Platberg the Free State’s own Table Mountain

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.

An interesting fact is that the hagiographer who was sending from Platberg during the Anglo-Boer War could be read in Escourt.
Platberg Collage2
It towers about 2000 feet above the town with a dolerite cape and halfway up its slopes can be seen cave-sandstone beds, with their characteristic incipient caves.
Zeeland Collage
Above the Alexandra plantation is the only real cave, namely the Zeeland Cave as in the main picture of this collage.  On Spur is running out to the west and is known as Palm Grove see left bottom and a close-up next to it.  The Swiss cave in line with the Khyber Pass cuts aeons ago out of the solid rock by the stream which flows below it, or one might say, between the two halves is shown in the below pictures next to the Spur. The picture on the bottom right is  close-up.
Caves Collage
The picture at the top right is the round Turkey cave, set high in the cliff and entry requires a cool head and strong arms, but success gives a wonderful sense of achievement and a magnificent view of the mountains in that quarter. A close-up is shown under that. .
The Dining cave is a large over-hang with a monkey path running round a good part of it.  It is the recognized resting place before attempting the last part of the climb up the One Man Pass on the right top.
Platberg blomme
It has wooded kloofs, filled with ferns and flowers, Agapanthus, Watsonias, Kniphofias, Leonotis, Selago, Phygelius and many others.

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.

The Rhodesian Flame Lilly (Littonia Modesta) is a climbing perennial of up to 1 meter. It is found in tall grass on forest margin at 4800feet. It flowers in January and is very rare and is protected in KwaZulu-Natal. What makes this lily so exceptional is that it has also been found on the back slopes of Platberg.
Waterval 2 Collage
The waterfalls during the rainy season

Waterval 1 Collage

There are a number of passes running through the mountain.

One-Man Collage
The most popular pass is called One Mans Pass, so called because from a distance an isolated column of rocks standing out against the skyline presents the appearance of a single person standing upright. Up this Pass lies the route for those taking part in the annual mountain race held each October.
Zig-Zag Collage
Zig-Zag Pass holds a romantic tale used to be told of a large rock, roughly four feet square, which could be seen at the foot of the Zig-Zag pass, a little towards the west. On it the words ‘Iris Isabelle” was deeply cut. The story ran that a newcomer in this country climbed up and down the Pass and them, wearied out, fell asleep in the shadow of the rock. As he slept he dreamed of the girl he left behind and on waking he carved her name in the rock. But the Isabelle Rock, as it was called is now no more seen. It was probably crushed for use when the mountain Drive was first made in about 1925.  The Zig Zag pass is visible just right of the Z-shaped rock formation and was utilized to descend from the mountain.

Donkey Pass Collage

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.
Khyber Collage
Die  Khyber pass reminds of the sight of a gun. It was named after the Khyber pas in India.

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.

Piekniek 1
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

Gibson Collage
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.
Platberg Hawkins Collage
Hawkins and Von During Dams – The dam was built in 1899 and named after Captain Harlan Hawkins. He was also in command of “Harrismith Volunteer Light Horse” from 1914 to 1918.
In the last years of the century the Council once again took thought for the water supply of the town, and planned a storage dam. This dam is today known as the Von During Dam, after a very popular mayor in office long after its construction, but it was felt desirable for him to have a memorial of some sort.
Mr. Hawkins was responsible for making the dam, and pointed out to the Council that a second dam high up the stream could be built. His suggestion was adopted and the present Hawkins dam came into being

Blockhouse still stands guard over the Dams  Blokhuis Collage

sandsteen curbs
During 1963 water was brought to the town via water furrow. This changed in July 1877 when the the furrow were paved with sandstone.

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.

Till next time

Hennie & Sandra


De Oude Huize Yard an Eco-friendly Establishment

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.


DNHwLiuW4AEDS2j.jpg large
The view towards Platberg

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. 

Mure waarvan die pleister afgekap is die stene aan die regterkant is grondstene
The uneven mud bricks is clearly visible.

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.De Oude Huize Bou 2-1

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.

Sun power water heating 
The landscape lighting is 100% solar-powered or rechargeable

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.

Hennie busy inspecting the compost in one of the earthworm containers.

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.

Our vegetable garden is under shade cloth and the raised beds were made from old wooden pallets. Sawdust has been sprinkled as a ground cover to minimize weeds and pests. We have planted only heirloom seeds. 
Stone packed gabions as boundary walls.
The workshop has been fitted with regenerated floor board doors.

Till next time

Hennie & Sandra

Tolbrug by Swinburne

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.”

Die Tolbrug soos huidiglik

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 brug waar die waens en rytuie die rivier oorgesteek het en tolgeld moes betaal.

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.

Britse troepe span uit langs die Wilgerivier by die Tolbrug tydens die Suid-Afrikaanse Oorlog.


Die Wilgerivier by die brug het ‘n gunsteling plek geword om die motors van die tyd te was.     Baie dankie aan Biebie de Vos vir hierdie foto
Vroeër dae was dit ook die plek om ‘n foto of twee te neem. Foto Biebie de Vos

Tot volgende keer

Hennie & Sandra

De Oude Huize Yard


Annie Watson Bain

Sharing this wonderful post of Annie Watson Bain.

She made memories for the her family for years to come.

She was born in 1893, the fifth of seven Bain kids of the ‘Royal Bains’ – meaning the Royal Hotel Bains. There were also ‘Central Bains’.

She ran the Caltex and rented out the Flamingo Cafe and Platberg Bottle Store premises. At that time she lived in the Central Hotel a short block away across the Deborah Retief Gardens and I do believe she drove to work every day. Maybe drove back for lunch even?

A big thank you!

Vrystaat Confessions

By the time we knew her she was Annie Bland. Never ‘granny’. Only Annie.

In fact ‘Annie Watson Bain’ to me was the lady who died (WW1?) whose name was on one of the monuments outside the Town Hall (a cousin of our Annie?).

They’d already lost the farms and the racehorses, and our gran Annie now owned the Caltex filling station in town. It was on Caskie Corner, opposite our posh Town Hall which Annie’s father Stewart Bain had been instrumental in building. It was called Bain’s Folly as it was such an imposing structure for our modest dorp.

HS Town HallHarrismith Town Hall Bain's FollyTown Hall3

Annie always spoke with great admiration of her late husband Frank – the granpa we never knew – and told me proudly how she’d never seen his fingernails dirty (as she looked disapprovingly – probably more disappointedly, she never had a harsh word for me –  at mine). She…

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Military Insignia – Harrismith 1900

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.

1st Battalion Black Watch, which was part of maj.gen. Hector MacDonald’s Highland Brigade which seized Harrismith in August 1900. The photo courtesy of Biebie de Vos collection

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.

Royal Engineers
Manchester Regiment, the Grenadier Guards and, later, the 4th King’s Royal Rifles were quartered on Basuto Hill and had to make use of a suspension bridge to reach town. Thank you to Biebie de Vos for sharing a part of his collection

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.

42 nd
The view from 42nd Hill from where the 81-shot salute was fired. Part of Biebie de Vos collection

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 Plumes of the Prince of Whales visible on this old photo which is part of the Biebie de Vos collection

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.

Platberg and Military History-5
The British Regimental Badges in Harrismith.

The Regimental Badges are a Provincial Heritage site.

Thanks to Leon Strachan for sharing his knowledge.

Till next time

Hennie & Sandra




Story of a Free State Farm School

“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.

DSC_0095The entrance to the school. Thinking of all the little feet that step up the steps to attend school.

The Burgher Monument, Harrismith

The Chevy pays a visit to the Burgher Monument

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.

Protesters on horseback

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.

The new marble plaque

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.

The broken of barrel

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

Krygers en Skietpiete

Till next time

Hennie & Sandra