of Cobi Allison-van Musschenbroek
been asked by several friends to jot down various little incidents
about things I experienced, many years ago when I first came to
sunny South Africa in 1882. My little grandchildren often ask
me about those experiences.
born in Deventer and still remember various little incidents that
happened while there. I was three years old when we left there to
go to Klein Hoenloo, a lovely home near Olst, quite near my Grandfather's
place, Groot Hoenloo.
years in Holland
I was 3 or 4 years old we had a very quaint old French governess
who taught my sister who was eight years old when I arrived on
this lovely old world of ours. She was rather strange looking
and I was always rather afraid of her. One night my parents were
going out for the evening and my cot was put in the governess
room for the night. I was sent to bed early could not go to sleep
as it all seemed s strange in the different room. It was a beautiful
summer evening and broad daylight. Then Mademoiselle came to bed.
I was still wide awake but she did not notice me. First she took
out one glass eye and put it in a tumbler with water, then her
teeth were taken out, after that her chignon was taken down and
hung up. She was very bald and I was very interested in the magic
performance and was sitting up in happy anticipation of arms.
legs getting unhooked. some of my dolls arms and leggs were detachable!
But!----Oh!---horror suddenly she looked around and saw me looking
at her and got very angry indeed and told me in French that I
was a very bad naughty girl. I wept copiously at the injustice
of it all as I did not think I had been naughty. I was really
a very timid girl and was more than happy when my brother knocked
at the door and took me to his room. I told my brother mademoiselle
was coming to pieces. This seemed to amuse him greatly.
we landed at Durban there were no facilities at all. We were carried
from a small boat by natives. My governess hadn't seen natives
before and was afraid of them, and kicked and screamed when a
native was carrying her.
He suddenly dropped her in the water. Fortunately the water was
not very cold or deep and there were tears of mirth from all who
saw it! Captain and Mrs Gilbert had an hotel where the marine
parade is now, sea sand right up to the building. We stayed there
for some days till we could get on with our journey up country.
The railway only went a short way in those days. We had a wagonette
and wagon with our luggage. We put a big tent every night to sleep
in and struck some very bad weather at Rarkloof and Curries' post.
My dad managed to buy a leg of mutton and we boiled it in a big
iron pot with rice in our tent I really think it's the nicest
meal I ever had. We were cold and very hungry and oh how good
it was! In those days it as easy to obtain mutton and rice and
what a problem it is in 1951.
came out on the Kinfauns castle, the last trip before she was
sold to Russia. In the Bay of Biscay we had very rough weather.
The cabin steps with copper hooks on the top end fell over and
struck my sister 's head and she had a nasty cut which had to
be stitched up. We were all worried that we would have to leave
the ship but luckily the storm calmed down and all was well. We
were not allowed to go ashore at Cape Town as they had small pox
there. We saw a stream of funerals going along and counted 17
oil one day.
On the strength of this we were not allowed to land in Durban
for some time, but the passengers did not seem to mind, as it
was all like a big. happy family. As I had a very charming sister
of 16. I was made quite a pet of by all the officers and others
and had quite a nice time. We had been transferred to the McCrose
at Cape Town
our way up we outspanned at Howick Falls. My governess and I walked
down to the river. I was greatly interested in watching a tall
Zulu man wearing very little beside a felt, lappie hat, a pair
of spectacles (only the rims).
He was doing a lovely sort of war dance on the rocks in the river,
singing and dancing. Suddenly my governess let out a little shriek,
she had only just spotted the native and hold me not to look that
way and marched me away. Quite disappointing it was to me as it
was really quite interesting to me watching him cutting capers
and he was really quite respectfully clad
In later years we often went to see natives dancing in their head
clothes and specially at the chiefs kraal it was a most imposing
sight. all divided up into different classes, the old men's headgear
made with Sagabula (widow birds) feathers, other with monkey skin
strips and angora skill loin dress and lots of assegais and shrieks
in evidence. They have a great sense of rhythm and when their
feet all stamped to time it was fairly shaking the earth or felt
came out with my parents from Holland when I was eight years old.
My father bought a farm at Groot Geluk, Oliviershoek, Upper Tugela,
not very far from the beautiful Tugela falls. We lived there till
I was 20. There was no house of any kind so we decided to live
in a huge beautiful cave till such time that a house could he
built. I was really one of nature's beauty spots. a lovely waterfall
30 feet high at one end and wild trees and ferns and wild begonia
everywhere. It also seemed to be the happy home of many snakes,
scorpions, and other enormous spiders etc., but we really loved
this cave. It was so very different to the lovely homes in Holland
and quite a novelty of course.
in the cave
We spoke only in High Dutch and French at home and it was rather
difficult to have regular lessons with my dear old governess we
had brought out from England as she only spoke English and a little
French.The distractions were numerous as natives picked on me
to help my dad understand them, and I very soon became more interested
in learning Zulu than arithmetic.
were ever so happy! I broke my own horses and where ever my father
went I went with him as I did the Zulu interpreting for him. Luckily.
I had been able to pick it up very quickly as none of the natives
spoke any language I happened to know such as French, and High
Dutch. I was very keen on hearing fairy tales in Zulu and it certainly
proved very useful to me then and ever since, certainly more so
evening when we first lived in the cave, a terrible storm raged,
and the waterfall got wider every minute and the entrance to the
cave was a roaring stream in a very short while. Things began
to float on the rising water. Our kettle, frying pan etc. were
quickly gathered and put higher up, but my parents began to be
rather troubled as to how we were all to spend the night. I was
very proud and pleased that day to show them a goats' path to
get out at one end and up to the top of the hill and round about
to a hut that had been built as a make shift for some of us to
sleep in. How marvelous for me a little very shy girl from Holland
to find myself taking part in what to me at the time seemed quite
an exciting adventure! It was certainly a very rough and rocky
path we had to clamber up, steep rocks hut --! We got out
old cave is right out of the beaten track and rather out of sight
till you get quite near as it is hidden by the natural bend of
the mountain and very few people have ever seen or heard of it.
How all children love any adventure! On the 8th May 1880. I had
asked leave of my parents to go and gather lilies of the valley
as it was my brother's birthday. Off I went very early. On the
way I saw that a farm house was un in flames, the poor peasants
frantically trying to take everything they possibly could. The
horses were making a dreadful noise. pigs squealing and running
back to their pens. I ran home to call my father and brother to
come and help and begged to be allowed to go with them. It was
all very exciting and fortunately no lives were lost.
day I was climbing about in the rocks above our old cave gathering
wild red begonia stalks as I wanted to try and make jam with it.
The soil gave way on the narrow ledge under my feet and the shrub
I grabbed hold of felt as if it was also coming away. I managed
to claw on somehow and realise how fortunate I was not to fall
about 30 feet down. I made a little jam. It was very nice. but
I had enough sense never to be so adventure some again. I've never
seen begonia grow like that at any other spot. It seems a great
pity that now only natives live on our beautiful farm as it is
all native territory now.
day when Miss Graham took me for our usual constitutional, walking
on behind the others along a narrow footpath made by natives,
it was a most beautiful bright hot day, but as usual Miss Graham
took her brown silk umbrella fearing a sudden shower or something.
Anyway it was a most useful weapon as I spotted a puff-adder in
the path basking in the sun and I borrowed the lovely umbrella
to kill the snake. When I had finished whacking the snake this
poor umbrella looked a pathetic relic of what Whitebys in London
had produced. I carted the snake home in triumph to show my parents
as my first trophy in that line. From that day I was most popular
when a snake had to be killed, as my sister could not face them
and I was not a bit afraid. Luckily, as there were a great many
about in those days, as that particular spot had been uninhabited
for years. in fact no one had ever lived there before although
it was used by natives to put their cattle in during the Langabalela
war. We were told it could take four hundred at a time.
a lovely big house was built on a different part of the farm.
Although it was nice to live in a decent house once more, I always
had a regret for our lovely real wild cave and have wondered why
the house was not built near that beauty spot with its lovely
waterfall, wild flowers, masses of maidenhair fern, and flowering
had many little adventures as the years rolled on. Once my father
, my brother-in -law~ my governess and I were returning from our
nearest town and shopping center. Ladiesmith. It was 52 miles
from our house. We usually rode there and back, but this time
we were in an old-fashioned 4 wheeled spider, drawn by two horses.
We were in a hurry to get home as a 3 day rain had started, and
there were no bridges in those happy days. So we were crossing
the Panduvani spruit rather late in the day. I don't know quite
what happened but the spruit was coming down in spate. We just
managed to get out of the spider in time. They saved the horses
hut it was the sad end of the old spider and all our suitcases.
We walked a few miles feeling like the proverbial drowned rats,
and surely looking like them, till we reached the farm of some
people we knew. That night still remains a bad dream as they were
very short of any sort of accommodation. I being a lanky girl
had to go in a room with all the children of the house, numbers
of them, and it was a great struggle trying to hide my arms and
legs with only an angora goat skin to cover myself. I was painfully
shy and would gladly have kept my wet clothes on but the wise
old people did not allow that. Very wise of them too!
few years later I had a similar experience at the same house.
I had been there helping the lady of the house as it was holiday
times. It started raining one night. I was feeling terribly home
sick. I was sharing a room with the enormous governess teaching
there. I couldn't sleep and heard the rain pattering down steadily.
I had horrible visions of the Tugela river becoming impassable
soon. This would mean that it would he impossible for me to return
to my beloved home. as this river was between this farm and my
So I quickly got up, left a little note saying I'd gone home,
on the pin-cushion, and ran as fast as I could on way home. It
had stopped raining. There was a little moonlight. I took of my
boots and hopped merrily from one rock to the next in the river,
which was still quite low fortunately, but I dropped my boots
in the river and couldn't get them again, and had to run over
burnt grass for a long way taking a short cut home that night
I assure you it was a painful procedure! But the delight of getting
home made up for it. I made my dad promise never to send me to
that place again. He was rather worried at my having come about
3 miles at least by myself but gave me a wonderful welcome. I
think he had been missing me a lot too.
could tell you a lot about that farm and the wonderful plucky
mother of all those children. She was truly one of the heroines
of the old pioneer days, putting up with much poverty and many
trials, always patient, cheery. with a great sense of humor. One
night I was there as the man of the house was absent from home,
but he returned very much the worse for drink. We all ran out
of the house and hid behind a kraal wall where a lot of datura
It was quite an undertaking getting at least ten children out
of the house quickly as the tipsy man was firing off shots at
anything he fancied .At dawn we all crossed the Tugela. I returned
home, the others went to relatives not intending to go back to
their own homes. I never went to stay there after that last experience.
people about 3 miles from my home kept race horses, or rather
bred them. They had a beautiful imported stallion called Curate.
One night I was riding. a very restive little mare called Nellie
and was returning home in the moonlight when I suddenly heard
a thundering noise behind me and my horse was off like the wind.
She knew this horse Curate and was terrified when she heard him.
A great friend of ours was near me as he wanted to shoot a wild
cat at our home that was eating our poultry. He actually wanted
to shoot the stallion but his horse was old and very slow and
he couldn't catch up luckily, and was also afraid of shooting
me. I believe my father and a young Hollander were a good way
behind and had a terrible fright not knowing what would happen.
The stallion was gaining on me and was very close when he suddenly
heard the other horses galloping in the distance and suddenly
turned around and galloped back to his troop of mares. All the
excitement was over. I looked round once and that stallion looked
rather awful! For quite a long time after this I often had dreams
about it all. A poor Hottentot on the other side of the berg from
where we lived was rounding up some mares one day just about 2
weeks later and the stallion attacked, killed him, pulling him
off his horse and trampling him to death. So we considered I had
a very lucky escape. Fortunately, I was quite at home on horse
hack. and could stick on as it was the fastest ride I ever had.
I was fourteen years old at the time. We had been riding a long
way putting our sheep over the Tugela to send them to the Free
State for a few months to a different farm. This was done every
year. On our way home we had stayed at the Allison's farm for
supper. The stallion was their property.
after my dad was out one day burning the veld, something that
was considered essential in those days to get rid of ticks on
the grass etc., Well he was a good distance from home when he
suddenly was attacked by a very angry ostrich cock. It nearly
killed him. breaking his nose and rolling about on him. He came
many hours later than we expected him, making a dreadful sight.
the black grass ashes, and blood over his very pale face. He had
eventually managed to get away from the ostrich. I believe it
was hatching not very far away.
ostriches had been missing for some time. Talking about ostriches
has just reminded me of another little incident. I was out riding
one day with my governess. She had a silver locket she was wearing
and lost it, but I saw an ostrich pick it up and swallow it I
told them at home and was very annoyed when my brother-in -law
said I must have dreamt this, so much so that I went to the enclosure
where the ostriches were shut in every night and actually found
the locket having passed through the ostrich! My governess was
very pleased to get it back as it was of sentimental value having
been sent from India by her brother. She actually left it to me
in her will and I have it here now.
those days there was no railway beyond Ladiesmith so everything
had to be transported to the Transvaal by ox wagons. one year
as he was going for a transport riding trip, we persuaded my father
to let us go along just for fun. We had a few tent wagons, a wagonette
which was nicely fitted up for my mother to travel and sleep in.
We went to Johannesburg first to off-load all the transport goods,
then on for a hunting trip which was most interesting. Our experiences
were numerous and varied.
return to our bushveld trip, we went nearly as far as the Limpopo
river. I really had a wonderful time. We struck some very beautiful
spots with lovely trees and wild flowers near clear pools. The
country up that way often made us think of a beautiful wild park,
patches of large trees, shrubs, green grass in between where we
often saw wild buck. guinea fowl etc. and lovely brightly colored
birds, lots of monkeys, wonderful shades of color on the mountains.
We made huge bonfires at night and sat around often hearing wild
animals in the distance, and many eyes of things peering out of
the hushes and wild undergrowth near by. Of course we did not
know to what sort of animal the eyes belonged. A man had a shot
at some eyes one night thinking it was a lion, perhaps, but found
he had shot a poor old donkey belonging to an oldish German woman
who was trekking about with her children. Of course she was very
angry and upset and made Beiset pay six pounds for the donkey
which was only really worth ten shillings! The poor man was terribly
teased and laughed at afterwards.
Jeppe high is now was all veld and we outspanned there. Just a
lot of house roofs and not a single tree, at that time. We brought
loads of poles from the bushveld for the Langlaagte gold mine
and they warned us that eight murders had been committed in the
last few months. So we
put mothers wagonette in the middle of the transport wagons, eight
of them. My governess and I always shared a tent wagon and the
drivers were told to keep guard all night. We lost our pet bush-baby
that night and never saw it again.
had great fun in the bushveld, catching blue monkeys alive and
taming them. One night a wild monkey actually came to our camp
and released a monkey that was tied up. We could see the foot
prints from and to the koppie it had come from. We were very intrigued
by one very sweet little monkey. It always wanted to help my mother
when she played bridge or whist as we called it in those days,
and would pull a card and throw it neatly on the table and then
retreat under my mother's long cape.
we visited the dear old spots of many sweet and varied memories,
last Feb (1950). I found my father's grave in a mealie land, all
the buildings and trees were gone but the natives living there
were very friendly when I explained who I was and treated us to
some of their beer. They brought it in a very clean calabash.
and made such very nice speeches. My eldest daughter, Lita. and
her two children were there and my son, Syd and three very dear
relations from Holland out on a visit. One very old woman told
us we must never think they would not respect our graves, especially
now we had been there, and knelt down and prayed.
can see that lovely forest now with light and shade and hundreds
of lilies of the valley, in between lovely moss and growth. It
really seemed like a fairyland to my childish imagination.
the old farm house the peasants had a loaded shot gun hanging
above the door. It was thought it would go off with a bang but
someone managed to get it down before anything happened. The farmers
wife had a baby of 9 days old and sent her maid into the burning
house many times to rescue certain odds and ends and the poor
girl nearly lost her life when a burning beam fell on her. Fortunately
she was not seriously injured. I was thrilled at her courage and
got a lovely bunch of flowers from our old garden to send to her
during her illness, quite my heroine for a long time. She was
really pretty as well as being brave!
was married in 1896. We lived happily farming at Klipriver till
the war broke out. My husband and his four brothers joined up
in intelligence department, as they knew the country very well
from hunting days in Natal. My husband and his brother were captured
at Nickholson's neck near Ladiesmith, at the beginning of the
siege and all the rest of us were in the siege until it was relieved.
This was from October till February. My husband and his brother
were in cell number 16 in Pretoria, first there with Winston Churchill,
and after that at Waterval camp and had very bad times. My husband's
one brother, married to my sister, was dangerously wounded, but
thanks to Gunner Buller, was taken to the Welsh hospital in Pretoria
and eventually recovered.
youngest of the five Allison brothers was shot not far from Standerton,
where he is buried. His death was a great blow to us all as he
was very popular with everyone who knew him. A rather strange
coincidence is that he was called Martinus Stuart, after his uncle
who was killed on Majuba hill, with Major Colley, and he was with
Major Colville, when killed. Gunner Buller made special mention
of the Lockstrus and Allison brothers in a speech he made in Pietermaritzburg,
saying they had done such wonderful work for their queen and country.
Three of the Allisons volunteered to go with Major Henderson to
deplete the Long Tom gun on Bulwane hill. One of the Allison's
still has the rod of the Long Tom, I believe. Photos of some of
the men were taken and published in some of the books at the time.
Several of the Imperial guides have photos of the men.
On Christmas morning, my mother and I got a shell underneath the
bay window of the room we were sleeping in. Of course, fortunately
for us it did not explode. This house had been occupied by Sir
George White and staff, at one time, and was not considered safe
for him and was offered to us and was certainly much nicer than
living in holes in river banks like we were doing.
of the mapping engineers under Major Grant were in one half of
There was a beautiful orchard in this part of town with lovely
fruit on the trees. The owner had left a very honest caretaker
in charge, a clergyman, actually. We tried in vain to persuade
him to either sell or give away the fruit---lovely apples, but
he would not budge as he had not been told by the owner to do
so. We needed any sort of food badly and one Evening one of the
Allisons came and asked me to help him help ourselves to apples.
He had a pair of riding trousers that had been laundered, and
of course I went along to help him, and tied up the legs of the
trousers and held them up for the apples to be thrown in. Never
have I tasted nicer apples.
gave all our friends a treat! Next day, as I was passing a house
adjoining the orchard, an old lady volunteered that some bad soldiers
had been stealing some of Mrs A's apples the night before and
she said you should have heard the dreadful language they used.
I humbly asked if she was quite sure they were Tommies, as if
I had been stealing apples, I would have kept very quiet!
Christmas morning I went down the street to try and get a little
water to drink from the house where the war correspondents lived.
I knocked at the door which was half open but didn't get any reply.
Then I heard someone groaning and went in and found one of the
correspondents lying in a bed literally covered in flies. He was
very ill and alone, so I ran back to where we were staying and
got my mosquito netting down quickly and took it over and put
it up over the poor, very ill man and did all I could, which was
very little, to make him comfortable. He died a few days later.
old faithful Zulu boy, Manyegula, alias Dick, would not leave
me though I told him he should go. He slept in a loft above the
stables where we stayed. One night a piece of shell came through
the roof amongst the sleeping natives. I asked him if no-one was
hurt and if he had had a bad shock. He was quite indignant, and
said, "no, I am not afraid of being killed, but, that boy,
Paraffin, put my trousers on and I wanted to kill him! "
This good old boy was with us for about two years and eventually
was killed while away on holiday at Bambata's rebellion in Natal.
Formerly he had been a Durban police boy. He simply adored our
I have found that natives are always nice to children, both white
and black, and always seem to take an interest in their sayings
after the relief of Ladiesmith, I was in a riskshaw in Durban,
and noticed that the young native looked a bit queer, eyes red.
Well as we got near West street, I saw a horse-drawn team coming
along and realised that we were bound to crash at the cross road.
I shouted to the native to stop but he took no notice at all and
as I feared the horses struck the rickshaw badly. The lady with
me was carried to a chemist shop, almost fainting. I had jumped
clear and was all right, but a policeman came up to me and tapped
me on the shoulder and asked me for my name and address. As soon
as I said "Mrs A.A. Allison", he beamed at me and said
"Gosh, I was in jail with your husband in Pretoria. Great
surprise from all the people looking on from the train. I laughed
and said "were you a prisoner of war too?"
never heard anything more about the little mishap-but the policeman
informed me that my husband was a "grand chap".
I did not see my husband for more than a year. How delightful
it was to him safely back at last. But not for long as the war
wasn't over. Eventually dad was the superintendent of the Heidelburg
concentration camp and did all he could to make the people as
happy and as comfortable as possible. We had Dr R. G. Ralston
there as doctor and Miss Henriette French as our relief matron,
doing all in her power to help all the people in the camp, to
help the poorer class women how to treat their children, not to
boil tea,-now it really makes me angry when I hear untrue tales
as to how the English treated them etc. No one was allowed to
go into the camp with out a permit. This was to protect the women
from any unpleasant callers. There was a barbed wire fence around
the camp and the tents were in nice straight lines, and dustbins
at regular spaces. My husband appointed two Afrikaans men as policemen
to see that things were right and nice. Imagine our surprise one
day, when from my husband's office, I saw the two policemen bringing
one of our generals along!, as he had walked in with out a permit
and said he thought General should appreciate the discipline in
the camp. So the stout old chap said, 'well, Allison, don't let
it happen again. I'm afraid Major Landase, my husband's assistant
and I who saw all the doings from my husband's office, found it
quite hard not to laugh! It was all so funny.
a train full of women, and children passed through Heidelburg
at any hour of the day or night, my husband always saw to it that
they had a good meal. I myself have baked dozens of loaves of
bread in my private house and stored them to keep in case of short
supply from local bakers. Many a night I have helped to nurse
people who were ill. In one instance, sister Gamble came to call
me in the night as a patient with enteric was suddenly worse.
discovered a thick piece of bread under her pillow. Her mother
had been to see this young woman and smuggled this bread in, and
it caused perforation of the bowl and she died. Until, we eventually
got a house on the outskirts of town, my husband and I lived in
a tent in the camp, so we knew very well what was going on. I
did all I could to help the matrons and staff. When we were living
in a house eventually one day, an old Afrikaans man came begging
to my house telling me how badly they were treated. One shilling
for a small bottle of medicine, sixpence for a tiny bit of candle
etc. I got his name, Piet Botha, and then told him who I was and
that I was going to report him to my husband as they got everything
free of charge. This poor old thing went down on his knees to
me saying, 'Genade mijn live Mev! Is het toe maar gespel!' etc.
Irony of fate, he was struck dead by lightening that night. One
of these stories told now in 1953, is that broken glass was found
in the sealed up can of corned beef given to them. I pointed out
to one lady telling me this, that surely as this meat was tinned
in the Argentine, they couldn't possibly have done this, not knowing
who was going to get it. It's really incredible the things people
will make up and expect others to believe.
rather interesting little thing is that during floods in Holland,
my father did some very good work and was presented with a large
silver medal by the king of Holland, this in the period 1870,
with his name on it, J. G. P. H. von Musschenbrook. Well after
my father's death, mother had this medal but lost it during the
war, with everything else we had. She lived with us.
friend of ours, Major Howes was walking along a street at Germiston,
some years later and saw a small Dutch child hammering on a tin
with a thing he thought was a five shilling piece. He asked the
youngster to let him see it and it was actually my dad's medal.
Knowing my brother, as they worked in the same office, he bought
it from the child and took it to my brother. I have it here now.
Von Musschenbrook is an unusual name so there is no doubt about
it. We are rather proud of the fact that Prof Piet von Musschenbrook
of Leiden jor fame was a closely related forefather of ours. The
is a slight mistake about him in Encyclopaedia Britannia as they
say "presumably a monk". There have never been monks
or Catholics in my family as it happens.
the siege of Ladiesmith, we went down to Durban, very short of
cash. I managed to rent a house and got a few nice people to share
it to help pay expenses as I couldn't draw a penny of my husband's
pay while he was away, prisoner of war etc. Well my mother, sister
and two friends clubbed together and bought 5 sweep tickets in
a big sweep on the English derby, £1.00 each! Quite a fortune
to waste just at that time but we were determined to try our luck.
One fine early morning I bought a special little newspaper and
imagine my surprise and delight to find we had drawn first prize,
a very large amount of money. I held all the tickets and phoned
my father-in -law to come and see me as soon as possible. He came
and we could hardly believe our wonderful luck. It was over £50,000
to divide between us. Well my father-in-law was told it was all
a mistake as the horse had been put out on something! We didn't
get a penny! I was told afterward that we had been done down,
swindled out of it and that if we had offered the man a few thousand
pounds he would have fixed it. The lady who had a share in it
was so upset when I told her the sad news on my return, that she
flung herself on the ground and screamed and kicked like a naughty
child! She had a lot of red hair and a full moon face and looked
so very comical, that I laughed. She glanced at me and said "girl
can you laugh". It was really very disappointing. I was making
little tobacco bags at one shilling sewing late in the evenings
to help to make a little money. Luckily, I had managed to save
my precious sewing machine, which I kept off a Christmas tree
in 1895 in Holland from my brother and still have.
and her family stayed with my parents as her husband was away a
great deal looking after transport wagons going from Natal to Transvaal,
as there was no railway in those days. On my 16th birthday my dear
little niece, Grace, fell off a high wall into part of an unfinished
shed intended for calves, which had a huge pig and her babies in.
It had been raining very heavily and there was a dreadful lot of
mud in the place as there was no roof on this building yet. This
little child was being looked after by a native nurse. What made
this creature put this child on to the wall to look at the sow,
I can't imagine. Anyway, I heard yells and shrieks and had to scramble
up this wall somehow and tale a dive into the slush below to save
the dear little kid from the angry pig. I can't describe what I
must have looked like when I managed to get out of this filthy place.
I first walked into a nearby dam, boots and all to try and get rid
of the mud. Great regrets that I had a pretty new white dress on,
given to me for my birthday. From that day, Grace was called Humpty
Dumpty. She wasn't any the worse for the fright or nasty experience.
This will amuse my little grand children.
on our farm, Groot Geluk, Upper Tugela, Natal. Cont.
I was just 16 years old, I lost my Dad suddenly, a terrible blow,
as we were wonderful pals and where ever he went, I went with
him. Our nearest village was Ladiesmith, 59 miles from where we
lived at Upper Tugela, Oliviers Hock. The years after he died,
I helped my mother to run the farm, as I was the only one left
Mother decided to let our farm for winter grazing to some Dutch
sheep farmers. She had gone into partnership with my brother and
brother-in-law ion hiring 500 acre of lovely soil at Burlaagte
in the Transvaal. They planted the whole field with oats, it was
said to be a marvellous crop and just ready to reap. As there
was no railway up to the Transvaal at the time, any sort of feed
for race horses was a fablulous price and we left with scotch
wagons, reapers, binders etc, full of glee to go and reap this
wonderful crop which was worth a considerable amount of money,
which was badly needed.
Well, we trekked up as far as Ladiesmith and found a wire saying"
18 mile long swarm of locusts proceeding this way." A few
hours later there was another wire saying" everything eaten,
bare as barn floor." My brother and sister's husband were
very down and dejected but mother was a splendid example to the
others. She just said, "it's no use crying over spilt milk
or eaten forage, lets store the machinery, reapers etc, and get
loads of transport for Johannesburg." We did this, and as
we couldn't return to the farm as it was let for some months,
we went on to the bushveld to cut poles for the mines. We delivered
there usually at the Langlaagte mine, after quite an interesting
time in the bushveld. I, having my own horse was able to go out
hunting with my brothers, company and there got to know my husband
so very well, and eventually became engaged to be married to him.
the war we lived in the Heidelburg burgers camp for a time as
my husband was superintendent there. We lived near Standerton
for a while before we eventually came here. My husband was working
for someone and away most of the time, just coming home weekends.
We had 4 children and a dear little Irish governess, who stuck
by us whatever happened. We were very badly off having lost everything
we had during the war. Her father came from Ireland to spend holidays
here, it was he who wanted us o call this farm "Tegwan's
Nest", as I had mentioned a certain drawer in my husband's
desk as our "Tegwan's nest", where all odd bits of things
such as nails, buckles, straps etc. were kept. The birds, Tegwans
or Hamerkop' s the Dutch call them, have a habit of collecting
all sorts of odds and ends in their nests. So that is how we decided
on the name. A Tegwan is a native name and they have various little
superstitions about these birds. If one sits on a hut it's a warning
that it might be struck by lightening, or be burnt somehow. And
flying over in a certain way means an engagement soon.
we first came to Tegwan's nest, it was just a piece of very neglected
ground, not even a fence around the farm and fields for crops
very rough and uncultivated, a rather miserable little house in
the hollow, not a garden of any sort, a couple of willow stumps
being the only attempt that had been made at tree planting. My
husband got going straight away at enclosing the farm, which is
1000 acres. He also started building a dam very soon. In the meantime,
we had rented this farm from a Mr van Rensburg, who poor man,
broke his neck playing polo. We had an option of purchase. Imagine
our delight when, after we had been here about 2 years, my eldest
brother Sam bought this farm and made me a birthday present of
it. But he made one stipulation, that we build a decent house
on it, and he gave me £1000 towards doing this. It has been
a great joy gradually improving this place, and planting many
various kinds of trees here.
we lost many young trees by spring hare biting the bark off and
later want of rain, killed many lovely trees, also fruit trees.
There was only a sign-post where Teakworth station is now. We
had to get our post from Greylingstad. I drove there about twice
weekly to fetch it. Roads were very rough in those days. In wet
weather it was quite an undertaking in the buggy with just one
dear old horse. We could stop the train at Teakworth if we wanted
to board it, but especially at night, it was rather awkward. There
was no shelter for years and if it was raining, it wasn't very
My Irish governess, Violet Boyd, was a great sport, and eventually
married a great friend of ours, Arthur Cecil Corfe. Much to my
regret, I don't know where they are now, as I would very much
like to write to them. I don't suppose they have any idea we are
still in the same spot, so very different now with our home on
the hill-side and lovely trees and garden full of roses. Many
people love this farm. We have a nice little station now and a
post office and phones! The air here is really lovely, many people
comment on it. It's just home sweet home of course to our six
children all married and far away now but they come whenever they
can and my youngest daughter, Heather and her husband live here.
We're a very happy family! I have 12 charming grandchildren. My
great regret is that I don't see more of them, just one darling
little grandson here and he will be going to boarding school one
of these days. We'll miss him dreadfully, but these things have
to happen, one can't wish them otherwise.
There are still a few round peculiar little huts on the hill from
Mazilikatzi's days. There is a doubt whether they were used to
sleep in or just to store meat in away from wild animals, lions
etc. We were told a lion was killed here not many years before
we came. At one time this valley was teaming with game, elephants,
etc., it's hard to believe now as where there once was a swamp
with tall reeds rowing the is only ordinary grass now. Hence the
It shows how greatly the seasons and country have changed in these