Dundee

From the very beginning of the formal establishment of Dundee in 1882, the town was remarkable for the calibre of its inhabitants. Perhaps none more so than a young doctor and a young surveyor, who set off in 1884 for the unexplored “sea of land – land of water”.

The initiative was their own – without sponsorship from Government, the Royal Missionary Societies or the Royal Navy - they made and paid their own way. They were Dr Aurel Schulz MD and Mr August Hammar CE.

Nita Meyer and her husband, Izak, farmed at “Twyfelfontein” near Laffnie’s Drift on the Buffalo River. Her original diary, written in high Dutch and covering hundreds of pages, is held at the Talana Museum archives.

Izak was a burgher of the Utrecht Republiek and a brother of President Lukas Meyer of the Nieuwe Republiek at Vryheid. Nita was the daughter of Doctor Aveling, of Harrismith. They had two children, Marthie and Izzie.

Just prior to the outbreak of the Boer War, the small mining and railway village of Hattingspruit, only a few kilometres north of Dundee, grabbed some reflected limelight. This was due to the incredible physical exertion of 7 000 Zulu workers who walked from the Witwatersrand Goldfields back to their homes in Zululand.

As early as 1873 a Colonial government commission had been set up to investigate the establishment of laagers for defensive purposes in the Newcastle Division. They recommended that 2 laagers be built, one on Newcastle town lands and the other not that far from where Fort Pine stands today. In 1874 £5 000 was allocated for the construction of laagers and armouries throughout the Colony of Natal.

The Penn Symons flag arrived in the post addressed to the Museum Dundee back in the early 1980s. It has been on permanent display in the museum since 1983. It has an interesting story and one that is personally connected to my forebears.

 

"An ancient song, as old as the ashes, Echoed as Mageba’s warriors marched away." South African Contemporary Folk Song. Johnny Clegg and Savuka.

Colonel Anthony Durnford is probably the most enigmatic, controversial and colourful character associated with the British defeat at Isandlwana. Incontrovertibly the senior officer present, history has blamed him for the disaster for failing to exercise effective command and control.

 

Known as “Long Toms”, the four 155mm siege guns installed in the forts to protect Pretoria, were supposed to be far too big and cumbersome to move, yet one of them (nicknamed Schanskop Tom), which had originally been installed at Fort Schanskop, was used to drive the British out of Dundee. It was manoeuvred up Impati Mountain and shelled the British camp on Ryley’s Hill. Unable to retaliate, the British were forced to withdraw from Dundee and make a hazardous, but mostly uncomfortable (in the pelting rain) retirement to Ladysmith.

Dawn. Dundee, Natal. 20 October 1899. It was bitterly cold. Indeed, it had uncharacteristically snowed the previous week. Huge banks of fog covered the town and surrounding high ground. Intermittent drizzle made everything clammy and miserable. Breath puffed out like a steam train. All in all, a time for any sensible person to be indoors, in bed.

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