Luyt’s Marine

Aletta Barendina (Berdine) Luyt
Edited and with a foreword by Dr Robin Lee
Hermanus History Society

This is the second volume in a trilogy about the life and times of one of the most iconic Hermanus landmarks, the Marine Hotel. Whereas the first volume published last year, In Those Days, is a collection of reminiscences of Joey Luyt – wife of the hotel’s owner P John Luyt – as recorded by their eldest daughter Berdine, this volume is by Berdine herself. She kept a diary during the latter part of World War II when she and two sisters helped their widowed mother run the hotel, then known as Luyt’s Marine, until the mother sold it in 1947.

Staunchly patriotic and pro-Allied, the Luyt women felt under moral obligation to turn the hotel into centre stage of the fishing hamlet’s efforts to raise money for war funds and to entertain sailors, soldiers and airmen in transit to or from the battlefields of the world. “Life was for living,” the Luyts believed, determined to give the troops a good and happy time, especially because “for many of them it was their last leave on earth”.

Special dinners, dances and parties abounded, some carrying on into the small hours, once even to daybreak when chemist Sandy Grant of Hamewith across the road made bacon and eggs for the revellers. On another occasion a bash moved to the rocks below the hotel where a bonfire was lit which duly provided coals for a braaivleis.

Amongst the guests too during this period were politicians, celebrities like Noel Coward and the actress Gwen Ffrangcon-Davies who played in lead Shakespearean roles on the London stage opposite John Gielgud. She and her parter Marda Vanne who was briefly married to JG Strijdom (later Prime Minster and probably the only Nationalist Prime Minister who could ever boast to have been married to a lesbian), survived their stay in three Hermanus hotel fires: the Cliff Lodge, Bay View and Riviera, but luckily the Marine never burnt down when they stayed there.

Berdine died in 1980, five years before her mother.

A highly readable book that would never have seen the light of day had it not been for the Hermanus History Society.

  • MC Botha