NEWSLETTER FOR MID-SEPTEMBER 2018
September is a special month in the Society Calendar and this year proved no exception.
It is special because former council member Dr Killie Campbell was born and passed away in September, so fittingly the Killie Campbell Bursary Award, whenever possible, is made in September.
It marks the end of the Society’s year so provides an opportunity to reflect on and we believe be proud of our achievements.
Tuesday 11 September saw 90 members and invited guests at Muckleneuk, the home of the UKZN Campbell Collections, to not only present two bursaries again this year but also to unveil a plaque donated many years ago by the Returned Sailor’s, Soldier’s and Airmen’s League in memory of Ethel Campbell who was fondly known as the Angel of Durban.
Lastly members and friends enjoyed a long heritage chat with drinks and snacks on the beautiful veranda, which from the many emails and messages received the next day, did exactly what the committee intended by celebrating the growth of your Society over the past year.
Killie Campbell Memorial Lecture
Professor Donal McCracken painted an entertaining yet fascinating picture of the Campbell Family which arrived on our shores in 1850 as the result of the shenanigans of another Irishman, Byrne of Byrne Settler fame or should we say notoriety. The family and its descendants soon made an important mark on the Colony of Natal, in the sugar industry, the legislature and education.
Today we recognise the enormous contribution made by Dr Sam Campbell for as Vice Chancellor of the now UKZN, he encouraged T B Davis to provide the funds to build Howard College in memory of his son Howard; a son who like too many died in WW1. Prof McCracken also pointed out that we tend, completely erroneously, to look at Howard College as the University, whereas Howard College is the Berea campus with that outstanding central building that can be seen from around the city.
This year’s lecture had a poignant touch for after praising Roy Campbell and his poetry, members were reminded that Ethel Campbell MBE was in fact the first child of Sam and Margaret Campbell; with her brother Roy was some fifteen years younger. We were reminded too that Ethel almost certainly lost her only, yet unknown love, in WW1 and devoted her energy to the welfare of men passing through Durban and going off to the battle fronts of Europe and the Near East. But more of that later.
Three Society academics form the Killie Campbell Bursary selection committee and following the changes to the Society Constitution plus a vastly better advertising network, the number of applicants this year was the highest yet. After interviewing some of the KZN based applicants the committee then used Skype to interview applicants who lived far away. Having arranged the Skype set up your chairman was working in another room when the tone of the conversation changed and one detected heightened excitement amongst the interviewers.
However the committee faced a dilemma for not one but two applicants presented outstanding projects; projects that were close to the founding objectives of the Society, but projects that far exceeded our funding amount for 2018-2019. It is with immense gratitude that we acknowledge the generous support of an anonymous donor who made it possible to award two bursaries again this year.
Each prize winner was asked to compile a brief PowerPoint Presentation.
Kerry Glover writes about her project and its background which President Ian Smith presented to members:
I am a 39 year old television producer and director. I’ve spent my career mostly in the corporate sector, shooting business TV shows across southern, western and eastern Africa, as well as producing local commercials and music videos.
I have long wanted to return to study, as I have a passion for both art and African history, and was lucky enough to find a project that was based in my field of expertise, namely film. I resigned from my full time job at the end of 2016 to take on part time study with Wits, and started my own company doing freelance work to allow for flexibility.
The object of my research is a sequence of black-and-white silent footage filmed between 1928 and 1930, depicting a variety of scenes shot on Leo Frobenius’s 9th expedition to southern Africa. The film reels were re-discovered last year in the Frobenius Institute in Frankfurt. This is a picture of the reels taken by Janus Boshoff: they are a 16mm copy dating from the 1950s, stored in their climate chamber.
A fellow Wits student (Janus Boshoff) was visiting the Institute in 2016, and was given a digital copy of the footage on 2 DVDs to bring back to Wits, which has a study group headed by Dr Justine Wintjes, focussing on the Frobenius archive. The footage is approximately 2 hours in duration, and it appears to have been mostly if not entirely shot in what was then Southern and Northern Rhodesia, present-day Zimbabwe and Zambia. It is all black and white, recorded without audio and appears to be mostly raw footage, or partially edited.
A little bit of background on Leo Frobenius himself: German-born historian and ethnographer, Frobenius was a controversial figure, whose body of work has inspired (and continues to inspire) scholarly debate and criticism. Never fully completing his university education, he was to a large degree self-educated, and as a consequence was never fully accepted into the intellectual circles of the time. Whilst some of his theories received ambiguous responses, and on occasion ridicule, from academic quarters, Frobenius worked prolifically, publishing more than 50 books and undertaking twelve ambitious expeditions across the African continent, between 1904 and 1936.
Historian and Ethnographer
The images below are courtesy of the Frobenius Institute, both being drawings; the first of a sculptural object, the second of rock art.
My research has 2 aims:
1) The first is to fully document the content of the footage, which has never been studied before. I have used my experience as a television producer to create a logbook of the 2 hours’ worth of footage to help future researchers navigate and search the material. Members viewed a page from the logbook I am developing.
Kerry included brief clips from the black and white film taken during the Ninth Exhibition and we look forward to hosting and listening to a full description of this fascinating and important research at a Society meeting sometime in the new Society year.
President Ian Smith next presented what Anton Coetzee wrote about his equally fascinating project which is entitled:
Aura and Authenticity in the case of Digitised Artefacts
Digitising – in this case, 3-D scanning, artefacts and sites
- For preservation (for instance rock art sites, which are deteriorating)
- For research
- For education and public outreach
I’m not just looking at the technical side, but also the philosophical implications of these techniques
- What does this mean for authenticity, particularly when researchers are using this material? Can it be trusted as a stand-in for the original?
- What is lost (or gained) when digitising things – for instance seeing an object “in person” vs. seeing it on a screen?
- What use is it? The 3-D models might be of use for research, education, or in some cases just a step in the production of more useful material.
I’m using freely available “Open-Source” software (and some of my own) to both produce models, and then “look inside” the process and unpack it theoretically.
The process I’m using is designed to be accessible and low-cost.
Starting with a sequence of photographs of an object or site, ( see the example that follows), and using various software tools, we can produce these 3-D models.
Once we have a 3-D model, we can then do interesting things with it, such as “unwrapping” the surface into a flat sheet, making it much easier to study (rather than having to manually trace off the curved surface)
Look carefully and readers will see the image on the right is an enlarged and ‘flattened’ view of a small part of the horn to the left.
What do I hope to contribute to the field?
I’m attempting to answer some of the questions around digitising historic artefacts:
- What use are these recordings, how do we re-present them, and how do we deal with the fact that they are not the original – they’re “digital proxies”.
- How do we archive them alongside existing materials: the digital archive complements these, it shouldn’t replace them. At the same time, how do we archive the digital artefact? Digital storage does not have anywhere near the longevity of physical archives, such as books, etc.
Both Kerry Glover and Anton Coetzee ended their presentations with a note of appreciation and thanks to the Society for their bursaries but equally the Society is proud to be able to support this important work albeit in a small way.
Delia Francis spoke poignantly about Ethel Campbell MBE before unveiling the beautifully refurbished gift from Australia.
The placement of this plaque here at Muckleneuk brings together two great Campbell women, Ethel and Killie, who were first cousins born only six years apart. It is a great privilege for me, as a cousin of Ethel Campbell, to be here this evening at the unveiling of this plaque in memory of her. While I never met Ethel as she died in the year I was born, I have fond memories of tearing around the garden here at Muckleneuk as a seven-year-old, and then coming up to the house for one of Killie’s famous morning teas.
In Durban, as elsewhere in South Africa, women played a great and indispensable role in both world wars in furthering the war effort.
In 1914, Ethel Campbell started her own special war effort: Being an expert signaller, she began signalling to every Australia troopship as they arrived in the harbour “Welcome brave Australians. Come along to the YMCA hut near the town hall’ and then sending them a final farewell signal on their departure: “A safe journey, all is well and cheerio”
Standing on the wharf at the end of the breakwater, semaphoring with her flags, she continued this practice through fair and foul weather right throughout the entire war; Never missing a day. It was a very welcome sight to the troops after many tough weeks at sea.
Offering a genuine warm welcome and cheerful hospitality to total strangers, day in and day out through all weathers for years, must surely rank high up there as one of THE greatest gifts of selfless love.
Something only an Angel would be capable of doing! No wonder Ethel Campbell became known throughout Australia as The Angel of Durban.
Her semaphore welcome soon expanded to gifts of fresh fruit, newspaper clips and poems that she wrote for “her Diggers”(military slang for Soldiers from Australia and New Zealand)
In the words of one Australian; “She was the personification of one of the few grateful memories of the war.”
Delia and John Francis beside the Ethel Campbell MBE memorial following its unveiling
The Returned Sailor’s, Soldier’s and Airmen’s League showed their appreciation in 1923 with an invitation to Ethel and her parents, to visit and tour Australia.
Travelling throughout the country she was warmly welcomed in every town by large crowds of diggers and their families. During her visit she discovered it wasn’t the food and other comforts the diggers had the fondest memories of but rather her signals of welcome and greetings and the many poems she wrote for the troops.
When she died in 1954, Australian service men all over the continent mourned the passing of their Angel of Durban. Tributes and condolences came pouring in to the Campbell family; Culminating in the arrival by sea of this plaque.
The words engraved here are fitting tribute to the Angel of Durban…a girl whose unconditional love captured the hearts of a Continent.
Some say without a doubt she is signalling still- signalling to all who loved her and have survived her: “All is well and Cheerio!
Many people worked hard to see this wonderful project to completion but none more so than Arthur Gammage, who is standing immediately to the left of the small display, even going to the trouble of finding ‘tanglewood’ photo frames to show Ethel and her flags as well as a brief write-up. Grateful thanks to DLHM for once again holding the heritage flag high.
“Thank heavens we kept the flag flying”
SA National Society Anglo-Boer War Battlefields Tour
23-25 August 2018
Elandslaagte – One Happy Party
On the first day a group of 16 met Simon Haw, our guide, at Nottingham Road. After a brief introduction, we were off to explore the Battle of Willow Grange, the Armoured Train incident and the Battle of Colenso.
At each battle site Simon held our attention with vivid accounts of the bravery, loyalty and shortcomings of the commanders and their regiments.
After an early start on day two, we headed to Elandslaagte. Simon points out in the guide book he prepared for us “as is often the case with descriptions of battles there can be considerable difference between one account and another. Another problem is the paucity of material from the Boer side compared with the fairly considerable volume from the British side.”
Nevertheless, Simon gave an absorbing account referring to the hilarious ‘smoking concert’, the stirring address of Hamilton, the Devon’s’ frontal attack, the gallantry of the Light Horse and the cavalry charge; all in all, a tragic exercise in futility.
Simon Haw in a great classroom
Is There A What Better Way Of Understanding History?
Our visit to the Ladysmith Siege Museum was fascinating. The building (1884) was a ration post for civilians during the siege. The maps, photographs, uniforms and guns, artefacts and memorabilia brought to life the 118 day siege of 1899.
Ladysmith Siege Museum
The battle of the Platrand, including the attacks on Caesar’s Camp and Wagon Hill occupied our afternoon. Here again, our guide’s rendition of the battles and his readings of both Boer and British accounts (in various accents) made us relive the events of 6 January 1900.
The final day we were off to Spioenkop. Although we had a misty start, the sun soon broke through. Unlike Woodgate and Thorneycroft, we had a clear view of the surrounding hills. We felt keenly for the troops who under the blazing African sun, without food, water or much sleep nevertheless had to fight on.
After a final summary of the last years of the war, our fascinating three days drew to an end.
Thanks are extended to
- Robin and Liz Ralfe for their recommendations
- Hugh Bland for his support and rescue on Hart’s Hill
- Simon Haw for his preparation, research and expertise
- The group of 16 whose enthusiasm, empathy and cheerfulness made this a memorable experience.
Angie St George
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