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Highwayman’s Garage in Pilgrim’s reopened

Frieda Paton

After more than four years, locals and visitors can once again fill up in Pilgrim’s Rest at the Highwayman’s Garage after it reopened for business on August 2nd.

The garage was closed down in April 2015 by the previous owners. Like all the other vacated business premises in Pilgrim’s Rest, it had to wait for the government tender process to run its course.

The tender was awarded to Neville and Juanita Philpott in August 2018. However, finding a supplier and jumping through the hoops of red-tape took a whole year. The forecourt shop will be opened later in the year.

Gaspet, the fuel supplier, commented on Facebook that it was an absolute privilege for them to be part of Pilgrim’s Rest. Besides supplying the fuel, they also fully refurbished the vintage petrol pumps and repainted the outside of the building and the canopies over the pumps.

The news of the reopening was widely welcomed across the country. Facebook announcements went viral within hours. Bikers from Nelspruit, filling up on the opening day, were thrilled that they would again be able to return home via Ohrigstad or Lydenburg, rather than turning around after stopping in Pilgrim’s.

The garage was originally started on the premises in 1917 by Tommy Dennison, a well-known character in the village. In 1912, Dennison was overburdened with mounting debts and decided that robbing the mail coach on the pass between Pilgrim’s Rest and Lydenburg would be a great way to pay them off. After all, the masked highwaymen after whom the Robber’s Pass was named got away with around £10 000 worth of gold bullion in 1899.

Unfortunately for Dennison, his robbery did not pay off as expected. There was no gold on the coach, but only a box of silver half-crowns. He was caught while trying to use these coins to settle his debts at the Royal Hotel Bar. After serving a 5-year jail sentence Dennison returned to Pilgrim’s Rest and opened the garage – appropriately naming it the Highwayman’s Garage.

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