The story of Cathcart

Private Property South Africa
Anna-Marie Smith

For those whose roots are steeped in the history of at least five generations of families who have resided in this magnificent Eastern Cape farming district, modern age living continues in an innovative and vibrant fashion.

Best known for its prize winning wool production, the country town of Cathcart is located 146 km from East London and half an hour from Queenstown, and falls under the Amahlathi District Municipality together with closest neighbours Stutterheim, Keis Kamma Hoek, and Kei Road.

This small agricultural town whose residents largely comprise a farming and labouring community, was established as a British Settlement in 1860 and renamed in honour of Sir George Cathcart who served as Governor of the Cape Colony from 1852 to 1854. Today residents enjoy the facilities of a high school and hostel, several churches, two medical doctors and a clinic, retail facilities, a retirement home, as well as a number of sports clubs. The closest hospital is located just half an hour away in Queenstown, and also where school children attend boarding school. An established tradition among this farming community is to send children to private high schools in Grahamstown, such as Kingswood College and St Andrews.

Chairman of the Cathcart Ratepayers Association and member of the multi party Cathcart Development Forum working on the re-generation and upgrading of town, Kevin Wearing says much has changed since it gained independent municipal status in 1876. But, what hasn't changed over the past 30 years, he says is the strong community based lifestyle that remains the foundation of support to local residents. He says a major reduction in the number of farms in this region has been seen over time, mostly due to farmers directly buying large portions of upto 60% of land adjacent to their own farms from fellow farmers, without it going onto the property market.

Wearing, himself from local farming stock, who with his family has been running the local butchery since 1968, says the past 30 years has seen a sharp reduction in the number of farmers from approximately 120 to about 40, as well as reduced sheep counts that has resulted in a new beef farming community. Since the region's earliest beginnings as a predominantly sheep farming district, and following the onging impact of stocktheft across the country, local farm owners passionate about their heritage, have taken the bold step of converting to beef farming instead. To the point where modern day farm stock auctions no longer require animals to travel from farms into central markets, instead purchasers now view potential stock in digital format at auctions.This phenomonon he says, requires relationships between buyers and sellers to be built on trust, with the common understanding that for purchases made at stock auctions, what you see is indeed what you get.

Local property agent and resident of 50 years, Malcolm Kidson of Kidson Realty Estates says this unbeatable country lifestyle enjoyed by the hardworking farming community, comes as a direct result of optimal weather conditions in providing excellent stock and produce. Kidson says a number of freestanding properties in the centre of town are currently on the market, and range from R220 000 to R1-million.

One very important local affair that attracts visitors from afar takes place annually during the mini agricultural show and exhibition held on one of the farms, that has become an all encompassing fund raising and social event, for charitable causes.

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