Go to the Labyrinth of East London Lore

Thomas Barrable

Carpenter & Town Councillor

Keith Tankard
Updated: 14 October 2009
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It is with great sadness that we have to announce that the creator of The Labyrinth of East London Lore, Dr T., has passed away. Helping people through his website gave him no end of pleasure. If you had contact with him and would like to leave a message, please send us an e-mail here.

Thomas Barrable was born at Brompton in October 1844. We have no knowledge about when he emigrated to South Africa, or when he came to East London. He makes his appearance, however, during the 1870s as a carpenter, builder and undertaker, with his headquarters at Panmure.

The 1870s was a period of moderate growth at East London where a recession during the previous decade had ended with the discovery of diamonds in Griqualand West. It was found that East London was the closest port to the Kimberley diamond fields and so there was a marked increase in trade through the port.

In 1873 a Municipal Board was established, with the original town of East London becoming Ward 1 while Panmure became Ward 2. The first Council met for three years, and a second triennial Council was elected in 1877.

Thomas Barrable was elected as a representative for Ward 1, despite his businesses being in Panmure. His tenure, however, was brief. He participated in a walkout of June that year to protest against what appeared to be a usurping of the Council by the East Bank (Panmure) and the moving of the Municipal Offices to that side of the river. This would be a de facto death knell to the original village of East London.

Ultimately the East Bank won and the Council moved to that side of the river, making it difficult for members of the West Bank to attend meetings. It is probably this fact that caused Thomas Barrable not to seek re-election.

Again at an unknown date, he left East London altogether and settled in Molteno — where he died on 25 January 1901, at the age of 56.

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