History of MCSA Worcester (Compiled by information gathered from The Mountain Club Journal written by Irene Lincoln and Tom Jourdan)
1893: The Worcester Section of the MCSA is formally established with 28 members on 5 June, roughly 20 months after the establishment of The Mountain Club in Cape Town. Its application for affiliation to The Mountain Club necessitates the latter to change its constitution to allow for the establishment of the Mountain Club of South Africa. The Vice-President for Worcester was J.N.P. de Villiers (The President was the president of the Cape Town section). Other members were: Izak Meiring (Sectretary), W. Harris (Treasurer), Hon. J.D. Hugo, C.H. Beck, J.J. Perkins and Dr. Hugo. Izak Meiring, partner in the pharmacy Meiring and Quenet, and later land surveyor, is instrumental in the formation of the Worcester Section and is the backbone of the Section during its early years, serving on the Worcester Section committee as honorary secretary for many years. ‘Ever since the first meeting of the section the meetings have been held in the schoolroom …’.
1894: Membership is 68. Prominent names on the committee include Besselaar, de la Bat, Beck, de Villiers, and de Wet while lady members include misses Beck, Hauptfleisch, Herskin, four Hugo’s, Pallas, Perkins, Von Ludwig and Mrs Borchard.
1895: A magic lantern and slides for `exibitions’ are acquired to make the poorly attended monthly gatherings more attractive. The first MCSA Gold Badge is awarded to Izak Meiring. By this time Meiring had deter-mined the heights of many of the Worcester District Mountain peaks. The Gold Badge of the Club to members who have significantly furthered the cause of mountaineering and the Objects of the Club in several aspects over a significant period of time.
1898: Meiring reports membership at ‘about 80, a great portion of which are ladies’. Queen Victoria Peak is also recorded as formerly known as Horlogieberg.
1899: Despite the membership still being about 80, Meiring curiously reports that ‘This section is not dead – but sleepeth…’
1901-02: Membership is still around 80. ‘The secretary reports that this section has not yet been resuscitated, but it is hoped …’
1903-10: Eight years of silence reigns with no Worcester Section annual reports being submitted for the MCSA Journal. Although a quiet time for the club, many private climbs were done.
1906: Thomas G Field buys the ‘Worcester Standard Steam Printing works’ and brings his family to Worcester
1911: A ‘deputation’ is sent to Worcester by the Cape Town Section to ‘stim-ulate local interest’ at a meeting, chaired by the mayor, in the CJV Hall. The subsequent annual report is positive and reports a member-ship of 34 with Ben Eybers, Paul Roos and artist and later Scoutmaster Hugo Naude among them.
1912: The longest annual report to date appears in the Journal. A party of 42 climbs Keeromsberg.
1913: A party of 53 attends the Rabiesberg meet. Izak Meiring serves as President of the MCSA.
1914: Three more teachers, Misses Melck, Deas and Miemie de Villiers join the Section. The annual report laments that ‘men are indispensable on the rugby field, so no mountaineering’.
1915: Izak Meiring inspires Eddie Pells, still a schoolboy, to join the Worcester Section.
1917: Izak Meiring dies. Meiring Plateau, previously known as Brandwag Plateau, is named after him and a memorial plaque was later erected on the plateau.
1918: Stanley Field, as a Worcester schoolboy, is already active in the Worcester Mountains.
1920: Arthur Field, Stanley’s elder brother, buys the Worcester Standard from their father. The Worcester Section enjoys regular press coverage of route descriptions and Section outings.
1923-25: Eddie Pells and Stanley Field, now students at UCT, spend their university vacations systematically exploring the Worcester District mountains. The name Disa Dell is attributed to them.
1925: The booklet A Mountaineer’s Paradise, co-authored by Pells and Stanley Field is published by ‘Mr. A. N. Field, Managing Director of the Worcester Standard Electric Press’ under ‘the Auspices of the Mountain Club of S.A.’ The latest reprint of this booklet was done in 2018 as part of the 125 year celebration of the Worcester club.
1926: Arthur Field takes to mountaineering and, with a few friends, resuscitates the Worcester section ‘which had petered out’. Good use is made of his brother’s booklet.
1927: A good snowfall lures Pells, Arthur Field, Mr EW McL Thomas, two Norwegian skiers and ‘a small party of Worcester mountaineers’ to experience skiing on Fonteintjiesberg. The Ski Club of South Africa is promptly formed in the Disa Dell cave on the same weekend, and is affiliated to the Worcester Section of the MCSA. The idea of a mountain hut is also mooted and a sub-committee comprising messrs AN Field (Chairman), MZ Brown (Secretary,) L Cronwright, W Hall and Leland Bybee is tasked to push the but project.
1930: The Worcester Municipality, Worcester Section and members of the public jointly finance the construction of a track to Fairy Glen and a donkey path to Disa Dell. Boys’ High School principal, Ben Eybers, and Girls’ High School teacher, Miss T Katz, both members of the Worcester Section, organise 150 boys and 50 girls respectively to carry roof and floor materials to Disa Dell. The Disa Dell Hut is completed in October 1930.
1931: The hut is inaugurated on 7 August. An impressed Mr McL Thomas changes his building loan to a donation to the Section and the hut is duly renamed the Thomas Hut. Some of the outings taken on by members in this year: M. Brown, C & T Sparks and A.N Field once left the Ceres Valley at 02:45, climbed Buffelshoek Peak an hour later, crossed Sentinel and Mt. Brodie, Horseshoe and Fonteintjiesberg and reached Worcester at 18:00! Misses Henkel and Duckitt were the first ladies to cross from Worcester to Ceres over the Peaks of Devide… and in the snow!
1935: Leland Bybee became the chairman of the Worcester section but left shortly after for active service, as did many others. The Section was kept alive by George Jourdan.
In the early days the subscription fee was a mere shilling (roughly 10 cents). In the late forties when equipment was scarce, a homemade rucksack, sleeping bag and groundsheet could each be hired for 6d (5 cents) a night. There was a time when klinker boots could be bought for 63 shillings. Mountaineering attire was vastly different: Men wore knickerbockers (baggy-kneed trousers), while women wore long dresses, hats and scarves.
One cannot but wonder how mountaineering in the Worcester Section will change in the future.