Not many street names in Potchefstroom begin with a “T”. One, however, represents one of the most widely-known residents of Potchefstroom, the poet Totius. Gardens and a fertilizer plant also gave their names to these streets.
Theron Street (South)
Mr CP (Charles) Theron was a popular member of the town council for many years. Mr Theron passed away in 1965 at the age of 70 years. He served as a town councillor from 1955 and attended his last town council meeting shortly before his death.
CP Theron was a former headmaster of the ML Fick Primary School and was elected to the town council shortly after his resignation in 1955. From 1918 until 1955 he was the headmaster of numerous schools in the area, including one on his farm, Tierfontein, in the Vredefort Dome and at Mooibank.
He was born in Potchefstroom and was the son of one of the first teachers at the school that preceded ML Fick, the South School. His father, Mr SW Theron, later became a headmaster of the Potchefstroom Technical High School.
His passion, however, was his farm Tierfontein, where he farmed and which is still owned by one of his grandsons.
Triomf Road (Potchindustria)
leads to the fertilizer plant with the same name. In 1967 the new Triomf Fertilizer Plant in Potchefstroom signified the beginning of an era of prosperity for the town. After the plant had beenofficially opened the Herald published a special supplement on 8 December 1967 to celebrate the occasion. Dr Carel de Wet, minister of Planning, officiated at the opening.
Triomf Kunsmis was founded by the flamboyant and larger-than-life former rugby Springbok, Dr Louis Luyt and the Potchefstroom plant was the first the company built.
A large explosion of an ammonia tank at the plant cost the lives of 18 people in 1973 (See my article).
After the Triomf Fertilizer factory was bought by the Kynoch Company, an application was made at the Transvaal Provincial Administration (TPA) to change the old Triomf Road to Kynoch Road, since this street led to the entrance of the plant. A letter from the TPA to the city council on 17 November 1987, currently in possession of the archives of the Potchefstroom Museum, indicated that the TPA approved the street name change. However, the street name appears to be still Triomf Road and not Kynoch Road.
When the factory closed down in April 2006 it was still known as Kynoch. Low prize of mealies was ascribed as the main reason why the plant closed down.
In 2012 the Triomf Fertilizer Manufacturing was registered when a new company acquired the name and is still operating at the original premises.
Poet, academic, cultural leader, Bible translator
Totius Street (Central)
was named after the Afrikaans poet, JD du Toit, who came to Potchefstroom as minister of the Reformed Church and later became rector of the Theological School from 1911 to 1924. He is one of the five original translators of the Bible in Afrikaans and also rhymed the Psalms in Afrikaans.
In my book Stories of Potchefstroom is an article originally written for the Herald shortly after discord prompted the NWU to remove the Totius statue from its plinth in front of the Main Building in 2015. The heading “Totius was a beloved professor” was chosen after much political animosity was directed at this gentle, popular lecturer.
In 1988, in the book Potchefstroom 150, this timeline on the life of Totius was published. It was originally in Afrikaans. Notes not in cursive was added by me for more clarity.
A timeline on the life of Totius (Prof Dr JD du Toit) – theologian, Bible translator, leader of the people and poet:
1877 – Totius (JD du Toit) was born in the Paarl as son of Rev SJ du Toit, one of the founders of the Genootskap van Regte Afrikaners (an early organisation that promoted the use of Afrikaans).
1882 – The Du Toit family relocated to Pretoria where Rev Du Toit became the superintendent of education. Mrs Du Toit, Japie’s mother (as Totius was known as a child), passed away the same year.
1888 – Japie and his brother, Dawid, went to school at the German Missionary School, Morgenzon.
1896 – Totius registered as a student at the Theological School (of the Reformed Church) at Burgersdorp and completed his studies in 1899. The same year, against the will of his father, he joined a Boer commando. (This was at the outbreak of the Anglo-Boer War.)
1900 – He travelled to the Netherlands for further study and returned to South Africa in 1903 after completing his doctorate with distinction. In August he married Marie Postma and was admitted to ministry in Potchefstroom in September.
1908 – His first volume of poetry, “By die Monument” appeared, although some of his poems were previously published in “Die Afrikaanse Patriot”. (Die Afrikaanse Patriot was a publication of the Genootskap van Regte Afrikaners.)
1911 – Totius became a professor at the Theological School. (The Theological School relocated from Burgersdorp to Potchefstroom in 1905).
1912 and 1913 – His volumes of poetry “Wilgerboombogies” and “Rachel” respectively appeared in these two years.
1915 – He became the first recipient of the Hertzog Prize for his volume of poetry, “Trekkerswee”. The same year he received a second doctorate from the University of Cape Town.
1916 – Totius became involved with the translation of the Bible in Afrikaans, a task that kept him busy for many years.
1920 – His volume of poetry “Kinderverse” appeared and at the end of the year two of his children died. Francois succumbed to meningitis and Wilhelmina was struck by a lightning bolt.
1923 – He devoted himself full-time to the translation of the Bible and the next year he and his family moved to permanently live at his farm at Krugerskraal (on the way to Schoemansdrift outside Potchefstroom). Ten years later, in 1933, the Afrikaans translation of the Bible appeared.
1934 – Two friends, Proff G Dekker and LJ du Plessis convinced him to publish the volume of poetry “Passieblomme” in which poems appeared about the deaths of his children. Two honorary doctorates were conferred to him by the Universities of Pretoria and South Africa.
1936 – The volume of poetry “Uit donker Afrika” appeared, as well as the rhymed version of the Psalms from his pen.
1937 – Totius celebrated his 60th birthday and the FAK (Federasie van Afrikaanse Kultuurverenigings) gifted him, on behalf of the nation of South Africa, with a sculpture by (Anton) van Wouw out of gratitude for his work as poet, Bible translator, cultural leader and academic. He received a honorary doctorate from the University of Stellenbosch and the Gemeentelike Universiteit van Amsterdam.
1938 – The corner stone of the Voortrekker Monument in Pretoria is laid and Totius delivered the address before a large audience.
1947 – Totius retired as professor.
1948 – His last volume of poetry, “Skemering”, appeared and the University of Cape Town conferred a honorary doctorate on him.
1952 – He received a honorary doctorate from the University of the Witwatersrand.
1953 – The revised version of the Bible in Afrikaans is completed. In March Totius received a honorary doctorate from the Potchefstroom University and he passed away on 1 July in Pretoria.
Some additional information:
* He acquired the name “Totius” during the Anglo-Boer War when he studied in Amsterdam. The word refers to his surname, but is also a word derived from the Latin for “whole” or “for everybody”, due to the fact that he was known in Burgersdorp as “our chief poet” (“onze hoofdichter”).
* He and his family lived in the residence of the rector of the Theological School at 108 Molen Street, Potchefstroom from 1911 to 1924. The house was built in 1905 when the Theological School of the Reformed Church relocated to Potchefstroom from Burgersdorp. The first occupant was Prof Jan Lion Cachet, who was in his seventies when the relocation was planned. He assented to it on one condition that the floor plan of his house in Burgersdorp be replicated in Potchefstroom. In 1977, the centennial year of Totius’s birth year, the house opened as a museum and was furnished to look as it looked at the time when Totius and his had family lived there. Today it is known as the Totius House Museum.
* Prof JD du Toit became the first chancellor of the Potchefstroom University for Christian Higher Education when it became an independent university in 1951.
* Building started on a student hall in September 1953, months after he passed away. It was decided to name it after him, hence the Totius Hall.
* He was buried in the Potchefstroom Cemetery.
Tuin Street (Bult West)
This street is next to Voor Street, which will be explained in more detail in the next article. “Voor” refers to the main town furrow that passed in the vicinity, hence the name. With water in abundance and easily accessible, the street received its name due to gardens in the area.