Table of Contents
This document was sourced by my aunt, Ada, the eldest daughter of Horace, son of the author of this documents original manuscript. That makes William our great grandfather I think. Catherine, my sister typed it out. I scanned it and converted it to XML, thence HTML. Explanatory information is added as notes. Sectioning is into unnamed chapters.
Numbering. Someone added numbers to the start of paragraphs. I am guessing that these are paragraph numbers from the original. Since these are not complete, they are only maintained where available in the typed edition.
28 October 1996
The following diary was loaned to me by Mrs Ada Carr (nee Pawson). In the front was written the following:-
"If found please return to son of the writer
Horace E Pawson
6 Hill Street
I started from Home Oct 29th 1870
London Nov 5th " Arrived at the Verd Islands " 19th "
Left Verd Islands " 22nd "
Arrived at Cape Town Dec 18th "
Left C. Town " 24th "
Arrived in Algoa Bay " 26th "
Left Algoa Bay " 31st "
Wrecked on Stag Rock, Bird Island. Jan 1st 1871
Left Bird Island " 5th
Arrived in Algoa Bay " 5th
Left Algoa Bay " 11th "
Arrived in Natal " 14th "
Diary of a voyage between London And Natal, Africa written during the voyage by Wm Pawson
(A hand-drawn outline map of South Africa appears on the next page.)
Diary of a voyage between London and Natal, South Africa, written on the voyage.
1 Nov 5th 1870. I sailed on board the Screw-steamship "Westenhope" from the London Docks at eleven o'clock this forenoon. It was a most beautifull morning, the sun shining brightly. We made a good run down the river, passing Greenwich, Woolwich and Gravesend. It was a fine moonlight night, and most of the passengers were on deck till midnight, admiring the scenery, a most charming sight as we passed the white cliffs of Dover were distinctly seen, as were passing Vessels etc. We passed the town of Dover about ten o'clock.
2 Sunday 6th. We had a good run down the Channel today, with fine weather and a fair wind, reaching Plymouth about midnight. It felt rather cold this evening.
3 7th. We cast anchor in Plymouth Sound about one o'clock this morning. It is a beautifull harbour, protected with a good breakwater etc. A boat came alongside this morning, with letters, and we returned letters for home. We weighed anchor about half-past one o'clock, with a fair wind, and weather fine. We passed the Lizard Head about eight o'clock this evening. It is the most southern point in England, and the last we can see. It was dark so we could only see the lights which are two white ones, visible twenty-two miles, so as we loze sight of them we bid "good bye" to our dear native isle. It was rather wet this evening.
4 8th. We entered the Bay of Biscay this morning. It extends all along the west coast of France. It is generally pretty rough here, so we nearly all were seasick. It is not a very nice sensation. The captain Mr Jas. Mackay - a Scotchman - came into our Cabin this afternoon, and made nothing but fun of us being sick, and told the Steward to fetch us three bottles of Brandy, so we drank his health. We saw a large number of porpoises this afternoon, they are the fastest fish in the world, about five or six feet long and seem to rush along with ease, popping out of the water every few yards It rained very hard today.
Editorial notes on the map:
Top left. Slanted writing pointing to dotted line with an arrow. “This is the course of the Winterhope”
River 16,28 to the right. Orange River. Splits into Hart and Vaal West of Ladysmith.
Left edge marking. “Degrees South of equator”. Bottom edge is “'Degrees East of Greenwich'”
18,34. “Cape Town and Cape of Good Hope”
Vertically, “?? Bay ”(unable to decypher) Might be 'False' bay
20,35. “Cape of 'Cigalles' ”(possibly Agulhas)
26,34. “Algoe Bay and Bird Island”
28,33. “East London”
31,30. “Port Natal and Maritzburg”
5 9th. It rained very hard, early this morning, but cleared up about nine o'clock, and was very pleasant. We are still in the Bay of Biscay. We had an accident on board today, as they were hoisting a large sail with engine, a chain broke, and the chain and block struck one of the sailors on the head, inflicting a rather serious wound. We had a beautifull moonlight evening, and a strong headwind. My seasickness left me last night and has not appeared again. It leaves one very hearty after.
6 10th. We were awakened this morning by a great noise, and a sensation of being rocked from one side of beds to the other, and looking out of our berths, we saw the forms, tins and everything we had left loose, engaged in the exciting game of Steeplechase, from one side to the other of the Cabin. A pretty strong sea was causing us to roll a good bit. It was a splendid day though, with a good fairwind. We had a Concert in our Cabin this evening. The Captain and third mate came and spent the evening with us. We sighted two vessels today homeward bound but did not speak them.
7 11th A beautifull day with a fair wind.
8 12th. A fine day with a fair wind. The weather is getting much warmer and we are giving old winter the slip this time. If looks like rain tonight.
9 13th.. Sunday. It is raining today so we are writing etc. We are going on very nicely. We have a great advantage over sailing ships as we do not depend on the wind entirely while the fair winds assist us. A series of sudden squalls came on this evening between eight and ten o'clock, very strong gusts of wind with intermediate calms for a short time. We had to knock off both steam and sails for two hours.
10 14th. Beautifull day, sun shining brightly, and sky clear. We passed two sailing vessels this morning. It gets gradually warmer we are begining to sweat now. We have a condensing apparatus to make saltwater fresh. Weather fine and wind against us.
11 15th. Fine day with head wind. It seems rather funny to us going with our coats off in the month of November. We could see five vessels this morning. We are about as far north of the equator as ! shall be south of it when I get to Ladismith, Natal. We are just about the Teneriffe Island about twentyeight degrees north of equator.
12 16th. Fine day something like midsummer in England. We spoke and passed a sailing vessel this morning "The Strathmore" of London. We saw several flying fish today, they look like a large swallow and fly quite as steady for a long distance, near the surface of the water. The sea is very calm and scarcely a wave.
13 17th. Weather fine and very little wind. We average about eight miles an hour. The sea very calm.
14 18th. Weather fine and a fair wind.
15 19th. We were awoke this morning with the cry of "land ahead". We were soon out of bed and found it to be the Verd Islands about twelve hundred miles north of the equator. One of them - St. Vincente - is the place where we are to take in coals. We all wrote letters for home expecting to go on shore to post them. We cast anchor about half past seven this morning. The island belong the Portuguese. The post-captain came alongside in a boat to see how we were, and required a Bill of Health from the Port of Embarkation, but our Captain had not one, so we were ordered not to leave the ship or allow anyone to come on board and to hoist the quarantine flag - a yellow one. So here we are with the flag up, a signal to say that we have infectious disease on board, yet we are all well as possible. We have sent out letters with a gentleman that is agent for supplying us with coals. We caught a lot of fish this morning and got it cooked it was very good. We are not allowed to go ashore, so the third mate, me, and six others went off in a ships boat to look at the coast a little nearer. Directly we shoved off a dark coloured chap with a large sword, who was watching the ship, came after us in a boat with some more fellows rowing, he bawled out "you no go from de ship" and got very savage, as everybody laughed at him. Our captain shouted "go on, never mind that black devil". "Ay ay sir" says the mate and away we went, and had a very pleasant afternoon. We had singing, playing etc tonight.
16 20th. Sunday. A fine morning and we can hear the church bells ringing and the bugle calling the soldiers - 16 of them - for church parade. Our crew are busy taking in coal which is brought alongside in barges. We are to take in 160 tons. The island of St Vincente forms a pretty harbour. The town is a pretty looking place as seen from the Bay. There is a lot of picturesque hills towering one above another forming a pretty picture. One of these hills is called "Washington's Head" as it forms something like a mans head.
17 21st. Weather fine. We did nothing particular today.
18 22nd. We got permission to go ashore this morning so we had a good look round the town, and a walk round one of the hills. In the afternoon, the signal for starting was hoisted and we all came on board, the anchor was weighed, and away we go again just before dark.
19 23rd. We passed the last of the Verd Islands today, so its "Goodbye land a little longer". Fine day and headwind.
20 24th. We had some heavy showers today, they come on very quick, we have just time to see them coming and then they are here.
21 25th. We have the weather fine and warm - like a boiled potatoe - and we are getting sunburnt. Headwind today.
22 26th. We are nearing the equator now. At noon today we were about 560 miles off in a straight line. It has not been so hot today, as the sun has been shaded with clouds, most of it. We had the ship on fire this evening, one of the passengers left a candle burning on a shelf and it set the partition on fire, when it had been burning a while some of us saw it and got it out - it was a narrow escape. The Captain played the dickens about it, and ordered the officers to play the hose on any light seen after eleven o'clock and says if he sees anyone with a naked light below, he will prosecute them.
23 27th. Sunday. The weather still continues fine, and the sea is like a great lake today, not a ripple, but as smooth as glass. We can see the lightning flashing in the distance, tonight, it is much more brilliant here than in England.
24 28th. We have it very hot now yet we all stand it very well. Most of our passengers sleep on deck now. The last two days have been a dead calm. It is a fine moonlight night.
25 29th. It came on with a pretty heavy shower early this morning, so them sleeping on deck came into the cabins helter skelter this time. We have a fair wind today, and it is very warm, though not so hot as I expected. The sailors say they never saw such fine weather as we have had this voyage.
26 30th. We are at the equator now just about to leave the Northern Hemisphere - most of us for the first time - for the Southern Hemisphere. We have a good breeze today.
27 Dec 1st. We had a collection on board last night, for the sailors a little extra grog, in honour of crossing the line. We had no shaving, but singing, etc spending a very pleasant evening. It is a very pleasant day, and a nice breeze, which keeps it pretty cool. A beautiful night. We have had a bit of skylarking this evening, tying the legs together of the persons who were asleep on deck, etc.
28 2nd. Weather fine and a good fair wind. Moonlight night.
29 3rd. Weather fine, and a head wind. We had a Concert this evening, in honour of having crossed the line, reserved seats one shilling each, and a collection among the others. The money is to go in aid of "The Seamen's orphans" Home.
30 4th. Sunday. It has been rather cloudy today - a very pleasant thing where it is so hot - and the breeze is against us. We are about as far as Ascension Island, in the South Atlantic Ocean, about eight degrees south of the equator. The island is named from having been discovered on Ascension Day, A.D. 1501. It was taken possession of by the British in the year 1815 and is used as a victualling station for the African squadron. It is about eight miles long, and six broad. Turtle and birds' eggs form its chief exports.
31 5th. We are still sailing on with head wind, and fine weather. The coal is being shifted today, from the forehold to the firing department. They use about nine tons per day.
32 6th. It is a fine day, like summer in England. We can see a great difference in the colour of the water today, it has changed from blue to dirty green, which shows that we are not very many miles from the coast.
33 7th. Fine day and headwind still. Coal shifting going on today. Another concert tonight, in which we had an interval of fifteen minutes, very well filled up with eating sandwiches and drinking a glass of beer, which was presented to all that were present by our Captain.
34 8th. Weather fine, and the wind changed today, so we have had the sails up. We are about as far as the island of St Helena, about eight hundred miles to the south-east of Ascension. It is noted as the place of exile of Napoleon Buonaparte from A.D.1816 till his death in A.D.1821. It is a British possession and is used as a coaling station.
35 9th. Weather fine. Fairwind. The breeze is quite cold today. The vessel is very light now especially the fore part.
36 10th. Weather fine. Head wind. We sighted the west coast of Africa this morning. The part we could see is called Cape Trio. We could not distinguish anything as we were too far off. We had Another Concert tonight.
37 11th. Weather fine. Head wind. We could see the Southern Cross - a group of stars, which are for the southern Hemisphere, what the North Star is for the Northern - this evening. We should have seen them before, but the sky has been cloudy in the south lately. Their position as it appears to me for the first time is like this:
It is rather cool tonight and moonlight.
38 12th. There has been a swell on today, causing the ship to roll a good bit. Just fancy the vessel going up one side and down the other, then a fellow loses his balance, seizes another, who does the same to another, and away they all go to the other side of the ship, then just before they have time to square up, they are sent rolling back again
39 13th The swell has continued today, but not quite so strong as yesterday The moon rose about a quarter past eleven - our time - and it was starlight giving a grandeur to the wild waves dashing against us, worth coming to see
40 14th The sea is still pretty heavy and a head wind We had another Concert tonight
41 15th. Weather fine, and a heavy sea. We are about the same latitude as Ladismith, Natal and the diamond fields - where most of our passengers are bound for.
42 16th. The sea is not so heavy today, and we have a fair wind. We sighted a fullrigged vessel today.
43 17th. The sea is a dirty looking color this morning, and it is very foggy. There was much alarm on the vessel this morning at the cry of "breakers ahead" and we could see a large white foam not far away. The helm was turned and we just missed some sunken rocks, about 80 miles from Cape Town. The fog cleared away and finished with a beautifull day.
44 18th. Sunday. We arrived in Table Bay this morning. We could see Table Mountain, and Cape Town very clearly. Table mountain is a very prominent landmark which serves as a guide for mariners, 3550 ft high, it received its name from being flat topped. We steamed into Dock.
45-6-7-8 I visited several interesting place these days including the Botanical Gardens, which are surrounded by long avenues of oak trees which shade the roads around. The South African Museum is in the Bot. Gardens, where there is a fair collection of Wild Animals, Snakes etc. The Docks are quite new, not finished yet. There is a large Breakwater in course of construction, and convict labour is used for most of it - a rather striking sight to see a lot of black convicts, with their numbers painted on the back of their waistcoats, working at drilling, pulling trucks, etc and a white man here and there with a gun ready to shoot them if they try to escape. I went to see a Dutch funeral. They had no service in the burial ground, but I am informed, they have service in the house before starting. The coffin was a sharp shoulder Yorkshire style, with the exception of having no moulds round lid and bottom. Provisions are very cheap in Cape Town and rents are high. Beef and Mutton of good quality 2d to 4d per pound; Bread 1d per lb; Potatoes 9d bushel. Fruit cheap when in season. There is not much demand for white labour as the coloured men work so very cheap. In a great many instances, I met with men working for about the same wages they would get in England, it has been hotter here than we have felt it since we started.
49 23rd. We steamed out of Dock into the Bay - about eight o'clock this morning, to take in cargo for East London, it is gunpowder, cartridges, etc, which we are not allowed to take in, in the Docks.
50 24th. Having completed our cargo for Algoa Bay, East London, and Natal, we weighed anchor at seven o'clock this morning, with the breeze against us. We had a pleasant day watching the coast as we went along. We passed The Cape of Good Hope and False Bay about noon, and Cape Agullas at midnight. The C. of Good Hope is about 40 or 50 miles from C. Town and is 1000 feet high. It was discovered by a Portuguese admiral in 1486 and was called by him "Cape of Storms". Cape Agullas is the southernmost point of Africa, and is an extensive sandbank. There is a very important current here which flows from the Indian Ocean, which we are just entering as we leave the Atlantic.
51 25th. A Beautiful day with a very light breeze in our favour, and the sea calm. This is Christmas Day, but we have little to remind us of it, except the general "I wish you a merry Christmas" which is passed round pretty freely. We had fowls, mutton and plumpudding to our Christmas dinner. It is a fine moonlight night. While sitting on the forecastle this evening, I saw thousands of fishes, which are floating about in shoals, and when the vessel comes up to them they dart away in all directions, fairly illuminating the water.
52 26th. Fine day and a fair wind. We have sighted the coast all day. We arrived and cast anchor in Algoa Bay about half past five this afternoon. Just at the entrance of the Bay is the "Thunderbolt Rock" which is seen with the foam caused by the sea dashing against it. It received its name from Her Majesty's Ship "Thunderbolt" striking it in 1846, and being made a complete wreck. The town is called Port Elizabeth, a flourishing town and chief Port of destination of the Royal Mail Steamers.
53 27th. Fine day. Most of our passengers were landed this morning en route for the Diamond fields. They are landed in boats.
54 28th. The cargo is being taken out by the natives who are nearly naked when working in the Bay.
55-6 29th & 30th. Still anchored in the Bay, discharging cargo.
57 31st. I went ashore and had a look round, me and one of our engineers went to St Georges Park, where we saw some splendid Trees, plants etc. Afte leaving the park we went into the valley beyond where a small river runs. There we saw the native women washing the clothes sent from town & ships in the Bay. It would be a good thing to keep Englishwomen from grumbling on washing-day to see them, as they go into the river up to the knees and steep the clothes, then beat them on a stone. We called in a Dutch farmhouse and got some milk and then returned to the ship, just in time to go. They nearly left us and were weighing anchor. It is a beautifull moonlight night, and we are stopping up a little later than usual to see the last of the year 1870.
58 Jan 1st 1871. Sunday. New Years Day, and one to be long remembered. About ten minutes to one this morning, I was just going up our cabin stairs to look round before going to bed, when the telegraph which connects the Wheel and engine room, was worked furiously and instantly we felt a shock and up went the deck as if she was going over, and someone called out rocks. I got hold of the handrail on the ships side thinking I would stop on the top side as long as possible if she went over, but she stopped. The Captain ordered the boats to be swung and at it we went. Down went a man into one, then another, a lady passenger - the only one and she got on at Algoa Bay - refused to go just then, so there was a lull for a moment, then
This para is not numbered.
over went I dropping down a rope, then the Captain, and it soon had eleven in it, when we shoved off, with nothing but what we wore, nothing to eat or drink. The other boats soon followed, and we were all afloat in the dark, for the moon was no longer to be seen. We rowed about the vessel all night for we dare not try to land, as we could see nothing but rocks and breakers. The Chief mate got on board about two o'clock and threw some spirits out, but we scarcely tasted all night. I was busy all night, with a bucket, lading the water out of the boat, wet through up to my waist. I could just see my watch at five minutes to four and soon after day broke, when we could see some men waving something to show us where to land. We pulled in and found ourselves on Bird Island, about thirtyfive miles from Algoa Bay, and ten miles from the mainland. All safely landed. We looked round a short time, then some of them said they would go back and see if we could save anything, so I volunteered to go for I had begun to think of my chests etc. We went back and climbed up the side of the vessel, and found her with much water in her, and she appears to be stuck fast with a rock through her bottom somewhere about her middle, so that she works as if on a pivot. Had she not stuck fast we should have gone over in deep water as deep water is all around her. Well down I went into our cabin and found it about six or seven feet of water on one side and just bare out the other and some of my chests swimming on the deep side. So in I went, just as I was, for I couldn't be wetter, and got hold of a large one, weighing nearly two hundredweight and pulled it to the bottom of the stairs, then I got a man to help me up with it, when just as we got to the top of the stairs, his handle came off, down came the chest onto me, and away we went to the bottom, but thanks to about three feet of water I was not hurt much, so I thought "better luck next time" thinks I, and tackled a rope round it and got it over and into the boat. Then I went & got some things that were high and dry in a top berth. I tried to get another chest but I could not as all were helping themselves, and I could not get a lift, so after getting a few duckings left it at the bottom of the stairs for the present. We then went ashore and got some breakfast at the lighthouse where we are to stop till we can be taken away. The crew are getting provisions out of the vessel so we have plenty of good food. They have rigged up tents for the sailors, with sails. Our captain started for Algoa Bay, about noon, a boat taking him across to the mainland and then to get as he can. I examined my things in the large chest and found them quite dry although it had been swimming all night. And so ended the first and last voyage of the "Westenhope", and so began our year 1871.
59 2nd. Went down to the vessel and found her with much more water in her. I got the chest I tried for yesterday fished up, but part of the bottom tore off and let a good many things out. I then took it to the lighthouse and put the remainder out to dry. After they were dry I put them in two bags ready for re-shipment. Having nothing to do I take the opportunity of looking round the island. It is not very large, scarcely a mile across its broadest part, but a number of small rocks are round it. The rock we struck on is the Stag Rock, and on the other side of the island is the "Dorrington Rock", so called because a vessel called the "Dorrington" struck on it some years ago and was made a complete wreck There are some graves on the island which contain some bodies from that wreck. Another rock is called Seal Rock, as there are a large number of seals on it, which bellow out like a large trumpet. There are few persons here viz; the lightkeeper - Mr G T Reid, and wife and daughter, who have done their best to make us comfortable - the assistant lightkeeper and wife, and about half a dozen men who are getting the guano ready for shipment. There are thousands of seabirds here, which alight alongside each other and keep up a continual chattering all day long. They are about the size and something like large ducks and will allow us to walk among them, but if we try to take them up they give us a smart nip. It is the dung of these birds forms the guano, of which there is hundreds of tons. They keep a large number of goats & pigs which live on a peculiar kind of shrub which grows here. There is no grass, as they say it is too rich for it. There are a great many wild rabbits.
60 3rd. We had a pretty heavy thunderstorm this afternoon, and rain. About seven o'clock this evening, a small steamboat arrived from Algoa Bay, bringing the Captain, a custom's officer, and a surveyor of ships, to report the condition of the vessel.
61 4th. The Surveyor has condemned the steamer as a total wreck, and they are fishing what cargo they can get.
62 5th. We left Bird Island today, about twelve o'clock in the steamtug St Croix. As we steamed away, the lightkeeper signal'd "Adieu" with his flags. We passed close to the "Westenhope" which lay nearly on her beam ends, nearly covered with water. A small schooner which came from Algoa Bay sailed away with our luggage, and a small portion of the cargo. We arrived in Algoa Bay about half past five this evening and our luggage shortly after. We then proceeded to find accomadation. I went to the Union Hotel, where we soon had a good dinner and went to bed pretty early.
63 6th. We have been looking after our luggage today.
64 7th. I have been to see the Westenhope sold today. She was sold to John Owen Smith & Co, - the parties who are getting the guano off the island - for £350.
65 8th. Started early this morning for a walk into the country and went as far as Shark River, then taking a long round back to town. We picked up several tortoises of which there are a large number about five miles from town. We went to a Wesleyan Chapel this evening and the text was "it is well", and perhaps is. When going home we called in a Malay Church and were much amused.
66-7 9th & 10th. Had a good look round town.
68 11th. The Court of Inquiry is to be held today, to assertain what is the cause of the loss of Westenhope. I cannot go to hear the case as I have engaged a berth in the Mail Steamer "Natal" for Natal I got my luggage on board and sailed at one o'clock, with a fair wind. We passed the Westenhope at about half past five. She has lost one of her masts. We passed between the mainland and the wreck.
69 We arrived at East London about half past five this morning and discharged cargo and left again at halfpast eight. East L. is a very small place and the most dangerous part of the coast. The appearance of the coast now is quite refreshing, a continued succession of grass-covered hills with valleys of bushes & trees.
70 13th. We passed some fine park-like land this morning and could distinctly see the cattle grazing. We arrived in the Bay of Natal about three this afternoon, but could not go over the bar - a sandbank across the inner harbour's mouth - so we cast anchor outside.
71 We were taken off the vessel in a surfboat this morning. When going over the Bar the boat has all the battens down and the waves roll over the top. We have to pay 10/- for being taken off the ship to shore, a thing we should not have had to do with the "Westenhope" as they engaged to land us. We landed at the Point about eleven o'clock, and so ended my first voyage to Natal.
Aug. 29th 1871. A party of us started a wagon last night, and started ourselves this afternoon, on a shooting expedition in the Free State, it is like preparing to go on a long pic-nic, as we take all we require with us. We take bread - baked into biscuits, very hard, but they soften as soon as we put them into the coffee - and sugar, coffee, salt, mealies (Indian Com) for the Kafirs and horses, guns, ammunition, cooking utensils, rugs etc etc —
We started, about two o'clock in the afternoon, and reached Sand Spruit in about two hours, where we offsaddled and let the horses graze for halfhour. It is a Kafir location about here, and forms a striking picture to an English eye. The huts grouped together in numbers of ten or twelve, look like immense beehives, as they are made of straw, have no windows, and the doorway is the great size of two feet high, so anyone can fancy the position when going in. They have no desire to improve their dwellings, as is proved by the fact that Government puts on an hut-tax of seven shillings per annum for every hut in the colony - while the white people pay nothing for houses -which they could avoid paying if they only put windows and a proper door in. They own a pretty large stock of cattle, about here.
We saddled up our horses again, and rode on, recrossing Sand Spruit, and overtaking our wagon, an hour after sunset, at the foot of the mighty Drackensburg, which towers above us some nine or ten thousand feet above the sea.
We took coffee, and let the cattle eat for about two hours, then inspanned the oxen and "trekked" on, as it was a beautifull moonlight night. We succeeded in reaching the summit of the mountain path in about two hours and a half, as the road is in good condition now, being very dry. We then outspanned for the night. It is very different travelling here from what it is in England. We have a big lumbering wagon - about twenty feet long in the body, something like what is used in England for carrying timber, only these have two sides on and shelvings, and only one shaft, called a disselboom - drawn by eight pairs of oxen, which are yoked to it, with a long chain or "trekton", which passes between each pair of oxen, and is connected to each of them, with a piece of wood - called a yoke - about five feet long, which rests on the necks of each pair of oxen, and is fastened to them with four small pieces of wood, about seventeen inches long, which slip through the yoke and down each side of the neck, and is fastened under the neck. A Kafir generally goes before the first pair of oxen, to lead them, with a rim which is fastened to their horns. The whip they drive with is about twenty feet long, and they crack it like a gun. We travel about four miles an hour. When we outspan for the night, some of us look for fuel, some for water, and we soon have a fire and coffee made, and the frying-pan going. The fuel we use is what the Dutch call "mest", and what is generally known in England by the name of cattle-dung. It is a pretty good substitute though. When looking around at our party tonight as we were squatting round the fire, I thought what a "motley crew". There were two Englishmen, two Dutchmen, one Bushman - yellow - and three Kafirs - very dark brown. After we have eaten we fasten our horses front feet together, and fasten our oxen to the yokes, to prevent them from straying in the night. We then throw down our mattresses under the wagon, on the grass, put the wagon cover over the wagon, and the side where the wind comes, then with the stars for a curtain, we fall asleep.
Wed. 30th. After letting the cattle eat for about two hours, we inspanned, and "trekked" about an hour and half to a place called "Murderers Corner" - so called because, a few years ago, a party with a wagon were murdered by the Basutos, and the wagon captured. There is a tombstone erected in memory of the departed. Murderers Comer is just behind a high peak of the Drackenburg. A curious peculiarity of the D.burg is that after a tremendous ascent on the Natal side, we never go down on the Free State side - that is with the exception of the small hills and dales, which are about equal.
When we outspanned, I saw a few springboks - springbok is a Dutch name signifying "jumping buck", a very appropriate name as it gives some tremendous bounds when alarmed. They were about a thousand yards away, so I took my rifle - long Enfield - to have a shot at them. I did not approach them in a straight line, but took a long curve of about two thousand yards, down a small hollow, when after walking, crawling, and peeping a good bit, I managed to get within a distance of two hundred yards, when seeing that they were getting uneasy, I cocked my rifle, adjusted the sights, selected my buck, and while laid full length on the ground, I took my first shot in the Orange River Free State, hitting the buck in the hip, disabling one leg completely. It set off on three legs, and was running a little faster than me, when I found out that I had not another bullet with me, so I whistled of the dogs at the wagon which soon caught the buck. It was a fine buck, in good condition for this time of the year. The Springbok is a beautifull animal, and is splendid eating. The ram has horns about eleven or twelve inches long, and the doe about six inches. They are three distinct colours - white under the belly, then dark brown, then very light brown, and again white on the top of the back.
After stopping two hours we went on to Wilge - Willow - river, where we outspanned till sunset, when we trekked on till we arrived within a short distance of Harrismith, and outspanned. We got supper and retired, and about two hours after, we were aroused by one of our party, who saw a large fire approaching rapidly. It was the dry grass, which had been fired some miles away. We inspanned and went on about a mile, crossing to the other side of the path, when we retired once more.
Thursday 31st. Three of us took our horses and rode into Harrismith, this morning. The buildings are chiefly of stone. I defer any further remarks about Harrismith till another time, as I was a very short time there. We re-crossed the Wilge river, and sent the wagon on while we stopped on the banks of the river making bullets. Just before sunset, we started after the wagon, which we overtook in about three hours.
Friday Sep. 1st. We went on about two hours after sunrise, and soon came within sight of thousands of blesboks. Blesboks run in very large troops, and the ram has horns about fourteen inches, and the doe six inches long. In two hours we arrived at Eland river, where we outspanned. We have now arrived where the wildebeeste - gnu - are. The Wildebeeste is a most curious animal, being about the size of a two and half year old ox. He has a mane and tail like a horse, horns and hide like an ox, legs like an antelope, hair on his nose, and hair under his chin. Hunting the gnu is very exciting sport, but I will give a brief account of the last two days sport, which may convey some idea of what it is.
Sat. 9th. Rose with the sun, cleaned our guns, gave our horses a feed, got breakfast, stocked ammunition bags, and started. We rode for about halfhour, and then I left the party to have a shot at a troop of wildebeest, which I saw grazing in a large valley. As soon as they spied me, they began tossing their heads and frisking their tails about and away they started. I got within two hundred yards, then jumped off my horse, and shot, bringing down a great bull. I then crossed the valley, and just caught another troop of several hundreds, and three hunters after them. It was Crack! Crack! Crack! Crack! but I only secured one out of the lot. They many times get away, even after they have a leg broken. It was a fine sight to see this troop, rushing away, kicking up such a dust, that we could scarcely see them at times. I then started towards the wagon, and came across a troop of blesbok, one which I dropped. I was just after another troop, when I came across a lot of the larger game. I had a smart run for five hundred yards, then off and shot. Immediately after I shot, a large cow and her year old calf left the troop - a sure sign of being hit, and I sprung on "Ratcatcher" and started after. I had a splendid chase for a long distance, and was just going to pull in when my horse got his foot in a hole - of which there are thousands - down he came and over his head I went, as clean as a dinner. It gave me a good shake, but it wasn't time to see if I was hurt, so I jumped up and had another smart run for four hundred yards, when the cow finding I was nearing her, turned round, and stood looking at me, shaking her head, as much as to say "xxxxx". I rode up to within seven yards, then got off and put a bullet through her forehead, and down she fell. The calf then run off. I slipped a cartridge into my rifle -Terry's breech loader, today - and fired, missed and mounted. I waved my hat on the top of my gun, to my Kafir, who was about a mile away, to come and take the skin off. I then started after the calf and came up to him about a quarter of a mile away, when he turned and stopped. I shot him and went back to my Kafir, Bob. We had just got the skin off, when Bob said "hoe, boss", and there was my dead (?) calf walking off. I rode after and soon caught him again. I then started to the wagon, and got coffee. I fed my horse and cleaned my guns ready for use.
Monday 11th. Started after breakfast, and crossed the valley I was in yesterday (or rather Saturday). When I got on the other side, I got a shot at a small troop of gnu's, hitting a large calf, which I chased and brought down. I then went after the same troop which were describing a large curve. I cut straight off and got a nice shot at them bringing out a cow, her calf along with her, same as yesterday. I had a good run at a racing pace for half a mile, and then brought down the old cow. Our horses are all unshod, which makes them much more surefooted. The calf run away for half a mile, where my dog kept him charging at him, till I came up, when I dispatched him. I then went back to the mother to take off the skin. While taking it off, there came about fifty vultures, within thirty yards waiting till I got the skin off, when they eat it up in a very few minutes, as they do everything that is killed here. They must be very keen-sighted, as I have shot game here when I could not see a vulture and in a very few minutes I could see them coming from afar. When I had got the skin off, my Kafir came, so I left him to take off the others and started homewards (to the wagon). I shot two blesboks, and my dog caught another. I thought I would take him to the wagon alive, so I took the halter of my horse's neck, and made a noose. I then slipped it round his horns, and mounted my horse, letting him have the full length of the halter. I had a tough pull for about two miles, sometimes on one side of the horse, then on the other, sometimes running forwards, then lagging behind. I was stopping to let my horse drink at a pan - large natural basins or reservoirs, in the middle of level plains, sometimes on the top of a large hill, which generally are full of water, a most curious thing - when the buck run into the water, and died instantly from fright. I took off his skin and rode back to the wagon.
I was just taking coffee, when a troop of wildebeeste came within two hundred yards of the wagon, so down went the coffee, and up came the rifle, and at the third shot, I brought down a fine large bull, which finished the last day's work.
Some peculiarities are the large number of antheaps - which are all over the country, looking to an English eye like the manure heaps, ready for spreading. They are mounds of earth about three feet diameter, and two feet high, and consist internally of innumerable cells which contain thousands of ants, which never seem to stand. Anyone that notices the general activity of the ants, must feel the force of the expression in the good old book "go to the ant thou sluggard etc" - the absence of wood - I could not find a stick, large enough for to make a ramrod of although i looked for miles - and the large number of holes made by the ant-bear, meer-kat, (ant cat) etc.
Tues. 12th. We packed up our skins and started home this morning, reaching Harrissmith late in the evening.
Wed 13th. Started early, and got on the top of Drackensburg where we stopped for the night.
Thursday 14th. I had a splendid view this morning from the top of D.burg. Natal seems to consist of innumerable hills, which burst upon the view with noble grandeur. We had a long trek today. I left the wagon about two miles from home and rode over a large hill reaching home about ten o'clock, feeling as if I could sleep for a week.
We had beautifull weather, and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves.
Ladysmith is situated about one hundred and fifty miles from the port of Durban, and is laid out on the right bank of the Klip (Stone) River. The township contains a considerable number of houses, a court house, jail, laager (?), stores, and two hotels, and presents a pleasing aspect when viewed from the heights by which the town is surrounded. The population in 1869 was 1219. There are several places of worship in the town, including the Church of England, two Dutch Reformed Churches, and Wesleyan. The great drawback to the town is the bad supply of water. Although the Klip River runs close past the town, it has not been found practicable to direct a portion of the stream through it. Some years ago an attempt was made to construct a dam, or weir across the river, but it was unsuccessfull and the inhabitants have still to bring the water for household use from the river. There is a drift across the river, which cannot at all times be crossed with wagons. There is a ferryboat, where there is one shilling to pay for crossing the river. There is a small regiment of volunteer corps, called the Natal Frontier Guard. They are mounted, and drill four times a year. There is a large missionary camp under the superintendance of Mr Illing, which is selfsupporting. There is a small cornmill on the opposite bank of the river which is worked with a waterwheel.
To The Diamond Fields, From Ladysmith, Natal
Feb. 20th 1872. We started today for the worldrenowned Diamond-fields of South Africa, for which we have been preparing some time.
We take a wagon and oxen, with a load of goods for ourselves, viz; 12 Large Clothes Chests, (for sale), A good Tent, 9 Feet square, and wooden frame, bolted together; 1 Barrow; 2 Spades; 1 Pick; 1 Sieve; 32 Deal Boards; 1 Stinkwood Plank; 150 lbs Sugar; 30 lbs Coffee; 6 lbs Tea; 7 lbs Mustard; 25 lbs Composition Candles; 1/2. Gallon Paraffin Oil; 2 Dozen Tins of Sardines; Tin of Herrings; 10 lbs Ginger Nuts; 10 Bottles Citrate of Magnesium (for cooling drinks); 50 lbs Salt; 3 Sacks Flour; 2 Sacks of Mealies (Maize, or Indian Corn); 50 Pounds of Dried Peaches; 14 lbs of Soap; 11 lbs of Bacon; 4 Bottles Vinegar; 5 Bottles Fig Jam; 6 Jars Peach Jam; 4 jars Quince Jam; 1 lb Epsom Salts; Chlorodyne; Pills etc; 1 1/2 lbs Ginger and Pepper; Cooking Utensils Viz; Pot, Pan, Fryingpan, Gridiron, Bucket, Watercans, Plates, Basins, Saucers, Dishes, Kettle, Knives, Forks, Spoons, etc; Fiddle, Concertina; Lasts; Writing Materials; Bed; Bedding; 2 Chests of Clothes; Some Carpenters Tools, Saw, Bench Planes, Augers, Adze, Vice, Pincers, Screw-hammer, Chisels, Small Grindstone, Oilstone, Rule, Hammers, Nails, Screws, Tacks etc; And many more little things not in the list.
This seems to be the first, and unclear, mention of a brother. Did they meet up in South Africa, or travel together, the author omitting any clarification, or making an assumption too many for me
After unsuccessfully trying to get Kafirs, to work for us at the fields, for about a month, we start today with only 2 Bushmen - one of which has to return when we are over the Drackensburg - myself and brother. We left home at nine o'clock this morning, and travelled two hours, then stuck fast in a small stream, where we were stuck till five o'clock, when after digging etc we got out. We went on another hour, and reached Sand Spruit - a rivulet which runs into Klip (Stone) River - where we outspanned for the night. While we were sitting round the fire this evening, a Kafir, - named Dick - came to us, and we succeeded in persuading him to go work for us at the fields for six months, at 25/- and food per month, which is a good wage for a Kafir, as we only give them from 5/- to 10/- per month, at home.
21st. We started at seven o'clock to cross Sand Spruit, but only got to the middle, when the wheels sunk down to the naves in sand. We could not get out, so we were obliged to take the load off - not very nice up to the middle in water to take off 6000 lbs of Sundries. When we got the load off, we pulled out, and re-loaded. We made another start about ten o'clock, and went halfway up the mighty Drackensburg, where we outspanned. At sundown we went on till we were threequarters up, when finding that we could not reach the summit without more oxen, we outspan for the night.
22nd. We sent a Bushman back home, on my horse, to bring four more oxen. We stopped all day making yokeskeys etc At night we had a thunderstorm, which was terrific in every sense of the word. The lightning flashing vividly, almost without intercession, then such peals of thunder, which re-echoed, as they only can, in such places as the ravines and gorges of the Drackensburg.
23rd. The Bushman has not returned yet, so we help another wagon, and in return they helped us, and so we reach the summit of Van Runer's Pass. We outspanned a few hundred yards further on. I walked back to a small peak, just off the path, to see if the Bushman was coming, when such a view was stretched before me, as is seldom excelled, and I think, never forgotten. Natal was before and I could distinctly see places at least sixty miles away. Natal is a very hilly country. I could see the Bushman coming with the oxen, about six miles away. I returned to the wagon, and we got breakfast. When the Bushman came we inspanned and went on passing "Murderers Corner", a place where a party of Dutchmen were murdered, and the wagons captured during the last Basuto war. There is a rude tombstone with the following inscription on;
Vermoord den 27ste Juny 1865 Murdered June 27/65
Vader Met 3 Zonen. Father with 3 Sons
H.P.N.Pretorius, Geboren den 18 Aug.1800
I. L. " " " 11 de March 1835
I.I. " " " 20st April 1841
A.W. " " " 10de Jan 1847
Murdered 27th June 1865
Father with 3 Sons.
H. P. N. Pretorius Bor Aug 18th 1800
I. L. " " March 11th 1835
I. I. " " April 20th 1841
A. W. " " Jan 10th 1847
A little further on we pass Rensberg Kop - a large peak in the D.berg - and soon after cross Wilge - Willow - river, where we stop for the night.
24th. We sent a Bushman home this morning with four oxen. We go on to near Platberg - Flat Mountain - behind which is the town of Harrismith - so called after Sir Harry Smith. We stop about three hours, and then inspan, and go on, reaching Wilge River again, just before which we leave Platbery and Harrismith to the right. After crossing the river we stop two hours, and then go on about three hours and half to Mr Johannes De Jager's farm, arriving there about ten o'clock. Just as we were stopping the wagon, my horse got his foot under the wheel, which will cause me to leave him here - a dis-appointment, as the game is before. It is a beautifull moonlight night.
I don't know where this numbering sequence starts
25-6-7-8-9 & March 1st. We stopped at Mr De Jager's, who is a large sheep-farmer. He has about 20 Kafirs shearing the sheep just now. We painted some of our boxes, and sold four here. I sent into H.smith to buy 12 lbs of Tobacco, at 1/- per Ib to smoke on the path.
A second mention of his brother. There are a few more.
2nd. My brother heard last night that one of his children is very sick, so he returns home early this morning.
Just about noon I inspan and bid Mr De J. and family "good bye". He kindly presented us with a good fat sheep, and wished us a good journey. We killed the sheep, cut it up, and salted it, setting it in the skin. Soon after leaving, we cross Wilge River for the third time, and then join the main-road. In about three hours we reach Eiland - Eland - river, where I intended spending a pleasant Sunday on its bank but "as the sparks fly upward man was born to trouble". When we were nearly in the middle of the stream we stuck fast in the sand. After trying to pull out several times without succeeding I outspanned for the night. I slept in the wagon, which was not very pleasant, with the chance of the river rising perhaps; which it does quickly if it happens to rain, when the wagon will go down the stream. Many wagons have gone down this stream, which is pretty strong. Every time I woke I looked with anxious eyes, in the direction where the river comes from in the Drackensberg, to see if it was raining, but it kept fine all night.
3rd. Sunday. When I arose this morning, I found two oxen were away. I kicked up a row with my servants, and sent them double-quick to seek them. After being away two or three hours "Dick" brought them back. I then inspanned, but it was no use trying, as we were firmly imbedded in the sand. I saw it raining in the D.berg, so we outspanned and took the load off, carrying the things to the opposite bank. Just when we had got the load off, our old friend Mr De Jager came riding along. He had heard I was fast, and was bringing me a span of oxen to pull out with. We inspanned and pulled the wagon out all right. It was very kind of Mr De J. considering he had to come nearly a dozen miles. We then reloaded the wagon, just finishing at sundown, after a very hard day's work, instead of a day's rest on the banks of the river. It was very hot today, and burnt our faces and legs so much that the skin will come off in a few days. It is a bad drift, and the banks are very high. It was breast-deep in the water. A party of four wagons came along, just after we were out, all "en route" for the D.fields. They stuck fast in the same place but got out again with hooking on two spans of oxen to each wagon. The river is rising to night. After getting supper we retired to rest, almost too weary to sleep.
4th. We started about eight o'clock and travel about a hour and half, overtaking the other wagons, which were started some hours before us. A little further on we outspanned till noon. We then "trek" to a large marshy swamp where many wagons stick. We took the left side of the path, while the other four wagons went to the right - No fences in this country to keep us in the path, so everybody goes where they think best when they come to a bad place. Sometimes the path is two or three hundred yards wide, but there is plenty of room here so the farmers never miss it. We got through all right, and all the other wagons stuck fast. We outspan on the other side, but hearing of a bad drift in a small stream ahead, I only stop about half hour, as I want to be through before dark, as it looks like rain in a short time, and then it will be worse. In about halfhour we reach the place just as the sun was setting. After examining the place well, we went through all right. But only just if it had been one yard more mud we should have stuck. We then outspanned and made the oxen fast to the yokes. We had just finished when it came on very wet. The other wagons came up after dark, but could not see to cross, so they stopped on the other side.
5th. The other wagons stuck this morning, and had hard work to get through the mud with three spans - a span of oxen is the number that pulls one wagon, and varies from twelve to eighteen - of oxen. We ascended a very bad hill this morning, then went down the other side, which is very steep. There is a rather sticky place in the bottom, but we got through all right, and outspan. It is called Tiger Kloof - Tiger ravine - here, and is a very romantic looking place. After stopping two hours, we inspan. Just as we were starting, my brother came riding up, bringing a Kafir along with him, to take the horses back. They had to swim, themselves and the horses, across Eiland River, as it was up. My brother found his child much better. We then went on about a hour, and arrived at Mr John Raaths, Bloemhof, Nr Bethelhem. Mr R. and family being old friends of my brother's, we stopped there till the 14th. It is very near two large rocky hills, at right angles to each other like the letter L. Mr R. is just about building a new house, so I drew him a plan, which he accepted, and commenced building before we left. We sold all our chests but one while stopping here. We bought 62 lbs of Fresh Butter from Mrs R. at 9d per Ib. and placed it in a small cask, and put it in a cool place in the wagon. We hired two Kafirs - April & Boy - to go work four months for us at the fields, at 25/- per month.
14th. We left Mr Raaths today, and in half hour called at a Mr Hatting's a short time, then went on to a small muddy stream, with a bad drift, which we crossed all right, and then stopped three hours. This stream is called "Limberg Vlei". We then went on to Bethelhem, a small town, about fifty miles from Harrismith. We cross a small stream just before entering the town. We went just outside the town, and then outspanned for the night. When there a short time a small boy came running up to the wagon, "Do you want any bread please", he asked. I enquired when it was baked. He said "today sir, it's a shilling a loaf." "Who's your father?" I asked. "I ain't got a father now, father's dead" he replied. "But haven't you got another father now?" "Yes, but we don't call him father, our father's dead, we call him doctor, and Doctor is drunk, and gone trading to Kafir-land." We went along with the boy to his mother's house, just off the path, and heard the mother's story of "having kept the largest store in Bethelhem, during her former husband's life, but during the last Basuto war, the husband went a short distance from the town, and was brutally murdered by a party of Basutos; then their customers and creditors defrauded her, her subsequent poverty, and then she married the only Doctor in the place, but it is such a healthy place there is nothing for him to do, so she bakes and sells bread for a living." We bought some bread, and returned to the wagon. We then went to the hotel to hear if there was any fresh news from the fields. When we got there, they had gone to bed - it was half past seven - "nothing doing". A fellow came and opened the door, made a light, and informed us they had only Cape Smoke (Brandy) and Natal rum, both of which, are not worth mentioning, let alone drinking. We then went to the wagon and retired.
15th. We travelled two hours this morning, and then stopped two and half hours. We then trekked nearly three hours to a rivulet, near which there are some Kafir Kraals, where we bought two sacks of Mealies at 6/- per sack. We then made a long "trek" to Rixford, a very small place, about twenty miles from Bethelhem, where there is a small stream with a rather bad drift. There are two houses near the drift, one of which is occupied by a Dutchman, and the other one by a German, both of them keeping their own respective stores. They go on something like this; if anyone calls at the Dutchman's he says "You must never buy anything of the German, or he will cheat you, he is such a rogue"; if anyone calls at the German's he says "mind and never buy anything from that Dutchman, as he is the biggest rogue in the world". So between the two, where is the honest man?
16th. We go on about two miles and reach Sand River, where there is a flat sandy drift, which causes many wagons to stick. We got through all right. It is not a large stream, but broad, sandy, and flat, with low banks. There is a large well-filled store here - Adler & Es-combe, Natal - also a letter-box at the store. The town (?) is called Hiscock, and appears to consist of this large store, "alone in all its glory". We posted letters here for Natal.
In half hour we stuck fast in a very muddy drift, over a small stream. In about a hour we got out again, and outspan. After a good rest we "inspan" and travel for three hours over a good level road to a place called Zuing Krantz, where there is a large store - Clark & Pullan - and residence, also a rather bad drift, which we cross all right. We go on another hour, over good road, and then outspan for the night. It came on very wet this evening and rained all night.
17th. Sunday. We stop here all day. Raining the whole of the day, making the roads very soft and slippery.
18th. We went on about half hour this morning, and then "outspanned" as the roads are very wet. When we were "inspanning" about three hours after, Mr Bester, a near neighbour of my brothers, and Justice of the Peace, from Ladysmith, overtook us, also another man, called Martin, all "en route" for the Diamond fields. We go along together, us taking the lead for about two and half hours over very good road, to a rivulet where there is a good, broad, stone drift. In another hour and half, we cross another stream, with good drift near which is a farmhouse. It rained very hard this evening.
19th. We all started together this morning us taking the lead again. We number seven wagons now, all going to the "fields". We went on two hours, to a place where the path takes a long turn to a very bad drift in a small rivulet. We get through all right, and outspan. While here I took a gun, to have a shot at some game about a mile away. The only thing I got was a good wetting, as it began to rain just when I was getting near the game It came on with a very heavy hailstorm just behind me, which made me bolt back to the wagon as fast as I could run. Hailstones here are very dangerous things to unprotected persons, as they are very heavy, and do great damage to crops etc. If a person is on horseback, he has to take the saddle off, to put over his head in a hailstorm.
Mr Bester's wagon broke here, so we left him repairing, and went on to the next stream, where we stopped all night.
20th. My brother shot a young wilde-beest - Gnu - and a "springbok" this morning. We brought them to the wagon. They are both excellent eating now, being fat, so we have plenty of fresh meat. Mr Bester and Co with the other six wagons came up this morning and we went on together. Our wagon stuck in the drift, which is a very bad one. Mr Bester yoked one of his spans on before ours, but it was no use, so we took most of the load off, and the two spans of oxen could only just pull it out then. We loaded up, and went on to another small stream with a bad drift. We all got through all right, and were then obliged to stop the remainder of the day owing to the wet. There are two good dwelling houses near the path here.
21st. Raining hard early this morning. We started at ten o'clock, and travel two and half hours, crossing two small streams. We then stop for three hours. I shot a blesbok here, but when I got nearly to him, and was knife in hand to cut his throat, he jumped up and bolted away. In half hour after starting again we began to rise a long hill, which was one of the dirtiest places on the road. After one hours hard pull we reached the top of the hill and outspanned for the night.
22nd. We started a hour before sunrise, and arrived in the town of Winburg just after sunrise.
Winburg is a pretty looking place, with a good church, about eleven stores, a market square - about one hundred yards square, with the mainroad running through it - and neat dwelling houses - which are all white.
The church is commodious, and contains a very nice pulpit, which was imported from England at a cost of about £400. It looks very lonely, as there is nothing else in the church to correspond with it The floor is covered with laths, which are boundary lines for the pews (?). The pews are just what the incoming tenant thinks to bring. Here is a long form with a back on, behind it is a row of chairs - of various patterns -, then a short form and chairs to finish, etc. At the end of each pew, a paper is tacked to the wall, where we are distinctly informed that Mr Jonas Sugarseller - or whatever the fortunate person may be -, is the present tenant thereof.
The postoffice opens at nine o'clock so we waited till then to post letters etc and then inspan. We look a passenger up here, for the D.fields - a Mr Fred Reed from Durban.
We went on two & half hours, over heavy road, passing some Kafir's Kraals, just below which is a very stony piece of road and a small rivulet, with a rather bad drift. We got through all right and outspan. One of Mr Bester's wagons stuck here, against a big stone, but they soon got out again. After resting a hour & half, we went on three hours when we reached the foot of a hill, where there is plenty of bushes and another small stream, where we outspanned. A hour after sunset we inspanned and went up the hill. On the top of the hill there is a house near the path. The old boer - farmer - came to tell us that he had erected two stones to inform us "where" and "where not" to oustpan. After a good deal of "ja vorn" - yes uncle - etc, we went on having a good laugh at his pains, as it is something unusual, in this part of the world, to be very particular about the grass. Bye and bye we came to a stone, with a rough post near it, to draw the attention of passers by, where we are requested not to outspan here. We went on a bit further and didn't see the other stone, so we outspanned for the night, after a two hours run by moonlight.
23rd. We inspanned a hour after sunrise, and in a hour & half reached a stream near which is a farmhouse. The farmer came, and very civilly told us what part of his farm our oxen were to graze on, so we thanked him and outspanned. In two hours we inspanned, and in two hours arrived at another small stream, where there are some large hills, and plenty of bush. The grass is very good at this place, so we stopped one hour, and then went on to Vet - Fat or Grease - river. Vet River is a pretty large stream, with a good drift, but a good pull up the banks as they are very high. We put two spans of oxen to each wagon, and got out ail right. The banks are wellwooded as far as we can see.
24th. Sunday. There are twenty wagons stopping here today. We made a tent of our wagonsail, and Mr Bester held service this morning, after which we had dinner in our tent.
25th. We started rather late this morning, as it rained hard, and the roads were very soft. We all started together us taking the lead. We now number fifteen wagons for the fields. In two hours we crossed a small stream, where it was hard work for the oxen as the banks were wet and slippery. We got over all right and in a short time came to another, where there is a good stone drift. We outspanned and we had to stop till five o'clock, as it came on very wet. We then made a three hour trek, over good road, to another small stream, and outspanned for the night.
26th. We started at seven o'clock this morning, and in half hour crossed a small stream, where there is a house close to the path. We travelled six & half hours today over good level road, but rather heavy owing to the recent rains. We stop for the night, at nine o'clock, just after crossing a long hollow.
27th. Started a hour before sunrise, and rode a hour & half, and then outspanned. I took the gun, and managed to shoot a wildebeeste, but could not get near him, being on foot. Luckily, he ran towards the wagons, and my brother saw him, and quickly mounted Mr Bester's horse, and after a long chase captured him. We then went on, down a large bushy hill called Bast-berg - Bark-hill, so called because the tanning bark grows here. In half hour we outspanned where there is a large pan - natural hollows - of water on the left of the path. After a short rest we go on two and half hours and outspan.
Started again a hour after the moon rose, and travelled two and half hours, passing near by two houses, and then stop for the night. It was very cold the last few nights. My brother took the horse and shot two springboks today.
28th. When preparing to start this morning Mr Lowe Van De Merme, a neighbour of my brother's, came along "homeward bound" from the fields. We sold him our gun for £16. We went on a hour to a farmhouse on the right and outspanned. Inspanned at one o'clock, and after travelling two hours, we passed a large house, on the right, close to which we left the mainroad, and took a bye-road, which we were informed was better than the mainroad. We then went over a long shrubby flat, after which we ascended a long, sandy, gentle rising hill, on the top of which we outspanned, after a "trek" of over four hours. The grass was pretty good here so we stopped for the night.
29th. Started at three o'clock, by moonlight, and went on for three hours, and then outspanned. The path and grass were good the last "trek". The water is far from the path - in a large pan to the right - and very bad, like dirty milk. Inspanned again at eleven o'clock, and in half-hour passed a large pan of water, and a house, on the left. Just past the house we joined the mainroad again. Then we had a long pull through heavy sandy ground. After a three hours "trek" we outspanned near a pan on the right. The grass was pretty good there. Go on again at halfpast nine, just as the moon rose. In half-hour, we passed a house, near which are two large pans of water. Then, there is a piece of very bad road, but we all got through it all right. This evening a large swarm of locusts settled near us. They came sweeping along like a large cloud of dust, millions of them. To-night we went through them, the ground being covered with them, for a long distance. Every blade of grass is demolished where they settle. Oxen and Kafirs eat them greedily.
After a three hours run, over heavy road we stopped for the night. Grass good.
30th. Started at nine o'clock, and soon came to a long piece of very heavy turf ground, where many wagons stick. After three hours hard pulling, we all got over all right, and outspanned. We are not far from the town of Boshoff, and it will be Nacht-maal - Communion Services - tomorrow, so the boers are going to church. It seems funny to an Englishman, the way they go to church here. Here is a light cart, with a couple of chairs strapped behind, another with a dead sheep underneath, etc. Just as we were inspanning, the locusts came over us fairly darkening the air. It is nearly impossible to describe a swarm of locust. Millions and Millions of them. The locust is something like a large grasshopper, of a dirty flesh-colour. It has six legs, the two hind ones being rough, like a very fine saw, and are used for springing with. It has double wings, and is about two inches long. We then made a three hours run, going through Boshoff - the nearest town to the Diamondfields - and outspanned just outside of the town. Some conjurers were performing here this evening, to the no small astonishment of the boers. The admission was three shillings, for what in England would be better performed for one penny. We got a letter from Ladysmith with an enclosed one from England, dated Jan 7th 1872. Bread here is one shilling per loaf, fourteen inches long, and three inches square.
31st. Sunday. Communion Services being held here today, all round the church is like a country fair. Tents, wagons, and carts of all kinds. The locusts passed us again today.
1st April. Aprilfools going from one wagon to another this morning. We started just after midnight, and made a good run of four hours, over good dry road, and then stopped two hours. We then made another four hours "trek", to a very bushy place, where we have to pay one penny per ox for outspanning. The grass is good, and water plentiful! in artificial dams. It is very hilly in the neighbourhood, and forms a pretty picture. We made another start, two hours before sundown, and went along a very good path, for a hour and half, winding through several hills, which are wellwooded with a very thorny tree. In some places the bushes scratch against both sides of the wagon. We then passed a large house, and a firstrate artificial dam, after which we began to rise a long hill, which is very sandy especially towards the top. After a three hours "trek" we reach the top of the hill, and outspan for the night, having done a good days run of eleven hours.
2nd. Inspan at four o'clock, and in two hours and half, we are close to Dutoitspan, the first Diamondfield. We outspan just outside, and stop all day. It was with curious eyes that we looked for the first time at the Diamond mines where many a fortune has been raised, many hopes blasted, and lives been sacrificed, in search of the precious gems. Mr Bester decided today to stop at Dutoitspan, while we resolved to go to Colesberg Kop, to see if we can get a place to work there.
3rd. Started at daybreak, and in about a hour arrived at Colesberg Kop or De Beers, New Rush, which has proved itself to be the richest known Diamond-field in the world. Thousands of tents are pitched here, all shapes and sizes, and prices. We pitched our tent today on the far side of the camp.
Of Colesberg Kop and a diggers life more hereafter in the chronicles, as yet, unwritten.
We made the journey in about one hundred and twentyfive hours of actual travelling, at the rate of three miles per hour, or there-abouts.
Anyone who has not experienced a journey ...
in a bullock wagon ...
of its inconveniences...
(*Here a corner of the page is missing, so I can only put in what I can see.)
We are all cooks, washermen, or tailors as the case may require. Sometimes riding, sometimes digging the wagons loose, sometimes singing, sometimes shouting, in a not overpleasant tone, to the Kafirs, if anything is going wrong, and so we go on. It has some advantages certainly, for we can see the country well and shoot a little game etc, which makes it a little better.
This short account of our journey must be taken with all its faults, as it has been written in some curious corners.
by A Practical Digger
or De Beers New Rush
This now celebrated field was first "rushed" in August 1871. It is situated on the farm "Vooruitzicht", commonly called "De Beers" - the name of the owners at the time diamonds were discovered here -, and is about one mile westward of the field known as "De Beers (Old) Rush", and about three miles northwestward of Dutoitspan, and Bulfontein, and eighteen miles from the Vaal River diggings.
This field has proved itself to be the richest known diamond-field in the world. Thousands of gems have been found here. Most claims yield something, and the richness of some is almost beyond belief.
Many persons are working here, on what is called "halves", that is, they work the claim, paying all expenses, and give half the value of the diamonds found to the owner of the claim. Out of the "worker's" fifty per cent, he has to pay his nigger's wages - ten shillings per week, and food, for Kafir hired on the fields - and tackling, such as; picks, shovels, lines, blocks, buckets, barrows or sacks etc etc, and all the expenses of living, providing tents for his Kafirs also. At the present rate of diamonds, it requires a very good claim to make it pay the "worker", and very many "workers" are working at a loss to themselves, and gain for the owners. The general appearance of the field may be described as a large basin - nearly round, and about two hundred and fifty and three hundred yards diameter - filled up with white limestone -from the surface, to the depth of ten or twelve feet, - then a kind of bluish-grey sand which is nearly cemented together, in which most of the diamonds are found.
Intermingled with the above are large boulders of ironstone, floating reefs of blue slate, rubies, garnets, etc. All round the basin is a stone reef, outside of which neither diamonds, or the "stuff" are found, although water pits have been sunk to a depth of ninety feet.
No bottom has been found yet, although some parts have been worked down very nearly one hundred feet, and most of the valuable pieces are sunk to a depth of fifty and sixty feet.
It was originaly laid out with regularity. Between every two rows of claims is a roadway, which is - or rather was - fifteen feet wide, so that leaves a portion of each claim, twenty two feet, six inches, making a long hole forty-five feet wide, with a path on each side. Encroachments have been made on every road, and some large portions have fallen in, making large gaps in the paths. Preparations are now being made to work down all the paths. Claims have been divided, and sub-divided, and each bit is worked by its respective owner - or his "worker" -, so that the appearance of the Koppic - Koppic as applied here means a small hill - is like a large beehive, filled with all colours of the human race, and representing nearly every nation worth mentioning - and many that are not -. We have white, black, brown, and various shades of off-coloured people, including Englishmen, Scotch, Irish, French, Germans, Americans, Russians, etc - who represent the white, although many have been exposed to the rays of an African sun until they might be mistaken for off-colour - also, Kafirs, Indians, Hottentots etc - the off-coloured gentry -. The methods of working the claims vary according to the tastes, ideas, and lastly - though not least - the means of the working party. The general method is to pick the stuff loose, and then haul it up to the platform - which projects over the hole, some four, six, or eight feet - by means of ropes and pulleys, or a windlass, in a bucket, one person at the bottom, filling the bucket, while one is being hoisted up. Others are picking at the same time -if there is room - another takes the bucket at the top and throws the stuff into barrows, or sacks, which others are constantly carrying away to sorting-places, or a place where it can be carted from. After it has been carted to the sorting place, it is then beaten, by the Kafirs, with cudjels to break it into fine "stuff". It is then run through a sieve with half-inch mesh. What remains in the sieve is looked at, and the diamonds - if any, which are seldom met with in the half-inch sieve - are taken out, and the remainder thrown away. The "stuff" which ran through is then run through another sieve, with one eighth of an inch mesh, and what goes through it is thrown away (as diamonds less than one eighth will not pay for sorting the stuff) and what is in the sieve is put on to a table - about eighteen inches high - and sorted. The method of sorting is simply taking a piece of tin, or sheetiron, eight or nine inches long, and two or three inches broad, and spreading a small portion of the gravel on the table, give a quick glance at it, and pull it off the table. So we are supposed to see every bit of "stuff" between one eighth and half inch. Sorting is very tedious work - particularly when no diamonds turn up - and picking and pulling out is hard work.
Another, and far better method of sieving, is to swing the one-eighth mesh sieve - which is three feet of mesh, and one foot of handle - between four posts, and fix the half-inch mesh sieve on the top of it, with hinges. Then throw the stuff into the top sieve, and work the sieves to & fro. Then lift the top sieve up, which working on hinges, throws the stuff on the floor or into a barrow, while the "stuff" in the bottom sieve is run on the table. This plan saves much time & labour.
Diamond mining here is attended with considerable danger. Very many persons work in a reckless manner - with bad tackling etc - and the consequences are many accidents occur. Diggers are quite careless - as a rule - about the means of avoiding danger. They often work in claims which they know must fall in, but they do so under the hope that it will happen in the night, or while they are away. And it is a most remarkable fact, that although many large portions of the path have fallen in, they have mostly done so in the night. Had the paths, no. 7, 8, 9 etc fallen in during working hours, the consequences would have been awfull to behold. Another source of danger is the manner of descending and ascending the claims. Many plans are adopted, such as rope and a few wooden ladders, but the general method is by fastening a rope at the top, and then going hand over hand, up or down, as required, putting the toes in small holes, in the bank - every here & there is a miss in the holes. Hundreds of persons may be seen daily going up and down by this method. After working all day in the hole, it is hard work to climb up fifty or sixty feet, hand over hand, and many, after getting about three-quarters up, wish themselves either at the top or bottom. Occasionally persons miss catching the rope, or the rope comes down - perhaps broken or not fastened properly - when the man is smashed or most likely killed.
There is no labour in which men have better opportunities of robbing their masters than diamond-mining and many of the Kafirs take advantage of them. All persons are prohibited - under a very heavy penalty which can be extended to flogging - from buying any diamonds from Kafir servants, yet cases are constantly coming to light, and the result is Judge Lynch and his officers - the diggers - go burn his tent and effects, and woe to the buyer if he is caught.
Sep 26th 1872. Writing a few weeks later about this wonderfull place, I have the pleasure of saying the roads are now being, worked down. The principle on which it is being carried out is, by erecting large timber platforms - two stories high - at each end of all the roads. On these platforms each claim has a right to fix a windlass & wire rope - which is fast at both ends. On this wire rope the buckets are run along by means of another small line & the windlass, up to the platform, then emptied, and returned back to the claim sliding down the wire rope. Two buckets are run at one time, and are connected by hooks to two small pulleys which run along the wire line, which is stationary.
It is now assuming the appearance of a large cobweb, it contains such a vast number of lines. In fact it is a large human cobweb, where many have been enveigled, hopes have been built, & dashed, health & lives sacrificed, domestic comforts sacrificed, and many privations undergone, in hope of realizing a fortune quickly.
The camp contains hundreds of tents, of every description, round, square, oblong, wood, canvas, galvanized iron etc etc. There are very many stores & canteens, several churches, a court house and gaol, three reading-rooms, music-hall, theatre etc etc. Competition has been so keen lately, that almost every branch of business is beginning to feel the effects, and many are clearing out, calling in the aid of "the highest bidder shall be the buyer".
Much drunkeness prevails in the camp, especially in the evenings, the consequences of which are quarrels, fights, & gaolbirds.
The opinions of most people here, as to the climate, are that it is a healthy place naturally, and that most of the sickness here is the result of intemperance, inconveniences of tent life, overworking themselves, or carelessness. A complaint which goes the rounds pretty freely here -particularly with newcomers - is Dysentry. The cause is attributed to various things, my own opinion is that it is the change of water. The variation of temperature is very great. In the middle of the day the heat is almost unbearable, and perhaps the same evening we require top coats & scarf. During the summertime it is very hot, and there is a plague of flies & fleas in the bargain. Fever prevails here mostly in the summertime, chiefly from colds, resulting from wet clothes etc. The summertime is the wet season here, and there are some fearfull thunderstorms. In the dry season - from March to September - it is colder, and more favourable to European constitutions. The nights & many days are very cold, which is felt bitterly in tents. Very little rain falls in the winter.
Present appearances of the diggings show that all the principle claims will be worked out - or at least to the water level - in twelve months. From this time there will be a gradually increasing exit from here, and in a few years what was once a small hillock will be a large hole for future generations to see, and wonder at.
Colesberg Kop Oct 10th 1872 WP