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W. C. (William Charles) Scully.

The ridge of the white waters (Witwatersrand); or, Impressions of a visit to Johannesburg, with some notes of Durban, Delagoa bay, and the low country online

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THE LIBRARY

OF

THE UNIVERSITY

OF CALIFORNIA

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THE RIDGE OF
THE WHITE WATERS



A maenad seated on a golden throne ;

My plaything is a nation's destiny ;
My feet are clay, my bosom is a stone —

The princes of all lands are fain of me.
But — stark, before the splendour of my gates,
The grim Boer, leaning on his rifle, waits.

Voices of Africa.



THE RIDGE OF
THE WHITE WATERS



(" WITWATERSRAND ")



IMPRESSIONS OF A VISIT TO JOHANNESBURG

WITH SOME NOTES OF DURBAN. DELAGOA

BAY. AND THE LOW COUNTRY



BY

WILLIAM CHARLES SCULLY

author of

'between sun and sand," "unconventional reminiscences,

"the white hecatomb," etc. etc.



WITH FORTY-THREE ILLUSTRATIONS IN H ALP-TONE



LONDON

STANLEY PAUL & CO

31 ESSEX STREET, STRAND, W.C.



PRINTED BY

HA2ELL, WATSON AND VINET, LD.,

LONDON AND 1TLE3BURY .



VT
isi



Xj



NOTE

From a recent return published in the Govern-
ment Gazette^ it would appear that the number
of fatalities from accidents in the mines has
been overstated. The figures I gave were, ac-
cording to my notes, taken from The WorJcer,
the official organ of the South African Labour
Party, dated September 23, 1911.

w. c. s.



1304370



CONTENTS
CHAPTER I

East London — Black labour — The native territories — Old
tragedies — Durban — Its prosperity — The ricksha . p. 13

CHAPTER II

Delagoa Bay — Old and new Lourenco Marques — A grave-
Business developments — Strange taxation — Iniquitous con-
cessions — A memory of 1874 . . . . p. 27

CHAPTER III

The Low Country — Komati Poort — Old hunting grounds — The
Crocodile River — Reminiscence of a rhinoceros — The desert
and the sown — Waterval Boven — Pretoria — Paul Kruger —
Approach to Johannesburg — The dumps — The Rand Club —
Street traffic — The Johannesburg shops — The Art Gallery —
The Country Club p. 63

CHAPTER IV

The Golden City — Sky-scrapers — Continued building — Prospects
of the mining industry — Expert opinion — Theories as to
the occurrence of gold in the banket — Falhng-off of the
grade — Labour, white and black — Profits on ore milled —
Holes as assets p. 95

7



8 CONTENTS

CHAPTEB V

The mining Moloch — Fatalities — The Rand at night — Miners'
phthisis — The morgue — The European miner — Insecurity
of tenure — Fatal carelessness p. 128

CHAPTER VI

The mining magnate — His character — His imaginative power —
Prospectus poems — The expert — The broker — Emigrating
magnates p. 149

CHAPTER VII

Concerning Brown, Jones, and Robinson . . • P- 159

CHAPTER VIII

Municipal Johannesburg — Inordinate development — Enormous
urban extent — Vreededorp — The old hunter — Asiatic en-
croachment — Commissioner Mavrogordato — The Criminal
Museum — The slums — Mixed humanity — " Proud of being
an EngUsh woman " — Slum rents — Fordsburg — Demoralisa-
tion — The Chinese and their Club — Suppression of vice —
A heroine — An oasis of quiet p. 190

CHAPTER IX

Labour and the Native — The compounds — Mortality — Vice —
Illicit Uquor — Demoralisation — Abnormal conditions — Sym-
pathetic management — A suggested experiment . p. 225

CHAPTER X

Mr. Cresswell — His opinions — White labour versus the recruiting
system — Taxation of land values — The spirit of rush —
Over-capitalisation — The final debit and credit — Farewell
to the Rand p. 253



LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS



The (Modern) Bread of Life . . Frontispiece

PAGE

Residence of the Governor-General, Lourenco
Marques



AvENiDA Miguel Bombarda, Lourenco Marques .

The Grave of my Friend ....

Residence of the British Consul, Lourenco Marques

The Old Battery, Lourenco Marques

A Typical Landscape in the Low Country

Scenery in the Elands Spruit Valley

Public Offices, Pretoria .

Government House, Pretoria .

High Dump, Kleinfontein Mine

" The Corner House "

Kerk Street, Johannesburg

Arcadia, the Residence of Mr. Lionel Phillips .

The Great Plantation, as seen from Park Town

The Country Club



29
35
39
43
47
69
59
67
71
75
75
81
81
85
89



9



10 LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS

Lake in Grounds op the Coitntby Clttb .

A MoNAKOH, Detheonbd and Captivh

Wheel for uPTiNa Crushed Rook, Kleinfontein
Mine



The Battery House, Randfontein .

Inside the Battery House, Randfontein

Natives Descending Shaft, Randfontein

In the Compound, Randfontein

Eleotrio Hoist, Randfontein .

Cyanide Tanks, Randfontein .

In the Morgue (No. 1)

In the Morgue (No. 2)

View S.E. across Market Street

A Socialist Orator .

Undesirable Aliens Deported. Females

Undesirable Aliens Deported. Males

In the Mavbogordato Museum .

During the Chinese Invasion .

The Celestial and his Bride .

In the Native " Family " Compound, Glencairn Mine 227

Natives in Warm Baths, Crown Mines

Compound Kitchen, Crown Mines



LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS 11

PAOH

Hand-oabt foe Conveylnq Supplies to Compound

(No. 1) 235

Hand-oart for Convbyino Supplies to Compound

(No. 2) 236

Hospital at Cbown Mines 239

Hospital at Crown Mines. Inside View . . . 243

View Eastward from Langlaagtb Head-gear . . 247

Cottages occupied by Dutch Miners, Crown Mines . 247



Note. — The photographs relating to Delagoa Bay were taken
by Messrs. A. W. Bayley & Co., those relating to Randfontein
by Mr. Wunch, and most of the others by the author.



THE RIDGE
OF THE WHITE WATERS

CHAPTER I

East London — Black labour — The native territories — Old
tragedies — Durban — Its prosperity — The ricksha

The early September afternoon is unseasonably
cold as the Dover Castle starts on her eastward
way, against wind and tide, from the roadstead
at Port EHzabeth. The vessel, usually one of
the steadiest, rolls far too much for the comfort
of some of the passengers. For this the ship
is not to be blamed ; her instabiUty is due to
the strike among the dock labourers. She had
to leave the port of London with only half a
cargo, and has now little else than ballast in
her hold.

The passengers include several men who,
although comparatively young in years, are old
in experience of war, of mining, or of the chase.

13



14 THE RIDGE OF WHITE WATERS

Their faces bear the healthful record of their
deeds ; their eyes are steady, but alert ; their
mien is reticent, but has a hint of friendly possi-
bilities. These are adventurers who returned
to the flesh-pots of civiUsation — only to find,
after the almost invariable rule, that the con-
tents had lost their savour. Such are the men
who bit and bridle the wilderness until it be-
comes as tame as a cabman^s hack. Theirs
is, if they only knew it, the lordUest Hfe on earth.
Soon there will be nothing left to explore ; in
a hundred years from now sagas will be sung
about these spacious days when the fluttering
\ robe of that fairest of nymphs — ^she whose name
is Adventure — can still be seen in unexplored
thickets.

When there is left no more physical wilder-
ness to subdue, what occupation will the de-
scendants of such men follow ? May they not,
haply, essay a conquest of that moral inertia
which falls like a bhght wherever men aggregate
beyond a certain point. May they not expend
their abounding energies in creating ideals
instead of roads ?

To these adventurers I stand in a sort of
loco parentis, for I too adventured in my early



EAST LONDON 15

days. I am now on a kind of Rip Van Winkle
pilgrimage to scenes where, more than half a
lifetime ago, I was a pioneer : to Delagoa Bay,
where I sojourned eight-and-thirty years ago,
and where the bones of many of my friends have
ever since mouldered in the hot, red sand ; to
the Delagoa hinterland — known then as " The
Low Country " — through which I helped to cut
the first road from the Transvaal in 1874, and
to Johannesburg, that Golden Calf which Anglo-
Israel worships, and on the site of which I once
hunted blesbucks.

It is early morning when we reach East
London. The wind is raw and biting. Stream-
ing as it does over the Indian Ocean from the
eastward, this indicates that the warm Mozam-
bique current is flowing eastward from the
southern extremity of Madagascar instead of
south. According to a theory which I have
formed, a rainy summer should follow for
South Africa.

The harbour tug, hke a fussy hen, hurries out
and takes such passengers as have here to land
under her spray-plumed wings. These passen-
gers are hustled into a basket, which is then
swung aloft and held suspended against the face



16 THE EIDGE OF WHITE WATERS

of the murky heavens — swaying there until
such time as it may be safe to lower away. The
men who perform this dehcate operation are
Kaffirs ; after the manner of Africa, the white
men look on while the black men do the work.
It is a black man who works the steam-winch ;
another black man, with uphfted hand, flickers
a sign to the winch-manipulator to heave, to
pause, or to lower away, as the case may be.
The big vessel rolls ; the tub dances on the
broken swell. High up, the swaying basket,
with its freight of dehcate white flesh and blood,
dangles parlously. The situation looks dan-
gerous, but in reahty it is quite safe. The black
man at the vessel's side has one eye on the
danghng basket and the other on that cleared
space of the tug's deck to which it has to sink.
He flickers his hand ; the black man crouching
beside the winch obeys the signal and lowers
away. Another flicker ; once more the basket
soars aloft to await a better opportunity. Soon
this arrives, and the basket sinks, swiftly but
without a jar, to the tug's deck. The side of
the wicker cage opens, and the inmates — white
women and children — step forth and hurry to
seek shelter from the driving spray. They, like



BLACK LABOUR 17

their mankind, take the successful exercise of
the black man's skill quite as a matter of course.

All the men who " work " on the Hghters here
appear to be Kafhrs. Six-and-thirty years ago
I had personal experience of hghter-work at
this port. Then the workers were all European.
Here is one of a series of more or less similar
facts which those who look forward to the
estabhshment of a South African Labour Party
on Australian lines should carefully look at, and
endeavour to explain. A possible explanation
may be that when the employer finds that the
Native has become sufficiently skilful in any
given fine, he dismisses the European in favour
of the Native, who will work for lower wages.
Nevertheless, one cannot but be struck by the
circumstance that the white man in Africa
inevitably tends to become an overseer of black
labour, and that nine-tenths of the labour
calhng for strenuous physical effort is performed
by the black man.

After a pause of less than an hour we weigh
anchor and once more resume our course. The
weather clears somewhat ; we are enabled to
see that the soft contours of the Kaffrarian
coast still hold their tint of winter brown.
2



18 THE RIDGE OF WHITE WATERS

When the first showers of spring fall, these
rounded hills will — almost in the twinkling of
an eye — change their sombre hue for one of
tender green.

The wind sinks gradually, leaving a faint,
opaline haze between us and the surf-beaten
shore. As we speed along the eye seizes well-
remembered details. To one, at least, of those
on board there is hardly a bush-mantled sand-
hill among the many we pass around which do
not cluster associations. Forty years ago practi-
cally all the sheep-farmers of British Kafitraria
used to congregate with their flocks behind that
row of hillocks during the winter months. A
chain of camps, fifty miles long, was thus formed.
The season was looked upon as one of hohday.
At many of these camps I, a small boy with an
active pony, was a welcome guest. To me this
is a haunted land, but the haunting spirits are
gentle and gracious, if ineffably sad.

We pass the Kei Mouth and speed along the
coast of a region which I can remember as
Independent Kaffirland, but which is now
incorporated with the Cape Province and known
as the Native Territories. This also has asso-
ciations, but of a later date. In the Nineties



UMZIMVUBU RIVER 19

I spent six years of strenuous administrative
work among its inhabitants. Here dwell appro-
proximately a million Natives. During the
years I dwelt among them I never locked a door
nor bolted a window. On many occasions I
went for long periods away from home, leaving
my wife and children quite unprotected. The
question as to their safety never troubled me.

In these days, when the " Black Peril " figures
in so many scare-heads, it may be well to place
on record the fact that the annals of these
Territories record but one instance of so much
as a rudeness being offered by a black man to a
European woman. The instance is that of a
drunken Pondo Chief who, some twenty years
ago, struck the wife of a trader with a sjambok.
This happened before the annexation of Pondo-
land.

Cape Hermes, with its Hghthouse, comes into
view. Then we pass the mighty gates through
which the Umzimvubu River — ** the River of
the Sea-Cows " — enters the ocean at Port St.
John's. From the tall eastern chfi a gazer may
watch the enormous sharks lying on the bottom
in the middle of the channel, hke so many
resting torpedoes. Next we see the mouth of



20 THE PJDGE OF WHITE WATERS

the Umsikaba (an untranslatable word) River,
and the enormous Goza Forest, which covers so
much of the seaward portion of Eastern Pondo-
land. " Goza," or " Gossa,'* seems to be re-
lated to the word " ingozi," or "danger."
There is hardly a darkhng glade of this broken,
densely timbered tract which does not brim
with tragic associations.

After the first dispersal of the clans inhabiting
what is now Natal, by Tshaka, the remnants
of the Xesibe Clan took refuge in the Goza.
They lived on game until that became too scarce
or too wild to capture. Then they preyed on
the Pondo herds, and after these had been
driven away to a safe distance, on the Pondos
themselves. On dark nights bands of men and
women, rendered desperate by hunger, would
descend on unprotected villages to slay or
capture the inhabitants for the purpose of
eating them. The Goza jungles were so dense
that it was hardly ever possible to overtake
the marauders. Eventually a compromise was
reached, in terms of which the cannibals were
assigned lands to cultivate and cattle to breed
from. Later, when Tshaka — in the course of
the last raid of his murderous hfe ; it was in



THE NATIVE TERRITORIES 21

1828, just' before his assassination — harried Pon-
doland and ahnost denuded it of cattle, it was
in the depths of the Goza that the Pondos them-
selves had to seek sanctuary.

Beyond the Goza tract the country becomes
flat and uninteresting ; hardly a tree is visible.
We pass Point Grosvenor — so called after the
unfortunate East Indiaman which here ran
ashore in 1782, and from which but a few sur-
vivors, after almost incredible hardships, reached
Algoa Bay and safety. The hapless women
remained among the Natives, but were never
heard of again. An expedition sent by the
Dutch Government to search for them, in
1790, failed to discover the sHghtest trace of
the castaways, but found some old European
women who were unable to reveal their identity
— waifs from some forgotten wreck.

It is still some hours before daybreak when
our anchor falls in the Durban roadstead.
Over the low Point a multitude of spanghng
hghts are visible ; it is as though a swarm of
giant fireflies had settled on the dusky Berea.
The Bluff, crowned with its wide-eyed Pharos,
looms mysteriously through a lens of diaphanous
vapour. Whether by night or by day, when



22 THE RIDGE OF WHITE WATERS

a haze trails or slumbers against the South
African coast it almost invariably suggests that
home of lucent wonder and mystery, the opal.
Farther north, where fever haunts the seaboard,
the haze is dull and murky.

Just at sunrise a spick-and-span, well-ap-
pointed tug hurries out to meet us ; its approach
suggests a rather impudent fox-terrier trotting
up to a mastiff. One may see clearly enough
that this is the very latest thing in tugs, that
it is thoroughly up to date and bristles with
modern improvements. It has two funnels, a
shrill-pitched whistle, and generally a good con-
ceit of itself ; one can infer the powerful machinery
throbbing in its superior hull. On the bridge
is a white man, evidently the commander ;
a white-turbaned cooHe is at the wheel, and a
gang of Natives, with a brand-new hose, are
cleaning the deck. Again the black man work-
ing under the lordly supervision of the white.

We forge into the harbour, the terrier-tug
impertinently shouldering our 8,000-ton mastifi
bulk. Soon we are moored to the wharf. Then
the gangway falls, and, after satisfying the
immigration officer that we are not undesirable
ahens, we are free to go ashore.



DURBAN 23

From the scrap-heap of memory I sort out
and arrange what I recollect of my first sojourn
in Durban, some thirty-six years ago. I ar-
rived there after a tramp from the north-west
of over five hundred miles. I loafed — perforce,
for I could get no work to do — along where this
wharf now stands, without a shilling in my
pocket. I might have remained here until
to-day had not the late Mr. Escombe granted
me a deck passage (on credit) on that venerable
tub, the Basuto, to East London.

The tram takes one to the heart of the city
through hurrying crowds of men — men of all
colours, from blond to black. To the right
looms the stately building which civic arrogance
considered to be not good enough for purposes
of a Town Hall ; to the left stands the Cyclopean
pile in which civic dignity now splendidly
preens itself. The older building has been
acquired by the Union Government, and is being
turned into a post office ; it is at present in
the hands of contractors, and swarms with
workmen. Its stone tower, weathered to a
becoming duskiness, seems to regard with
sombre disdain the ornate bulk of its arrogant
supplanter.



24 THE RIDGE OF WHITE WATERS

The face of the new edifice looks down on a
trim square from among the shrubbery of which
arises the statue of some celebrity ; I have not
the curiosity to ascertain who. The square is
flanked by rows of taxis and rickshas. From
here the streets branch off between rows of
stately shops. Business, shrewdly devised
achievement, commercial success — all seem to
pulse through the air and throb from the
ground. I wander on and meet, face to face, a
man I used to know years ago. He is, he tells
me, engaged in the whaling business, and is
doing well. This morning, from our moorings,
we could see several whales being flenched on the
Bluff shore. A loafer cringes up and begs for a
shilhng. Reminiscent of other days, I give him
the coin — albeit well knowing that within five
minutes it will chink in the till of the nearest
" pub."

A short stroll brings one to the Durban Club,
a plethoric building looking stohdly across the
Bay ; it seems to exude superfluous prosperity
from every pore. Several pursy-looking, elderly
men are sitting in easy chairs in the reading-
room, each pretending to be absorbed in a
newspaper. They glance up at me with that



THE EICKSHA MEN 25

air of subdued fury which Carlyle cited as being
specially the attribute of the British aristocracy,
but which I think is rather more characteristic
of the elderly clubman when the advent of a
stranger disturbs his digestion. These men look
too well-fed, and most confoundedly bored with
themselves and everything else. I should say
they are bankrupt of interest in all but the food,
Uquor, and cigars they consume, and the share
list.

The streets are full of ricksha men, Kaffirs
all ; they are dressed in barbaric finery. It is
in their head-dresses that they give fullest rein
to their fancy. Anything briUiant or gaudy
seems to them suitable as a decoration. Among
other items I noticed small mirrors, feathers,
artificial flowers, and Christmas cards. Many of
them have the horns of oxen arising above their
ears, from a circlet ; to the latter are attached
bright-coloured ribbons which nod and stream.
The men look sleek and well fed ; their legs are
very muscular, but are developed at the expense
of their arms, which are usually thin. I am told
that, like their prototypes of Japan, these men
are apt to wear out and fall into a decline after
a few years spent in the streets. It seems that



26 THE RIDGE OF WHITE WATERS

the strain which their calHng imposes on the
lungs and heart is too great. i:?

There are, it appears, some seventeen hundred
men engaged in the ricksha trade at Durban.
They have a guild or association of their own,
which fixes the rate at which passengers are
carried. Barracks have been built for their
accommodation by the municipal authorities.
These ricksha men are an interesting lot. The
keen competition has made them extraordinarily
alert ; they swoop down on a possible fare hke
harbour gulls on a piece of meat thrown over-
board.

It is somewhat late when I return to the ship.
The night is chill. Under a lamp-post on the
wharf stands a ricksha. Curled up in it, and
wrapped in a thin, dark-coloured cotton rug,
is the ricksha-man, fast asleep. Through parted
lips his white teeth gleam ; from his head extend
two ox-horns of exceptional length. This gives
him a most satanic look ; one might almost
imagine him to be an attendant on the otherside
bank of the Styx, waiting for the arrival of
Charon's ferryboat — on the chance of picking
up some belated and Phlegethon-bound soul as
a fare.



CHAPTER 11

Delagoa Bay — Old and new Lourenco Marques — A grave —
Business developments — Strange taxation — Iniquitous con-
cessions — A memory of 1874

Delagoa Bay. What memories of days long
sped that name evokes ! As we steam past
Inyak Island, that portion of the shore of the
Bay on which the town of Lourenco Marques
stands is as yet invisible. Anon it simmers up
through the haze of drab which broods over the
brown water. A cool, north-easterly breeze
streams over the starboard quarter. Soon the
long ridge which ends in the red chffs of Reuben
Point becomes salient. It is thickly covered
with houses ; the jungle with which it was
covered thirty-eight years ago has disappeared.
When last I saw this ridge it contained not a
single house.

In my head a rhyme keeps jingUng ; it is a
verse of the " Camp Song "" we used to irrevcr-

27



28 THE RIDGE OF WHITE WATERS

ently sing to the tune of *' Onward, Christian
Soldiers " at Pilgrim's Rest in the old days :

Here's our jolly parson,

Working night and day,
For to build a dead-house

For the boys from Delago' Bay.

Even now, after all these years, I can hardly
approach the town without shuddering. In
the early Seventies it was a frightful death-trap.
One season, out of thirty-five men who tramped
hither from Pilgrim's Rest in search of adventure,
twenty-seven died. My ** mate,'' a man I loved
more than a brother, lies buried yonder, some-
where among the crowded villas. I wonder
shall I be able to find his grave.

On we glide through the discoloured water to
the wharf. In old days the rare and occasional
ships — usually disreputable schooners, not above
shipping a cargo of slaves — used to anchor far out
in the channel, near the Catembe side. Any
cargo they might happen to have was discharged
into boats. When the latter had grounded in
about two feet of water, the packages would be
carried ashore by Natives. But I find that the
the whole foreshore has been reclaimed ; land
has superseded water for, I should say, two




29



THE OLD LOURENCO MARQUES 31

hundred yards along the whole frontage of the
town.

When last I saw Lourenco Marques it was just
a collection of ancient, flat-topped hovels on a
sand-spit. The spit was shaped like a half-
moon, the straight side of which faced the Bay.
The curve was bounded by a wall, from which
poles, bearing human heads, protruded here and
there. These were the heads of Natives slain
at the last of the attacks on the town, which
were then fairly frequent. Outside the wall lay
a foetid swamp which continually smelt to
heaven, although it suggested another place.
The swamp was crossed by a causeway.

To-day the sand-pit has disappeared, while
the swamp has been filled in ; it is now covered
by a spacious market-square and a wide, maca-


1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16

Online LibraryW. C. (William Charles) ScullyThe ridge of the white waters (Witwatersrand); or, Impressions of a visit to Johannesburg, with some notes of Durban, Delagoa bay, and the low country → online text (page 1 of 16)