Brett McDougall

You may have noticed a quaint stone wall with two decrepit wooden gates on Louis Botha Avenue between Acorn Lane and Death Bend. Or perhaps the row of magnificent plane trees just behind the wall caught your attention as you navigated this most notorious of Joburg roads. If you were brought to a stop in traffic, you may have even looked beyond the wall and the trees and seen an imposing double storey property in the distance, and wondered how it came to be built here.

 

My maternal grandmother, Antonetta Elizabeth Cosslett, would have turned 100 on the 13th of December 2017. And it is this hypothetical centenary that has motivated me to record what I know about her. I am the third youngest of a very large brood of cousins on my mother’s side of the family, and only really came to know her in her last decade or two, so perhaps there is a sense of disconnection with history that I am trying to mend too.

Travel back in time to 1886. Gold has just been discovered on the Witwatersrand, and the koppies and veld between Pretoria and Heidelberg, home to a handful of boer families, their tenants and workers, are starting to attract the attention of the world. The dusty track connecting the Viljoen homestead, nestled below the ridge among abundant orchards, to Pretoria has been extended south and west to the city of tents which has mushroomed on the uitvalgrond between the farms Doornforntein, Langlaagte and Braamfontein.

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