Chancellor, Honoured Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen
My research concerns the British men, women and children who came to Natal between the years 1824 and 1857. To a degree, I have investigated their genealogies, but my main interest is in the lives they led once here. Because the settlers could not live in isolation, I have acquired a cross-section of knowledge about the peoples of our multi-cultural province. Stemming from this, I would like to share two main topics with you – something of what has been done to preserve African genealogy and history; and, a glimpse into the origins of KwaZulu-Natal’s ‘Coloureds’, as the apartheid government classified them.
The first group of ‘white’ people to settle at Port Natal (today’s Durban) came from the Cape Colony in 1824, under the leadership of Francis Farewell, a half-pay Royal Naval officer. Their purpose was to acquire ivory through trade and/or hunting. Their coming predated the arrival of the Voortrekkers by 14 years. The Trekker republic, Natalia, lasted from 1838 to 1843 when Britain took over the region south of the Thukela as a colony. Rejecting British rule, many of the Boers trekked away, and in the 1850s a large number of British immigrants came here, either under various schemes or independently. In Zulu folk-lore they were likened to birds of destruction coming out of the sea!
Genealogy is the study of family descent. In Britain it was important because the disposal of property within a family depended on it. Here I am referring to wealthy families. An example is the well-known explorer, Sir Ranulph Fiennes, who sports a family tree going back 42 generations – to an ancestor who died in 741. However, the ordinary farm-labourers, servants, artisans, etc., who were most likely illiterate, probably could not trace their forbears back more than two or three generations. Fortunately, parish registers of births and marriages did record these details. As an aside – today we do not realise how backward the English working classes were 150 or so years ago – to quote Bishop Colenso’s wife, Sarah, describing the villagers of her husband’s parish in Norfolk: ‘The dense ignorance and stupidity of the English rustic…was enough to drive the teacher to the rising generation as the only hopeful soil.’
In African genealogy, family descent was recorded orally down the generations, while the izibongo of prominent people would highlight their achievements. In the early 1900s the Revd John Langalibalele Dube’s newspaper Ilanga lase Natal published the histories of all the more important tribes in Natal and Zululand, which had been collected by Father A.T. Bryant of Mariannhill. By March 1912 these were being repeated in Izindaba zaBantu, of which Bryant was editor. At this time, Marshall Campbell – the Mashu from whom Kwa Mashu takes its name – instituted a competition with prizes for essays on early Zulu history. Others involved were Dube and Campbell’s young daughter Killie. Ilanga advertised the competition and 25 responses were received, nine on Zulu history and 16 on Suthu history. The prize winners were A. Zikalala for the Zulu entry and S.P. Phamotse for the Suthu one.
In 1942 another such competition was organised by Killie Campbell. Judging from the winners’ choice of subjects, the emphasis this time was more on sites with historical significance than on family histories.
Killie Campbell launched a third competition in 1949, assisted by Mr D. McKenzie Malcolm, then lecturing in isiZulu at Natal University, Durban. A notice ‘To all Zulus’ was published, requesting information on tribes, however small. Replies were to include data on origins, present locality, tribal history, genealogy of the chiefs, the izibongo of the chiefs and other prominent men, and incidents of special interest. It was emphasised that the facts should not be from books, but the testimonies of elderly men and women. Entrants were ‘earnestly’ begged to provide as much information as possible because of the rapid detribalisation which was taking place, and the imperative need for these records to be preserved for all time. Wide publicity resulted in about 200 entries. First prize went to an essay on the Mathenjwa tribe. Altogether 96 prizes were awarded, ranging in value from £25 to two- shillings-and-sixpence for the many consolation prizes. In the 1950s five meat pies could have been bought for that 2/6d – the kind for which we now pay about R10.00 each – so, in today’s values, the prizes would have ranged from R50.00 to the handsome sum of R10 000!
The Killie Campbell Africana Library has continued the Campbell involvement in African genealogy and history in many ways – one being The James Stuart Archive which is part of its Manuscript Series. Stuart started interviewing Africans in the late 1890s. His informants named their chiefs and, where applicable, their regiments, recited their ancestors and/or their chiefs’ ancestors. Taking 30 years as marking a generation, some of these genealogies go back to the 1500s. Frequently Stuart was able to evolve detailed family trees from the information received.
The editing and translating of the Stuart papers was started in the early 1970s by the late Professor Colin Webb and Professor John Wright, who is continuing this work. To date five of the projected seven volumes have been published.
The Witness’s supplement ‘Learn with Echo’ is also promoting genealogy with the family histories and izithakazelo which appear from time to time. King Shaka’s izibongo and King Goodwill Zwelitini’s ancestry and izithakazelo have been featured.
Now to the genealogy of Coloureds in Natal – among the servants in Farewell’s 1824 party were Khoi people. The only one to whom there is more than a fleeting reference is Rachel, later the common-law wife of Farewell’s carpenter, John Cane (Jana). She would be left in charge of Farewell’s settlement when he and the other whites were absent, and is frequently mentioned by both Nathaniel Isaacs and Charles Rawden Maclean (alias ‘John Ross’) in their writings about those early days.
After a time, the hunter/traders established their own homesteads and accumulated numerous followers, who were mainly refugees from the Zulu country or fragments of displaced tribes. Most of the hunter/traders also took Khoi or African concubines or wives (for whom they duly paid ilobola). It is their children, and the children of their Khoi servants, who formed the core of Natal’s Coloured population. Surnames here include Adams, Biggar, Cane, Fynn, King, Halstead, Isaacs, Ogle and Toohey.
Some of the hunter/traders came to be looked on as chiefs, namely Henry Francis Fynn (Mbuyazi we Theku), and Henry Ogle (Wohlo), while the Inkosikazi Vundlase, wife of Henry Fynn’s brother Frank (Phobane), was a chieftainess. A deserter in the 1830s from the 72nd Regiment, who escaped from the Cape to Natal and settled near today’s Umzinto, also became a chief. This was Robert Joyce, known as Joyisi. These chiefdoms were passed down until about the 1950s when the Nationalist government gave the current chiefs the option of remaining chiefs and being classified as African, or becoming ordinary Coloured citizens.
A number of the British men who arrived in the 1840s and 1850s also had Coloured children.
Names that come to mind are Bennee, Donaldson, Clothier, Goldstone, Green, Hargreaves, Jackson, Kinloch, Lucas, Oakes, Reynolds and Stainbank (in this case the surnames Frankson and Joyce were assumed by different children).
Some settler sons continued the trend – family names here include Bazley, Bloy, Fayers, Grantham, Hammond, Houston, Hulley, Landers, Meek,Redman, Robson, Rorke, Stuart, Taylor, Tomlinson, Watson and Walker.
Another second generation settler, John Dunn (Jandoni), moved to the Zulu country in 1857, where he became a powerful chief under King Cetshwayo. He consolidated his position by having 49 wives – who produced 117 known children. Other second generation settler men added to the Swazi gene pool – some surnames here are Dupont, Eckersley, Henwood and Thring.
In the 1870s a number of people from St Helena came to the Cape and Natal as servants and artisans. The island’s population was a mix of Dutch, English, Portuguese, Asian, and African peoples, many of the latter having been freed from slave ships by the Royal Navy. For centuries the island’s mainstay had been the provisioning of passing ships. Steam superseding sail in the mid-1800s and the opening of the Suez Canal in 1869 ruined this market, resulting in unemployment and poverty.
The St Helenans who settled in Natal were recruited mainly for rich Durban residents – it was expensive – their fares had to be paid, and their wages were higher than the going rate. Some did settle in Pietermaritzburg. They were mainly Anglican and were greatly assisted by Dean James Green of St Saviour’s Cathedral. They had their own church, St Luke’s, in Boshoff Street, until the Group Areas Act forced their removal to Woodlands. Today they are still a distinct group among the Coloured population. Names here include Benjamin, Crowie, Easthorpe, Everton, Ginman, Joshua, Knipe, Leo and Rich.
The documenting of the genealogies of KZN’s Coloured families has been given a great boost by the now retired Father Duncan McKenzie of Durban. As he was moved from parish to parish, he recorded information given him by his Coloured parishioners. His work has helped me greatly with the Coloured branches of some of my families.
The two subjects I have shared with you both comprise interlinking, if not inseparable, genealogies and life histories. Likewise with the entries in my biographical register.
My research has shown that meshing goes further than this – it permeates all the peoples of our multi-cultural country, and could bind us together into an inseparable whole. For this to happen, however, historical knowledge and empathy across the spectrum of our society is essential. Remember, Mrs Colenso, the wife of Sobantu, pointed to the rising generation as ‘hopeful soil’.
Graduands – you, with your higher education, are a crucial part of this ‘hopeful soil’.
Shelagh O’Byrne Spencer
Help with this from Brian Spencer, Dr Corinne Sandwith, Mrs Joan Simpson and the Killie Campbell Library is gratefully acknowledged.
James Stuart Archive, vols. 1-5