SOME THOUGHTS ON THE NAME SIMON'S TOWN – OR SIMONSTOWN?
For many years officialdom insisted that the name of the town should be spelt as one word – Simonstown – probably because it is Simonstad in Afrikaans. After a long struggle with the bureaucrats that endured for some seven years, Alderman Gordon Wilson finally succeeded in 1982 in persuading the responsible minister of state to accept that Simon's Town should be spelt as two words, with an apostrophe “”at the end of the first word. The decision was made on 15 June 1982 and since that date the correct spelling has also been the official one.
There is little evidence to suggest that as the town was begun by the Dutch the word should actually be Simonstad. The authorities in Holland were against the establishment of a town here and during the Dutch period it was referred to as “imonsbaai vlekje”when they wished to be more specific about the settlement as distinct from the bay in general, but it was more usually referred to as “imons Baai”or simply “e Baai Fals”as mariners confused Cape Hangklip with Cape Point when they had entered the False Bay instead of Table Bay.
The great storm of 1737 finally moved the Here VXll in Holland into action. In 1742 it was decided that Simon's Bay and not Table Bay should be used by all the Dutch East India Co's fleet from 15 May to 15 August (later changed to – from 15 April to 15 September). Because the homeward bound ships frequently needed replacement masts, sails and other equipment, a warehouse was built in 1743 on instructions from Baron van Imhoff who was on his way to Batavia as Governor and had been instructed to sort out the matter en route. The warehouse (now in the West Dockyard) included space for a hospital and accommodation for some soldiers under a sergeant who was to be the official representative of the government at the Cape. Later this was upgraded to the title of postholder. Development was slow, for a survey in 1786 revealed that there were only six families permanently resident here. In 1788 Munnik, a resident, sought permission to build stables and outbuildings. He was allowed to do so provided they were made of straw and reeds so that they could be easily destroyed in the event of an enemy attack.
In 1808 Lt Golovnin, an officer of the Russian Imperial Navy who stayed here for a short while wrote: “imon's Town cannot be called a town as it is just a village …. not a single church.” The British seemed to take naturally to the name “imon's Town”from the very beginning of their stay here. Major General James H. Craig sent a despatch to the Secretary for War in England in 1795 informing him of the action which led to the landing and of subsequent events and referred to “Simon's town”and “Simons Town” (The 1st British Occupation of the Cape).
In 1814 the Royal Navy moved their headquarters here from Cape Town and the name “imon's Town”was used.
A longer version of this article by Jack Wilkinson appeared in the Society's Bulletin Vol Xvll No.2 July 1992 pp 69-71 where all the relevant references are given on page 71.