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 

Monday, 6 March 2017

The Ness of Elsa and Leon

It was after a great deal of anticipation that Hennie and I climbed into our car and headed via the R74 in the direction of Nesshurst, home to Leon and Elsa – special people who always make you feel at home and part of the family.

Our communication and negotiations had begun earlier with a careful enquiry regarding the state of the road. An encouraging response was received from the Nes –people.

“The road is as beautiful and smooth as Minki’s calf ……and the host and hostess are sitting and eagerly waiting for a visit from the Lord and his Lady!”

Our reply was
“Thank you so much to the people of Nesshurst.
Would it be convenient if this side of the mountain were to arrive and rest their weary feet on the 18th February? This is the day the Lord of the Manor will take his dear wife out on an excursion in the hope of a new blog post. We do hope that this date will be agreeable to all?”
At the robot, turn right, under the subway, around the single bridge –
straight into the mother of all road-works.
This is a huge project accommodating the anticipated supply from the
planned inland harbor at Tshiame to the N1.
 Three new river bridges, a bridge over the railway line and a bridge
over the N5 from Harrismith’s closest suburb –Wilgepark
are being built. Approximately 150m after the bridge, the detour
will start and the newly tarred road will twist and jive for about 2km.
After this, follow the road to, “Phutaditjaba” also known as, “Putonyourpyjamas” and hit the R74 past Sterkfontein dam."” In Leon’s own words, “As soon as you are able to see the choppy waters of Sterkfontein dam, you will know the turn off is close by."
At the left turn you will head towards the imposing Kerkenberg Mountain. 
We follow the Piper as he leads us onwards. 
We turn off without batting an eyelid as this is the only thing to do – otherwise we will find ourselves on the bad road from Bezuidenhouts’ Pass which is impassable. We most certainly do not want to head to Durban in a wreck of a car!
We passed Beef Masters

We drive over the dam wall, up and over a small hill and are surrounded by beautiful mountains.

Nesshurst horses and the road to the homestead. 
The chairs under the trees are the first sign that a lot of enjoyable hours are spent here visiting with friends and family.

This is how we spent many happy hours from late morning till early evening and what a memorable experience it proved to be!
Leon and Elsa also share a passion for the beauty of the past and have established a farm museum.
Remnants of a transport ox-wagon which has survived the ravages of time.
A large door is opened and this is what we see.
A Cape carriage “slap bang” in front of our very eyes!
Leon told us that he bought the carriage in his youth as he has always had a love for horses and the Wild West.
Beautiful details inside of the carriage and the hide of a Caracal which Leon tanned himself.
We talked about the early days and the wagon making industry of Paarl
The wagons were designed and produced specially for South African conditions.
The transport industry grew and diamonds were discovered
Diamond diggers arrived by ship and bought wagons with which they headed on into the interior.
The wagons had to be able to move fast as time was of the essence in the rush for discovering diamonds.
The transport industry flourished and “Wagon-makers” Valley and its people blossomed.
A “Breiklip” used in the tanning and processing of raw hides,
hangs from a beam along with some “osrieme” or leather strips.
Interesting tools used by farmers of the time
An interesting drill. 
Cream separators and milk cans.
A yoke and harness against the wall. 
Leon’s childhood clay oxen – a typical toy played with by children in the past.
Household items
Butter boards, pans and forms, irons, coffee grinder, butter churn and sausage maker. 
Medicine chest belonging to “Kosie” Leon’s father. 


The day sped by far too fast…..

Once again thank you so much to the Writer and his wonderful Queen for such a wonderfully special time.

We look so forward to the next book from Leon’s pen!

Till next time