de la Rey, de la Rey

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One of six British forts surrounding Uniondale

Our new home was 10 Rose Street, Uniondale. The Boers called it Rose Straat, rose being the Afrikaans for roses, when it was in honour of British  Field Marshall Hugh Henry Rose, 1st Baron Strathnairn,GCB, GCSI, PC (6 April 1801 – 16 October 1885) who never served in southern Africa. However, a Brit is a Brit, so one can’t blame them. Besides, it happened that the area was perfect for the growing of roses and our new home had in the recent past been well known for being covered in magnificent blooms. No.10 lies on the corner of Rose and Roberts Streets, the latter being another Brit general (1832-1914) who did serve in the Boer War.

boere-delarey-scheepers-002

Gideon Scheepers (Right)

In the Boer War of 1899-1902 the village was theoretically in the hands of the British, as was the whole Cape Colony, but a local Boer terrorist, I mean patriot, Gideon Scheepers was running rings around the token Brit forces.  At the time that Gideon sallied into town and locked the local magistrate up in his own jail, the nearest garrison was stationed at Willowmore. By the time they arrived, Gideon was long gone, and it still took a further couple of days before they could cut their way into the jail to free the magistrate.

The story I love the most, folklore or not, is the one about the British troopers that got lost in the nearby hills and were blundering around for days, exhausted and famished. Early one morning, when a Boer appeared out of the mist and pointed his rifle at them, they gratefully surrendered. The Boer, a fifteen year old boy on his way with a message to Gideon, took them with him as his prisoners. When asked by the older men how he had managed the capture, he said, “I surrounded them!”

boere-delarey-scheepers-001

Boer Gen. de la Rey.  

There is a rousing song by Bok van Blerk about gathering to the Boer flag under the famous Boer General, de le Rey, which bears his name. I may have English roots, but I get a knob in my throat when I hear its proud and bitter lyrics. I can easily understand its appeal. I love ballads and I was born with an overdose of sentimentality, but I believe in looking forward in hope, not back in bitterness.

However, that is easy to say, from the standpoint of coming from the side that had the winning hand. Now, white South Africans are constantly reminded to hang their heads at the shame of Apartheid, but the murders of the innocent on the farms that continue to this day are conveniently forgotten or swept under the rug. Truth and Reconciliation should remain even-handed if we are to look forward.

Not back.

About peterjearle

Writer of thriller novels. 4 Published: 'Purgatory Road', 'The Barros Pawns', and the Detective Dice Modise Series:'Hunter's Venom' and 'Medicinal Purposed Only', all from Southern Africa.
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