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 James Rorke.

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sas1

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PostSubject: James Rorke.   Wed Apr 01, 2009 6:21 pm

Can anyone supply me with information relating to James Rorke. I have heard he committed suicide is this true. Any information welcome.

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PostSubject: Re: James Rorke.   Wed Apr 01, 2009 7:46 pm

Hi sas1

This is part of an article written by John Young

In 1849 a trader named James Rorke purchased a tract of land measuring a thousand acres on the banks of the Buffalo River in Natal. The river formed a natural border between British governed Natal and the independent Kingdom of KwaZulu. Apparently, Rorke was the son of an Irish soldier who had served in the Eastern Cape. James Rorke himself had allegedly seen service in the Seventh Cape Frontier War. On the river at the point close to where Rorke settled was a natural ford across, or as it is referred to in South Africa - a drift. A drift, which in time would bear his name.

Rorke traded his merchandise across the Buffalo to his near neighbours the Zulus. The Zulus proved to be eager customers prepared to barter for anything the trader might offer; trinkets, liquor, beads, cloth - guns! There was the passing trade, whites on hunting expeditions. Rorke set about establishing himself in two large buildings nestling under the western end of a hill, known to the Zulu as Shiyane, the eyebrow. The buildings were brick and stone built, with thatched roofs, and wide stoeps or verandas. One of these buildings served Rorke as a house, the other a store for his merchandise. The Zulu called Rorke's store - kwaJimu, Jim's place. Thus established, Rorke married but it was lonely life; the nearest Europeans were at Helpmekaar, which was then only a small clutch of houses. New settlers opened- up the country and soon settlements sprung-up - Dundee, Newcastle and Utrecht, the towns' names reflecting the origins of the settlers. James Rorke became a respected member of the scattered frontier community. In the wake of the Langalibalele uprising, local volunteer forces were formed from within the male population; Natal was then a Colony, rather than a part of the Cape Colony. Rorke volunteered, and became a First Lieutenant in the Buffalo Border Guard. One of the tasks of the Buffalo Border Guard was to prevent the running of guns into KwaZulu, a task that Rorke must have found difficult to enforce.
In July, 1875, "then comes the missionary." Karl Titlestad, a Norwegian missionary, was anxious to purchase from Rorke his trading post with a view to using it as base to preach the Gospel to the Zulus. Rorke was keen to accept the offer, but he did not live long to realise the profits. He died on 24th October, 1875 at the age of forty-eight at his trading-post after a very short illness. Some contend he shot himself in a rage. His widow eventually sold the trading post to the Norwegian Missionary Society in 1878. A Swedish missionary, Otto Witt, took up the incumbency of what was now a Mission Station. Rorke's store was transformed into a makeshift church.
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PostSubject: Re: James Rorke.   Wed Apr 01, 2009 8:00 pm

The following photographs come from Rorkesdriftvc.com Battlefield Tour

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James Rorke's grave at Rorke's Drift

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The grave of James Rorke
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PostSubject: Re: James Rorke.   Wed Apr 01, 2009 9:55 pm

Excellent 1879graves and to add to that.

James Rorke was of Irish origin from country Galway. His parents arrived at the Cape Town in the mid 1820s in mid 1840s James Rorke left the Cape where he had lived since 1846, to fight in one of the frontier war know as the Axe war.
James Rorke married Sara Strydom and had two children, at the end of the decade he brought a large plot of land near the boarder of the Zulu kingdom. The land included a ford for crossing the sometimes fast-flowing Buffalo River. This homestead become know to many colonist and adventures as Rorkes Drift and was called KawaJim by the Zulu in the area.

James Rorke carried out a number of transactions during this period ,King Mpande had permitted hunting in his country, receiving prior payments with a cannon, and many hunters use Rorkes Drift to take on provisions ,ammunition and weapons, before entering Zulu territory.

James Rorke became an officer in the Buffalo Border Guard. He ended his career with the Border Guard in 1873.

Bishop Schreuder a Norwegian Missionary began negotiating the purchase of Rorkes Drift in order to turn it into a missionary post. After living at Rorkes Drift for a quarter of a century James Rorke Sold his property in July 1875. Rorkes Drift was the occupied by Lutheran reverend of Norwegian origin, Kart Titlestad.
On the 24th October 1875 James Rorke passes away. The cause of death in in unclear some sources suggest he died from a sudden illness, other say he committed suicide by shooting himself with his revolver.

James Rorke was buried at the foot of the mountain which according to Titlestad. Was renamed Oskarburg.

Titlestad. Wrote.:
“I’m sorry I didn’t meet him before his death. I went to see Mrs Rorke as soon as I heard the news. Together with another man, I helped to build the coffin and Mr Rorke was buried several days afterwards.
A Scottish missionary held the funeral. Many white people attended the grave. My wife and I went to visit Mrs Rorke and we’ve been back to see her on several occasions.
Mrs Rorke did not end up very well off, which added to her misfortune“.

After James’s window left, Rorkes Drift was occupied by the Surtees Family and three years later, it was converted into a mission.
Titlestad established ties with the colonists and the Zulu from the Qungebe clan who lived on the other side of the crossing. Titlestad sold the mission two years later to the Evangelical Methodist. Its new resident was Otto Witt.

S.D
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PostSubject: Re: James Rorke.   Thu Apr 02, 2009 7:23 am

I read somewhere, he was under the influence and shot himself by accident.
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PostSubject: Re: James Rorke.   Thu Apr 02, 2009 9:12 pm

It is possible, as James’s Rorke liked his drink. I don’t think he had any reasons to commit suicide.
So your probably right and it was just a freak accident.

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PostSubject: Re: James Rorke.   Sat Apr 04, 2009 11:42 pm

Anyone know what became of his wife after she left Rorkes Drift.
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PostSubject: Re: James Rorke.   Sun Apr 05, 2009 11:32 am

Here is a description of Rorkes Drift By Chaplain Smith.

“ A pretty farm was situated on an elevated rock terrace, about three quarters of a mile way from the ford. The buildings were erected by an old frontier agent called Rorke, together with the farm, which had recently been purchased by reverend Otto Witt, a man of Swedish church, aiming to establish a mission for the Zulu.
The hill situated at the rear was called Oskaberg, in honour of the Swedish King.

The house was situated within several feet of the edge of the rocky terrace, with two or three acre garden planted with ordinary grape vines and many oranges, apricots, apple, peach, quince, fig and other fruit trees. A path ran parallel to the front of the house, between the garden and the terrace, with a strong stone wall along the side terrace. The land sloped between the path and the terrace, occupied by an orchard of cape poplars, some large cork trees and various kinds of large shrubs.

The site of the house as described was 80 feet long and the left rear side wall was almost 60 feet long. The other block of buildings, including a stable was located forty paces to the left, with a 80 foot side parallel to the outer wall of the end of the main building. These buildings measuring 52 feet enlarged the house at the rear. Almost parallel to the end of the left wall of this block of buildings, with an area of ten or twelve feet, a stone wall extended to the edge of the rock shelf, forming the right wall of a kraal of some 50 feet, which was divided in half by another similar parallel wall.”
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PostSubject: Re: James Rorke.   Sun Apr 05, 2009 9:01 pm

Thanks Old Historian
Gives us a view on what Rorke's Drift was like back in 1879. Must say they had plenty of fruit. (For the officers that is ? )

S.D
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PostSubject: Re: James Rorke.   Sun Apr 05, 2009 9:45 pm

S.D Good point. But was it that time of season for fruit.

But your right, its good to find old documentation that gives us an insight in to those days.

I have actually started to look for letters ect, sent home from the troops that served in S.A during the AZW. So if you have any leads let me know...
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PostSubject: Re: James Rorke.   Wed Apr 08, 2009 9:23 pm

Pte. Henry Hook (Zulu)

Rourke's Drift... It'd take an Irishman to give his name to a rotten stinking middle o' nowhere hole like this.

sas1
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PostSubject: Re: James Rorke.   Tue Feb 08, 2011 2:01 pm

Can anyone lead me in the right direction to finding more information about James Rorke. I am researching my family geneology and have come to discover that James Rorke's grand daughter, Natalie Carter, married my great grandfather,Charles Victor Hosken.

Any info will be greatly appreciated.

TIA

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PostSubject: James Rorke    Thu Feb 10, 2011 5:20 am

Hi Charonne .

There is 1 1/2 pages on James Alfred Rorke in ' Who's Who in the Zulu War ' by Greaves & Knight , Volume 2 The Colonials .
Also half a page on his son , James Michael Rorke . Hope this helps .
cheers 90th.
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Charonne



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PostSubject: Re: James Rorke.   Wed Feb 16, 2011 3:03 am

Thank you so much. I appreciate that.......

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PostSubject: Re: James Rorke.   Wed Feb 16, 2011 11:30 pm

Charonne. You may make some contacts here..

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Charonne



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PostSubject: Re: James Rorke.   Thu Feb 17, 2011 12:51 am

Awesome!! Thank you, that's great! I tried to do some research on ancestry.com, but there doesn't seem to be much out there for us South Africans looking for our ancestors.

I appreciate the link! Wink

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PostSubject: Re: James Rorke.   Fri Mar 04, 2011 5:46 pm

I am about 5 or 6 chapters into Ian Knight's Zulu Rising; James Rorke is covered quite extensively in this book. Amazing character - people like him really drive the human race forward in terms if pioneering, adventure and spirit. (The equivalent today would be like marring a girl from the moon, buying a farm on Mars and trading witht he Martians).

It is only a wild theory from left field, but Russian roulette was not uncommon amongst bored, tired old men back then. Probably as likely as an accidental discharge of his gun.
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PostSubject: Re: James Rorke.   Sat Mar 05, 2011 7:23 am

Wrong Tac
Those tired old men had Balls to burn, 'Russian Roulette' wasnt in their vocabulary. Square face in abundance yes, self termination no.
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PostSubject: Re: James Rorke.   Sat Mar 05, 2011 9:28 am

Hi Springbok
re-reading my post, I may have given the wrong impression.
In my minds eye, I was seeing a very successful, contented middle aged man sitting on his porch at sunset, a good bottle of spirit on the table by him, cleaning his firearms. Men experienced in handling revolvers especially, can become very adept at judging which chamber the round is in, and some can be drawn into the ultimate test of confidence.
I am not suggesting that Rorke may have committed suicide, although I have known a number of top drawer blokes who have. (This fate can befall the very, very best, bravest and ballsiest men). Depression, PTSD etc can affect anyone, sadly).
I agree with you; he must have been a man of REAL balls and steel, and if he died accidentally from his own firearm, accidentally it would have been. Either a negligent discharge, surprising for someone of his firearms experience. Or, possibly even, over confidence in his skills and ability to judge. The latter not being a lot less likely than the former.
Just thinking aloud really! I am absolutely a beginner in this piece of history and am probably way off the mark.
To research James Rorke's death would be a wonderful little project for someone down your way to get stuck into. There must have been police and post mortem reports written; perhaps someone will find them one day and dust them off.
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