Showing posts with label History. Show all posts
Showing posts with label History. Show all posts

Wednesday, 22 March 2017

The Dam and Her Majesty's Apology

A page from the diary of The Dam 
The story of the character full house begins at the turn of the 19th century. Paul Michiel Bester was part of the Voortrekkers and he established the town Harrismith in the Eastern Free State in South Africa. The town was proclaimed and Paul became the first magistrate of the town. He then traded and became the owner of the farm called The Dam.

During the Anglo Boer War, Lord Roberts began a policy of farm-burning in the Orange Free State in June 1900. When Boeres were sighted within 20 miles from a Boer homestead, the occupants were given 10 minutes to evacuate their homes with a few belongings before the building were set alight by British forces. The animals destroyed and the homeowners sent to the nearest concentration camp.
Most of the burnings in the Free State were carried out by Colonel Mike Rimington's notorious Colonial Force, The Rimington Guides (Tigers).

Mary Bester (nee |Mandy) and her sister, who were English speaking, sere alone on the farm The Dam, as Mary's husband Paul Michiel, had been captured in September 1900 and were in Tin Town concentration camp in Ladysmith. When Rimington Tigers arrived Mary was asked, "Madam, have you seen any Boers around?" (which they pronounced BOARS, as in males pig). "Yes" she replied, "Down at the pig stay!"
They were give a little time to gather together a few belongs before the house was torched and Mary hid her silver teaspoons in a tin covered with rusks, as the Tigers were known to loot anything of value. As here sister was heavily pregnant Mary asked the soldiers to load a chair onto the wagon which was to take them into Harrismith, which they did. When Mike Rimington saw it, he hurled the chair off the wagon. The two sisters were allowed to travel on to friends in Natal where they spent the rest of the war. 
When the family returned to the farm after the war, the chair was still in the garden and was the only thing left of their home. 
After the war British government grudgingly voted 3 million pounds towards the restoration of the country. Most of this amount went towards toe restoration of the railways and mines. The Boers received very little of this money and there were usually string attached to their claims. 
The tongue in cheek name, Her Majesty's Apology was chosen although queen Victory had died before the war ended and scorched earth policy carried out by Kitchener and Roberts occurred during her reign. 

The Dam in days gone by. The Dam was one of the first Hotels in our area. 
Look at the beautiful broekie lace that surround the "stoep" 
The lady of the house and her girls are dressed up for the photo shoot. I wonder if they went into town. 
Mary Bester in the Dam Hotel taxi. The dominee objected to the name as he said it sounded like a swear word: "the damn hotel". 
The stable boy was pulled from the stables every so often, given a pair of white gloves and given the temporary job of watering at the tables.
Look at the hats of the little girls. Sure that they are ready to hit town in the Hotel vehicle.
In the photo is Paul Michiel Bester the first Magistrate of Harrismith 
with his wife and the youngest son. 
At the turn of the century, Paul Bester, was the original owner of the farm 
The Dam 
When you look out through the windows you can still hear the inhabitants carrying on with live on the farm Life was good at The Dam and the old photo's tell a wonderful story 

Dark days was to follow when the Second Boer War break out in 1899.
"Boer" was the common term for Afrikaans-speaking settlers in Southern Africa.
At the time Paul was interned in Ladysmith during the War.
he infamous Remington's Guides attacked his Free State Farm, turning out his family, and burning down the house.
The rocking chair standing in the corner was the only piece that survived the fire 
After the war, as an apology, the British Crown rebuilt the Homestead. 
The homestead was rebuilt as an apology from Queen Victoria 
It is this older wing of the house which has now been renovated for guests, hence the name "Her Majesty's Apology"

We visited Malcolm and Angie Bester in September 2015 on the farm. 
They are both artist and has put in a huge effort to promote the artist of the area. 
Malcolm and Angie on the 'stoep' of Her Majesty's Apology 
What can we say all beautiful 
Then there is the beautiful inside of the house.
The magnificent dining table and buffet was part of Angie's family treasures 
Lets take a stroll around the yard and what is happening out side 
The Dam now known as Her Majesty's Apology and some details 
The old vine that survived the test of time 
To soon it was time to say good bye.
Hennie and Malcolm having a last chat
Little would we know that Malcolm would pass after our visit
Rest in peace dear friend  
Till next time 

Thanks to Harrismith Chronicle for supplying some of the information 

Friday, 24 June 2016

Hamilton Bridge in Harrismith

During the Anglo Boer War British troops were deployed near Basuto Hill – the area known as Wilgepark.

To enable the soldiers encamped in that area to reach the town, a suspension bridge was built by the by the Royal Engineers for easy crossing of the Wilge river. 
The first suspension bridge over the Wilge River was erected in 1900 by the Royal Engineers. Designed for pedestrian traffic. The British soldiers would now have easy access into the town from the area near the Basuto Hill.

The structure was washed away in March 1904.  By then the regiments were gradually moving to barracks on King's Hill and complete repair of the bridge seemed unnecessary. The troops made a temporary foot bridge of planks resting on barrels.

Today, at the same spot, a more sturdy structure, called the Hamilton Bridge, names after Sir Hamilton Goold Adams, Governor of the then Orange River Colony, provides access to vehicular traffic from the town crossing the Wilge River.
It was open to traffic on 7 August 1907.
In 1910 with the extension of the President Brand Park toward the south the town council kept the tradition of a suspension bridge and the existing suspension bridge was then built.  

The urban area has increased over the past decades and today there are new developments in this area. But the old Hamilton will stand tall.
Thanks to Nico and Biebie for sharing their photo's
Till next time

Tuesday, 1 September 2015

The Castles of the veld


Blockhouses that look like fanciful little castles of the South African War in 1899-1902
They were all intended to keep the ever-mobile Boers from accessing British supply lines. 
On a road trip through South Africa you'll often come across these little castles, 
standing in a field or on the outskirts of a town or on a hill overlooking a highway. 
Life in a blockhouse generally consisted of a few British soldiers under a hot tin roof. 

More than 90% of their time was spent in boredom. 
The soldiers kept themselves busy with gardening and the cleaning of equipment. 
Then there was that 10% of white-hot action, when the Boers came visiting.
For the purposes of this blog post a 'masonry blockhouse' is a structure of mortared 
stonework or concrete, one to three storeys in height, with a roof of timber and 
corrugated iron, with rifle ports, windows and doors protected by loopholed 
steel plates and with or without steel machicouli galleries.
 A machicouli had a ‎Post-medieval use for through objects onto the enemy 

It took 30 Royal Engineers all of 30 days, on average, to cut the stone and
construct one at a cost of £900. 
Royal Engineers built a total of 441 masonry blockhouses through out South Africa during the War.   
We would like to introduce you to the Reservoir Blockhouse at Harrismith
The Reservoir Blockhouse exhibit a gabled roof, with vertical corrugated cladding on the gable ends and the roof is cut back over the machicouli galleries. There is loopholes on each side of the entrance at first floor level. The small monopitch roofs and vertical cladding covering the galleries on the Reservoir Blockhouse at Harrismith represent another original variant to the design.
The oldest photo we could find of the Reservoir Blockhouse after completion 
A photo taken during the War of the Blockhouse and its occupants.
They kept animals for companion and planted gardens 
You can see this soldier and his dog  
Today the blockhouse is a National Monument and it can be reached by foot in the 
Platberg Eco Reserve.  It is almost a 2 km walk  

A sign showing the way 
A steep route of up and down to the blockhouse 
A sign asking for respect 

The Gallery 

A little bench to sit an take-in all the detail 
Close-up of a rifle portholes
Some of the graffiti on the walls read
J Rickup 4 M. Riffles 
David Hunter Brisbane 
F W Difield 
C Clark 1037 
The roof construction

I hope that you have find something interesting in the history of South Africa  
Lots of Love 

Wednesday, 3 June 2015

An Old Country Hotel filled with history and interesting stories

Our town, Harrismith, is filled with history and interesting stories.
Part 1
As told by the hosts of De Oude Huize Yard 
The old photo's of the hotels from a bygone era always fascinated me.  In short in the late 1800’s Harrismith boost 11 hotels.  These hotels were: 
The  Spillsburg, Jones, Dodds, Donaldson, Chancey, Imperial Royal (previously the Railway), Devonshire  Central and the Caskie later the Commercial and currently the Grand National but in a new building,


The beautiful old National Hotel
In March of 1880, a mysterious robbery took place in The Caskie Hotel. 
A certain gentleman by the name of R.J. Barns of the firm, Barns and Mcfie, 
dealers in livestock, spent a night at the hotel on his way to Bethlehem. 
On arrival he placed a chest containing 5000 pounds in gold in the bedroom. 
The following morning the money had disappeared! 
A reward of 300 pounds and later 1000 pounds was posted but no 
information was ever forthcoming. Barns summoned Caskie to Court and 
demanded “damages” be paid. He lost his case. The thief was never found and the money was never recovered.

Harrismith’s news correspondent at the time, reported in the Natal Witness that, 
“This being a border town, we get more than our share of deserters, runaways and loafers.” 
The outcome of all of this was a petition to the “Volksraad” and a request for more policemen.
The Grand National is the last hotel that survived.
Originally built with 8 rooms upstairs  with only a basin in each room.
 Downstairs one would find the dining room, kitchen,
pub and reception area and the manager’s office.
In 1896 ZA Breweries took over ownership and the name was changed to the Commercial Hotel. 
The name would change again in the 1920’s to The National Hotel 
and again in the 1940’s to The Grand National Hotel. In 1961 the hotel was bought by John and Phyl Annandale.
A fire destroyed a section of the old hotel and it had to be rebuilt.  
It was then when modernization also had a huge effect on the old / new hotel.  

The "Grand" as it now looks 
"Big John" Annandale in the Assegaai pub and the photo was taken in 1962. 
The beautiful bar counter polished to a special shine. The pub was then known as the ladies bar. 
The Grand was bought by John and Phyl Annandale in 1961 bring about the first change of ownership 
since the hotel has been bought by the ZA Breweries in 1896. 
The hotel was built by mr Caskie in 1876 and the name was changed to the 
Commercial Hotel in 1896. 
Again the name was changed to the National Hotel in the 1920’s and in the 1940’s it was
changed to the Grand National Hotel. 
Mr. Annandale had hit a novel idea to raise money for charity. 
The walls of the bar are lined with tiles which were “sold” to customers whose name 
painted on the tiles by an artist. 
Every one that made a donation of R1 or more names was painted in gold on the face of one 
of the tiles which made an eye-catching recorded of a generous act. 
The funds were donated to the retirement home for those old people of Harrismith 
who need and perhaps, will need help, to live out their lives without too much suffering
and with all the comfort.
The cheque that was handed over was for the amount of R1010. 
The old room key and message holder
As history proved the Grand belonged to the ZA Breweries and beer was the main ingredient 
to fill lives with joy. According to legend the wagon with the beer barrels would park
in Warden Street and then the barrels were rolled into cellar situated underneath the 
pub via a shoot. 
This is the trap door through which the beer barrels were then hoisted into the pub. 

Was this be the old beer wagon 

The section marked was the old wagon and cart parking area.
In modern days this area was converted into a pub

Close-up of some of the trophies 

Trophies eared during dart competitions
The old wooden ice boxes 

Lots of blessing from South Africa 

Thanks to Biebie de Vos for his help with photo's and information

Wednesday, 21 August 2013

Treasure made with love by my Mum

Old chairs decorating the wall turned into something very special 

After the passing of our son, my mother at the age of 80, started to painstakingly work two tapestries.
"A Mother is the truest friend we have, when trials heavy and sudden falls upon us;
when adversity takes the place of prosperity;
when friends desert us;
when trouble tickens around us,
still will she cling to us,
and endeavor by her kind precepts and counsels to dissipate the clouds of darkness,
and cause peace to return to our hearts."

Washington Irving
The tapestry is waiting for an up-cycle
Needlepoint is the delicious art of filling in holes with wool. 
"Seating on a wall"
These two chairs were sitting on a wall to battered to us as seating.
I do like to keep mementos from my work, whether they be photos,
the backs of make-up chairs or even props and clothes. Add caption

They tell their own story 
We could use these for my mother's tapestries 

A touch here and there 

Measure . . . measure

 Love from South Africa 

Thank you for all the wonderful friends whom are sharing this story!!!