Old man Crawford, or Roy, was a dairy farmer in what is now Sandton in Gauteng. He and wife Joan decided to relocate to the coast, and in so doing bought the Glengarriff Hotel, along the Eastern Cape coastline in 1964.
The Glengarriff Hotel was one of the prominent hotels along this coastline and became famous, or perhaps infamous, for its weekend disco’s hosted by Roy’s son, Ian in the hall of the hotel. To this day, guests that visited the hotel still speak of it fondly.
Unfortunately, tragedy struck and the hotel burnt down in 1975. Old man Crawford had never been one for great administration skills and the hotel was lost to the family as the insurance did not offer the proper cover over the hotel.
Brief Interlude at Katberg Hotel
Ian, who had by now studied in Hotel School in Johannesburg and was working at the Royal Hotel in Durban, joined up with his sister, Lynne Crawford at the Katberg hotel in 1975. Funnily enough, Ian had got married that year to Lyn Bailey, so adding another Lyn Crawford to the family.
Lynne’s husband, Tony Wilkins decided to help himself to a box of money (the cash deposits) from the hotel and make a run for the airport as he was leaving the country. Luckily for the Crawford family, but unluckily for Tony, he had a car accident right outside the Fleet Street police station. While he was being detained, Tony decided to return the money to Lynne.
On walking out the police station, Ian and Roy bumped into a salesman for property in Chintsa East. Roy handed the R15 000 cash over to the salesman right there in the street at a deposit for a piece of farm land in Chintsa East. This property would become Crawfords Cabins.
On arriving at the property in Chintsa, Ian was met with gunshot and the words, “Ek sal jou doodskiet, jou donder se Engelsman”, from a Mr Botha. Mr Botha didn’t want to leave as the property had been repossessed. At the time the property had a main farmhouse and 4 cottages that were being used as chicken hocks.
The property was bought by Roy and Joan, as well as their 4 children, Ian, Lynne, Anne and Andrew. Lynne and Andrew then immigrated to the USA and Anne decided not to invest any further but still own a cottage in the resort.
Roy and Joan then opened Crawfords Cabins, a very basic self catering resort in 1976. During this time, Ian and Lyn took up positions managing Trennery’s Hotel between 1976 and 1980, and then Umngazi River Bungalows between 1980 and 1988. In those days most the Wild Coast hotels were owned the Transkei Development Corporation as the Transkei was an independent state.
Ian took the income he made at these hotels to send home to Roy, to develop Crawfords Cabins. On one occasion Ian and Roy decided to spend R20 000 on the swimming pool and Pansy cottage. Joan was furious that they had spent so much. As it turned out, it could have the best investment they made as they are the few remaining structures still in their original state.
Once the pool was built, Roy started the tradition of braai-ing prawns around the pool on a Saturday evening. This was the start of the Saturday Seafood Extravaganza. Good fun was had by many a guest.
Changing of the Guard
In 1988, Ian and Lyn decided to relocate to Chintsa as they now had 2 sons in Komga School near East London. It was also the start of the uprising in the Transkei and they felt a tad isolated. They bought out Roy and Joan and proceeded to upgrade the resort. It was during this time they built the Crawfords Restaurant and bar.
This was the only restaurant and bar in the area and became highly popular as a result. Many friendships were made and the Crawford’s became highly popular for their Sunday Seafood Buffets.
At Lyn’s 40th birthday celebration, a popular local resident from the Chintsa village, Doug Kunhardt decided he would go toe to toe with the male stripper hired for the celebration. It ended with Dougie falling on top of the bands drum set. Ian and Lyn had made their mark on the business.
Eastern Cape and Transkei in Turmoil and the Passing of a Legend
Around the early 1990’s the turmoil in the Transkei had affected tourism along this coastline to such an extent that many Wild Coast hotels had to be temporarily closed down. The pinch was definitely felt in Chintsa too. Ian and Lyn then devised a strategy to sub-divide the property and section off the cottages to sell on.
A piece at the back of the property was sold to Ian’s friend, Tim Davidson, who has since established Prana Lodge on it next door. A top piece was sold to Mike Mackway-Wilson who built the Michaela’s Restaurant.
By 1997 all the cottages as well as the restaurant were sold of to individual owners.
Before all this happened though, Roy Crawford had passed away suddenly in 1992. Roy was a popular man in the village of Chintsa, and was dubbed one of “the 3 crazy Scots’ that had founded Chintsa”. The other 2 being old man Campbell and old man Cairns.
Roy had always maintained he never wanted a funeral, but Ian decided to host one for him anyway in the conference room. It was turning into a beautiful ceremony with the Crawfords’ staff standing and singing on the deck. Then suddenly, the entire deck collapsed with all the staff on it.
There were no injuries but Ian still wonders if that was a final word from Roy not to disobey his wishes.
In September 1998, the restaurant caught alight and burnt down and with it a few cottages within the resort. Unfortunately the owners at the time, the Strupmans’ decided not to rebuild. The restaurant site sat vacant for many years and as a result the dynamic of the resort had changed. It became more of a private holiday home estate and the name had changed from Crawfords Cabins to Cintsa Chalets.
In December of 2002, Ian and Lyn Crawford, after falling on hard times and with having suffered some ill health decided to re-establish themselves in Chintsa. They were able to muster up a bond of R260 000 and bought one cottage within Chintsa Chalets and decided they wanted to revive Crawfords Cabins.
Initially they started to manage and rent the privately owned cottages. They did so with relative success and built up enough capital to start buying back several of the units.
In 2006 Ian and Lyn decided to convert a cottage into 6 hotel rooms and convert the living area of their own residence into a dining room. Crawfords now offered B&B and meals for guests again. This was essentially the birth of Crawfords Beach Lodge.
A Family Decision
By 2008 Ian and Lyn had been joined in the company by their 2 sons Justin, the older and Mark, the younger brother. They had completed their studies and done stints overseas in the UK.
Things were not easy at the time as the global recession had started to affect business. There was again talk of selling the business and Justin had also shown an interest in farming.
A decision was made not to sell but rather try set up a second business in the form of a farm for Justin and carry on growing Crawfords.
A little bit of luck transpired when Ian was offered the property where the old restaurant used to be situated. The owner of this property, mike, who also owned Michaela’s, had vowed never to sell Ian the property, so it was a surprise at the time. Ian and Lyn then had the idea to build what are now the Dolphin Rooms at Crawfords. This decision proved to be a masterstroke as it transformed Crawfords into a new league. This was when we officially decided to change the name from Crawfords Cabins to Crawfords Beach Lodge.
The Third Generation and another passing of a Local Legend
In 2011, Lyn and Ian decided to hand over the reins at Crawfords to Mark, and his wife, Carey Crawford as they felt it was time for fresh Ideas.
Lyn and Ian then moved to Coffee Bay as they had just bought the Ocean View Hotel. Ian liked to fix the unfixable and thought this was a great challenge. Justin, their older son has since taken the reins at Ocean View and Ian and Lyn are again living in Crawfords, just to keep an eye on things.
Mark and Carey are the current custodians at Crawfords, but have 2 offspring of their own. A set of twins named Joshua and Taylor. A pigeon pair!
Granny Joan, as she was affectionately known, passed away in January of 2012, after a Christmas with her family and a few months after her 89th birthday. She was a lady with a real zest for life and a feisty personality. Right until the end she managed walks on the beach and refused assistance to get back up the stairs.
We hope you have had as much fun reading our history as we did recollecting it. Please have a memorable stay at our little slice of paradise.