sir William Hoy in honour of his memory and contributions to the development of Hermanus tourism
- That Hermanus has over 200 accommodation places, 30 wineries, more than 40 restaurants and loads of activities to make your vacation an unforgettable experience.
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Sam Adeleke is a Travel Writer, Designer and Brand Strategist at Afro Tourism. If he’s not working, you’ll catch him reading or watching a flick. He loves Africa with a passion and will go to any length to showcase its immaculate beauty to the world.