A Burgher of the Free State

Notes on the text

(by John Radcliffe)

A Burgher of the Free State A citizen of the Orange Free State, with voting rights, in the strongly egalitarian democratic tradition of the Boer Republics.

Kimberley … cheated out of our diamond mines … searchlights Kimberley was and is the diamond capital of southern Africa, on the border of the Orange Free State, some ninety miles (150 km) north of Bloemfontein. When the diamond fields were discovered in 1872 it was annexed by the British, and became part of Cape Colony, with a British army garrison. It was a turbulent town, dominated by de Beers, the mining company controlled by Cecil Rhodes.

Soon after the outbreak of the Second South African War in October 1899, the Boer commandos surrounded and besieged Kimberley and a number of other British garrisons including Mafeking on the border with the Transvaal, and Ladysmith in Natal. Powerful searchlights were established around Kimberley, constructed by George Labram, an ingenious American engineer, to deter Boer attacks. The town was relieved by Field-Marshal Roberts’s forces in February 1900.

Israel In the Old Testament, the Lord God of the Israelites guided them on their journey out of Egypt through the desert. See Exodus 13,21-22: :

‘By day the Lord went ahead of them in a pillar of cloud to guide them on their way and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, so that they could travel by day or night.’

loyal People who were loyal to the Orange Free State in the war against the British. Probably most of the population apart from those few of British descent.

Bloemfontein Banner The main local newspaper. It was actually called The Express, a strongly pro-Boer paper which was closed down by Lord Roberts when the British captured the town in March 1900.

There was also The Friend of the Free State, a name retained as The Friend when it was taken over for a month by the British army. For a fortnight Kipling worked on the paper with Percival Landon of The Times, H.A.Gwynne of Reuter’s, and Julian Ralph, an American correspondent reporting for the Daily Mail.

Kaffir A disrespectful term used by both Dutch and British to refer to the black people of southern Africa, whether Zulu, Swazi, Basuto, or other peoples.

the stick and the case Clive Bradley writes

The stick is the hand-held angled piece of metal in which the compositor arranged type before inserting it in the forme. I don’t think ‘crooning’ is a technical term – I guess it is just humming while making up the type by hand.

The forme is the wooden frame in which a newspaper page is made up, and inside which the type can be arranged and locked. On a rotary press, an impression would then be made on a papier-maché mould which can then be curved and cast in metal as a half-circle plate which can be fixed to the presses.

For flatbed, it can be possible to insert the forme directly into the press, but I have never worked with flatbed, so can’t be sure of whether this was still done, but it probably was how Caxton did it in the fifteenth centruy, not making a separate cast-metal plate, which would be expensive and then has to be melted down for re-use. When type is made up from single letters in the font, it can be disassembled and reused, whereas linotype and monotype are cast as a line of type by the machines.

The quoins are wooden bars or wedges which were inserted in the forme to hold blocks of type and lock up the rows of type. [C.B.]

President Brand The much respected President of the Orange Free State from 1864 to 1888.

`Colesberg Kopje’ Before the discovery of diamonds there in 1872, Kimberley was farming country, of no great account. Cecil Rhodes, the founder of De Beers, got his start by renting water pumps to miners during the diamond rush that started in 1871, when an 83.5 carat diamond was found on Colesburg Kopje (present day Kimberley).

treated Kaffirs much as the Dutch treated them ,,, sold like a kaffir … sjamboked my black stuff The Boer famers, who had sometimes taken the land from the Africans at rifle point, tended to treat their black workers and servants with brutal authority, and the use of the sjambok, a fearful whip made of hippopotamus hide, against any insubordination. There was still slavery up to 1834.

British farmers had many of the same attitudes, though the British authorities—and missionaries—were more concerned about the interests of black Africans. This was much resented by the farmers.

press-room The room where articles were typeset in their final form and printed on the paper’s printing-press.

bentwood pipe A traditional pipe, smoked by farmers in southern Africa.

advertiser The paper was financed by advertising, and needed to cherish its diplomatic relations with those who used its columns to promoted their businesses.

the Hollander Dutchmen, comparative newcomers to south Africa, as opposed to the old ‘Afrikaner’ families, some of whom had been there since the early years of the century, or earlier.

the English He was, after all, a Scot.

beaten in ’81 The Transvaalers had decisively defeated the British in the first South African War (1880-1881).

stoepless, umbrellaed, unhallowed, competitive days As compared with more relaxed times of old. The stoep is the veranda around a traditional South African house, where one can sit at ones ease, do business, and entertain friends and relations, in an easy-going atmosphere.

the Bergmanns … Recently arrived incomers, presumably from Germany, Holland,or elsewhere. Kipling is clearly keen to stress that a lot of the hostility against the British was stirred up by recently arrived foreigners. Few present-day historians would endorse this view.

the Bond The Afrikaner political party in Cape Colony, in opposition to the British.

teredo Teredo is a genus of ship worm that bores holes in the wood of ships. It can do great damage if not detected.

Pretoria graces Pretoria was the capital of the Transvaal, and with the wealth from the goldfields of the Rand, a place where important citizens and their ladies could assume a certain style.

grown rich … uitlanders In 1887 the discovery of gold in the Transvaal, the biggest deposits in the world, had brought wealth to the Republic, but created a host of problems. President Paul Kruger prophesied to his countrymen:

Instead of rejoicing you would do better to weep, for the gold will cause our country to be soaked in blood.
[quoted in The Great Boer War by Byron Farwell, p. 21]

Large numbers of uitlanders—foreign adventurers from many different coutries, many of them British—had crowded into Johannesburg in search of wealth. The reluctance of the Transvaal Government to give them political rights was the ostensible cause for which Britain had gone to war.

‘… ye’re bywith that even’ A Scottish expression suggesting that ‘you’re not even capable of that’.

Groblaars Groblerdal is in the Transvaal, sixty miles north-east of Pretoria, a country district.

Frankenstein’s monster In the novel by Mary Shelley, published in 1818, the scientist Dr Frankenstein creates a monster, a huge human figure, who turns out to be destructve and murderous. Allen is suggesting that Bergmann and the Bond had encouraged foreigners to come in and stir up trouble.

Blackwood’s The much respected Blackwood’s Magazine, published in Edinburgh, which had very high standards of production. The suggestion is that Blackwoods did not allow outside contributors to have too much influence.

As a young journliast in Lahore Kipling had worked with Chalmers, a Scottish foreman at the Civil and Military Gazette who may have been a model for Allen, and who might have told him of the Blackwoods tradition. [RK to Margaret Burne-Jones, Dec 18 1885, in Letters, Thomas Pinney (Ed.) vol 1 p.107]

Albert coats Frock coats named after Queeen Victoria’s Consort, Prince Albert. Smart formal dress.

honest taal The ‘taal’ was a form of seventeenth century Dutch, spoken by the Boers in country districts, the basis of modern Afrikaans. Not to be able to speak the taal would mark one out as an incomer to the deeply traditional Boers.

zarp A policeman from Johannesburg in the Transvaal. (Zuid-Afrikaanische-Republiek-Politie).

outspanned The Boers traditionally used ox-wagons for transport, with three or four ‘span’ (pairs) of oxen. When they trekked north and east from Cape Colony in the 1830s and 40s to escape British imperial authority, their wagons carried them across the open veld.

If there was danger they made a circle of wagons—a ‘laager’—and settled down to defend themselves with their hunting rifles. To ‘outspan’ was to unharness one’s oxen; an ‘outspan’ was an area on a farm kept available for travellers to rest and refresh their animals.

drouth Drought

biltong Dried spiced strips of meat, which could be kept in a hot cilmate when there was no refrigeration.

prood Proud.

in Moshesh’s war … Basuto Mosheshe was a Bechuana chief who in the 1820s and 30s had brought together a number of groups of native people into the Basuto nation, whose heartland was in the mountainous area to the south of what was to become the Orange Free State. In 1838 the first Boer trekkers had crossed the Orange River to set up new free republics.

There was frequent tension between the Basutos and the Boer settlers, who resented Mosheshe’s decision in 1843 to put his people under British protection. In 1854 the Orange Free State became an independent republic, but trouble with the Basutos continued. There was open war in 1858, concluded by a treaty with Mosheshe which defined the boundary between Basutoland and the Free State.

Lock up the telegraph page!’
‘The ‘telegraph page’ is presumably the newspaper page in which late copy is featured, i.e. the telegrams coming in, or the ‘stop press’.’ [C.B.]

God the Mauser The Boers believed that they had God on the side of their commandos, but had also taken steps to see that they were well equipped. When it was clear that they might have to fight the British, they had bought thousands of powerful Mauser rifles from Germany that could kill at 2,300 yards. They were more accurate and could be reloaded much more quickly than the Lee-Metford and Lee-Enfield rifles used by the British..

Carlyle’s French Revolution The French Revolution, by the Scottish philosopher Thomas Carlyle, was published in 1837. It gives a vivid account of the horrors of the revolution of 1789 and its aftermath.

So long as they can lift cattle on the border The Boere commandoes needed to supply and feed their men, but there is no evidence that we are aware of that there was significant theft of cattle from local farmers, nor that the Free Staters saw the Transvaalers as foreigners. They were, after all, fighting together in the same cause. Viewed dispassionately at a distance of a hundred years, this passage, written for effect while the war was still being fought, reads like wishful thinking on Kipling’s part.

field-cornet Within the Boer republics, the veld cornet gave administrative support to the local magistrate, and to the commandant who led the burghers in time of war. All were elected.

Botha or Cronje Two of the leading Boer generals.

‘Oh, but the war will be over in a few weeks. This was a widely held view among the Boers, who recalled their success in the war of 1880-81, and did not believe that the British would accept the cost of a full scale war.

rooineks Rednecks, British.

Old Colony … Colonials Cape Colony was the original area of European settlement in South Africa. ‘Colonials’ signified ‘people from Cape Colony’.

Colesberg and the South A strategic area in Cape Colony along the Orange River where there was fighting in the early months of the war. The Freestaters had hoped that Dutch people of Cape Colony would jjoin them against the British, but this did not prove to be the case.

Molteno, Middleburg, Aliwal North, Burghersdorp, Hopetown, Barkly West Places of Dutch settlement in Cape Colony where the Boer commandos could hope for support.

Belmont One of the early battles of the war, in which the British sustained heavy losses, though the Boers failed to halt their advance.

Colenso, Stormberg, and Magersfontein … Magersfontein A series of defeats for the British in December 1899, in what came to be called ‘Black Week’.

Buller’s brigade Sir Redvers Buller, Commander-in-Chief in South Africa until Lord Roberts took over in January 1900.

Rhodes Cecil Rhodes, the millionaire businessman who controlled the de Beers mining company, was trapped in Kimberley during the siege. He actually had good supplies of food and drink, though he constantly agitated for the British army to relieve the town. He laid on a banquet for the officers whem relief came.

pom-poms Automatic Maxim quick-firing guns, of one inch (approx 2 cm.) calibre.

a hot time in the old town tonight From a popular American song of the day, by J. Hayden, sung during the Spanish-American War of 1898,

Zululand and Basutoland Important tribal areas, Zululand on the border of Natal, and Basutoland south of the Free State.

using black troops from India … Basuto No units from the Indian Army actually fought in the war. However, see Seamus Wade’s letter in KJ 273 on the use of black South African soldiers by the British.

There is though, no evidence we are aware of that the Free State Boers sought to stir up the Basuto people against the British as Kipling suggests—indeed given the historical background of conflict with the Basutos, they would probably have found it difficult to muster their support. (See ‘Mosheshe’ above.)

Gurkhas Famous Nepalese fighting soldiers recruited by the British into Gurkha regiments of the Indian Army. They did not fight in the South African War.

Koopmans A common Boer name. In long-settled areas everybody would be related to everybody else in some degree.

Vryheid In Natal.

predikants Ministers of the Dutch Reformed Church.

the disloyal Dutch across the border Boer famers in Cape Colony who did not support the Boers in the war, and whose cattle might be considered as fair game for the commandos.

shot the black-stuff off it Got rid of the black inhabitants at rifle point.

Jagersfontein Presumably the area in which Allen had briefly farmed in earlier years, and where he had found the ill-treatment of the local African people distasteful. Some sixty miles soith-west of Bloemfontein.

the Raad The Volksraad was the lawmaking body in a Boer republic.

Kruger … Steyn Paul Kruger was the President of the Transvaal, and Marthinus Steyn of the Orange Free State.

Poplar Grove. A strategic area near the border with Cape Colony, where the British were making advances. By now, February 1900, the tide of war had turned against the Boers, and Bloemfontein was under threat.

Vaal The Vaal river, the border between the Freetate and the Transvaal.

Eugene Field American poet (1850-95).

Cuban business During the Spanish-American War, the island of Cuba was taken under American protection in 1898.

Royal Souvenirs An invented name for a British regiment.

She had come to borrow a Union Jack To indicate support for the British.

one President babbling of foreign intervention There had been some hope on the Boer side that European powers such as Germany, which had expressed sympathy for their cause, might intervene on their behalf. In the event Germany remained neutral.

Censor All reports from the front had to be approved by the military censor, a routine procedure in time of war.

the Little Man’s proclamation The proclamtion by Field Marshal Roberts to the people of Bloemfontein after the capture of the town.

aventurine sealing-wax Sealing wax made from chalcedony. (?).

penny-a-liners. Inexpensive advertisements in the ‘classified’ section of the paper, charged at a penny a line.

Bobs Field Marshal Lord Roberts

old ads.—stereo matter?’ Stereos are blocks, usually of an advertisement, which can be inserted whole into the page in the forme. They are – or were – usually made by making up the ad (or whatever, e.g. a masthead) and then making an impression of it in a papier mache mould, then casting a flat block which can be locked in the forme. In this context, the compositor is looking for such a stereo to fill empty space in the forme.’ [C.B.]

(See above)

Raadzaal The Parliament building, where the Volksraad mat.

Amabuna Zulu for ‘The Boers’.

tea—not coffee The British traditionally drank tea from India, and the Dutch coffee from Java.

Tabanchu A small town in the Free State.

anything that you care to tell me He is inviting Allen to inform against his fellow citizens.

kabeljous in our own water It is not clear what the boy means by this.


©John Radcliffe 2010 All rights reserved