William Douglas Savage was born at Gores Bridge, in the County of Kilkenny, Ireland, in the year 1833, and accompanied his parents to India. Educated in Ceylon, his great ambition was to go in for a seafaring life, but his first experiences in that line were disastrous, being wrecked in the “Thunderbolt” off Port Elizabeth in 1846. Fortunate enough to escape with his life, he proceeded inland from Port Elizabeth, where the Kaffirs were giving trouble, and he joined the Commissariat department with the forces and remained there until 1850, when the war broke out and Sir Harry Smith arrived with the forces at Fort Cox to proceed against Sandillah. Sir Harry’s first experience was a surprise from the natives when he advanced to Wolfs Pass, when he was compelled to retreat, and returned to Fort Cox. After this brush Mr. Savage proceeded to King William’s Town, where he joined a mounted corps raised at Cape Town, called “Montague’s Horse”, afterwards changed to “Graham’s Horse”, Mr. Graham being subsequently Civil Commissioner of Grahamstown.
Mr. Savage remained with this force during the war of 1850-52, in the meantime being promoted to the position of Sergeant-Major. Soon after Governor Cathcart granted him permission to be transferred to the Armed Mounted Police Force under Commandant Currie, in charge of a small outpost at Buckraal, near Fort Reddie, where he expected promotion, but orders were received to reduce the force. Mr Savage then resolved to return to Ireland, but was offered and accepted a situation in a mercantile house in Colesberg, where he stayed six months, arriving in Bloemfontein in 1853, where he occupied a position in the firm of W.P.Dixon & Co. This country was then under British rule, under the name of the Orange River Sovereignty, and a few companies of infantry and artillery were then stationed in the town. Mr. Savage has thus had the unique experience of seeing these troops march out in the month of March in the year 1854, and on the 13th of March 1900 he again witnessed the British troops, under Lord Roberts, march in again.
Mr. Savage commanded the Bloemfontein Detachment in 1858 against the Basuto Nation, and previously second in the expedition against Witzie in Basutoland, in the Harrismith District.
Messrs. Dixon & Co. having closed their business, Mr Savage joined the late Mr George PAge at Reddersburg in the wool trade, but a severe drought at the time caused a dissolution of partnership. Tired of a quiet life he then left for New Zealand, where he found things more to his taste, the Maori War being then in full swing. Mr Savage immediately interviewed and received an appointment from Sir George Grey (the founder of the Grey COllege, Bloemfontein) in the Colonial Defence Force. At the close of the Maori War he left for Scotland, got married, and returned to South Africa in 1868. Engaged in mercantile pursuits for a time, he acted as Town Clerk from 1884-1885, and later on was elected a member of the Municipality. Since then Mr Savage has filled several important positions with the greatest zeal and integrity, amongst others bookkeeper to the Board of Executors, secretary to the first building society, secretary to the Chamber of Commerce, and in 1888 joined the Civil Service as bookkeeper in the Treasurer-General’s Office, a position which he held with unfailing energy until 1905, when he retired on a well-earned pension.