THE DATE: Tuesday 12 December 2017
VENUE: KwaMuhle Museum, Bram Fischer Road [Ordnance Road] Durban.
TIME: Meeting commences at 1715; Refreshments will be served from 1630.
CHARGE: Meeting charge for refreshments; Members R20 – Visitors R30
PARKING: Off Bram Fischer/Ordnance road [next to the Museum]; security person is present
FEATURE: HEROD THE GREAT – a great, and possibly the greatest builder of all time. Member Alison Bastable fell in love with the near East in 1983. Her talk, which is a superb follow on to Robin Smith’s October presentation, will take us on a visit to Petra, Masada, Herodium, Caesarea Maritima and Jerusalem to see what an astounding legacy he left behind.
REPORT BACK SOCIETY AGM 2017:
The Society’s AGM was again held at the RNYC but somewhat earlier in the month than usual on Saturday 18 November.
It was an enjoyable gathering of members and friends who celebrated the previous year’s many successes. However it will always be remembered by everyone there because Treasurer Myra Boyes had received splendid news the day previously; news which Myra aptly described as arriving at the eleventh hour. SARS had sent an email at 1600 with an attachment stating that the Society met the requirements of a Public Benefit Organisation and providing our PBO number. Now PBO 930011633 will appear on letterheads, newsletters and the Society website.
The letter states that the Society is exempt from Income Tax as ‘you meet the requirements of a Public Benefit Organisation (PBO) set out in section 30(3) of the Income Tax Act 58 etc…)
The letter goes on to state:
The exemption letter includes the following clause which we understand will require the donor to claim for any donation:
Welcome news indeed and a great omen for the year ahead. Myra was warmly praised for both her patience and tenacity by President Ian Smith and Chairman Hardy Wilson because they more than anyone knew the hard work and effort Myra had put into gaining this status.
The AGM chaired by President Ian Smith, started at 1300, and following apologies from 43 members, who were listed in the AGM booklet, all stood for a moment in memory of members who had passed on since the previous AGM.
The chairman Hardy Wilson read his report covering major activities during the previous year and thanking the many people, committee members as well as members, plus others including Snothi Thabethe – Director of the DLHM and Lucille Webster Director of Libraries at DUT, both of whom were the Society’s guests, for their support and contribution to our successes.
Myra Boyes read her treasurers report with great enthusiasm which was hardly surprising in view of the Society being granted a PBO only the day before. But members were equally impressed by the sound financial management which has been the case under Myra’s firm guiding hand.
President Ian then read out the names of members nominated to sit on the 2018 committee with Chair Hardy ending with the nomination of our hardworking President for a further year.
Committee members have all agreed to head specific portfolios so your new committee appears in the table below with their respective portfolios.The minutes, chairman’s and treasurer’s report will be found on the SA National Society website – and if you are reading this on our site click this link to download as a PDF.
Following an enjoyable lunch Paul Mikula our guest speaker enthusiastically entertained everyone with a different but pertinent take on art and the way it has changed in the past century. This address resulted in enthusiastic support from those present for a repeat visit to the Phansi Museum.
|SA National Society 2017-2018 Committee|
|President: Ian Smith||Chair: Hardy Wilson||Secretary: Memory Coutts|
|Treasurer: Myra Boyes||Photos: Sanabelle Ebrahim||Website: Hugh Bland|
|Publicity: Mikhail Peppas||Events: Angela St George||V-P: Naureen Craig|
|V-P: Robert King||V-P: David Hughes||V-P: Theunis Walter Eloff|
Click to download a PDF of the Chairman and Treasurer’s Annual Reports:
MAZEPPA STREET by Tony Voss Presented to SA National Society on 2017-07-11
In July this year members enjoyed a stimulating presentation from Tony Voss, who is a research associate of NMMU (Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University, Port Elizabeth), but due to pressures at the time, Part 3 of the August Newsletter was never finished. So here is more of Tony Voss’s presentation – Mazeppa Street.
Please also note we have exercised some editorial prerogative because the spelling of the ‘heroes’ name appears with one ‘p’ not two in some records.
The name “Mazeppa” appears at three places on the map of South Africa. The original toponym is Mazeppa Bay (32°S, 28°E) on the Wild Coast. The second is Mazeppa Street, which runs south from near the eastern end of Smith Street (Anton Lembede Street) in Durban (29°S, 31°E). The Mazeppa triangle is closed at the farm Mazeppa, which lies about forty kilometres south of Middelburg, Eastern Cape (31°S, 25°E), on the Graaff-Reinet road.
Mazeppa Street is not marked a Plan of the Town of Durban 1851 (Local History Museum 82/830), but the Durban Corporation “instituted the proper naming of all Streets and Roads in the Borough not already named” at a Council meeting on 10th July 1877 and the name appears on a Plan Drawing of 1881. (Local History Museum, 78/96, 78/97).
The central episode in the life of the legendary (if not mythical) Mazepa (as opposed to the historical) reputedly took place at the court of Jean Casimir, King of Poland, where as a young man he was caught in an intrigue with a nobleman’s wife. Mazepa was punished by being strapped naked to the back of a white horse, which galloped off into its homeland in the vast plains of Eastern Europe. After four days, the horse dies under its burden, who survives to become Hetman, or “General” of the Cossacks of Ukraine. (Ukraina means “‘on the edge’ or ‘the frontier’ ”.) Byron’s Mazeppa, a Poem, published in 1819 caused a sensation.
The hero became a romantic icon and an emblem of speed: at any one time through the 19th century there could be as many as half-a-dozen Mazeppas listed in the Lloyds annual Register of Shipping. (Later on trains took the name.) Our Mazeppa owned and skippered by Captain Tait (also Tate) is one of the ships, “Built at: supposed United States”. “When built” was “Not known” but the surveyor Courtenay further if speculatively filled out her history and description:
This is a shallow vessel, not sharp and is constructed of longer scantling than is usually found in vessels of her description. She appears to have been engaged in the slave trade and captured on the coast of Africa last year and is apparently about 7 years old, I am of opinion she is now fit for the conveyance of perishable cargoes.
The “slaver” was a specialised craft, “every quality being sacrificed for speed”.
To some extent the historical record enables us to see the Mazeppa as coming from this same stable. The early Natal settler Francis Armstrong called her “a fast boat”, and Adulphe Delegorgue judged her “an excellent craft”. John Owen Smith, who became her owner in about 1840, puffed her as “The fine fast-sailing Schooner ‘Mazeppa’” (Eastern Province Herald 21.2.1846). In August 1848 the “good old ‘Mazeppa’” (Kraus, p.57), carrying a cargo of “600 fowls” set a record of 64 hours for the voyage from Port Natal to Algoa Bay (Harradine), a journey that could take a week, as could the passage between Table and Algoa Bays: “an average of seven days” according to J. C. Chase. Early in 1840 our Mazeppa was hailed and boarded by a British corvette of the anti-slavery squadron, the Modeste, which Frans Mathys Wolhuter, who was a passenger on board the Mazeppa at the time, explained by the fact that she “was a slaver before being taken by a British cruiser” (p.4), and still looked like a slaver.
Captain Tate bought from the British Government a slaving schooner, captured by the Royal Navy’s anti-slavery squadron, and, after refitting and repairs, re-named it Mazeppa. We can’t be certain but I think this Esperança (one of the last slavers to be sold on whole rather than cut up or burned) may be Captain Tate’s original, and this is a better image of a schooner than any of those we know for certain to be of our Mazeppa.
Captain Tate sailed his Mazeppa to her new home port, Algoa Bay, and she became a busy trader, sailing along the South African coast and (as we shall see) further afield. We can still see some record of what (and whom) she carried
Mazeppa Bay received its name from the schooner in the 1840s. The Graham’s Town Journal of 4 July, 1844, under the heading “British Enterprize” reported that the Port Elizabeth merchant John Owen Smith, after a “personal examination of the coast from the Buffalo to the Umzimvoobo” had established “a trading station in Hintsa’s territory, and the opening of a communication by sea with that country”. Smith’s vessel was even then “safely anchored in Mazeppa Bay…at the mouth of a river [probably the Nebelele] in Hintza’s country…delivering her cargo at Port Fynn, so named after the first vessel employed in this trade, and of the British resident agent in the country where it is carried on”. (2) The opening of a port on this coast, as the Journal’s report suggests, was both an achievement and an opportunity for colonial merchants, filling a long-felt need. Captain Owen had observed the coast’s “total want of harbours”, acknowledging that “to compensate for this deficiency it has an abundance of rivers”. (Owen: I, 70)
But our Mazeppa played a more dramatic part in Natal history too. In April or May 1835, Louis Trichardt, who had been for some years an exile from the Cape Colony, set out north with his party. On the Cape Argus/Saul Solomon Outline Map of 1877, an eminence just east of Southeyville, south of the Indwe River and north-west of St Mark’s is named Trikarots Hill. Soon the Trichardt trek party were camping between the Orange and the Caledon: when they set out northwards across the Eastern Free State, they had been joined by some members of the van Rensburg trek, including the Bothas from what is now Middelburg in the Eastern Cape: Hendrik (“wamaker”) and Anna and their five children. On 23rd August, 1837 Trichardt set out for Delagoa Bay, which he reached on 13 April 1838, with “46 Christians and 7 servants”.
By this time John Owen Smith of Algoa Bay was using the Mazeppa in trade with the “emigrant farmers” at Port Natal, to whom he had supplied guns and ammunition, one consignment of which was impounded at Port Elizabeth in 1838. At about this time Captain Tate (accompanied by the Natal settler Peter Hogg) on the Mazeppa was sent by the Cape Government to plant the British flag on the Island of Inyaka (Inhaca). At Delagoa Bay they visited the survivors of the Trichardt trek. When Hogg returned to Algoa Bay he reported to Smith. Smith had heard of the plight of Trichardt’s party from the Reverend Francis Owen, but his application for permission to send a ship for the trekkers was at first refused. By 19th June 1839, permission had been granted and on 25th June the Mazeppa sailed on its “humane mission” under the command of Captain John Tait: on board was George Christopher Cato, Smith’s representative in Port Natal. (Note Cato’s probable familiarity with the vessel.) They arrived in Delagoa Bay on 3d July, and returned to Port Natal on 19th July with the 25 survivors of the Trichardt trek, including the widow Anna Botha and her two daughters and three sons. The Dutch residents of Port Elizabeth subscribed to charter the Mazeppa: the survivors’ passage had cost ₤180.
By the end of 1839, the “emigrant farmers” had established the Republic of Natalia. On 4th May 1842, Captain Thomas Smith, who had been waiting at the mouth of the Umgazi River, arrived in Port Natal with a detachment of the Royal Artillery, to re-establish Britain’s presence, if not to take possession in the name of the crown. Very soon Smith and his troops, after a disastrous attack on the Boer position at Congella on the night of 23rd May, were besieged in the Old Fort, pinned down by the Republican marksmen. Most English settler civilians were made captive, some to be gaoled in Pietermaritzburg, and some detained at Port Natal, including Allen, the master of the Mazeppa. (Mackeurtan: 275) On 1st June, Pretorius sent the Reverend James Archbell under flag of truce to recommend that women and children should take refuge on board the Mazeppa, which had arrived in the bay on 24th May and whose cargo the Boers had seized. Amongst the women and children on board the Mazeppa, Archbell, James McKenzie, Joseph Cato and Peter Hogg had concealed themselves. On 10th June, under Cato’s command, the Mazeppa slipped her cable, and, with all aboard lying low and protected by mattresses which had been draped over the side as if for airing, ran the gauntlet of the Republican fire from the Point and the Bluff, and sailed for Delagoa Bay in search of British help. When the Mazeppa returned on 27th June, the warship Southampton with a company of troops was off Port Natal, and Britain’s third and final occupation was under way.
But the British troops were there from the efforts not of women and men sailing a schooner, but from those of a man (or two men) whose exploits recall the original Mazeppa in a different way.
During the night of 26th May the Cato brothers, in boats from the schooner, had rowed Dick King across the bay to begin his 10-day ride to Grahamstown for British reinforcements. On the night he left Port Natal, King had been sleeping on board the Mazeppa, who with some other men had managed to hide out on board, escaping detection by the Boers.
The Cato brothers rowed King and his young Zulu companion Ndongeni across the bay swimming two horses supplied by Major Smith, and from somewhere near King’s Rest, King and Ndongeni set out for Grahamstown.
Mazeppa Street, then commemorates especially these two episodes: the “humane mission” to bring back the survivors of the Trichardt trek, and the “epic journey” of escape to seek help for the besieged British. In memory, history is aligned with literature, and legend with myth. So Major Hook identifies the fate of King’s horse Somerset with that of Mazeppa’s courser of the steppes, as told by Byron:
In passing through Bathurst Street [in Grahamstown], an old officer – Somerset’s former owner – accosted him [King], but time did not permit the veteran to again stroke his old favourite, and the impatient rider passed on…The news in the military barracks next morning was that King lay in hospital and Somerset was dead.
Major Hook concludes the story with a quotation from Byron’s poem:
A moment staggering, feebly fleet,
A moment with a feint low neigh
He answered, and then fell!
With gasps and glazing eyes he lay
And reeking limbs immovable:
…his last career was done.
(Hook, 177-178: Byron, 123; ll.690-694 )
There had been an earlier connection made between Byron’s poem and the saviour of colonial Natal. In The History of Old Durban and reminiscences of an immigrant of 1850, first published in 1899, George Russell wrote that King “was visiting on board the ‘Mazeppa’” on the night he was asked to undertake the ride to Grahamstown.
He is not known to be of a poetical turn, so his entertainment on board the Mazeppa did not suggest his brief reply, ‘Bring forth the horse’… (quoted in Eyre, 41)
The implication may be that King in fact was “of a poetical turn”: his quotation from Byron’s poem is from the mouth of the cuckolded nobleman who condemns Mazeppa to his ride. (Byron, 112: l.358) King in this account thus commits himself to the mission into the wilderness, conscious of his Romantic precedent.
Fittingly, Dick King is commemorated in Grahamstown too, and in many poems. And one of Natal’s own poets also remembered Byron and identified himself with the hero.
Like the Cape of Good Hope, Mauritius had become a British possession after the Napoleonic Wars. Auguste Toussaint, the Mauritius historian, wrote that the Mazeppa was “Registered in Mauritius in 1848” until it was “sold abroad in 1857… Between those years, Mazeppa belonged to the Mauritius Merchant Marine and served on the circuit Madagascar and Dependencies, Mauritius”. Having arrived in Port Louis on 17th October 1848, under the command of Captain Watts, the Mazeppa was examined by the Harbour Master “to report on her qualifications for the packet service”, who referred the matter to a committee including the Master and the Carpenter of H.M.S. Geyser and the Carpenter of H.M.S. Brilliant. They found the “Timber and planking perfectly sound and in good condition” but confirmed the Harbour Master’s judgment and his recommendation. So the Mazeppa, as a jobbing freighter, entered the “Merchant Marine”, rather than the “packet service”.
We do not know yet where the Mazeppa “was sold abroad in 1857”. We do know our Mazeppa led an active life.
The last record we have is The Mercantile Navy List for 1858, which lists “Mazeppa, code QKRG: of Port Louis, 95 tons” assigning it the number 30410. The code QKRG is its sequence of flags, identifying the Mazeppa according to the International Code of Signals, first drafted in 1852. There is no ship name for the number 30410 in the Mercantile Navy List for 1859.
But the South African map hadn’t done with the Mazeppa. Driving South of Middelburg in the Eastern Cape, just north of the Lootsberg Pass on the road to Graaff-Reinet, I saw 20 years ago this white horse painted on a rock-face on the eastern side of the road, with the inscription: “88 jaar oud”.
On a visit to Middelburg in 1995, I learned that the horse is believed to have been there for a long time, and according to Mr. P.F. (“Oom Frikkie”) Aucamp it was painted by a bored road-worker one Sunday afternoon in 1940, when a road engineer, Mr. Wheeler, had a road camp at Ventershoek, just below the Lootsberg Pass, on the Middelburg side. (Mrs Hester du Toit, Curatrix, Middelburg Cultural History Museum: Letter, 25 November 1996)
The farm Mazeppa, which lies about 200 metres west of the road from Graaff-Reinet to Middelburg, seems originally to have formed part of Roodehoogte until sometime after the war of 1899-1902. In 1905 as Roodehoogte A, a farm was granted to Stephanus Coetzee Botha. In 1925 ownership of Roodehoogte A was transferred by Botha to G. F. Smith, but in about 1929 a grand and elegant house (“’n spoghuis”) was built on Botha’s property. When Stephanus Coetzee Botha died in 1931, however, he left “my farm Mazeppa”, which in his will is described as his “usual place of residence” to his son Douglas. Roodehoogte A was a portion of 2,448 morgen: Mazeppa now covers 595 morgen. (Deeds Office, Cape Town: file farm Roodehoogte: Cape Archives, MOOC 6/9/3938, no.30873) Stephanus Coetzee Botha gave the name Mazeppa to his farm.
Whatever the motive of the bored road-worker, his fresco harmonizes with a rural legend, in which Stephanus Coetzee Botha is subjected to a transformation so as to conform to the demands of legend. He becomes Stephen Petrus Botha, who “fought on both sides” during the South African War: perhaps this double allegiance is expressed in the two Christian names, one English and one Afrikaans. (Even, perhaps in the name, Douglas, of Stephanus Coetzee Botha). When his support of the British is discovered by fellow Afrikaners shortly before the peace, he is judged by a commando near Rosmead Junction and punished by being strapped naked to a white horse which is sent galloping back to the family farm. (Interview with Mrs Peggy Torr, Bultfontyn, Middelburg, July, 1994) The name Mazeppa then recalls Botha’s punishment, but also alludes to the original Ukrainian Mazeppa, striving for the integrity of his homeland, and torn between two opposing sides.
Remember that the hero of this story is a Botha, and Mrs Anna Botha, the widow of Hendrik Botha, of Middelburg, “die wamaker”, her two daughters and three sons were among the survivors of the Trichardt trek, brought to Port Natal from Delagoa Bay on board the Mazeppa in 1839. John Owen Smith, who bought the Mazeppa from Captain Tate, owned farms in the Middelburg district in the 1850s.
It is impossible to do justice to a presenter when writing up his story, especially when space forces one to omit large parts of both the story, its links and its well-researched illustrations, but we hope members will enjoy revisiting this most enjoyable and mentally stimulating talk.
As a postscript we often check the internet for additional information and amazingly the farm Mazeppa with its roughly 500 ha of grounds is currently on the market for a few million rand.
Anniversaries provide an opportunity for reflection, without which life becomes a senseless blur of activity. So we shouldn’t allow the 75th milestone of El Alamein, South Africa’s finest military victory, to pass unnoticed. Especially as it was the first nail hammered into the coffin of what until that point appeared to be an impregnable dictatorship.
In November 1942, the 1st South African Division fought alongside comrades from the UK, India, Australia and New Zealand in winning the decisive African campaign of World War Two. After 12 bloody days of action against Rommel’s Afrika Korps, the Allies triumphed in what hindsight showed was the watershed in a war they had been losing.
Britain’s legendary wartime Prime Minister Winston Churchill described the battle as the “turning of the hinge of fate.” In volume eight of Churchill’s epic work on the Second World War, he wrote: “Before Alamein, we never had a victory. After Alamein we never had a defeat.”