The R74 is the primary route to the Northern uKhahlamba Drakensberg World Heritage site
The road runs alongside the spectacular Sterkfontein Dam and down the equally spectacular Olivierhoek pass on to the mountains.
For many years this section of the R74 that runs along the dam has fallen into
terrible disrepair but in December 2015 the newly built road was once again opened.
We took the road and like to share our experience.
First stop is the Sterkfontein Dam
The dam is located just outside Harrismith and is part of the Tugela-Vaal Water Project, and located on the Nuwejaarspruit, a tributary of the Wilge River in the upper catchment area of the Vaal River. The dam receives its water via the Tugela-Vaal Project which is a pumped-storage scheme involving the net transfer of up to 630 million m3 of water from KwaZulu-Natal.
The Sterkfontein Dam was commissioned in 1977 and a full supply capacity of
2 616 900 megalitres. It has a surface area of no more than 70 km2. The circumsphere is aproxamitely 102 km. The dam wall contains 17 million m3 of material making it the largest dam wall in South Africa with regard to volume, while the reservoir formed by the dam is the third largest in the country.
The next stop is at the vulture restaurant used to be a place where fresh and poison free carcasses were put out to feed the vultures and it contribute to the survival of the birds especially during periods of food scarcity and when young birds fledge.
Our next stop is at Kerkenberg. The site is so named because the Voortrekker’s priest, Erasmus Smit, deemed the cluster of rocks at its base was worthy of a church. The heritage markers that can be visited are the Retief Klip, a stone engraved by the leader’s daughter Deborah on his birthday to commemorate the Boer’s successful land negotiations, and Retief Pass, the old wagon trail used by Piet Retief to descend into KwaZulu-Natal.
Next up is the Kaalvoet vrou. You can read all about the history of this monument on our blog spot. Kaalvoetvrou
A visit in this area will not be complete if you do not take the dirt road to Leon and Elsa. They share a passion for the beauty of the past and have established a farm museum.
We returned to the R74 and pass the Driekloof dam
We continue and reach the summit point of 1758 m above sea level of Oliviershoek Pass and is close to the most southerly arm of the Sterkfontein Dam.
The descent is gentle and enters a wide S-bed which straightens out at the 2 km point.
it is often used as an alternative route to Van Reenen’s Pass but for us it is a scenic alternative to the Northern Drakensberg. Interestingly, and to add a little history to the mix, it was along this area in October 1837, that Piet Retief and his trek party climbed the Drakensberg.
Thanks you for joining us on this wonderful scenic drive
We paid a visit to the Platberg Shellhole. It is believed that it was founded in 1928. The Shellhole lapsed rather towards the 1930’s. With the 2nd Great War there was as great influx of returned servicemen, all keen to carry on the true ideals of the Moth’s.
In 1962 the building in Stuart Street Harrismith was purchased as a Shellhole.
The Flag was hosted it waved in the slight breeze. The dark blue of the naval service, red for the army and light blue for the air force. The Tin Hat and lighted candle reminds of of the sun which rises and falls over the world’s battlefields, above all known and unknown graves.
Then you walk into the door and the emblem greets you.
The Shellhole is dedicated to preserve the military history and the people of Harrismith has donated to keep it updated. The display dates back from the Anglo Boer War to modern day war fare.
On the day of our visit the Shellhole was giving honor to the battle of El Alahmein that took place from 8 – 12 November 1942. During this battle more than 100 000 men were killed, wounded or taken prisoner. The Shellhole was decorated according to the theme.
During the war the Cartoonist, Bruce Bairnsfather’s Old Bill sketches boosted the moral at home and on the front line. The trench humour, cubby pipe-smoking British “Tommy” during the First World War. A weary Old Bill, pictured top left is also part of the Platberg Shellhole.
On the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month when the guns fell silent – we will remember
We all know about the poppies on Remembrance Day. In the spring of 1915, John McCrae was inspired by the sight of poppies growing in battle-scarred fields and he wrote that famous poem – Flanders Fields. After the First World War, the poppy was adopted a a symbol of Remembrance.
In Flanders Fields
by John McCrae, May 1915
In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.
The Platberg, the Free State’s own “Table Mountain”, overlooks the town of Harrismith. It literally means the flat-mountain; the 2377m high inselberg is a landmark & forms an imposing backdrop to the town. It is an extension of the eastern foothills of the Drakensberg Mountains. Its western slopes & the summit of the mountain are a nature reserve with a number of endemic/near-endemic alpine plants that are unique to the region. The reserve is also home to eland, black wildebeest, blesbok & mountain reedbuck.
In October Harrismith welcomes outdoor sports enthusiasts to the town to participate in one of South Africa’s toughest running events: the Platberg Marathon also known as the Platberg Mountain Race. The history of the race is legendary. In 1922 local residents, incensed by a remark from a British Major who disparagingly referred to the Platberg as “that little hill of yours”, challenged a soldier to a race to the summit in less than one hour. Major Belcher accepted, won the challenge & challenge & to this day his floating trophy is awarded to the first person to reach the Platberg’s summit top in what has become a prestigious & grueling cross-country race and is known as the Platberg Mountain Marathon. This arguably is the ‘toughest in the world’ route as it climbs approximately 600m in 5 kilometers to the summit of Platberg (2377m) The race is the oldest in South Africa, older than the Comrades Marathon.
Platberg’s altitude ranges from 1900m to 2394m. The surface area covers approximately 3000ha. The slopes are steep with numerous vegetated gullies and boulder green slopes below vertical cliffs that are 20m to 45m high. Waterfalls cascade down the southern cliffs after rain. A permanent stream arising from the Gibson Dam on the undulating plateau flows off the escarpment and cascades as a waterfall.
From a distance, Platberg appears to have a distinct flat top. However, once on the summit the plateau is found to be undulating, with rolling grass-covered slopes.
Platberg was known “Mount D’Urban” till about 1850. The name then changed to Taba’Nchu (Tafelberg) but the name Platberg stuck.
Woody patches of Leucosidea, Budleia, Kiggelaria, Polygala, Heteromorpha and Rhus shrubs, as well as the indigenous Mountain Bamboo Thamnocalamus tessellates, grow along the base of the cliffs. The shrub land vegetation is concentrated on the cool side of Platberg on sandstone of the Clarens Formation, in gullies, on screen slopes, mobile boulder beds, and on rocky ridges, Shrubs and trees also occur in a riparian habitat in the south-facing cleft, in which the only road ascends steeply to the summit. An occasional Yellow wood, a sad relic of the many that once flourished here, can be found.
There are a number of passes running through the mountain.
The longest and the easiest is the Donkey Pass. It was previously known as the Flat Rock Pass which leads up to the huge Robert Gibson Dam, ear the eastern end of the mountain. In the past farmers would hire grazing on the summit and the story is told of a tremendous storm which burst on the summit and caused a herd of some thirty cattle to move before it. As still heavier sheets of rain fell the animals quickened their pace in an effort to escape. Moving blindly towards the edge of the cliff they fell to their death on the rocks 200 feet below. As the leaders felt the irresistible pressure of those behind them.
The Donkey pass which was constructed in the early 1900’s using donkeys – which is where it got its name from, consists of two concrete strips, with a radical 3 km ascent. From the onset, due to its steepness, the Donkey Pass is only accessible via four-wheel drive vehicles & equipment. When you look back from the top, this pass beautifully frames the glittering Sterkfontein Dam & Drakensberg Mountains.
The acting Governor, HF Wilson and his sister came to plant the first trees and suggested that the plantation should be called the Alexandra Forest after the Queen. The suggestion was adopted but the name was never in general use it was better known as the Government Forestry. On this occasion tea was served in the area set aside for the nursery and for many years afterwards townspeople were allowed to make fires there and have picnics and move freely about the whole area.
Seeds of the trees came from the Cape, Transvaal Europe and the United State of America, Australia and from Paris, France. 38 varieties were planted. Within 3 years the whole area had been divided into 12 acre blocks with wagon roads between, fences had been put up, pipes or drains laid down and a dam made. By 1920 a quarter of a million trees had been planted in the streets, the Park, the Golf course and the commonage, at the Old Homestead, to the Gymkhana and the polo clubs and to the SA Railways.
In the early days picnics were very popular. Perhaps because houses were not very comfortable, and had few of the conveniences which today are considered essentials, the early inhabitants of the town found that one of their greatest pleasures was getting out-doors and going for picnics. Picnics were often arranged to the “Flat Rock” and people could climb to the Gibson Dam. Akkerbos, near the base of Donkey Pass, is a grove of oak trees that provided a picnic site during a Royal Tour by the British monarchy, including Elizabeth II in 1947.
The Gibson Dam and the Water pans on Platberg
An improvement by the British Military’s Royal Engineers helped to improve the supply of more water to the town. A dam on Platberg, built by the Royal Engineers, was named the Gibson Dam after Mr. Gibson, a member of the town board. The wall of the dam was subsequently raised three times thereby increasing its capacity to 540 million liters. The main water reservoirs were constructed in 1904 on the highest point on King’s Hill. Water was pumped from the stream which flows through the then Botanic Gardens. From the reservoir it flowed downhill to the buildings on King’s Hill. The reservoir foundation stone is seen between the two reservoirs.
The water supply of the town, which is always an important matter, was obtained from springs and surface water collected in the upland basins of the Platberg. The water flowed down the cliff through a deep Krantz and forms a clear mountain stream, which passed through bush and over basalt boulders to the town reservoirs. The large dam The Platberg dam with a wall 200ft long 9ft high and capable of impounding 120 million gallons of water was built by the Royal Engineers and completed in 1904. An account of 386GBP was presented to the council of Harrismith.
Blockhouse still stands guard over the Dams
Thanks to Biebie de Vos for his pictures of our beautiful mountain.
Thanks to Adam Truscott for the painting
Thanks to Dan Wessels for the beautiful fauna pictures.
As our natural resources become increasingly depleted, there is more awareness about the need to preserve and protect the environment. To go this route we have implement progressive eco-friendly practices. Our efforts to run a sustainable establishment may inspire you to make your own home more environmentally-friendly!
De Oude Huize Yard sits on a 3000m2 stand in the beautiful town of Harrismith in Eastern Free State. We have scenic views over Platberg mountain. Platberg is one of the most famous landmarks in the Eastern Free State and is 9 kilometer long and 2,394 meter high.
We believe in protecting the earth and aims toward making travel and living sustainable. The establishment was originally built in 1860 with mud bricks. When the establishment was remodeled and restored, we reused and recycled as many materials as possible.
We managed to get the original building plans and the alterations were made using the old footprints of the stables and regenerated building materials. The cut sandstone was collected and re-used. We have sourced old building materials like doors, windows and ceilings.
It is also an extremely eco-friendly and sustainable establishment. Solar power provides the heating of the water and outdoor lighting. All bathrooms here have low-flow toilets and aerated low-flow shower heads. Non-toxic cleaning products are used and we make use of an outdoor clothesline to dry sheets, pillowcases and towels. The linens, towels and robes in guest rooms are eco-friendly and are made of organic cotton. Only non-VOC paint is use for the property. Guests are even provided with reusable glass water bottles during their stay to avoid waste. During winter months we use chopped wood of invasive species for our fire-places. Energy-efficient lighting is used throughout and natural light is utilized instead, when possible.
We harvest water in three tanks. This reduce the daily water usage for the gardens. During water shortages the water is treated with reverse osmosis rather than chemicals for use in the establishment.
All garden and kitchen waste go to our sustainable earthworm farm. The compost and fertilizer are utilized in the organic gardens. Here we grow vegetables without chemicals. We have planted olive, quince, figs, plum and pomegranate trees.
Our guest dine on fresh organic produce from the our own garden at breakfast and dinner. We also serve local ingredients and no processed food.
Die brug oor die Wilgerivier by Swinburne is een van ons geskiedkundige provinsiale monumente waarvan baie min mense weet as gevolg van die bou van nuwe paaie. Dit staan ook bekend as The Border Bridge. Die grens tussen die Oranje-Vrystaat Republiek en die Britse kolonie van Natal was die Wilgerivier.
Tydens die vroeë dae het verkeer van transportryers toegeneem en is daar groot kapsie gemaak wanneer die Wilgerivier in vloed was en dit byna onmoontlik was om deur die rivier te trek. Daar is veral gekla oor die driwwe oor die Wilge-, Elands-, Cornelisriviere en Holspruit. Die destydse regering het twee bruê gebou.
Die een was te Swinburne en die ander was ongeveer 10km verder na Bethlehem. Die brug by Swinburne is op 23 Julie 1884 geopen. Die ander brug staan bekend as die Swalobrug. Ongelukkig vir die transportryers sou daar tolgeld gehef word vir die gebruik van die brug. Tolgeld is gehef tot 1905.
Friend newspaper mentioned the bridge as follows: “It is composed of three arches of thirty-tree feet 4 inches, and carries a roadway of eight feet wide, wit side walks of three feet each, to total breadth being sixteen feet. The approaches spread out gradually a thirty feet wide, are graveled with trap and iron-stone, and enclosed by a massive wooden fencing three feet six inches high. The parapets are solid stone capped by a handsome coping, and the whole structure is founded on solid sandstone foundation, one abutment partly resting also on a dyke running across the river.”
In daardie dae was die brug grootendeels deur die transportryers gebruik wat goedere vervoer het tussen die hawe in Natal en die goudvelde aan die Witwatersrand. Dit was ‘n brug wat noodsaaklik was vir “wielverkeer”.
Die publiek wat te voet of the perd gereis het, het steeds deur die vlakwater van die rivier gegaan om die tolgelde te vermy. Dit laat my nogal dink aan die alternatiewe paaie vandag waar daar ook nie tolgelde gehef word.
Ongelukkig het Rinderpes uitgebreek. Rinderpes is ‘n doodelike siekte onder beeste en die regering aan beide kante van die brug het die beweging van beeste beperk om verspreiding te verhoed. Die Transportryers het eenvoudig die Wilgeriver op ‘n veilige plek oorgesteek en die tolgeld en die verbod vermy.
Die wêreld gebruik van daardie dae – enige perd wat vier wit “stockings” gehad het kon die brug gratis oorsteek -was ook hier van toepassing Vier-wit-voet-perde het baie gesogd geword en natuurlik ‘n groot mark geopen.
Dan was daar die Trippens-Hoogverraadsaak. Hierdie saak waarin W Bramley, – lid van die Volksraad vir die dorp Harrismith, ‘n Hollander, ‘n argumenteerde aan die gang gesit wat die koerantskrywers van die dae oorvloedige stof van lang artrikels in die nuusblaaie gegee het. Die hele affêre het gespruit uit die wanbetaling van drie pennie se tolgeld vir ‘n perd wat agteraan ‘n transportwa vasgemaak was. Dit was weliswaar ‘n nietige oorsaak, maar groot beginsels in in die spel gebring. Bramley is beskou as “een bemoeizieke man die ziech gaarne omtrent verschillende zaken laat horen” Die insident wat aanleiding gegee het to die kabable was dat ‘n sekere James Day ‘n transportryer van Umgene, Pietermaritzburg met sy wa by die tolkek by Swinburne aangkom. Agteraan die wa was ‘n perd vasgemaak wat saam met die wa geloop het. Day moes 5/- betaal, maar het geweier om die drie pennies vir die perd te betaal. Hy en De Witt, die tolgaarder het woorde gehad en De Witte het hom op Harrismith gaan aangekla. Hierop het Parsons, die hoofkonstabel en Van den Bosch, die balju, Day die volgende dag agterna gesit en teen die helling van Drakensberg, aan Natal se kant aangetref. Hulle het hom versoek om terug te kom na Harrismith. Day het sy wa in die sorg van ander gelaat – daar was destyds ‘n kwaai rooiwater-epidemie onder die beeste en het heeltemal vrywillig met Parson en Van den Bosch na Harrismith gegaan. Hy het die Maandag in die hof verskyn, maar die saak is teruggetrek.
Op Saterdag het hy in aanaraking met Bramley gekom wat ‘n brief aan David Erskine – Koloniale Sekratris van Natal geskryf het. Die brief is deur Day geonderteken. Dit is by die poskatoor geregistreer vir versending na onder andere ook die Natal Colonist. Die brief het soos volg gelees:
“On 10th April I passed the toll at Wilge River and was abused by the toll keeper there by call me ——Engli8shman, who moreover did his utmost to provoke me to commit an assault. I paid 5/- toll money for my wagon and the amount due for a lead horse, I sen over from Munger’aross the river to the toll keeper, who, however returned the money and lodge a complaint against me for avoiding the payment and breach of the peace. In consequence of this a warrant was issued an my apprehension took place in Natal. Mr Webb of Harrismith was present. I was obliged to leave my wagon and charge of a coloured boy (the trail not coming off till Monday 14th April and beside the detention I stand great ri8sk in suffering heavy losses owing to the prevailing epidemic amongst cattle. As I believe a gross outrage has been committed on my person as on the Colony of Natal, I have the honour to place myself as a British subject under the protection of the Natal government and to request efficient steps may be taken to obtain redress of my wrongs and losses. You will perceive the warrant is not endorsed by a Natal magistrate and does not come under the extradition treaty.
Op dieselfde dag het Day, op ‘n voorskrif van Bramley, ‘n brief aan die redakteur van die Natal Colonist gerig waarin hy sê dat die brief nie gepubliseer moet word nie, want die saak is onttrek.
Meneer Day trek verder maar Bramley word gearrestreer. Word van hoogverraad aangekla. Bramley het ongevreer twee maande in die tronk gesit en is toe op borgtog van 1000 pond vrygelaat. Bradley het nie gaan lê nie hy het opjeksies teen die een landros gehad en ‘n ander moes die regbank opneem. Bradley het ook objeksies teen de van die jurie gehad. Hy word toe toe verhoor die uitslag waarvan was dat hy onskuldig verlaar word en ontslaan is.
Die brug is ook van groot belang gewees tydens die Suid Afrikaanse Oorlog waar dit deur die Boere sowel as Britte daarvan gebruik gemaak het.
42nd Hill (previously known as Reitzheuwel), Staffordshire Hill, Platberg, the Grant Quarries and Basotu Hill
During the Anglo Boer War the number of troops in the town increased & many camps were established around the town.
The British troops occupied Harrismith in August 1900 under Genl. Leslie Rundle of the 8th Division. The 8th Division was made up of the 1st Leister Regiment, 1st South Staffordshire Regiment, 2nd Grenadier Guards, 2nd Scots Guards, 2nd East Yorkshire Regiment, 1st Worcestershire Regiment, 2nd Royal West Kent Regiment, 2nd Manchester Regiment and the 2nd, fourth and 11th Battalion of the Imperial Yeomanry.
The Division was 8000 men strong, but Rundle lost many soldiers because of total exhaustion and malnutrition. The units that originated in 1902 replace what was left of Rundle’s unit. Half of Rundle’s division was for ever on track to dominate the Eastern Free State. The remainder of the unit’s soldiers then rotate and it was time for the next group to go to battle.
The 20000 troops that is mentioned in Hawkin’s book actually spoke of Kitchener’s major concentration of troops, which he used for his 2nd Great Drive in February 1902 that ended in Harrismith and the town was used for a short period from where the soldiers operated and from. From Harrismith they were place back into operations in different areas.
In the ensuing months the number of troops increased and many encampments were established around the town. The 3rd Dragoon Guards and the Staffordshire Regiment pitched their tents under Stafford Hill, while the Manchester Regiment, the Grenadier Guards and, later, the 4th King’s Royal Rifles were quartered on Basuto Hill. To enable the latter group to reach town, a suspension bridge was built across the Wilge River.
The artillery took post on Queen’s Hill, while a military hospital, No. 19 Stationary Hospital was situated where Bergsig is today.
A memorial service in honor of the death of Queen Victoria was held in Harrismith on Saturday 2 February 1901 starting at l0h00. The garrison in town, forming up on three sides, in a rectangle, facing the Town Hall (draped in black) gathered to show their respect. Lt Gen Rundle and Staff took up their places in the center. Precisely on the hour an 81-shot salute was fired from Johannesburg Hill (presumably this was 42nd Hill) overlooking the town.
Stafford Hill, which bears the stone badges of the Third Dragoon Guards (The Prince of Wales’ Feathers) the Knot of the Staffordshire Regiment and the Sphinx of the Manchester Regiment.
Knot of the Staffordshire Regiment clearly visible in this old photo.
This photo is part of Biebie de Vos collection
The Sphinx appeared in the badges of several British Regiment, it is difficult to ascertain which Regiment was responsible for the Badge. E B Hawkins claims that it is the Badge of the Gloucester Regiment, but according to the archivist of the Regiment, Lt. Col. H Radice, none of the Battalions of the Gloucestershire Regiment were in the vicinity of Harrismith. The badge could be possibly have been the handiwork of the Manchester Regiment, which also had a Sphinx as a badge, and was stationed at Harrismith.
The military camp of the 3rd Dragoon Guards, was established under a ridge to the east of the town. The 3rd Dragoon Guards whose regimental emblem is inscribe on the hillside, arrived in South Africa in February 1901 and remained in Harrismith until mid-1904. The 42nd Hill was previously known as Reitzheuwel.
42nd Hill, to the north of Harrismith where the N3 ascend to the plateau above Harrismith, has an interesting history. Before the war it was known as Reitzheuwel (after pres. FW Reitz of the Free State).
At the end of the Anglo Boer war, it was renamed after the 2nd Black Watch. (Not to be confused with the 1st Battalion Black Watch, which was part of maj.gen. Hector MacDonald’s Highland Brigade which seized Harrismith in August 1900, but they only stayed for a week, before moving on to Heilbron.)
The 2nd Battalion Black Watch only arrived in South Africa at the end of 1901 from India. They camped on top of Reitzheuwel, just above Harrismith. On 27 December the headquarters and 4 companies reached Harrismith. One of the companies stayed there, while the rest moved to Elands River Bridge. By the end of January 1902 the battalion returned to Reitzheuwel, where they would camp until the end of the war four months later. After the war they became part of the garrison stationed in Harrismith, still camping on Reitzheuwel. It was during this time that the hill was renamed after the 2nd Battalion ’s feeder unit, the 42nd Regiment of Foot. (During the Childers Reforms in the early 1880’s the 42nd Regiment of Foot became the 2nd Batalion Black Watch.)
The 2nd Black watch was relocated to Kings Hill when the permanent buildings were erected early in 1903. They left Harrismith in 1904.
The Regimental Badges are a Provincial Heritage site.
Thanks to Leon Strachan for sharing his knowledge.
“History is the witness that testifies to the passing of time; it illuminates reality, vitalizes memory, provides guidance in daily life and bring us tidings of antiquity” Cicero.
Evidence of history is all around us; the farms schools we attend and the stories told by the children’s family.
We attended farm schools as children. Hennie attended the Kruispad school close to Reitz in the Free State and I attended Kameel school in the North West. When we learned about an old Farm School in our area it was time to pay a visit.
We arrived at the address and realized that we have taken many pictures over the last couple of years of this building, not knowing that we will one day learn more about it.
Situated on a farm on the banks of the Meul River it sure brings back a lot of memories. The need to start a school was realized in the late 1800’s and early years of the 1900’s. Originally the school was in an old building close to the farm house. The farm owner showed us around and first school was in a packed stone building. No motart between die stones. The walls was not built up and on the one side was a shed with fodder for the animals that brought the children to school.
For many years the Farm School and the teachers would educate the kids of the surrounding farms. The school and the children and the farms were integrated and they would walk or ride with a horse cart to school.
The teacher had living quarters attached to the school . The stove chimney is still visible and look at the wallpaper. Remember not everyone had to privilege of a any sort of vehicle – not even a teacher way back then. Normally teachers would stay in the house of the family on which farm the school is situated.
The teacher’s quarters attached to the school and a door that leads into the classrooms.
The children sitting in this school has long gone passed on but their descendants still live in the area and the education that their ancestors received in this little school still remains after they have forgotten what was learned in the school. The knowledge was passed on from generation to generation.
The entrance to the school. Thinking of all the little feet that step up the steps to attend school.
The Burgher monument was inaugurated on 8 November 1938.
On Friday morning 1 March 1940, six months after the beginning of the Second World War, Harrismith awoke with the upsetting news that the Burgher Monument had been damaged: pieces of the kneeling burgher’s hat and rifle had been broken off. Angry people were already gathered around the Monument, more followed out of curiosity, wild threats were made and more than one fiery fist fight had to be stopped.
Although it could never be proved, persistent rumours had it that it was one of the two MacFadyen brothers who had got to the Monument with a piece of water pipe. They had been socialising in the Central Hotel on that Thursday evening before they were to depart to the front in North Africa the following morning. In die city hall, across the street from the hotel, a function was in full swing. Late that night they departed from the hotel, tipsy and upset with the Afrikaners’ apparent disapproval of the war in which they, as allies, were to place their lives at risk. Lively dance music from the city hall lured them to see what was going on. When they reached the Burgher Monument in front of the city hall, one brother froze, refusing to walk under the Boers’ granite arch. In the heat of the moment he grabbed a nearby piece of water pipe, and with his brother’s help, climbed onto the top of the arch. He aimed a massive blow at the burgher’s head, which he missed, but smashed off a piece of the wide-rimmed hat as well as the barrel of the mauser.
The leadership of the English-speaking community of Harrismith was most upset and immediately began collecting funds to repair the damage. Crankshaw Brothers, the original constructor of the Monument, repaired the barrel free of charge.
One would have thought that this would be the end of the matter. Not so! There was great disagreement about the fortune of the Monument between the followers of the two political parties of that time: The South African Party (SAP), the ruling party of General Jan Smuts, and the National Party (NP). While the SAP was quite satisfied that the Monument be repaired, the NP totally disagreed.
The neatly-repaired barrel was broken off again and hidden by members of the Ossewa Brandwag (OB), an organisation working in close co-operation with the NP. It was decided to make a political martyr of the statue: if would be left incomplete as a remembrance of injustice. The broken-off pieces of the statue were hidden, in great secrecy, in a loose sandstone brick in a wall on a farm in the district.
A new marble plaque was made with an inscription in Afrikaans, stating that the Burgher Monument had been violated on the morning of 1 March 1940 by the enemies of the Boer nation. Its inauguration was accompanied by great ceremony and political fanfare. The guest speaker was Mr. JC van Rooy, chairman of the Afrikaner Broederbond. Advocate Blackie Swart, a future state president, was also a speaker at the ceremony.
As a compromise between the two Afrikaner camps, it was decided to place the Monument in the hands of the Voortrekker Commando of Harrismith. A document was compiled, signed and the necessary stamps applied in order to make it official.
The broken-off pieces of the statue were put into safekeeping by the firm Cloete and Neveling Attorneys, where it remains to this day.
I think we have the most interesting monument in the country! By far!
Thanks to Leon Strachan and Jeannie Wasserman Cook for the information.
For more information we suggest that you read Leon Strachan’s book
Wanneer jy voor die monument staan besef jy dat die vrou klein van postuur is. Haar skouers is smal, byna asof sy koud kry in haar gegote gewaad. Sy is geklee in haar Voortrekkerkappie en lang rok. Onder haar rok steek haar fyn kaalvoete uit.
Haar regtervoet trap op ‘n klip. ‘n Mens verwag amper ‘n gebalde vuis of ‘n intimiderende gesig wat luidkeels uitroep, maar alles behalwe. Haar arms hang langs haar sye, verseker nie die lyftaal van ‘n veglustige aktivis nie. Sy het ‘n tipe kyk wat met jare se ondervinding kom. Liefdevol, wys, sag, geduldig en omdat die geskiedenis dit laat deurskemer, maar met ‘n goeie skoot vasberadenheid op.
Beeldhouer was Anton van Wouw
Die kaalvoet vrou is ‘n interessante hartseer storie van Susanna Catherina Smit. Susanna was die suster van Gert Maritz en die vrou van eerwaarde Erasmus Smit wat as die Voortrekkers se predikant opgetree het.
Die groep vroue was deel van Piet Retief se trek wat besluit het om die groen land van Natal as weivelde te kies. Volgens oorlewering het van die Voortrekker-vroue met ‘n Britse kommissaris in ‘n woordewisseling betrokke geraak. Hulle het met hom gestry omdat hulle nie onder Britse gesag wou staan nie en gesê dat vryheid vir hulle meer werd was as hulle lewens. Dit is toe dat Susanna Smit die bekende woorde uiter, “Liewer kaalvoet terug oor die Drakensberge as om onder Britse beheer te staan.” Susanna is egter in die destydse Natal dood, wat beteken dat sy nooit kaalvoet terug oor die Drakensberge geloop het nie.
We purchase De Oude Huize Yard and our family moved to Harrismith on 15 December 2000. Our sons did a huge commitment to leave their schools, sport and friends behind and join this new venture into the Free State. Remembering the night that we traveled to Harrismith and the uncontrolled veld-fires were lighting the skies Pedri made a comment —so beautiful but so destructive. Our new lives away from the hustle and bustle of Pretoria and “retirement” in the town will have to make a difference.
Everything’s done on impulse.
We bought the old house to save it from the bulldozer and in the words of Adam Small:
proud ou gabou—pathetic pêllie
stil ou—djy fancy djy staan nog…
djy word gedemolish sê ek vir djou!…
Hoor djy die pêrepote vannie bulldozers?
Ever since we have spend all our time in renovating and collecting history about our house and the town. Even thought everything that we , Pedri and Gerald-Cecil have done did not come easily we still see this as a blessing and we would like to believe that we have made a difference to De Oude Huize Yard and our neighbourhood.
Our neighbours are the best. On our day of arrival they welcomed us with tea, coffee, rusk and a lot of help. Strange people opened their hearts and hands to help us to move into a very dialectic house. They treat us with love and open their heart to all off us.
On opening the front door of our new dwelling we immediately decided to give it a name — De Oude Huize . The state of neglect was cleary visible and we decided to keep to the original era of the house and try to safe a little history in Stuart Street. We had little experience of such a big renovating process and as the kids at school asked Gerald-Cecil— does your parents know what they are doing—he could honestly answer I don’t know, I think they don’t know themselves.
We have read articles on renovating but nothing really helps until you start with the process. We have asked stupid questions and really work our fingers to the bone.
Sitkamer met kaggel
Deurbreek van ‘n deur
The renovation process of the original house was solely done by Hennie, Pedri and Gerald-Cecil. They have sanded floors, scraped down old paint remove rotten novilon, wood and carpets. They have cleaned the yard from invasive kakibos. They have leveled the garden and made new beds. They have opened up the Attic , painted every room and replaced old floorboards.
To put the cherry on cake the new sandstone wing was added on the footprint of the old stables.