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The arms were devised in 1959. They may be blazoned: Quarterly:

1. Or, a horse’s head couped argent;

2. azure, a fern frond argent;

3. azure, a yellowwood tree or;

4. or, a bull elephant’s head caboshed and half turned towards the dexter proper.

Wreath and mantling: Or and azure. Crest: The brig Knysna in full sail proper, the two mastheads flying blue pennants. Motto: Concilio et Prudentia. About the arms:

This device was composed without much heraldic knowledge. Quarterly coats of arms occur far too frequently in South African civic heraldry, and merely reflect a desire to provide an even number of fields in which to shove in as many charges as possible.

The first quarter breaks the heraldic rule that metal may not be placed on metal: a white (or silver) horse’s head appears on a gold (or yellow) field. The horse’s head is an allusion to the leaping horse in the arms of Hannover, and to the still popular legend (now comprehensively refuted) that the town’s founder, George Rex, was the illegitimate son of King George III.[1]

The second quarter shows a forest fern – a Khoikhoi word meaning fern is one possible derivation of the town’s name. The species is not named, but the Knysna forest (lying largely to the north and east of the town) is famous for its tall evergreen trees and a variety of ferns found in the undergrowth.

The tree in the third quarter is described as a yellowwood. Four species of yellowwood are indigenous to South Africa, and two, Podocarpus falcatus (Outeniqua yellowwood) and P latifolius (upright yellowwood, misnamed “true” yellowwood), occur in the forests which stretch from George to the eastern end of the Tsitsikamma mountains.

The upright variety often tends to grow taller in the open – because the Outeniqua yellowwood is affected by wind – and reaches 33 metres in height. But in the deep forest it is the Outeniqua that has been known to reach 60 m in height, with a a clean bole of 25 m and a trunk measuring 7 m around the base. Sadly, the magnificent specimens of this size have all been felled, and the largest survivor is the famous Big Tree at Deepwalls, which was 42 m tall in 1955, with a bole of 22 m and a diameter just over 2 m. It is estimated to be 1 700 years old and is still growing.

The fourth quarter shows the head of a bull elephant (Loxodonta africana) with long tusks.

The Knysna forest was once home to large herds of elephant, but only a dwindling remnant is still to be found there.

This is partly because both cultivators and woodcutters have encountered problems with elephants – crops have been trampled, and men cutting timber have been chased and killed. Since the forests were first settled some 2½ centuries ago, men have hunted the animals with firearms, not always with the object of obtaining ivory.

Attempts have been made to revive the herd through the introduction of elephants from the Kruger National Park, but this has been a failure because these are savannah elephants, not forest animals that would fit into the habitat.

A handful of the original Knysna elephants still roam the deep forests, and rumours of young cause great excitement in the community. The sighting of a young adult male was confirmed early in 2002.

The district is now also home to an elephant orphanage, where young African elephants are being raised.

Elephants are very important to the Knysna community, and images of them occur in all sorts of souvenirs sold in the town.

The crest illustrates the brig Knysna, built by George Rex and in its time well known in the area.

The motto translates as “With co-operation and prudence.”

About the town:
There is confusion about the derivation of the name of the town, which in turn is taken from the river which forms a lagoon, along the shores of which the town has grown.

One authority claims that it is a corruption of two Khoikhoi words, !goa-//na, meaning “straight down”, and an allusion to the steep cliffs – the Heads – that guard the entrance to the harbour.

But it seems likely that the origin is a Khoikhoi word meaning “fern” or “fern fronds”.

George Rex was not the first to farm in the Knysna valley: he purchased the farm Melkhoutkraal, which had previously belonged to Stephanus Terblanche, in 1804, and lived there until his death in 1839.

A hamlet named Melville was founded on Melkhoutkraal in 1825, and in 1846 a second hamlet named Newhaven. In 1881 they were fused into a village, now named Knysna and having its own municipal council.

The area is renowned for its beauty. The motto in the Knysna Divisional Council’s coat of arms was Pulchra terra Dei donum (“This fair land is the gift of God”).

The first vessel to enter through the Heads was the 188-ton Royal Navy transport brig Emu, which crossed the bar disastrously in 1817. The rescue ship Podargus entered the lagoon successfully, and during the following century many freighters followed to ship timber.

The Knysna, built of stinkwood, was launched in 1830, and two other ships were built in Knysna during the 19th century. During the Second World War Knysna was again used for boat-building on behalf of the Admiralty, with remarkable success. Boat-building is one of several industries that have been built on the region’s timber resources during the 20th century.

The first load of timber from the forest was shipped from Plettenberg Bay in August 1788. To speed up trasport from the tree to the mill and from there to the steamer jetty in the lagoon harbour, the South-Western Railway Company in 1904 built a 2ft-gauge line from the harbour to a terminal 35 km away at Deepwalls. Between 1907 and 30 April 1949 the little train covered 559 000 km in and out of the forest and handled 28 000 tons of timber annually.

A 68 km branch railway line (in the 3ft 6in Cape gauge, standard for South Africa) from George reached Knysna in 1907. One consequence was the decline of Knysna as a port, and its pilot establishment was removed in 1954. The railway to Knysna at one stage lost its passenger service, but the line is now used as steam preservation project by the South African National Railway Museum, and a passenger special, the Outeniqua Choo-Tjoe, runs regularly from Mossel Bay, especially during the holiday seasons.

Among famous visitors to Knysna was George Bernard Shaw, who stayed at the Knysna Hotel for five weeks in 1932 writing The Black Girl in Search of God.

Since 1950 oysters have been cultivated in the Knysna lagoon.

Following the municipal elections of 2000, Knysna was merged with Belvidere (on the far side of the lagoon), Brenton, Rheenendal and Sedgefield to form the Knysna Local Municipality, which in turn is part of the Garden Route/Klein Karoo District Municipality.

Credit: muurkroon



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