W. C. (William Charles) Scully.

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purpose of counting the sheep. So far as I can remember, none were ever
stolen a fact of some significance considering that the whole country,
almost as far as the eye could reach in every direction, was densely
populated by "raw" natives. But the unhappy animals suffered from scab
and various other diseases.

Toise, albeit addicted to strong drink, was a gentleman in all
essentials. He was a tall, dignified, and remarkably handsome man; his
hospitality and courtesy could not be surpassed. A calabash of
delicious amaas (koumis) was always ready for me on my arrival, and a
feed of mealies provided for the pony. I believe that subsequently
Toise became ruined, morally and physically, through the drink habit.
He was only another of the countless victims of "Cape Smoke."

In the days I write of, the climate of the Eastern Province was totally
different from what it is today. From October to March thunderstorms,
accompanied by torrential rain, were of frequent occurrence. Early in
the afternoon clouds would appear over the mountains to the north-west;
between three and four o'clock these clouds, now forming immense,
towering masses of cumulus, would sweep down towards the sea, pouring
out torrents of rain on their course. Between five and six o'clock all
these meteorological alarums and excursions would be over, the sky
would be again clear, and the sun again shining hotly, on the drenched

Hailstorms occasionally happened. I recall a very remarkable one that
passed over that portion of King William's Town known as "the German
Village" in, I think, the summer of 1869. The hailstones, which were of
immense size, did not fall very thickly. Moreover, the area of the town
over which the storm passed contained no houses but thatched ones.
Great lumps of ice, all of the same shape, but of various sizes, began
to rain out of the sky. The shape was that of a full-blown rose; it
suggested that each had been formed in a tiny vortex-mould. Some of the
lumps measured four inches across. Dr. Egan, at the Grey Hospital,
secured one monster which weighed a pound and three-quarters.

The throbbing roar heralding the approaching hail cataract was a thing
never to be forgotten. I heard of no fatalities among human beings, but
a flock of sheep was wiped out at a spot where the storm concentrated.
This happened on a high, abrupt hill about twenty miles away.

In those days streams such as the Kat, the Koonap, the Buffalo, and the
Keiskamma were really rivers; often they foamed down in mighty brown
torrents. As there were no bridges, except the occasional military,
ones, post carts would often be delayed for days at a time, and one's
letters would sometimes arrive more or less in a state of pulp. The
whole country was covered with rank vegetation up to June, when nearly
all the grass would be burnt off. It is to the cessation of this
immemorial practice one noted by, all the voyagers along the south-east
coast that I attribute the enormous increase of the tick pest.

One of my favorite diversions, when the Buffalo was in flood, was to
ride to a spot near the upper end of the town and there strip. I would
tie my clothes into a bundle and entrust them, with my pony, to another
boy. Then I would jump into the river and allow myself to be carried
down by the torrent. All one had to do was to keep well in the middle
of the stream and avoid contact with occasional uprooted trees.

Once or twice I found myself, when thus swimming, unpleasantly close to
puff-adders and other snakes which had been washed by the flood out of
their hiding-places in the holes piercing the river-banks. But such
reptiles were always too much stiffened by the cold water to be capable
of doing any injury.

Meanwhile the boy, with my clothes and the pony, would be waiting for
me at a stated spot some distance below the wool-washing yards to the
south-east of the town. I should not now care to venture on such an


Trip to the Transkei - Tiyo Soga and his family - Trip to the seaside - The
Fynns - Wild dogs - Start as a sheep farmer - My camp burnt out - First
commercial adventure - Chief Sandile - Discovery of diamonds - Start for
Golconda - Traveling companions - Manslaughter narrowly escaped - Old De
Beers - Life at the Diamond Fields - Scarcity of water - First case of
diamond stealing - I nearly discover Kimberley Mine - The rush to Colesberg
Kopje - My first diamond - Its loss and my humiliation - Kimberley claims
dear at 10 - Camp-life in early days - I. D. B. - Canteen burning.

It was in the June holidays of 1869 that I undertook my first real
adventure. I then accompanied Mr. Samuel and two of my schoolfellows on
an expedition to the Transkei, which at that time was still practically
independent Kaffirland. The Fingoes were in a sense under British
protection, and Mr. Fynn was resident with Sariii (usually known as
"Kreli"), the celebrated Goaleka chief.

The Kei River was the colonial boundary. Traveling on horseback we
crossed the river by a drift some distance below the site of the
present Komgha Bridge. One of my companions was Tom Irvine, now a
partner in the firm of Dyer and Dyer, of East London. The other was
Alfred Longden, whose father was Wesleyan missionary near the site on
which the town of Butterworth now stands, Richard Irvine had a trading
station at the Incu Drift. The old building still exists. When we
arrived there the tobacco crop had just been harvested, and the trader
was kept busy from early morning until late at night buying tobacco at
the rate of a penny per pound, the price being taken in the form of
trade goods.

We moved on to Tutura, the mission station of that remarkable man Tiyo
Soga. Mrs. Soga and her sister, Miss Burnside, received us with the
best hospitality. Their dwelling consisted of a row of huts which were
connected with each other by means of wattled passages. The huts had
doors and ordinary windows.

The Sogas were just on the point of starting for the seaside on their
annual holiday when we joined them. Their destination was the mouth of
the Kobonqaba River. We decided to join the party. I rode most of the
way, some forty miles, at Mr. Soga's side. He beguiled the time by
reciting Wordsworth's poetry, which at that time I had never heard of.
As each fresh aspect of the magnificent scenery unfolded itself he
would pause and declaim some appropriate quotation from "The

I have seldom been so impressed by any one as by this Kaffir, who, born
in absolute barbarism, had acquired culture both deep and wide, and
then returned to try and civilize his people. At the time I met him Mr.
Soga was hard at work translating, for the benefit of the Natives, the
Bible and "Pilgrim's Progress." The Kaffir language is eminently suited
to the former; good Kaffir linguists will tell you that many of the
Psalms sound better in Mr. Soga's version than in English. His
rendering of "Pilgrim's Progress," too, is a masterpiece.

Tiyo Soga was a tall man of slender build and with a stooping figure.
Even at the time I tell of a short, hacking cough gave evidence of the
consumption which some years later caused his death. He was not alone a
deeply cultivated scholar, but a Christian gentleman in the fullest
sense of the term.

We passed Kreli's kraal, but the chief was in retirement under the
hands of a witch-doctor, so we did not see him. The scenery along the
watershed between the Kei and the Kobonqaba is wonderfully beautiful.
The weather was calm and clear; the ocean like a world of sapphire
fringed with snow. The populous villages of the Natives stood on every
ledge; sleek cattle grazed in every valley. The people looked
prosperous and contented. We met civility everywhere; milk was offered
us at every kraal. I visited the same locality a few years ago and
sojourned for a few weeks near the site of the old Soga camp, but the
season was summer, and both ticks and snakes were in evidence to a most
unpleasant degree. The natives also had changed; no longer were they so
civil or so hospitable. Revisiting the scenes of one's youth is usually
an unsatisfactory experience.

We spent a week with the Sogas, and then went to the camp of the Fynns,
a few miles away. Here, also, we were hospitably entertained. There
were three Fynn brothers, and their aggregate height was nineteen feet.
Late one afternoon, when returning from a ride, I had my first sight of
wild dogs. In crossing a deep, bushy kloof by a bridle-path I reached
an open space. Here I saw five large, smoke-colored animals. Two were
squatting on their haunches, the others were standing. I passed within
about twenty-five yards of them. They made no hostile demonstration,
neither did they attempt to run away. When I related my experience at
the camp, I was told that the animals I had seen were wild dogs, a pack
of which had for some time been marauding in the vicinity.

I returned to King William's Town via Tsomo and Tembani. We traveled
mostly, by night. My companion for I had left Mr. Samuel's party was a
trader. He carried four hundred sovereigns in a holster. We off-saddled
at several kraals, and on each occasion the gold jingled audibly, yet
we never felt the slightest uneasiness. In those days it was a common
practice for traders to send large sums of money by native runners from
the heart of Kaffirland, yet I do not think there is a single instance
of such a trust having been betrayed.

When I reached King William's Town it was quite evident that our sheep
were not flourishing. They were, in fact, dwindling daily. Something
had to be done, so my father hired a farm about ten miles away, in the
direction of Kabousie. I volunteered my services as caretaker of the
flock, and to my intense gratification this offer was accepted. The
farm had no homestead, so I was given an old bell-tent, purchased at a
military rummage sale, to live in.

My assistant was a Kaffir lad named Toby, whose memory is kept green,
so far as I am concerned, by his enormous lips. These resembled
sausages strung across his face literally from ear to ear. I now
considered myself to be a full-fledged farmer. An old sheep kraal was
put into a state of repair. Toby and I built a wattle hut, and a
shelter for the pony. The hut was so small that Toby, had to lie curled
up in it; if he stretched himself, either head or heels had to be out
in the cold.

After the novelty had worn off, the monotony of my life became
appalling. There were no neighbors with whom to foregather; there was
no game to shoot; the surrounding country was uninteresting to a
degree. Far away, just peeping over the rim of the horizon, were the
peaks of the Amatole and Kabousie Ranges regions of enchantment,
cliff-crowned and forest-clothed towards which my soul vainly sighed.
But an accident quickly brought this chapter of my life to a tragic
close. One very, windy day I went out with the sheep, leaving Toby at
the camp to cook the dinner. The blasts were so strong that it was
impracticable to light a fire in the open. Toby, suggested lighting
one in the tent, and to this I unwisely consented, warning him,
however, to be very careful lest our dwelling should catch alight.

On my way home, a couple of hours later, I could not see either the
tent or the hut. The country was level and quite bare, so the tent had
always been a conspicuous landmark from any, spot within a mile or so.
For a time I thought I must have lost my way. But no; there was the
kraal. I came to the conclusion that the tent had been blown down. When
I reached the spot all I found was two circles of ashes. The tent and
the hut had been burnt down bedding, clothing, provisions everything
except the gun, which I had taken with me, and the saddle which was in
the pony's shelter down in the kloof had been consumed. Toby had
bolted. I burst into tears and flung myself to the ground. Night fell;
I could not endure the loneliness, so fled from the desolated spot. I
was at the time not quite fourteen years old.

Shortly after this catastrophe I trekked with my flock to a small farm
near what is now called Kei Road, but which was then known as Hangman's
Bush. Here there was a homestead. But the place was surrounded by small
fields cultivated by German peasants; consequently the sheep were
continually trespassing and being sent to the pound. Before many months
the flock had to be disposed of at a ruinous loss. Thus ingloriously
ended my first and last adventure as a stock-farmer.

My next essay, towards wooing fortune was in the line of Kaffir
trading. I hired myself to a trader, whose shop was in the Gaika
Reserve, close to the kraal of the celebrated Chief Sandile, not far
from Tembani. Sandile, who possessed enormous influence with his
powerful and war-like tribe, was a man utterly wanting in dignity. He
was club-footed, and consequently went very lame. I remember being once
sent on a message to his kraal. He came to know that I had a threepenny
piece, so began begging for this. He paid no heed to my refusal, but
clung to my stirrup-leather and dragged himself after me for nearly
half a mile, begging in the most abject terms. I am glad to be able to
say that I kept the coin. But Sandile was a brave man; he died the
death of a soldier in the Gaika Rebellion of 1878. He was killed in a
skirmish in the Pirie Forest, near King William's Town.

My career as a trader was shorter and even more inglorious than that as
a farmer. Within a month I was discharged as utterly incompetent.
Although I resented this at the time, I am now convinced that the
dismissal was well-merited.

It is difficult in these days when Cook & Son issue excursion tickets
to the Zambezi, and beyond to realize the mystery and glamour that hung
over the greater part of South Africa forty years ago. I can remember
how as a child I used to pore over the maps of the period so poor in
detail, occasionally with "elephants for want of towns" and wonder as
to whether, after I had grown up, I might hope one day to reach the
Orange River. Farther than that my wildest anticipatory dreams did not
take me.

But at length the dazzling sheen of the diamonds unearthed on the banks
of the distant Vaal, thrilled every one with a desire for adventure.
Before we could realize the process, the caravan crowded road was open
to all; thus one of the ramparts of mystery, had fallen.

We have all become more or less accustomed to diamonds nowadays, but
forty, years ago a diamond stood rather for crystallized romance than
for a form of carbon worth so much per carat. It stood for the making
of history, for empire, and for unbounded wealth. We knew that wars had
been waged for the possession of such gems, that blackest crime nor
oceans of blood could dim their piercing luster. We felt that every
celebrated stone, whether shining on the breast of a lovely woman or
blazing in the scepter of a king, was a symbol of power, a nucleus of
tragedy, a focus of human passion.

It is, therefore, no wonder that the disturbance of our uneventful
South African life a life as simple and as serene as any lived on the
face of the earth caused by the realization that diamonds had actually
been discovered near the borders of the Cape Colony, raised a flood of
wildest excitement. This flood soon swept in a wave of men over the
wide, sun-scorched plains of the glamorous North.

Many of my friends had ventured to the new Golconda, and I was fired
with desire to follow the gleam. At length I met a man who, after much
persuasion, consented to let me accompany him on a contemplated trip to
the Vaal River. This was William Brown, who will be remembered by most
old Kaffrarians. Brown was a farmer of sorts, usually squatting on
Government land, and occasionally occupying a hut on the fringe of the
Isidengi Forest, not far from Kabousie Nek. I had now and then stayed
with him there, and had spent many days wandering with my gun through
the lovely woodland that surrounded his dwelling.

Living in another hut in the vicinity was a very strange character
called "Jarge"; his surname has completely escaped me. Jarge was a very
old man. Hailing originally from Somersetshire, he had never lost the
dialect of his early years. Many an hour have I spent at his saw-pit,
listening to recitals of his fifty-year-old adventures, some of which
were most unedifying. I remember being much amused at an expression he
used. He had met with a large leopard; the animal behaved in a
threatening manner. On being questioned as to his feelings on the
occasion, Jarge replied: "O, zur, I beed awful frowt."

Brown's preparations for departure were slow; my patience was severely
tried. But at length everything was ready. The caravan consisted of two
Scotch carts, each drawn by six oxen. With these we started on our long
journey, crossing Kabousie Nek by a road of a gradient steeper than
that of any other I have traversed in a vehicle. We were accompanied by
another strange character a man named Dixon, who had lived for many
years at the foot of the Kabousie Mountain. Dixon had been a military
tailor at Gibraltar. He had a red face and fiercely protuberant
eyebrows, a curled up moustache, and an imperial. When he became
intoxicated, as he occasionally did, Dixon grew more solemn than any of
the various judges it has been my privilege to meet. Twenty years
afterwards I saw, him at the front in one of the Kaffir wars. He must
then have been nearly seventy years of age, yet, literally, he did not
look a day older than when we first met.

We struck a bad snowstorm on the top of the Stormberg; had we not been
able to drive the oxen into a sheltered kloof they would assuredly have
perished. We shivered sleepless all night under one of the carts in a
freezing gale. Next morning was cloudless; the ranges far and near were
heavily, covered with glistening snow. A few days later we picked up
two men, who were tramping towards the diamond-fields. One was named
Beranger; I believe he was the son of a former lessee of Covent Garden
Opera House. His companion was a man named Hull, an ex-publican from
Lambeth. With these two chance companions we entered into a sort of
partnership; for some months after reaching the diggings we all worked

On our way through the Orange Free State we saw immense herds of
springbuck and an occasional herd of blesbuck and wildebeeste. As we
were badly armed, very little game fell to our guns. In those days it
was lawful for travelers to shoot game anywhere along the roadside for
their own consumption; a farmer would no more think of objecting to a
stranger shooting a buck on his veld than a gardener would object to
one destroying a caterpillar.

When we reached the fields we found the "dry diggings" at Du Toit's Pan
and Bultfontein in full swing. "Old De Beers" had only been "rushed" a
few days previously. So we decided to try our luck at Bultfontein
instead of going on to the Vaal River, as we had originally intended.
We outspanned in the middle of the Du Toit's Pan "pan"; this, of
course, was a purely temporary camp. I was, much to my disgust, left
in charge of the carts while the others went on to look for a permanent

Here it was that I nearly killed one of my friends. We had foregathered
on the road with three brothers named Dell; they belonged to the
well-known family of that name in Lower Albany, and were proceeding to
the fields in a small wagon. We had met them about a fortnight
previously, and ever since the two caravans had traveled together. We
had become very intimate; the younger brother, Sam, was my particular
friend. He taught me to smoke, and that was the cause of the trouble.

Finding "Boer" tobacco too strong for my unaccustomed nerves, I had
beguiled the weary hours of my vigil by soaking about a quarter of a
pound of strong tobacco in boiling water in a large pannikin. After the
soaking had gone on for some considerable time, I took the tobacco out
of the water, squeezed it, and set it out in the sun on a board to dry.
The liquor remaining in the pannikin was just the color of milkless
coffee made with vlei water. William Dell, the eldest brother (he
afterwards lived at Shilbottel, in the Peddie district), had gone to
the camp with the others. He returned alone. The afternoon was hot, and
Dell was extremely thirsty. When he got near his wagon he called out
for water. Unfortunately there was no one at the wagon. Seeing an
opportunity of paying off a score, I called out: "Here is some coffee,"
and offered the pannikin containing the tobacco juice.

Poor Dell thanked me with effusion, seized the vessel eagerly, and took
a big gulp of its contents. At once he flung the vessel into the air,
fell to the ground, and began to contort violently. I looked on,
horror-stricken at the effect of my practical joke. After a few
frightful seconds vomiting set in; this, no doubt, saved the sufferer's
life. I had quite unwittingly, of course administered a most virulent
poison. In the midst of his convulsions I caught William Dell's eye,
and read something suggestive of murder in it. So I made for the open
veld, and stood not upon the order of my going. Late at night I
returned to the vicinity of the camp and, after some difficulty, opened
communication with Sam. He acted as ambassador to William, and the
latter was good enough to forgive me. Thus I escaped the thrashing I so
richly deserved.

Our plans were changed almost immediately; we decided to try our luck
at Old De Beers. Next day we trekked thither, and pitched our camp on
the plain to the south-westward of the mine. This plain was studded
with very large "camel thorn" trees. Before the axe had wrought
universal havoc, the landscape surrounding the dry diggings was well
wooded and highly picturesque. At the spot we selected for our
encampment two especially large trees stood; between these we pitched
our tents.

I felt quite at home. Camped in the vicinity were many old Kaffrarian
friends Barbers, McIntoshes, Cummings, and others. We started work
immediately on the eastern side of the mine. Claims were to be had for
the mere trouble of marking out and the payment of a license; probably
not more than two thirds of the surface of the mine had been "located."
We found a very few diamonds; all were small, and none were of any
particular value.

Fuel was plentiful; at night camp-fires twinkled far and near. Around
these happened some of the pleasantest gatherings I have ever attended.
The nights were usually clear and calm however the wind may have
swirled the gritty dust during the day and the stars shone as they only
shine when the dew-moist air of upland South Africa underlies them.
Every one capable of making music, whether by means of violin,
concertina, or voice, was much in demand. Coffee and rusks circulated
freely. Quite a number of diggers had brought their families from the
Colony; thus, many a pretty girl in print dress and "cappie" joined the
firelit circle. Most of us were young and free from care. Life was full
of romance, for Fortune scattered her favors with an occasionally
lavish hand. Every few days one would hear of some lucky digger finding
a "stone" worth perhaps several hundred pounds. And in those days money
was money in South Africa; that is to say, its purchasing power was
probably three times as great as it is now.

Our most serious difficulty was in the matter of the water-supply. No
wells had as yet been dug, and no drinking water was obtainable nearer
than Wessel's Farm, seven miles away. It was part of my duty to repair
thither once a week with a Scotch cart and fetch two hogsheads full. So
far as I can remember, this quantity cost six shillings at the well.
Sometimes people were in great straits for something to drink. However,
all were helpful towards one another. I have often known some stranger
or another come to the camp with a small tin pannikin and beg for
permission to fill it at one of our casks. Such a request would never
be refused. After the first well in the vicinity of the mine had been
sunk, water was sold from it at the rate of a shilling per bucket, and
at morning and evening the crush was so great that people had to wait
perhaps half an hour before they could be served. I recall one occasion
when, the need for a sudden superficial ablution having arisen, I ran
over to the liquor-shop tent and bought a bottle of soda-water for the

I have a very clear recollection of the first case of diamond stealing
on the part of a servant that came under my notice. A certain Major
Bede, an American, who worked at the north end of the mine, caught a
Hottentot in his employ in the act of secreting a stone. The major

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