Canberra, in Australia, now has a National Boer War Memorial after 115 years and it looks great reported John Sweetman. The official dedication took place on May 31, this year. This was followed by Boer War Day on June 4, 2017, when the Boer War Memorial Society of Western Australia paid tribute the 16,000 Australian men and women who served in South Africa from 1899 to 1902. For this anniversary commemoration and reconciliation service, held in Kings Park, Perth, the Botanical Parks and Gardens Authority completely restored and upgraded the memorial and 77mm Krupp canon, as well as the surrounding parkland area. The ceremony was attended by about 200 civic and Defense Force dignitaries, veterans and members of the public. Members of the South African Military Veterans Association of Australasia (SAMVOA) also participated. They wore their distinctive No 1 dress uniform and laid wreaths in memory of the Boer Commandos and of Emily Hobhouse. The Honourable Peter Tinley AM, MLA, WA, Minister for Veterans, and Chris Ellison, the New Zealand Honorary Consul for WA, were among the VIPs who laid wreaths. John Sweetman proudly laid a wreath on behalf of the Lalapanzi Heritage Trust and Boer War Museum in Louis Trichardt. Several dignitaries gave speeches. There was a dedication to Emily Hobhouse and Laurence van der Linda’s rendition of Sarie Maris brought an emotional response from many. The key note speaker was Dr Charl Crous, APM, whose solid Afrikaner background led to an informative and thought provoking address, states Kevin Bovill, Honorary Secretary of the Boer War Memorial Society, which will now dissolve after the successful completion of the national memorial.


Sheila Bennett is on the trail of the Christie family of old Beaufort West. Her grandfather was Harold Christie, a farmer who married Edith Inigo-Jones and lived in Kimberley until his retirement. Harold’s grandfather was Beaufort West’s Dr James Christie (who, in 1832, built Clyde House, now a popular art gallery and coffee shop). His grandmother was Maria Andriessina Geertruida, the daughter of Beaufort West’s first magistrate, Jacobus Johannes Meintjies. The couple was married on Tuesday, September 19, 1843, by the Rev George Morgan. This wedding took place only 23 days after Carolina (also known as Caroline) Skooster, who history lists as Dr Christie’s “partner”, bore him a son on August 28, 1843. The boy, christened John Skooster Christie, appears to have been raised by Dr John and Maria because he is listed as a half-brother to their brood of 13 children and not among the children, which Carolina produced after she married the local butcher, John Milton, on January 28, 1851 in Christchurch, Beaufort West’s Anglican Church. “I imagine John Skooster Christie’s arrival, on the eve of Dr James’s wedding day, caused a bit of a flurry back then,” says Sheila. “Beaufort West was a very small community in the mid-1800s and I wonder whether some other researcher – perhaps of the Skooster or Milton lines – might have also come across this story.” Dr Christie was a very interesting fellow. He fled Scotland in the late 1820s because of his alleged involvement with the scandal surrounding Irish body snatchers, William Burke, William Hare and Doctor Robert Knox. Not satisfied with simply snatching bodies, the two Irish men began to murder “specimens” for Knox to dissect during his anatomy lectures at Edinburgh Medical School. Despite all this Dr James did good work in Beaufort West.


The Grahamstown Mail normally arrived early in the morning, but one April day it did not reach town until one o’clock. It seems the driver, got out of the cart, somewhere in the neighbourhood of Sidbury, to check the harnesses and received a severe kick from one of the horses. This knocked him senseless. He said there were no passersby and he lay on the road verge until he regained his senses, stated an item in The Cape Frontier News of April 19, 1853. “It is certainly rather remarkable that a horse, so vicious as to seriously kick and injure the driver, should quietly remain still until the man recovered!” commented the reporter.


Consternation broke out when Fort Beaufort’s public chest was stolen. Then, a greater scandal emerged. It seems that the chest was taken by no lesser person than Crawford, the district jailer himself. He was aided and abetted by three soldiers of the 91st, who were in jail at the time, charged with stealing a sheep. Evidence revealed that, led by Crawford, the four ganged up to commit the crime. The soldiers had been acquitted due to lack of sufficient evidence to support the charges of theft. After helping Crawford, they allegedly retuned to Fort Fordyce, where they were later apprehended. The thieves were “sold out” by another acquitted man who told the Circuit Court, that he had heard them discussing their plans while they thought him to be under the influence of liquor. He was not as drunk as he seemed, he said. This appeared to be true as he was able to give the police details of the robbers, stated the Cape Frontier Times of August 2, 1853.


There was a dreadful scourge of smallpox during Governor Ryk Tulbagh’s time at the Cape. Infection was increased by in-church burials and repairs to these burial vaults. There is a story that tells of a woman who disappeared, together with the chair on which she was sitting, in the middle of a church service when the floor suddenly gave way. It had been weakened by of fumes and vapours in the vaults. She was discovered in the tomb of an early governor, states Mrs A P Trotter in her book, Old Cape Colony.


Anna Purcell’s letter to Betty Molteno and Alice Greene dated October 26, 1905, gives a delightful peek into village life of the time. In Olive Schreiner’s Letters on Line, Anna, (nee Cambier Faure), writes from Beaufort West apologizing for being a “shockingly bad correspondent”, but confessing that she “thinks of them very often.” She states: “I had the latest news of you from Olive (Schreiner) and it is good to hear that you are both well. … We have just come from spending a delightful fortnight at Hanover. It was wonderful to see Olive so well and happy – she could walk miles on the kopjes with us and seem fresh as ever … The Pethick-Lawrences were there for a few days too while we were there, and we were a very happy family – Is she not a sweet woman? They have gone up to the Victoria Falls – Mr Schreiner had to go to Cape Town a few days before we left in connection with an important case… Olive took me to see Mrs Nienaber and several other Hanover people and to two farms. It was all so very interesting… We are at the Kriel’s boarding house for a few days. They speak so affectionately of you and Miss Green.”


In mid-1849 it was reported that Dr W G Atherstone had “done it again”. The Grahamstown Journal reported that a very successful surgical operation had been performed by Atherstone on John Swan, who had been suffering for 15 years, from a wen (a boil, swelling, growth or sebaceous cyst ) at the front of his throat. Over the years it had been gradually increasing in size. The operation, stated the newspaper, was performed while the patient was under the influence of chloroform. “On inhaling the chloroform, the patient became at once insensible and remained in a state of unconsciousness until the tumour had been entirely extirpated,” wrote the reporter. “Swan states that he experienced no sensation of pain whatever, the only impression he can recall is of being confused and having an uneasy dream. He is now perfectly recovered.” A later issue of this newspaper reports that Atherstone also performed an operation on a child, the daughter of Mr C Pote, “probing into the trachea and achieving equal success” to his other efforts using chloroform.


The Boers were said to have been dealt a severe blow near Matjiesfontein in September 1901. The Beaufort West Courier of September 19, reported that Commandant van der Merwe, said to be Gideon Scheepers’s most trusted Lieutenant, was killed in the Karoo, near Matjiesfontein. Just prior to the fatal shot he was “twice wounded rather seriously.” The report stated that Colonel Crabbe had dealt a crushing blow to Commandant Van der Merwe’s commando on the morning of Tuesday, September 10. “Two columns attacked the enemy, estimated at about 100 men, at dawn. The Boers were completely surprised and overwhelmed. Field-Cornet Du Plessis, the man reckoned to be the cleverest scout in the Colony, was captured in this action. The commandant was killed, several men were wounded, and 39 men were captured. Crabbe also captured 11horses, 23 saddles, 20 rifles and at least 1 000 rounds of ammunition. The enemy fled eastwards stated the newspaper.


An adjutant of the 10th regiment, under orders to proceed to Grahamstown, in 1861, suddenly committed suicide in front of his wife and servants. The Eastern Province Herald of March 19, and Cape and Natal News of June 2, carried the story under the heading Melancholy Suicide. James Craig’s comrades said that they had noticed that he seemed “somewhat deranged” as he was packing to go, but anticipating nothing serious, they did nothing. So, Craig, his wife, a male and female servant left with a mule wagon in the afternoon. The servant rode Craig’s horse, while he remained inside the wagon with his wife. As they approached the first stream known as Ferreira’s River or Smelly Creek, he declared that he had decided to commit suicide. He attempted to leave the wagon, while his wife and a maid servant tried to hold him back. After a struggle he overpowered them, jumped out of the wagon, and tried to open two of his boxes. Again they tried to stop him and failed. When he could not unlock the boxes he smashed one, took out a razor and rushed towards the stream tearing off his coat and waistcoat as he ran. He paused on the bank, stepped into the stream and deliberately cut his throat. He fell forward into the water. The man-servant, who had witnessed everything without even trying to prevent it, rode into town to report what had happened. The wagon driver raced to a nearby house for help. Its owner, Mr C Fuller, ran down to the creek, jumped into the water and managed to drag Craig out, but he was already dead. His body was taken to town for examination by a doctor who said that the cut had not caused Craig’s death. He had drowned. Townspeople were shocked. Craig was only 36. He was an accomplished and respected officer, who had married only ten days before. His military record was taken into account and he was allowed to be buried in consecrated ground. Mrs Liz Eshmade, an acknowledged expert on cemeteries and funerals, said that because he had committed suicide he would have been interred in silence, ie without the burial rites being read at his grave. Despite this a memorial was erected by his comrades.


James was born on September 10, 1824, at Balbeggie in Scotland. The son of James Craig and Ann (nee Guthrie), he was baptised two days after his birth by Reverend Rogers. His childhood was uneventful and, just before his 19th birthday, he enlisted, on August 25, 1843, with a Scots Fusilier Regiment of Foot Guards, states Richard Tomlinson in an article in the Military History Journal of December 2009. Given a clean bill of health by a London surgeon, Craig received a bounty of £2/1/- for enlisting and an additional 15 shillings when he signed the Oath of Allegiance to the Queen. This was quite a considerable sum in those days. James was listed as a labourer, with a “fresh complexion, blue eyes, fair hair and no distinctive marks”. He was 5 ft 8.25 in (1,73 m) tall. He was handed an Articles of War form which clearly spelled out the penalties for mutiny, sedition or desertion. James moved through the ranks from private, to corporal to sergeant and later to colour sergeant. He was an exemplary and well-behaved soldier, who received a medal and clasps for his Crimean service. He was awarded the Victoria Cross for volunteering to go out under heavy fire at on September 6, 1855, to seek a wounded comrade, Captain Buckley. He found Buckley, but he was dead. Despite himself being wounded, Craig brought Buckley’s body back with the assistance of a drummer. The VC, which was only presented in November 1857, was sold at Christie’s in London on January, 25, 1956, for £480. Uitenhage-born, Joseph Petrus Hendrick Crowe, who also served with the 10th Regiment in the Eastern Cape between 1860 and 1864, was also awarded a VC. He won his award in 1857 as a lieutenant in the 78th Highlanders during the Indian Mutiny. He was a bit younger than Craig, considerably senior in rank, but the two heroes had a lot in common. Perhaps they even knew each other, says Richard.


In 1861 E W Gilstain made “a most valuable discovery” in respect of lichens. He found that the lichens of British Kaffraria possessed properties for the manufacture of archil (a violet dye), litmus (a dye which is red under acid conditions and blue when conditions are alkaline) and cudbear (a purplish-red dye). These were used in the dying of wool and silk, as well as in commerce, he explained. He sent samples the Manchester Chamber of Commerce and to several leading woolen product manufacturers in Yorkshire. They all found the properties of the substances found in the South African lichens to be “excellent in the extreme”. The Cape and Natal News of March 5, 1861, stated: “We have no doubt that mercantile men at home will take active steps towards securing regular shipments of this valuable material, and that it will be readily available if the local population are acquainted with its use and value.” It added that it wished there were more Gilstains in the Colony.

Note: Lichens also produce ivory, yellow and brown pigments.


Newspapers, in South Africa and abroad, reported the “great discovery of a little skull” in the Karoo in June,1861. The Eastern Province Herald of June 27 hailed the discovery made by George Stow, in 1858, as interesting, pleasing and encouraging to local geologists, such as Bain, Rubidge and Atherstone. Stow found a “quantity of fossils” in the Rhenosterberg area and forwarded these to the Geological Society of London with a paper which was read to the Society. Among the fossils he described was “a beautiful and almost perfect skull”, of an entirely different genus to the Dicynodon, the only family so far found in the Karoo, he said. Stow suggested that, from the formation of certain bones of the skull, it might prove to be an amphibian. The assistant secretary, T. Rupert Jones, stated that “The little skull is of very great interest. Although there are many undescribed, reptilian remains from South Africa in the British Museum, at present, know only of the Dicynodon for certain. This little skull certainly belongs to a different order of reptiles.”


A post cart driver, a groom, and a minister were all caught in the net when police began searching for robbers who had stolen £1772 from registered letters way back in 1861. It all started when the post coach carrying mail from Graaff-Reinet arrived at midnight in Port Elizabeth. The driver had discussed his late arrival with the Postmaster, and both had thought it safe to leave the cart for a few hours at the Commercial Hotel as the post office would be closed. (In those days such communications were public knowledge.) Anyway, by the next morning it was discovered that a “most extensive and daring robbery” had been committed as, when opened, none of the registered letters contained any money. The matter was reported, but there seemed no hope of finding the culprit. Then, several of the missing notes were presented at a canteen, and they were traced to a man named Smit, who worked at the hotel as a groom. He was arrested but played innocent until two more notes turned up in Grahamstown. He had sent some of the money to his wife who lived there. The minister of her church was mortified when he was identified as the carrier of the stolen notes. Smit had opened the bags and managed to seal them again, stated the Cape and Natal News of September 3, 1861.


Scottish stone masons, who chose to settle in the Cradock district, reported that while energetically exploring the neighbourhood they had discovered a bed of sandstone. It was reasonably close to town, they said. It was also fine in grain and capable of being easily wrought for a variety of purposes. Mr Chase, the owner of the farm on which it was found, agreed to give them the quarry on the most liberal terms. He felt that this would be of benefit to the development of the town and the community. To encourage local orders a sample of the stone was placed in the public library for inspection, stated the Cape and Natal News, of October 7, 1858


The inauguration of a new college at Graaff-Reinet in 1861 was hailed as “gratifying and auspicious in every respect”. The Cape Frontier Times of September 3, 1861, stated that “the venerable Baronet, Sir Andries Stockenström raised his eloquent voice to advance the educational interests of a district, which beheld his first official successes almost 40 years previously.” It was a wonderful occasion made more exciting because it was attended by the aged Reverend Andrew Murray. “He and his incomparable family have done so much to advance the religious, moral, and educational interests of this country,” concluded the report.


After a dry and windy time in the Karoo formidable swarms of locusts made their appearance in the Graaff-Reinet district in May 1853. The Graaff-Reinet Herald of May 11 reported that numerous swarms were flying eastwards from Burghersdorp and Middelburg. “This is not at all an encouraging for farmers as these creatures will lay eggs across the Colony, and farmlands will be exposed to the appalling ravages of hoppers.”


Twelve- year old Henry Heard was a charming, friendly and well-liked boy. He was also a diligent worker according to his employer, general dealer, Kay. One day he was thrown from a horse while on his way to deliver goods. Graaff-Reinetters were shocked to hear that his injuries were so severe that he died the following morning, stated The Graaff-Reinet Herald of July 10, 1878.

Happiness is not a station you arrive at, but a manner of travelling – Margaret Lee Runbeck