OFF TO A DISAPPOINTING START
Scottish ministers and missionaries had a great impact on South African history. They played pivotal roles, set up pioneer missions in remote areas and staffed these with some of greatest preachers in South Africa’s Christian history, but all did not start off well. The Glasgow Missionary Society’s first venture into South Africa was a disaster. When efforts to attract men with classical and theological degrees did not immediately pay off the GMS decided to accept offers of service from two highly religious, but raw and poorly educated men. They were Duncan Campbell, a 40-year old married weaver, who had been abroad, and 18-year-old Robert Henderson, an apprentice tailor. Both had hoped to go to Sierra Leone but came to South Africa as catechists in April 1797. This effort ended in tragic failure. Neither was intellectually, nor spiritually equal to the task. Campbell sank into a life of depravity and was suspected of slave trading, while Henderson, after only a few months, returned to Scotland for “health reasons” and, according to GMS reports “turned into the paths of licentious infidelity”, states Robert H W Shepherd in Lovedale, South Africa, the Story of a Century.
INTERESTING END TO CONFUSION
Canadian Round-up reader, Elesa Willies, spent years searching for information on her grandfather who served with the Cape Light Horse (CLH) and ended in total confusion. She then appealed to South African military historian, Major Willem Steenkamp, and he explained that she had confused the CLH with the South African Light Horse (SALH). Willem wrote: “The SALH was raised in 1899 and disbanded in 1907. The CLH was established in 1909 by amalgamating the Transkei Mounted Rifles, the Border Light Horse and the Tembuland Light Horse. In the pre-Union days, there were various part-time volunteer units like the CLH dotted around the country, many in the rural areas. They were not cavalry. South Africa has never really had any pure cavalry, as there was no need for such regiments, but there was a great demand for “mounted rifles” or “light horse”. These men could move far and fast because they were mounted, but normally dismounted and fought on foot. Essentially, they were the same as the Boer commandos, however, they were more formally organised. Like the commandos) they tended to be good horsemen and marksmen.”
THE FIRST TO SMELL POWDER
A number of these units were later classed as ‘dismounted rifles”, said Willem. “This meant they became infantry units but still drilled and were organised as mounted troops. In times of emergency they could thus be “re-horsed” with minimum difficulty, however, it was more of a peace-time economy measure than anything else.” He added: “The CLH seems to have been quite a colourful unit. It had its own mounted band, which had blue facings on the collars and tunic cuffs of its khaki uniform. It also had mess dress for all ranks, not just the officers. It had quite a nice badge, and its regimental call was the same as the British Army’s 15th Hussars, and there was a handsome drill hall at Keiskammashoek. In 1913, when the Union Defence Force got going, various of these light horse and mounted rifles units were absorbed. The CLH became the 6th Mounted Rifles (Cape Light Horse). In 1914 it saw service (as infantry) in the German South West Africa campaign – the first Allied campaign victory of the war. Interestingly, as part of a composite force called the Southern Rifles, the CLH, was one of the first batch of SA units to smell powder in World War I.”
ATTENTION ALL FOODIES More from email@example.com
Cradock’s popular Karoo Food Festival will take place from April 26 to 28. As ever this “laid-back’ festival has something for everyone – a top class dinner, a street party, food market, tastings, master classes, demos, fine coffee, gin bars, craft beer, live music and, for adrenalin-junkies, a mountain bike challenge and 4×4 rally.
LIFE FILLED WITH ADVENTURE
Scotsman, John Henderson Wright, led an interesting life filled with happiness, hardship and adventure. He saw service in the Karoo and hinterland as a surgeon with the 27th Imperial Yeomanry during the Anglo Boer War. In a strange way he loved the harshness of this land. For this service the Queens South Africa Medal with clasps was presented to him at Aldershot on October 31, 1902. John’s father was the Reverend John Grant Wright, of the Free Church of Scotland, and his mother was Alice Henderson. The couple were married on June 19, 1850. John was born on December 11, 1854. As soon as he was old enough, he joined the local militia, the 1st Roxburgh (Border) Mounted Rifles and he served with this unit until it was disbanded 20 years later. For this he received a long service medal. (He later joined the Lothians and Berwickshire Yeomanry.) By the time he left school he had decided not to follow in his father’s footsteps, but rather to study medicine. He went to Edinburgh University and, at the age of 21 in 1876, qualified with a Bachelor of Medicine degree. He moved to London to further his studies. By August 1878, John had fallen in love. He proposed to the lovely, 24-year-old Nellie Alice Charlotte Hamilton Reddie, daughter of an East India Merchant. She accepted and they were married on August 27, that year. The couple moved to Scotland where his practice flourished and his children, John McDonald, William and Alice were born.
THE ILLS OF TEA DRINKING
John always had a great interest in the local communities wherever he lived. He spoke out against the use of alcohol and “the excessive use of tea”. He felt that tea was causing more sickness and death than alcohol. He deplored the fact that milk and oatmeal had gone out of use. A dramatic incident occurred during a church service one Sunday. The Evening Standard of October 16, 1882, reported that a retired draper and silk mercer collapsed and died in the church before Dr Wright was able to help him. John was greatly distressed because this man was one of his neighours. A kindly man always willing to go the extra mile meant that John had patients who were not able to pay. This put a strain on his marriage and caused him to fall on bad times, but the outbreak of the Anglo-Boer war “rescued” him. He was appointed as the medical officer to the 27th, Imperial Yeomanry Battalion, which consisted of the 123rd, 124th, 125th and 126th Companies under Lt. Colonel Wight- Boycott. This posting took him across the Karoo and harsh South African hinterland.
FROM SURGERY TO HOMEOPATHY
At the end of the Boer War John was invalided out of the army. However, on his return to Scotland he discovered that his wife had taken the children and left him. This affected him so badly that he took a job as a “travelling” surgeon – a ships doctor – with the P & O Line. While at sea he saw many adventures. One of his voyages took him Quebec and Montreal in Canada where on September 18, 1912, he left the ship. John settled in British Columbia, and there in a small settlement, known as Alexis Creek, he set up a practice as an “allopath” – a homeopath. He was assisted by a nurse, Mary Mayer Good and a former patient, Olive Mary Agnes Edis. He lived quietly and happily until he retired. He died in Vancouver on June l, 1975, aged 72.
DISPLAYED GREAT GALLANTRY
During the Anglo-Boer War, Sergeant Sandford, of the Victorian Bushmen’s Contingent, was recommended for the Victoria Cross after displaying great gallantry on the battlefield in the Zuurberg region of the Northern Cape. While his unit was fighting in this mountainous area, he, together with three other Victorians, rode out to rescue a comrade who had fallen from his horse. Sergeant Sandford managed to bring the man to safety by helping him onto the horse that he himself was riding and then galloping away while under heavy fire. At the time of this incident the Victorians were surrounded by “an overwhelming number of Boers” reported the Brisbane Courier of April 10, 1901.
AUSTRALIAN TRUIMPH AT NOUPOORT
Australian troops acquitted themselves with distinction in the Karoo in 1900. The North Eastern Ensign, from Benalla, in Victoria, reported that a large force of Boers, who had attacked Noupoort, were opposed by a force including 100 Australians and two guns. The companies being engaged in this encounter were the Victorian Mounted Rifles under Captain McLeish, the New South Wales Infantry under Captain Legge and the South Australian Rifles under Captain Howland. Fighting continued throughout the day, and the Australians, whose firing was well directed and effective, finally succeeded in repelling the attack. The Boers were shelled until they were driven from the shelter of the koppies and forced to retire.
GREATEST SHOWMAN OF HIS DAY
The little Karoo town of Aberdeen has a rich, romantic history. A Boer War hero was killed on the steps of the Cape Gothic-style Dutch Reformed Church, which has trees linking it to the Garden of Gethsemane and a skew steeple, said to be the tallest spire in the land. (Not everyone agrees). The Magistrate’s Court and Post Office should have been built in Grahamstown. The town once had the largest zoo in South Africa and a beautiful Victorian house in the village was named in honour of circus owner, William Pagel, “the greatest and strongest showman of his day”. Frederich William August Pagel, simply known as William, was a huge, colourful, larger than life man, hailed as “the most inappropriately born Pomeranian”. Quiet, soft-spoken, philosophical and a man of “temperate habits” he was born in Plathe, on the Rega River on February 5, 1878 to German strongman, August Pagel, and his wife, the sturdy, placidly beautiful, Antonia Fraudnick. He was the second of their eight children. Like his father, William was huge and strong. He stood almost 6ft (1,8m) tall and, at various times weighed between 230 and 330lbs (104 to 149 kg). He had massive arms and his wrists were as thick as some men’s calves. Oddly his best friend was a puny, sickly Jewish boy, Aaron Arndt.
OFF TO AN ADVENTUROUS START
William left school at the age of 14, determined to see the world and not become a school master as his parents wanted. At 16 he was apprenticed to a blacksmith and could lift horses weighing around 1 150lb (521,6kg) or more. After qualifying he joined a ship bound for Central America as a fireman. It was a hard, rough and riotous life. To supplement his pay became a gun runner and swam through shark-infested waters to deliver weapons to revolutionaries. On shore he once was chased naked across a bridge after visiting a lady of doubtful honour. He “jumped” ship in Australia, where he almost starved to death as his money ran out. He found some menial jobs, worked as a potato peeler and dish washer, but was allowed to eat a pound or two of bacon and 20 eggs a day in the kitchens where he worked. At 19 he was a “bouncer” and had a “strong man” act. At 20 he was a carnival racketeer and side show artiste in a world of rogues, rascals and shysters.
FRUGAL WIFE WITH A SHARP TONGUE
He acquired a lion, Hopetoun, and worked up a strongman act. He went to Tasmania. met and married 34-year old Mary Dinsdale, (13 years his senior), a frugal Yorkshire woman with a vitriolic temper. She was “a half-pint of terrorism” with a venomous tongue and rancorous disposition. Way back she had hopped lightly through hoops on the back of a prancing horse, but those days were long gone. She once controlled a raucous crowd by shouting “If you don’t shut up, I’ll let the bloody lions loose.” With Hopetoun William worked up several “acts”, appeared in circuses, had offers of partnerships, but decided to “go it alone”. He came to South Africa in February 1905, bought a tent, and Mary kept a tight grip on the purse strings. His first show opened on March 28. The first man ever to draw a salary was a South African trapeze artist, Willy Ricardo, who had been trained by a Spaniard. More acts followed. He acquired tigers, panthers, leopards, bears, zebras, elephants, lions and a pet giraffe. Pagel’s Circus became a reality. It travelled over 20 000 miles (over 32 000 km) a year to far-flung places. “He was a hit in the hinterland performing tug-o-wars with animals. In Beaufort West his shows were almost without fail fully booked. “A French clown went mad, the show went broke, a car accident almost killed him, but the show went on,” wrote Carel Birkby in The Pagel Story.
Despite suffering several severe injuries, William loved his animals. He was mauled by lions and bitten by Rajah, the tiger. A lioness once closed her jaws on his skull and he spent 13 weeks in hospital recovering. He had problems during WW1 because he was a German but after the war became a South African citizen. Mary promoted the circus by driving in an open car with a huge black-maned lion sitting on the seat beside her, it also walked on a leash. She fell ill in 1935, became a chronic invalid and died on December 24, 1939, aged 74. Her nurse Cecil, daughter of Dr Aurel Schulz, took over the management of William’s business interests. He proposed and they were married in 1940. The circus was so successful during WWII that William donated money to the war funds. While performing in the Free State in May 1948, William suffered a cerebral haemorrhage from which he only partially recovered. The “Old Lion”, as he was called, died in his sleep at Knysna at 05:00 on October 13, 1948. The circus was to play at Graaff-Reinet that day. The show went on. The Big Tent was packed, people from across the district came to offer sympathies. At the end of the show the audience rose to its feet and stood for a moment in silence as a mark of respect to the memory of this great, kindhearted, generous and thoughtful man.
GERMAN DOCTOR FOUND LOVE ON THE FRONTIER
In 1856 a young German doctor in search of adventure volunteered for foreign service, Born in Hanover on July 6, 1831, he was Adolf Friederich Carl, the son of Adolf Arenhold and his wife, Caroline Antoinette Jacoby. Soon after Adolf graduated from the local university with a degree cum laude on January 20, 1855, he joined the British German Legion hoping to be sent to the Crimea. Instead he was given the rank of lieutenant with the post of assistant surgeon in the 2nd Regiment, offered a meager salary of 7/6d a day and posted to the other side of the world – to the wild eastern frontier in South Africa. With a group of settlers he landed near the mouth of the Buffalo River in early 1857 and instantly set off for Fort Murray. While on assignment in Bathurst one day he met the love of his life, Anne, the daughter of Walter Simpkins and within short married her on September 13, 1860. Life on the frontier was difficult and costly and, by the end of 1862, Adolf and several other officers, who were in financial difficulties, appealed for extra allowances, but were refused. He travelled widely attending to medical matters on behalf of the Legion. His daughter, Caroline Sarah Louise was born on June 4, l861. She died on January 26, 1863. She was just over a year old. Soon after his second daughter, Ida Henriette Emma, arrived in 1864, he decided to move into the Karoo, where more children, Adolf Simpkins, Alfred Frans, Arthur William, Hermann, Albert Karl, Alan Lueder and Adela Friederica Sara, were born.
BROUGHT MUSIC TO THE GREAT KAROO
Adolf moved first to Aberdeen and later to Graaff-Reinet, where he played a meaningful role in Freemasonry and Temperance circles. A skilled amateur musician, he taught all of his eight children to play a musical instrument and trained his wife’s singing voice. As a family they brought a great deal of entertainment into the region. His son stunned local audiences when he played a Weber violin sonata at a local concert in 1883, states Robert Wood, who researched the history of this family. Adolf also trained others with musical talents and his efforts ensured that there was no shortage of local musicians by the time the town’s centenary came along in 1886. Adolf played the harmonium and inaugurated the first pipe organ in Graaff-Reinet’s little St James church. He served as church musician for over 20 years. He also trained the church choir and when Nathaniel Merriman, Bishop of Grahamstown, arrived to conduct a service he was treated to a most impressive choral recital. Adolf died on July 19, 1888. He was only 57 years old.
CAPE MEN SERVE AS A HIGHLAND SOLDIERS
The first South African-born soldier to join a Highland regiment, is said to have been Jacobus Wilhelmus Truter. Born at the Cape in 1782, he joined the 91st Highlanders, (later the Princess Louise’s Argyllshire Highlanders and later still the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders) at the age of 19 in 1801. He was, however, not the only local lad to join a famous Scottish regiment. Willem Cornelis van Ryneveld, whose picture for quite some time hung in the offices of the Graaff-Reinet magistrate, but which is now in the local Museum, was another. Willem, who was born in 1789, was 17 when he joined the 93rd Highlanders (later also part of the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders) as an ensign on November 29, 1806, says historian, Colin Graham Botha in General History and Social Life of the Cape of Good Hope. The British Army anglicised Willem’s name to “William”, and changed his surname to “Van Ryneweld”, (Van Rainy-weld). Willem was promoted to lieutenant on July 14, 1808. He attended the Royal Military College, and, later served in America. William went to Cork in Ireland with the regiment and remained in the British Army until he was placed on half-pay, on the May 23, 1816. He then returned to South Africa and joined the police force. In time he became Civil Commissioner and Resident Magistrate in Graaff-Reinet. Willem married Maria Anna, daughter of a Honoratius Christiaan David Maynier and He remained in Graaff-Reinet until he died at the age of 63 in 1852.
DEATH OF ANOTHER BRITISH SETTLER
Philip Hobbs, one of the oldest inhabitants of Bathurst, died at the end of November 1870. One of the 1820 Settlers, he was respected and well-liked for his quiet, unassuming and industrious habits. Shortly after arriving in Bathurst he bought the Dostdy House and some land where he built a house in which he resided. The land was “fertile and fruitful,” said the Grahamstown Herald of December 2, and “famous for its orangery, which is now in full bearing.” Philip was a loyal member of the Wesleyan Church for many years and its “principles were exemplified in his walk, conversation, and peaceful death,” said the newspaper. “He had recently turned 79, and he was seen reaping crops in his fields only a few days before he died.”
Every great dream begins with a dreamer – Harriet Tubman