IT’S BOOK TOWN TIME AGAIN
Richmond will welcome booklovers to its annual Boekbedonnerd Book Festival from October 23 to 26. This year’s programme features big names, good reads and a special film on Hutchinson, called Shunted made by Eric Miller and Laurine Platzky. Highlights of the book festival include the multi-award winning novelist Charl Pierre Naude’s Die Ongelooflike Onskuld van Dirki Verwey, China Mouton’s top-selling Tronkhond and James Brant Styan’s Chris Barnard, Heartbreaker, Steinhof, Eskom and The Bosasa Billions. Nigel Amschwand’s 1847 Dispossession and Migration, Ashwin Desai’s Steve Biko, Pat Kramer’s Corbelled Houses of the Karoo, Jens Fris’s Philippolis, and Richard Hunt’s Spirit of the Drakensberg will offer a peek into history and heritage. John and Pat Kramer’s monograph of Molteno artist, Johannes Meintjies, Geoff Dalglish’s Lost and Found From Soweto to Findhorn Wine Tasting, Hennie de Vries’s Ontdek Jou Sielskap and Ian Sutherland’s Featherstream will be among the other top books to be featured. The weekend will be crowned by the ever-popular SA Independent Publishers Awards Gala Dinner on October 24.
A WAR WITHIN A WAR
The Anglo-Boer War set off a heated debate between two major Scottish newspapers. Hector Macpherson, editor of the pro-Boer Edinburgh Evening News and Charles Cooper, the Unionist editor of The Scotsman, faced each other across a battleground littered with sarcasm, misunderstandings, misinterpretations and a stubbornness which prevented either from providing an accurate picture of the war to readers. In their efforts to “out-shine” each other they further confused already muddled understandings of terms such as patriotism, imperialism and liberalism, states Karen Horn in The Scottish Press and the Anglo-Boer War. “Both editors confronted important issues such as Black Week and the Scorched Earth Policy, but they used these topics as a cover for matters such as loyalty and patriotism towards the British Empire,” she writes. Cooper accused Macpherson of being pro-Boer – as term first used in 1896 during the Jameson Raid. Macpherson heatedly rejected the allegation as unwarranted. Yet he strongly disagreed with the Government’s foreign policies. He believed participation in the war would harm Britain’s reputation as an imperial country. Cooper, on the other hand, supported the war. He felt Britain’s entry into the war was essential, and strongly felt that failing to do so would lower Britain’s standing among other imperial countries. Their editorial spat raged on until the war was over. It underlined the fact that many Scots grabbed the opportunity presented by the war to recreate Scotland’s romantic past and strengthen its long time medical, engineering and clerical links with South Africa.
A SERIOUS CHANGE OF HEART
Sir John Gilmour, who served with the Fifeshire Volunteer Light Horse, one of the first Scottish battalions to volunteer for service in South Africa during the Anglo-Boer War had mixed feelings about the Boers. Commissioned as a lieutenant in the Imperial Yeomanry on February 7, 1900, he served in South Africa with the 20th Company of the 6th Battalion. He initially viewed the Boers in a slightly romantic way, describing them as “quite nice and mostly pretty cute”. He added: ”In fact I should say they are uncommonly like what the Scotch farmers must have been like 100 years ago”. However, by the time his regiment reached the ZAR (the old Transvaal) he had clearly changed his mind, particularly about Boer women. In Clearly my Duty – (his letters from South Africa, published by his son, John Edward) he states: “How I hate these, nasty, ugly, spiteful wretches, worse by far than the men, and with no womanly ways at all.” His service after the war saw him rise to the rank of Lieutenant-Colonel. He was later made Honorary Colonel of the regiment.
Find Rose’s Round-up back issues and stories https://www.ancestors.co.za/karoo-rose/
MEET MORE PEOPLE OF THE POST (OFFICE)
Port Elizabeth’s first postmaster, William Dunn, was born in Scotland on July 3, 1774. He came to South Africa in 1820, aged 47, at the invitation of Henry Nourse, a Middlesex merchant who had transferred his business to Cape Town. With William, came his second wife, Sarah Frances (nee Pearson), 36, and five children, William, John Gambould, Sarah Frances, George Barclay and Mary Emma, from his first marriage to a woman named Elizabeth, states the Greeff family site. He and Sarah had three children – James Alexander, Anne Thomasina and Paul. With him Wlliam brought letters of introduction from Lord Sidmouth and a Mr Canning. In England William had been a freeholder of land in Middlesex and had worked as liveryman, auctioneer and appraiser. He was a pious, educated man, a good public servant, financier and staunch supporter of good government. On arrival he set himself up as an English teacher and wrote to the then governor, Sir Rufane Donkin, advocating that women be taught useful and ornamental work such as drawing, music, French, writing and arithmetic.
JACK OF ALL TRADES
William was a man of many talents and occupations. In South Africa he worked as a teacher, financier, harbour master, pilot, postmaster, customs house officer, clerk and early pioneer farmer. He played an active role in developing the Eastern Cape area. In1821 he travelled to Bathurst to represented Henry’s Nourse’s business. In 1822 he took the customs house post in Port Elizabeth, but the salary was low, so he also took on the running of the town’s first post office for £40 per annum. He was given a circular brass metal stamp, featuring a crown and the words “Post Office Port Elizabeth”. His office was in a tiny wood and iron shed near the beach. He easily handled both jobs because the population was scanty and his duties were negligible. His next move was to the Overberg. In Overberg Outspan, Edmund H Burrows says that William went to Port Beaufort as a Resident with a salary of £150 a year. He was tasked with keeping a keen eye on the bustling port, preventing smuggling and mutinies. He acquired land at Infanta. People there spoke of the beautiful silver, plate and glassware that graced his home. In time he and Sarah jointly owned four farms Papkuilsfontein, Rietfontein, Brakkefontein and Elandspad. He died on September 17, 1839. Sarah died on September l, 1873.
ANOTHER SETTLER TAKES THE REINS
William was succeeded by another 1820 settler, George Ubsdell, an apothecary by trade. He who was born in Hampshire in 1796, and had been farming with little success on allotted land in Albany. With his wife Betsy and their three daughters, Mary, Eliza and Ann, he was forced to move into town to find a job. Betsy died in 1853 and, in 1865 William married Jane Elizabeth Apsey Benn. She bore him three sons, Talbot, George and John. (Her parents came to South Africa and settled in Oudtshoorn). George served as postmaster from 1828 until 1840. Then, “with a heavy heart”, he resigned because he could not keep his family on the meagre salary. He said he had been forced to take on jobs, such as port officer, vendue clerk and tide waiter, to survive, states The Casual Observer. George, who was listed as the oldest apothecary in the Cape, died on March 31, 1871.
A WOMAN AT THE HELM
The third post master, Mary Biggar (nee Straton), was born in Brechin, Scotland in 1781. On March 3, 1799. she married a captain of the 85th Regiment, Alexander Harvey Biggar, who was born in Cork in October 28, 1781. He was discharged after being found guilty of embezzling £1 300 from War Office Funds, He repaid the money, but decide to emigrate, so they sailed on January 20, 1820, on the Weymouth, one of the largest ships bringing settlers to South Africa. With them came nine daughters and a son. Their last son, George, was born on board ship and their last child, Harriet was born in 1822. They arrived on May 15, 1820 and went to Bathurst. Some time later Alexander became a pioneer trader in Zululand, where he had another son, Charles, by a Zulu woman. He and his family lived through some very exciting times before he died at Bloukranz, near Chieveley, on December 27, 1938. from wounds received during the Battle of Opathe. He was 57. (Biggarsberg was named in his honour). Mary moved Port Elizabeth and joined the post office, then in a two-storeyed settler-style house at the foot of Castle Hill. It had whitewashed walls, a red-tiled roof, with two squat chimneys and a low fence. At the back were outhouses and stables. The post office was downstairs and she lived upstairs. Next door was the jail and across the road was the offices of Richards, Impey & Co, the town printers. Mary was told that the salary would remain £40, and that she would not be allowed to have any side lines. (In time the post master’s salary was raised to £150 and later to £200.) Mary retired on August 31, 1852, and moved to Grahamstown where she died on February 8, 1855. Her grandson, John Dunn, gained dubious fame in Zululand as a hunter, trader, diplomat and finally, as the betrayer of his benefactor, King Chetshwayo.
A MOST COLOOURFUL GRANDSON
Mary’s grandson, John Robert Dunn, was widely known across Natal in the late 1800s. Her second daughter, Ann Harold Biggar met and married a Scot, Robert Newton Dunn who had immigrated to South Africa in about 1820. They settled in Cape Town, where five of their 10 children were born. By 1835 they had moved to Natal where their sixth child and second son, John Robert, was born in 1835, He rose to become one of the most powerful and colourful characters in the turbulent period of Anglo-Zulu history. He was widely known as a hunter, gun runner and ivory trader. In 1847, when he was 14, his father was trampled to death by an elephant. His mother died three years later. He began earning a living as a transport rider. His fluency in languages led to him becoming King Chetshwayo’s friend, secretary and diplomatic advisor. The King accorded him the status of honorary chief. John adopted native dress and, in good Zulu tradition, acquired many wives. In addition to his first wife, Catherine (nee Pierce), whose mother was a Cape Malay, he married 48 Zulu women from 23 different clans. He staunchly observed Zulu customs and several of his wives were banished from his household for breaching rules. Two were found guilty of infidelity and executed in accordance with Zulu law. He is said to have fathered about 177 children, who were all brought up as Christians. For quite some time he represented both Colonial and Zulu interests, but when forced to forgo his neutrality, he sided with the British. He died on August 5, 1895, aged 60, from dropsy and heart disease. He was buried at Emoyeni. He was survived by 23 wives, including Catherine.
A “TASTY” TOWN
Judge Marius Diemont grew up in the Karoo. He spent most of his childhood in Oudtshoorn, but in later life moved to Cape Town to set up legal offices. He was, however, born in the Free State town of Lindley. In Brushes with the Law, he writes: “My mother had always longed to live near the sea, so after a holiday in Uitenhage, my father bought a practice there from Drs Cowan and Bull. The opposition doctors were Lamb and Bacon and, believe it or not, dentists were Drs Curry and Rice. To cap it all a Mr Salt lived across the road from the Misses Pepper.”
OFF TO COURT THEY GO
Cape Town’s Adderley Street buzzed with excitement whenever the circuit court set off for the hinterland. “Bystanders at the top corner of Adderley Street opposite the old Supreme Court in March, 1882, witnessed the splendid sight of Chief Justice, Sir Henry de Villiers, KCMG, setting out on circuit,” states Judge Marius Diemont in Brushes with the Law. The contract for conveying the judge was held by Lalie Sekor, a Cape Malay who owned the best livery stables in town. “The judge’s coach was large, well-equipped and, almost always, freshly varnished. It was drawn by four fine horses held especially in reserve for such occasions.” Lalie was a well-known man and he proudly drove the judge’s coach himself. His outfit, a long black coat with gilt buttons and cone straw hat, added great dignity to the whole occasion, said Judge Diemont. “Inside the coach was the judge’s shot gun. He took it along just in case there were quail or francolin, foraging long the roadside, which might make a tasty addition to the evening’s menu. In most villages, however, women “at the top of the social scale” vied with each other for the honour of accommodating and feeding His Lordship and members of his party. It raised their social standing and gave them an excellent opportunity to show off their hosting skills.”
ENTOURAGE ALMOST WITHOUT EQUAL
“The circuit courts of the late 1800s were surrounded by a great deal of excitement and glamour,” said Judge Diemont. He explained that there was a special order for the departing court carriages. Behind the judge’s vehicle was a second coach. “It carried servants, the baggage, camping tables and chairs, as well as cooking utensils. Behind this came at least three Cape carts. The first carried two or three juniors who shared the expenses of hiring the vehicle. A second carried a QC and his wife, or possibly another family member, while two or three members of the Bar, who had been retained for more important cases, travelled in the third. Due respect was shown to the judge and his retinue in each town. The leading citizens – the magistrate, mayor, sheriff – and their deputies – the district surgeon, attorneys and other worthies would all ride out on horseback to meet the cavalcade. “When his Lordship’s coach stopped the registrar would, with great formality, make the introductions. On occasions a case of champagne would be broached. Toasts would follow with one or two welcoming speeches. Then it was on to town where a banquet or possibly dinner dance had been organised in the town hall. If the judge or members of his party were talented they would provide the music.´ Judge Diemont added that by the time he went out on circuit, however, the whole entourage travelled by train.
ORPHANS FIND A NEW HOME IN THE KAROO
In 1942, the South Africa government granted permission for 500 Polish war orphans to be sent to this country. The children, many of whom were Jewish, arrived in 1943 and were sent to the Karoo where The Polish Children’s Home of St. Andrew Boboli (Dom Polskich Dzieci) was set up “for their temporary accommodation, care and education.” Their story starts off tragically. The children were refugees who had been separated from their parents and families and sent to the Soviet Union after the invasion of eastern Poland in September 1939. They were in a terrible predicament and urgently needed to be housed. Aware of their plight, and in an effort to spare them any further atrocities, Polish authorities appealed to all Allied nations for safe haven for the children. The then South African Minister, Field Marshal Jan Smuts, agreed to accept 500 Polish orphans. They arrived in April. 1943, accompanied by 51 adults and were sent to Oudtshoorn. The adults who travelled with them via Iran to Port Elizabeth on the SS Dunera, included 16 mothers, two fathers, one grandmother, one sister, of the children, medical personnel, among whom were a doctor, dentist and dental assistant, teachers, plus a forester, who taught gym, a carpenter, tailor, civil servants and support staff , many of whom were widows who worked in the kitchen. Ouma Smuts played a leading role in ensuring that these children were correctly tutored and encouraged to have a high appreciation of their rich Polish cultural heritage.
The South African Department of Social Welfare and Polish Consular and Ministry representatives supervised this orphanage. They kept careful records of each child’s name, date and place of birth, the names of their parents, their father’s occupations, towns of origin, and as far as possible details of whether their parents had survived the war or not. Their story ended on a positive note, states Allan Sinclair of the Ditsong National Museum of Military History in the Military History Journal of December, 2015. He states that the orphanage was operational until after the war and only disbanded in 1947. He adds that their story is told in this museum, where posters and photographs can be seen. The children who could not be repatriated when the war was over were sent to various schools across Southern Africa to complete their education. It is estimated that about half of the children remained and formed the nucleus of the Polish South African community.
VICTORIAN MANOR TAUGHT ENGLISH MANNERS
Major MacMoran and his wife cared for 16 refugees at Adley House in Oudtshoorn until they completed high school. The children had a strict code of behaviour. They were taught English table manners, dining traditions, and etiquette. They were given English breakfasts and had to dress for dinner. Adley, a magnificent Victorian sandstone manor house, was built in 1905 during the ostrich feather boom by Sidney Herbert Adley, a surveyor by profession. He, however, saw a better future in feathers and turned his hand to farming ostriches – a bird so puzzling to early naturalists that it was classified as Struthio camelus, the sparrow camel. His new endeavour paid handsomely. He bequeathed to the house to the SA War Memorial Fund. The house, which was sold in the 1960s, is today is a popular guest house. In his day Sydney was a well-known man in Oudtshoorn’s social circles. He was born in London in March, 1862, to George and Matilda Sarah (nee Shervill) Adley, He married Hester Thompson, who died in Cape Town in 1903. He then married Mildred Catherine Eveline, 35, the daughter of Reverend Bartholomew Ebenezer Anderson and his wife, Georgina Johanna (nee Elliott). They had one son (Major) Arthur George Adley. When Sydney died at the Royal South Western Hospital in Oudtshoorn on November 12, 1944, aged 82, his assets amounted to £84 186:8:0 and his liabilities to £24 018:5:8.
THOUGHT OF ALMOST EVERYONE
In his will Sydney stated that if at the time of his death there were two cars one should go to his wife and the other to his son. All property, plus a tax free annuity of £900 was left to Mildred who was also bequeathed £250 for distribution to the poor in Oudtshoorn. Her sister was left £100 and the two daughters of Mrs Stegman £105 each. Anna Helm’s two daughters, his wife’s niece Janet Searle and the Reverend Griffiths were left £150 each. The Ladies Benevolent Society, Janet Green, Mabel Yarr, the daughter of the late J R B Edmeades, Bertie Edmeades and the Presbyterian Church of Oudtshoorn were left £200 each, provided that the church “had conducted divine service two years before his death”. Male and female servants, who had been in his employ for from one to five years, were left £5 each and those who had worked for him for six months were bequeathed £3 each. And there was a trust for any offspring which his son may have.
Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react to it. – Charles R. Swindoll