Battle of Isandlwana: 140th anniversary

Today is the 140th anniversary of the Battle of Isandlwana, which marked the beginning of the Anglo-Zulu War of 1879, when British/Natal troops invaded Zululand.

It was a significant day for our family history too, as one of those on the Briitish/Natal side was my great grandfather Richard Wyatt Vause, and if he had been killed on that day, I would not have been here to write this. At the end of this post I’ve included an extract from his diary, describing his part in the battle.

Forty years ago it was the centenary of the battle, and as we were living in Melmoth, Zululand, at the time, we drove to Isandlwana, to the scene of the battle, I’ve included some extracts from my diary for the day as well. At that time I was Director of Training for Ministries in the Anglican Diocese of Zululand, and worked closely with Canon Peter Biyela, whose grandfather had also fought in the battle, on the other side. We sometimes wondered what our ancestors would have thought of our working together a century later.

For more about the background to the Anglo-Zulu War in general, see Imperialism and the Archbishop, and for more on the battle itself see Zulu Rising (book review).

Extract from Diary of Stephen Hayes

22-Jan-1979, Monday

Abstract

Centenary of the Battle of Isandlwana. Visit the battlefield. Jack and Peggy Stokes come to stay.

It was the centenary of the battle of Isandlwana, so we went up to visit the battlefield. It was a beautiful day, not too hot, with quite a lot of cloud, but the sun still shining brightly, and a clear view.

At Babanango we drove up to the top of the hill. There is a microwave relay station up there, and so the Post Office had provided a track by means of which we could drive right to the top, and there was a magnificent view in all directions. We took some photographs from up there, and one could just see Isandlwana in the distance to the north-west, sticking up in the middle of a valley.

View from Babanango microwave tower

We drove on and came to Isandlwana about 10:45, almost the time the battle had started. There was quite a number of cars there, and the relief model of the battlefield was open, and we took some photographs of it, and I had the diary of my great grandfather Richard Wyatt Vause, which we referred to to try to picture the battle as it had happened.

Isandlwana mountain, with cairns marking places where bodies were buried after the battle.

Down below at the cars someone was tootling on a bugle, and then some men got dressed in red uniforms — obviously costumes used for the extras in the filming of Zulu Dawn. They formed up in a ragged and somewhat sloppy column and marched over to the battlefield, to where the biggest group of graves was, and we strolled over to see what was going on, and they laid a wreath by one of the monuments. It was rather fun to see them marching about, giving some idea of what the troops must have looked like, though the British soldiers of the 24th Regiment must have been turning in their graves beneath the cairns of whitewashed stones at the sloppy drill and incomplete outfits they were wearing.

Bridget Hayes looking at the battle site

Last night we had read Donald Morris’s account of the battle in his book The washing of the spears, and it was strange to think that this was the scene of such violence a hundred years ago, and that one incident at the place, lasting a few hours, could cause it to be remembered for that incident so long afterwards. Bridget and Simon played around the monuments, too young to have any idea of what happened here, and that if their great great grandfather had not escaped, they would not even exist now.

Back at the model we once again tried to trace what had happened, and Mr Hyde, of the National Monuments Commission, pointed out Shepstone’s grave, and that gave a better idea of where Wyatt Vause and his men had fought. There was a visitors book there, and we signed it, and looked at the comments some other people had made — the triumphant ones in Zulu — “Izwe lethu” (the land is ours), “Amandla ngawethu” (power to us) and so on. The English ones: “tragic” to the banal “fantastic”. One of the most interesting was something to the effect that the world would be better without the politicians and soldiers. And looking at it 100 years later it all seems futile. None of the local people really wanted this war — neither the Zulus nor the Natalians. It was conceived by Lord Carnarvon, thousands of miles away, to suit the purposes of the British government, and not the local people at all. Yet even that judgment is conditioned by time and place, reflecting present-day views, with the advantage of hindsight.

Carnarvon’s scheme of federation misfired, it was “premature” as the history books say. Unity had to wait until 1910, when the time was ripe. But the time was not ripe then either, because the Nats are busy dismantling the Union of South Africa. Perhaps if Natal had gone its own way at the time of the republic in 1961, it would have been a better place. After the lessons of Nat rule had been learned and before the very idea of freedom had been obliterated, as it is now, certainly among the whites.

Some people dressed in felftover costumes from the film “Zulu Dawn”, playing the Last Post.

It is also interesting that the whites are more interested in Isandlwana, and the Zulus in Ulundi. Defeats seem to be more commemorated than victories, through the Afrikaners like to commemorate both, as with Blood River. It is interesting to read what happened, but what was not said would be more interesting — how many people really thought that the invasion of Zululand was justified?

Simon Hayes at Isandlwana

A little way away in the church, St Vincent’s, also named because the battle had taken place on St Vincent’s Day, the events have a lasting effect on the place. But now St Vincent had been dropped from the calendar anyway — who was he and what did he do? Deacon and martyr, it is said.[1]

We went to see the sisters at the convent,[2] and talked to Sister Claudia and Sister Nesta. A little later Sister Christian (the Provincial, from Lesotho) and Sister Veronica Mary came in. They were going to be discussing whether they should open a new house at Etalaneni or at KwaMagwaza, and I put in a plea for KwaMagwaza, as the hospital really needs the presence of prayer. We also discussed some of the things to do with the TEE College.

We returned home on the other road, turning off at Babanango and going through Fort Louis and Owen’s Cutting. Went we got home Jack and Peggy Stokes were there, and had parked their caravan in our yard.

Peggy Stokes

Peggy is a third cousin once removed of Val, being the great granddaughter of Henry Green, whose brother Frederick Thomas was Val’s great great grandfather. We had discovered them when a Mrs Collier of Colesberg had given me their address at Kariba, Rhodesia. They had lived at Kariba for 20 years, running tourist cruises on the lake, and had then sold their boat and were now retired. Due to exchange control regulations they had not got too much money available, but in summer they tour Southern Africa, looking for family history. They had recently visited Hal Green, a grandson of Henry, in Swaziland, and had taken notes of various things he had, and had then gone to their daughter, Jean Ingle, in Umhlanga Rocks and had now come to us to compare notes on the Green family.

Extract from Diary of Richard Wyatt Vause during the Anglo-Zulu War.

22 Jan 1879

At break of day we all turned out and stood under arms for an hour as we thought that if the Zulus did attack they would choose that hour for it. As soon as it was quite light we took our men out for footdrill as we expected stiff work for our horses and wished to save them as much as possible. On returning to camp we found that a dispatch has been received from the General ordering us to join the column at Isandlwana as he was about to attack the stronghold of a chief called Matyana and he required all the mounted men available.

Col. Durnford had just started with 50 of the Edendale men to see if he could procure wagons from the farmers living along the frontier. We at once sent a messenger after him and set to work with a will to strike tents and get everything ready to move on his return. All were in high spirits at the thought of a fight at last and we little thought what a terrible and miserable ending that day would have.

About 7.30 all was ready and the order to march was given. We had a smart ride of about 12 miles, arriving at Isandlwana between 10 and 11 am. After riding through the camp we halted a few minutes to give the men their biscuits. Col. Durnford sent for me and ordered me to ride back and meet our wagons as the Zulus were seen in our rear, and he expected they would try and cut them off.

Isandlwana mountain from the west. This is the view Lieut Vause would have had bringing up the wagons, and hearing firing from over the hill.

My orders were to see the wagons safely into camp and then join him about 12. I got back with the wagons and hearing firing about 2 miles to the front of the camp at once gave the order to trot, and started off to find Col. Durnford. I came across Capt. Shepstone, and as he asked me to stay with him I dismounted the men and extended them in skirmishing order. We were soon under hot fire, but continued to advance very slowly as the Zulus were under good cover, and we had to expose ourselves every time we advanced. On arriving at the top of the hill we perceived the enemy in overwhelming force coming up from behind and fearing our ammunition would be expended before we could reach the camp Capt. Shepstone gave the order to retire back to our horses.

Model of Isandlwana battle site. Lieut Vause would have come up the road in the foreground with the wagons, but would only have seen the battle on cresting the hill.

Fortunately the Zulus were shooting very badly, and as yet very few casualties had occurred on our side. As soon as the Zulus perceived that we were in retreat they came on with a shout and were rapidly gaining on us when we regained our horses.

As soon as the men were mounted we retired slowly to the camp, dismounting every few yards and firing a volley, but without holding the enemy in check as they did not seem to mind our fire at all.
After regaining the camp it was found to our dismay that the ammunition boxes had not been opened and as the Zulus were close on our heels we had no time to look for screwdrivers. Fortunately one of my kaffirs came across a box with a few in which I distributed amongst the men.

By this time the soldiers had expended their ammunition and the Zulus had cut though them and were in amongst the tents and we were obliged to retire again. On reaching the road we found it occupied by Zulus and our only way of escape lay over a very rough strip of country. One or two of my older kaffirs advised me to try it, as it was impossible to get out by the road. So we started off, but soon got scattered, a lot of the horses falling over and throwing their riders, who were immediately killed by the Zulus in pursuit.

I managed to reach the Buffalo River with about six kaffirs but my horse not being able to swim was washed down and I lost him. After a great deal of difficulty I managed to reach the opposite bank but being thoroughly exhausted I had to sit down and rest and had it not been for a little kaffir boy giving me a seat behind him on his horse I am quite sure the Zulus would have been upon me before I had gone many yards further.

However we soon got out of range of the Zulus’ fire and as I found the boy could not manage his horse, jumped off and walked a short distance, and came across Edwards of the Carbineers and he kindly took me up behind him.

We reached Helpmekaar thoroughly exhausted and formed a laager of the wagons and sacks of mealies but as there were only 38 of us to defend it we quite expected that it would be our last night.

Fortunately the Zulus were repulsed at Rorke’s Drift and did not get as far as Helpmekaar. I lost 30 men and 10 wounded, so have not many left of my original 50.

Biographical information on Richard Wyatt Vause

born : 1854 02 10 Pietermaritzburg, Natal
died : 1926 05 28 Durban, Natal
mar : 1881 02 03 St Paul’s Church, Durban
to Margaret Ellen COTTAM
eldest daughter of John Bagot COTTAM and Adelaide HERBERT, his wife.
Father : Richard VAUSE
Mother : Matilda Park

Richard Wyatt Vause, generally known as Wyatt to his friends, was the eldest son of Richard VAUSE, born two years after his father’s arrival in Natal from England.

He was educated at Durban High School, and spent some time on the Kimberley Diamond Fields. In 1874 he started a printing, bookselling and stationers business in Pietermaritzburg, known as Vause, Slatter & Co.

In the Anglo-Zulu War he fought as a Lieutenant in the Natal Native Horse under Colonel Durnford, and was one of the few survivors on the British side of the Battle of Isandlwana (22 Jan 1879).

After the war he married Margaret Ellen COTTAM, and they had a son and three daughters. By 1889 he was operating as a sharebroker as well, with offices in Pietermaritzburg and Johannesburg, the name of the firm being Vause and Nourse.

In 1891 his wife died, and he moved to Johannesburg. His bookselling and printing business in Pietermaritzburg was taken over by Daniel Saunders and W.J. Slatter. It later expanded into music and musical instrument sales, and was a theatrical agency as well.

During the Second Anglo-Boer War (1899-1902) he was in the Army Service Corps. After the war he was in business in Johannesburg as an accountant, probably in the firm of his brother-in-law, Charles Henry Matterson. He later appears to have returned to the diamond fields, and then to have farmed in Natal for a while before retiring to Durban.

His hobby was horse racing and breeding.

His only son, Dick Vause, died two years before him. Of his three daughters, Ruby married Jack Stayt, and had two sons and a daughter; Lily married Percy Hayes, and had two daughters and a son; Gladys married Gilbert Wilkinson of Ottawa. They had two daughters, and were later divorced, and Gladys then married Arthur “Dave” Nourse, the well-known cricketer.

Notes

[1] St Vincent of Spain (Feast Day 22 January, 11 November in some Calendars)

St Vincent of Spain, Deacon & Martyr

The Holy Martyr Vincent of Spain from his childhood was the disciple of a wise pastor Valerian, the bishop of the city of Augustopolis (now Saragossa, Spain). When he reached mature age, the virtuous, educated and eloquent Vincent was ordained deacon by Bishop Valerian. Since the bishop himself was not adept in speech, he gave a blessing to his deacon, an eloquent orator, to preach in church and among the people.

Diocletian (284-305) sent the governor Dacian to the city of Valencia, Spain with full authority to find and execute Christians. People denounced the wise bishop and his deacon to the governor, who arrested them. The soldiers, mounted on horses, dragged the Elder and his disciple behind them in chains from Augustopolis to Valencia, and there they cast them into prison beaten and tortured, giving them neither food nor water.

Read it all here.

[2] Convent at Isandlwana

In the Anglican Diocese of Zululand several young women felt called to the monastic life, but there was no monastery  for them in Zululand, so they were sent to Lesotho, where they joined the Community of the Holy Name (CHN). When Alpheus Zulu became Bishop of Zululand in 1966 he invited them to return, and they established a convent at Isandlwana, near the site of the battle. The CHN grew rapidly, and by 1982 had four houses in Zululand.

Family links with Cecil John Rhodes

I’ve just been reading about the (largely posthumous) cult of Cecil John Rhodes (1853-1902), the former Prime Minister of the Cape Colony who made his fortune in diamonds.

RhodesBkI was interested in the book for several reasons — first, as a background to the #RhodesMustFall movement, which is a kind of countercult or anticult movement. Secondly, because of the rise of Donald Trump, another unscrupulous businessman turned politician, who is in the news right now, and thirdly because of our interest in family history, and several members of our family had links with Rhodes. I’ve already written a review of the book and dealt with the first two points in a post on my other blog  – see  The Cult of Rhodes. In this one I just want to point out some of the family connections.

C.J. Rhodes wasn’t related to us in any way that we know, but he came to southern Africa for his health at the age of 17 and, like many others, was drawn to Kimerley by the discovery of diamonds there in 1868.

A member of our family who was also drawn there was Henry Green, brother of Val’s great great grandfather Fred Green. The Green brothers came to the Cape Colony in about 1846, and Henry, like his father William Green, was in the commissariat department of the British army, in which capacity he accompanied the Cape Governor and High Commissioner Harry Smith to the Battle of Boomplaats, which established the present Free State as the Orange River Sovereignty. Henry became the British Resident of the Sovereignty, and after it was abandoned, went to England, and married his cousin Louisa Margaret Aitchison. He then went to Colesberg in the Cape Colony and became magistrate and civil commissioner. His wife died on the road to Cape Town, and became the family ghost. Henry married again to Countess Ida Von Lilienstein, and they had several children.

Henry Green and several associates formed the South African Diamond and Mineral Company, and when he was suspended as magistrate over some missing money, he became a diamond digger, first at Pniel and then in 1872 Henry Green moved to Kimberley and entered into a partnership with George Paton on the diggings of Colesberg Kopje. They worked claim 144 for a long time.

George Paton and Henry Green lived for a while at the Boarding House – or rather Boarding Tent — called ‘The 12 Apostles’. It was there that they got to know Cecil Rhodes who had just come out as a young lad from England for health reasons. Rhodes had a contract to pump out water that flooded the claims. The friendship seems to have continued even after Rhodes bought out all the other claim holders and established his company, De Beers, as a virtual monopoly in the diamond business.

One of Henry Green’s daughters, Ida Margaret Catherine Green, married George Arthur Montgomery Tapscott (see The Tapscott Family), and their great-granddaughter Burnett McMillan Milne recently wrote on Facebook “Henry Green’s daughter, Ida Margaret Tapscott, was a great admirer of Cecil Rhodes — the feeling was mutual, they had quite a voluminous correspondence and in one of his letters he refers to her as ‘The cleverest women in the Cape Colony’. He gave her a magnificent diamond brooch which is still in possession of the family.”

Then there was Henry Green’s nephew, Arthur Walpole Francis, son of Henry’s sister Agnes. Arthur was born and educated in Sydney, New South Wales. He came to South Africa in 1880 and farmed at Harts River, Griqualand West. He went to the Transvaal in 1886 and took up Botha’s Reef on behalf of a Kimberley syndicate and Cecil Rhodes. He was involved in the purchase of Luipaardsvlei for £60000 and a load of poplar poles. Perhaps he was introduced to Cecil Rhodes by his uncle Henry. He later went back to farming and died of bladder stones in Mariental, Namibia, in 1921. His eldest son was named Cecil.

Henry Green’s niece (Fred Green’s daughter), Alice Elizabeth Green, married John Martin Cuthbert O’Grady in Johannesburg in 1893, and they named their second son John Rhodes O’Grady, and he was known as Rhodes. They probably didn’t know Cecil Rhodes personally, but would have known of him though Alice’s cousin Arthur Walpole Francis, and perhaps admired him from afar.

The last instance I can think of is probably getting back to the cult, which is the main topic of the book. My mother’s cousin Betty Hannan married John Christian Fowler in Lusaka, Northern Rhodesia, in 1935, and their eldest son was named Brian Rhodes Hannan Fowler. I think by then the cult of Rhodes was in full swing.

Willie Hannan, MP for Maryhill, Glasgow. 1966

Willie Hannan, MP for Maryhill, Glasgow. 1966

I liked cousin Betty, and I think she was my mother’s favourite cousin, but we didn’t see eye-to-eye politically, not at all. In 1965, just after the Rhodesian UDI, Betty wrote to my mother and mentioned a mutual cousin, Willie Hannan, who was at that tome a Scottish Labour MP, and, according to Betty, “a one-man-one-vote bastard and a sick leftist”. A few weeks later I skipped South Africa to escape the clutches of the SB, and had a brief stopover in Salisbury, so I phoned Betty from the airport and she brought some of the family out to the airport to say hello. We chatted for a bit, and as we said goodbye and I was going out to the plane Betty fixed me with a beady eye and said fiercely “We’re determi9ned to see this thing through” (meaning UDI). Shortly after that I met cousin Willie at the Houses of Parliament in London, expecting, from Betty’s description, to meet a revolutionary Che Guevara-like figure. Instead he turned out to be mild and inoffensive, and indeed, very conservative (with a small c).

That was probably my closest brush with the Rhodes cult.

 

A bit of Eastern Cape history

My great grandfather William Matthew Growdon came to the Cape Colony in 1876 to work on the railway being built inland from East London. My blogging friend Deon Strydom posted a photo of an interesting cottage built for those working on the line with a link to a site saying where it is and how to get there Tracks4Africa Padkos – Gangers Cottage (Historical Building):

When the railway line between East London and Queenstown was first built it bypassed Stutterheim by several kilometres. It was built during the Frontier War of 1877-1878 when the gangers (railway workers) were in danger of attack by Xhosa tribes. To protect the gangers, fortified ‘gangers cottages’ were built. Cottage No. 17 is situated on the Komga road which branches off the main road at Dohne Station. The cottage was declared a National monument on 3 December 1976. There are four tambours one on each corner, with slits so that the gangers could defend themselves against attack.

There was something of a frenzy of railway building after the discovery of diamonds at Kimberley — not that railways were needed to carry the diamonds, but rather to take mining equipment, and food and goods for the miners. Though the railways were owned and built by the Cape government, there was a certain amount of competition between the lines from the various ports.

Great grandfather William Matthew Growdon came from Cornwall with his family (my grandfather George Growdon was 3 years old at the time). He had been a stonemason in Cornwall, so perhaps he had a hand in building this fortified cottage too.

Railway workers' cottage near Stutterheim in the Eastern Cape

Railway workers’ cottage near Stutterheim in the Eastern Cape

Interestingly enough some of William Matthew Growdon’s descendants are still living in the vicinity of Stutterheim, and if you are passing you can go there to stay in a somewhat different kind of cottage. The place is The Shire, just outside Stutterheim, where my cousins Hamish, Monica and Rob Scott live.

Click on the links for more pictures and stories.

 

Ghwarriespoort to the Gariep Dam

Continued from Hermanus to Keurfontein

Friday 4 September 2015

We woke up in chilly Keurfontein, at Ghwarriespoort, and continued our journey North and East along the N9. Keurfontein, the place where we stayed, was selfcatering accommodation rather than a B&B, but that was OK — it was was a fast day, so we had baked beans on toast for breakfast.

Keurfontein

Keurfontein

About 50 km up the road we passed the Grootrivier Dam — the road goes over the dam wall. Four years ago it had been dry, and we expected that after the rain of the last few days it might have had some water in it, but there was none, and the river was the merest trickle. A bit further on we saw puddles at the side of the road, so there had been rain, but obviously it had not affected the river. Perhaps the “Groot” name was irony.

Grootrivier Dam -- as empty as it was four years ago

Grootrivier Dam — as empty as it was four years ago

We bypassed Aberdeen, and reached Graaf Reinet at 11:43, 197 km from Keurfontein. We dropped in to visit my cousin Ailsa Grobler, and this time she was at home. Last time we had visited (in 2011) she was away visiting her son Bruce, who works as a chef in Dubai. Interestingly enough another cousin on the Hannan side of the family, Ceri Duff Henderson, lives in Dubai, where she is a diving instructor.

Steve Hayes, Ailsa Grobler, Val Hayes, Nick Grobler: Graaff Reinet, 4 September 2015

Steve Hayes, Ailsa Grobler, Val Hayes, Nick Grobler: Graaff Reinet, 4 September 2015

There was a bonus on this visit, as Ailsa’s other son Gavin, who lives in Cape Town, was there as well. We had coffee with them and chatted for a while. Nick and Ailsa run the Villa Reinet Guest House in Graaff Reinet, and we stayed there on our trip in 2011, though only Nick was at home then. We can also recommend it as a very good place to stay, and not just because it is run by our cousins.

Steve Hayes, Gavin & Ailsa Grobler. Graaff Reinet, 4 September 2015

Steve Hayes, Gavin & Ailsa Grobler. Graaff Reinet, 4 September 2015

Our Hannan great grandparents, William Hannan and Ellen McFarlane, lived in Glasgow, and four of their children emigrated to southern Africa, including Ailsa’s grandfather Stanley Livingstone Hannan and my grandmother Janet McCartney Hannan, who married George Growdon.

Graaff Reinet, Eastern Cape. 4 September 2015

Graaff Reinet, Eastern Cape. 4 September 2015

We left Graaff Reinet about 12:45, and crossed the Lootsberg Pass at 1:20 pm, 262 km from Keurfontein, and probably, at 1781 metres (5843 feet), one of the highest places on our route this day. In some places we followed the railway line, which on our previous visit had looked neglected and disused, but this time looked as if it could be in use again. The road was wide and smooth, and seemed to go almost effortlessly over the hills. Last time we had been here 4 years ago we had travelled this section in the dark. At Middelburg, which we reached at 1:48 pm, 306 km from Keurfontein, they were working on the road, and there were a couple of stop/go sections, but they did not hold us up for long. The road clearly needed working on, as it was narrow, bumpy and much patched, They had completed the sections from Noupoort to Colesberg, which were wide and smooth.

Toverberg, the Magic Mountain, also known as Cole's Berg, named after Sir Lowry Cole, sometime governor of the Cape Colony.

Toverberg, the Magic Mountain, also known as Cole’s Berg, named after Sir Lowry Cole, sometime governor of the Cape Colony.

Henry Green, the brother of Val’s great great grandfather Fred Green, was resident magistrate and civil commissioner in Colesberg in the 1860s, so we visited the town museum to see if we could find out where he had lived at that time, and it appeared that the drosdy (magistrate’s residence) was next to the Anglican Church, where most of Henry Green’s children by his second wife, Countess Ida Von Lilienstein, were baptised. The drostdy is now a restaurant, but it wasn’t open when we passed through. The Anglican church next door has services once a month, when the rector of Middelburg visits.

The old Drosdy in Colesberg, now a restaurant

The old Drosdy in Colesberg, now a restaurant. Henery Green apparently lived here when he was resident magistrate in the 1860s.

We then followed the southern shore of the Gariep Dam to Oviston. The Gariep Dam is the biggest dam in South Africa, used for water storage, power generation and irrigation. It is on the Orange (Gariep) River, which we had seen further downstream earlier in our journey when we crossed it from north to south at Kakamas, and saw it at the Aughrabies falls.

Gariep Dam, 4 September 2015

Gariep Dam, 4 September 2015

We went to Oviston, on the southern shore, where we spent the night at the Aan Die Water guest house.

Sunset over the Gariep Dam at Oviston

Sunset over the Gariep Dam at Oviston

 

 

 

 

Meeting Vause cousins at Robertson

Continued from Kamieskroon to Robertson

Sunday 23 August 2015

We attended the Divine Liturgy (in Afrikaans) at Bedehuis Bethanië, and said goodbye to Fr Zacharias van Wyk and Macrina Walker.

After Divine Liturgy at Bedehuis Bethanië -- the Last Homely House

After Divine Liturgy at Bedehuis Bethanië — the Last Homely House

Then we drove in to Robertson, 6 km away, to have lunch with Sandy Struckmeyer and her parents. Wyatt and Evelyn Vause, and her daughter Kerry, and Ludwig.

Vause cousins at lunch, Robertson 23 Aug 2015: Eunive Vause, Val Hayes, Wyatt Vause, Steve Hayes, Sandy & Kerry Struckmeyer

Vause cousins at lunch, Robertson 23 Aug 2015: Eunice Vause, Val Hayes, Wyatt Vause, Steve Hayes, Sandy & Kerry Struckmeyer

We had lunch in the yard, where the weather was a bit warmer than earlier in the day. Sandy is my third cousin, and our common ancestors were our great great grandparents were Richard Vause of Hull (1822-1876) and Matilda Park of Bath (1828-1881). The Vause family came from the Isle of Axholme in north-west Lincolnshire, while Matilda Park’s family was originally from Northern Ireland. How they met and married in Bath is something of a mystery, and within a couple of weeks of their marriage in 1852 they were on their way to Natal on The Lady of the Lake.

Vause cousins Val & Steve Hayes, Sandra & Kerry Struckmeyer, Eunice & Wyatt Vause

Vause cousins Val & Steve Hayes, Sandra & Kerry Struckmeyer, Eunice & Wyatt Vause

They went to Tugela Drift, where they opened a store in partnership with J.R.M. Watson, and Richard Vause named the place Colenso after the controversial Anglican Bishop of Natal. The business failed, and Watson moved to Ladysmith, and the Vause family moved to Pietermaritzburg, and later to Durban, where Richard Vause founded the Natal Mercury newspaper in partnership with John Robinson, and was later mayor of Durban. The Watson family touched ours again later, when Frederick William Beningfield (Val’s 1st cousin 4 times removed) eloped to the Free State with J.R.M. Watson’s daughter Theresa, while another skelm relative, Alfred Dawson Francis, alias Alfred Francis Dawson, eloped with, or had an affair with Watson’s wife.

Wyatt Vause

Wyatt Vause

Richard Vause and Matilda Park had several children, and I am descended from their son Richard Wyatt Vause (also known as Wyatt Vause) while Wyatt Vause of Robertson is descended from their son Robert Vause, who was a farmer at Ixopo in the Natal Midlands.

Wyatt had five vintage cars, including a 1947 Studebaker, which I had known in my youth as the “back to front car” because you couldn’t tell whether they were coming or going. He had a Renault, which had belonged to a man who had been murdered on a farm in the district, and said he had been a Spitfire pilot during
WWII, based in Malta, and had survived all that, only to be murdered at home. He also had a Morris 1100, and I remembered when they had been one of the latest things in 1963, but they are now more than 50 years old. Wyatt told me a bit about the family too.

He said two of his elder brothers, Michael and Brian, had died, and that his eldest brother Trevor was now 90 years old. Michael had died of cancer after his son Philip had been killed in a car crash about 20 years ago. He showed us a couple of family photos inside the house, ane of which showed his uncle Frederick, who had died falling off a wagon at the age of about 3 or so.

Approaching Du Toit's Kloof Pass

Approaching Du Toit’s Kloof Pass

We left Robertson about 3 pm, and drove to Cape Town over the Du Toit’s Kloof Pass, which gives good views over the Paarl Valley. We booked in at the Sun 1 Hotel on the Foreshore, which is convenient for access to the archives, where we were planning to spend much of the coming week doing family history research.

Paarl valley from Du Toit's Kloof Pass

Paarl valley from Du Toit’s Kloof Pass

 

 

Stewardson family breakthrough

In the forty years we have been researching our family history, the Stewardson side of the family has been one of the longest-standing “brick walls”, as family historians like to say, referring to the inability to get further back than a particular ancestor. In the case of the Stewardsons, the brick wall is more like a dam wall, because once it has broken, down comes the flood.

We discovered quite early on that Val’s great great grandmother was Kate Stewardson, who was born at Rooibank near Walvis Bay (now part of Namibia) in about 1847-48. Her parents were mentioned in several books, but for 30 years we were unable to discover their first names. The author of one book even made up names for them, Ian and Norah, which somehow carlessly slipped into some historical records published by the Namibian Archives. Eventually, after 30 years, we found, in a Methodist baptism record in Cape Town, that they were Francis and Frances, or Frank and Fanny, and also that Frances’s maiden name was Morris. We have described the story of that search more fully here.

Thanks largely to FamilySearch, the online genealogical research tool of the Mormon Church, we were able to learn more about the origins of the Morris family. FamilySearch have placed online indexes, and sometimes original copies of the registers kept by other denominations, and by this means we were able to trace the Morris family back to the village of Donisthorpe, on the border of Leicestershire and Derbyshire in England.

Donisthorpe village, home of the Morris family, on the border of Leicestershire and Derbyshire in England

Donisthorpe village, home of the Morris family, on the border of Leicestershire and Derbyshire in England

At the time there was no church in Donisthorpe, so the Morris children were baptised in the nearby village of Over Seal in Leicestershire.

Family tradition, which was also found in published sources, was that the Stewardsons originally came from Scotland, and we had assumed that Frank Stewardson had come to the Cape Colony and met Frances Morris there, and married her before moving on to Damaraland. But no amount of searching Cape marriage records, in the originals in the Cape Archives, on microfilm in the LDS (Mormon) family history centre in Johannesburg, or later online when some of the records became available on the web, revealed this marriage.

Another useful online resource that became available was FreeBMD, which is the birth, marriage and death record indexes for England and Wales. The handwritten, typewritten and printed indexes have been transcribed by volunteers, and are almost complete for the 19th century. And there we eventually found the marriage record of Francis Stewardson and Frances Morris. We received the marriage certificate on 2 May 2015, and that broke the dam wall.

They were married in Donisthorpe on 8 Oct 1838, and the entry was No 1, so theirs was the first marriage after civil registration of births, marriages and deaths began in England in 1837. His father was Samuel Stewardson, and his occupation was listed as Servant. Her father was Thomas Morris, and his occupation was listed as Butcher. The residence of both parties was given as Donisthorpe. The witnesses were Thomas Proudman and Elizabeth Morris.

View over the Amber Vaslley from Coxbench, where members of the Stewardson family lived in the 18th century.

View over the Amber Vaslley from Coxbench, where members of the Stewardson family lived in the 18th century.

Thanks to the availability of online records, mainly through FamilySearch, we were able to follow up the father’s name, and it appears that the Stewardson family went back a few generations in Derbyshire, mainly in the village of Coxbench, in an area called Amber Valley.

Not only was Frank Stewardson’s father named Samuel, but so were his grandfather and great grandfather. He also had a brother Samuel and a couple of cousins named Samuel as well. Unlike the Morris family, where several members came to the Cape Colony, Frank seems to have been the only Stewardson to have done so.

One family tradition/rumour/legend did prove almost true,  however. About 30 years ago a cousin, Bernard Lindholm Carlsson, said that his brother, Ernest Gay Carlsson, had done some research into the family history and maintained that the correct spelling of the name was Stuartson. Some of the entries in the parish registers at Horsley (near Coxbench) spell the name as Stuardson, but that appears to be the idiosyncrasy of a particular clergyman, and  in all other cases the Stewardson spelling was used. We were never able to make contact with Ernest Gay Carlsson to see what he had discovered, though we tried several times to do so.

Anyway, after 40 years the Stewardson drought has truly broken, and we are now busy trying to sort out all the Stewardson relations and seeing where they fit into the family tree. And, thanks to the availability of online records, one discovery leads to another, and what would have taken three years to discover 30 years ago takes about three days now.

 

The Tapscott family

Henry Green, the brother of Val’s great great grandfather Fred Green, and was British Resident of the Orange River Sovereignty before going to Kimberley as a diamond prospector, and later becoming a farmer.

His first wife, Margaret Aitchison, and their two children all died in 1860, and in 1862 he married Ida Carolina Johanna von Lilienstein, whose father was Count Carl Arthur von Lilienstein, who was a customs official in Holstein 1839-1848. He joined the British German Legion and led a party of 100 military settlers to Berlin in British Kaffraria in 1857. He returned to Germany in 1860 with his wife and youngest daughter, but Ida Carolina Johanna married Henry Green and stayed.

Their daughter Ida Margaret Catherine Green (1865-1948) married George Arthur Montgomery Tapscott (1854-1918), and they had 10 children.

The Tapscott boys: Back: Norman and Sidney. Front: Lionel Eric (Doodles); George Lancelot (Dustry); Cecil Leander.

The Tapscott boys: Back: Norman and Sidney. Front: Lionel Eric (Doodles); George Lancelot (Dusty); Cecil Leander.

Several of the children made names for themselves in sport, with “Dusty” and “Doodles” both playing cricket for Griqualand West, and Eric Lionel “Doodles” Tapscott playing both cricket and tennis for South Africa. Ruth Daphne Tapscott was good tennis player and was a quarter finalist at Wimbledon, and the first woman to play at Wimbledon without stockings.

Family Group Report
For: George Arthur Montgomery Tapscott  (ID=  549)
Date Prepared:  9 Sep 2014
NAME: TAPSCOTT, George Arthur Montgomery, Born 13 Sep 1854 in
Clifton, Bristol, Died 9 Sep 1918 in Kimberley at age 63;
FATHER: TAPSCOTT, Samuel, Born ??? 1804, Died 22 Nov 1860 at
age 56; MOTHER: HILL, Elizabeth, Born 14 Dec 1811, Died 20 Oct
1883 at age 71

MARRIED Feb 1882, to GREEN, Ida Margaret Catherine, Born 3 Dec
1865 in Colesberg, Died 23 Feb 1948 in Plumstead, Cape at age
82; FATHER: GREEN, Henry, Born 23 Aug 1818, Died 29 Sep 1884
at age 66; MOTHER: VON LILIENSTEIN, Ida Carolina Johanna, Born
4 Dec 1835, Died ???

CHILDREN:
1. M TAPSCOTT, Lancelot George (Dusty), born ??? 1879 in
Barkly West, died 13 Dec 1940 in Kimberley; Married to
STORE, Kathleen
2. F TAPSCOTT, Violet, born ??? 1883, died ??? 1883
3. M TAPSCOTT, Sidney, born 25 Nov 1885 in Barkly West, Cape,
died 28 Aug 1943 in Simonstown; Married 19 Nov 1913 to
TOWNSEND, Helen Burnett; 4 children
4. F TAPSCOTT, Daisy Margaret, born ??? 1887 in Barkly West,
died ??? 1901?
5. M TAPSCOTT, Eric Lionel (Doodles), born 5 Mar 1889 in
Kimberley, died 7 Jul 1934? in Kenilworth, Cape; Married
to LOTTER, Hazel Christine
6. M TAPSCOTT, Norman von Lilienstein, born ??? 1892? in
Barkly West, died Nov 1966 in Cape; Married ??? 1936 to
ADAMS, Alice Rebecca Thorn; 2 children
7. F TAPSCOTT, Winifred Elfreda (Elfie), born 24 Nov 1895 in
Kimberley, died 12 Sep 1981 in Cape Town; Married to
OAKELEY, Arthur Eckley; 1 child
8. M TAPSCOTT, Cecil Leander, born ??? 1900 in Kimberley, died
??? in George, Cape
9. F TAPSCOTT, Elaine Rowe, born 11 Jun 1901 in Kimberley,
died 25 May 1980 in Umhlali, Natal; Married ??? 1936 to
ROBBINS, Ronald Arthur; 2 children
10. F TAPSCOTT, Ruth Daphne (Billy), born 31 May 1903 in
Kimberley; Married ??? 1930 to ROBBINS, Colin John James;
4 children

Most of our knowledge of the Tapscott side of the family came from Jack and Peggy Stokes, who stayed with us in Melmoth in 1979. Peggy was the daughter of Sidney Tapscott (seen in the picture above, taken about 1912. He became a mining engineer, and worked on the Nkana Mine in Zambia (then Northern Rhodesia).

Peggy and Jack Stokes and Val Hayes, at Melmoth, Zululand, 22 January 1979

Peggy and Jack Stokes and Val Hayes, at Melmoth, Zululand, 22 January 1979

When the Kariba Dam was built, and began to fill with water a boat called The Ark was used to capture marooned wild animals and take them to safety. When the dam was full, and no more rescues were needed, Jack and Peggy bought The Ark and used it to take tourists for cruises on Lake Kariba. When they retired, they sold The Ark and bought a caravan, and travelled round Southern Africa visiting family and friends. Thus it was that they spent a few weeks in our backyard, and when we had time we pored over the family history documents we had.

Jack Stokes with their caravan and the old 1956 Chev van they used to pull it, in our backyard in Melmoth, January 1979.

Jack Stokes with their caravan and the old 1956 Chev van they used to pull it, in our backyard in Melmoth, January 1979.

Since then we have been in touch with a few more people on the Tapscott side of the family, and learnt a bit more. There are probably many more stories to be told, and people could use our Wikispaces pages to tell some of them, or start their own.