Marydale, Northern Cape

Marydale – about as far away from the rat race as you could get.

By Chris Marais

Back in 1903, the Dutch Reformed Church established the small town of Marydale, which now lies on the N10 route between Port Elizabeth and the Namibian border.

As a gesture to the farmer who owned the land on which the town stands, it was named after his wife, Mary.

As far as the world at large is concerned, Marydale is most famous for its location, being near the almost-mythical old railway station village of Putsonderwater – Well Without Water.

Karoo Space once tracked down Ken Magson, the last station master of Putsonderwater. We had to speak to a lot of the old timers in Marydale to come up with his telephone number in Cape Town.

“Was it a hardship posting?” we wanted to know.

“Not at all,” he replied. “I was there for eight years and loved every minute of it.

“I had a staff of more than two dozen and, by the time I left in 1988, we were voted the best railway station in the country and won the Lady Duncan Trophy. The gardens, you should have seen the gardens. They were great.

“The winters were deliciously cold. The summers were dry and hot. I lived there with my wife and two sons, who went to boarding school in Marydale, about 36 km away. Visitors used to come to Putsonderwater and remark on what an oasis it was. You didn’t laugh at Putsonderwater in my day.”

I wanted to know about the social life of Putsonderwater and asked about any “clubs” in the area. I was more than mildly surprised when Ken Magson said:

“Oh yes, we were good friends with all the farmers in the district. We used to hold Bible Study sessions in the waiting room…”

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