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"TURNER, Capt. Sidney, 1845-1901 (Pioneer farmer and trader in Natal). Journal, 1864 Mar. 6 - May 11 and letters to his family and friends, 1864 (1864-1867) - 1885. Describes his journey to South Africa and his efforts to establish himself, first as a sheep-farmer and then as a trader and farmer on the Natal south coast. He gives an interesting account of the natives and their customs, his various hunting expeditions, the economic state of Natal and the Zulu War in which he took part. There are photographs of himself, Moshesh and of a veldt scene called 'Out-spanning' and sketches of his farmhouse and the district round it."
Posts : 3192 Join date : 2009-03-03 Location : Devon
Copyright 2006, Historical Papers, The Library, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa
Detailed description of journal and letters 1864 – 1885
Book 1. 1864 March 3 – 1866 February 22, 183 pages
Starts with portrait of Turner, taken a few days before he left England. There is an account of the voyage to Natal which took 77 days. On the voyage, a Mr Woodstock told him about the "Kaffirs" (colonial term), Natal and the sugar and coffee farming which went on there. He arrived at Natal Bay on 11th May, after which he went to stay with a fellow-passenger named Aiken at Ifafa, 70 miles south of Durban. There he visited a sugar estate and went on a journey to buy mealies, of which there was a famine. He is determined to try sheep-farming and describes a journey with a Mr Elgie to the Dutch states to buy sheep. There is much about hunting and the difficulties of the journey. On page 67 there is a picture entitled “Outspanning”. It describes the Basutos and makes unflattering comments about the Boers. On page 70 is a picture of Moshesh, followed by a press clipping entitled “The governor of Cape Colony and the opponents of his policy in Basutoland”. He says some missionaries do more harm than good and describes a meeting with Moshesh’s sons. There is an amusing account of how he was offered a farm by a Boar farmer on condition that he became his son-in-law. He says “The Dutch here live like pigs”. On returning from this expedition, which was made difficult by war between Boers and Moshesh, he decides against sheep-farming and decides to start a store at Imzinkulu, near Ifafa on the Natal south coast. He describes his problems in building a house, looking after cattle and starting a store, particularly as times are bad in Natal. Drought killed his young tobacco plants. He describes a visit by Governor Bissett and Sir T. Shepstone.
The journal covers the period March 6 – May 11 1864, after which he writes letters to his parents and other members of his family.
Book 2. 1866 March 28 – 1867 July 4, 184 pages He describes how his store and farm are prospering, how exceedingly busy he is and how he is looking for a partner. He has been visited by Dr Rutherford, the government surveyor; he hopes to get the appointment of field-cornet. He is building a new ferry-boat and experimenting with dried fish. Also engaged in building a new farmhouse on the other side of the river. On page 113 is a sketch of the district and his farm. Describes a journey to Richmond. Copper has been discovered, which may be shipped from his river.
Book 3. 1878 December 31 – 1879 January 29, pages 1-11 Starts with the address of a Mrs C Burton, “Glen Rosa”, 693 Hope Street, Kokstad, East Griqualand. Then gives an extract from letter dated 1878 December 31, in which he says the Zulu War is about to start and he is just off to the front. He is a lieutenant in the Mounted Reserve but is going to join the Durban Mounted Volunteers. In a letter of 1879 January 29 to his wife, he discusses the progress of the war as seen from No.1 column.
1869 June 14 – October 17, 19 pages Goes back in time to 1869, when he is still farming but now married. Describes a hunting trip and a riding accident in which he is severely injured.
1885 August 3, 4 pages An extract from “The Natal Mercury” entitled “To Port Grosvenor” by “Rambler” in which he describes a journey and visit to Port Grosvenor. He comments on Captain Turner and his family and compliments him on his farm.
A.M. Cunningham 22 Nov. 1971
I will need to double check when I get home. I will update you if I find any more.
Posts : 3192 Join date : 2009-03-03 Location : Devon
The Captain's Cabin is named in honour of the founder of "Cremorne", Captain Sydney Turner who died here on September 15th 1901 and whose gravesite is in the grounds below the pool deck.
Sidney Turner immigrated to South Africa from Norfolk on the east coast of England as a 16 year old in 1864. He led a checkered and exciting life of adventure and enterprise. Some of his exploits include farming, fishing, prospecting, storekeeping and transport riding. He has the distinction of being the first man to attempt salvaging one of South Africa's most famous wrecks, the East Indiaman "Grosvenor" which sank on the 4 August 1782 at Lambasi Bay 50km north of Port St John’s, from which he recovered many coins and cannons.
Posts : 7077 Join date : 2009-04-24 Age : 53 Location : Down South.
From: "Rosemary Dixon-Smith" <email@example.com> Subject: Sidney TURNER and the Grosvenor Date: Sat, 8 Apr 2006 08:19:59 +0200 References: <200604071500.k37F0erk012748@lists5.rootsweb.com>
I'm re-reading 'Portrait of a Pioneer' by Daphne Child, published 1980 Macmillan SA. These are selected letters of Sidney Turner from South Africa 1864-1901, the originals of which were bequeathed to the Local History Museum in Aliwal Street Durban (now The Old Court House Museum) by Constance Burton, one of Sidney's daughters.
For listers who don't know this slim volume, its size belies the wealth of information and interest found within its pages.
TURNER came to SA from England in 1864 and for the next 40 years led a chequered and exciting life of adventure and enterprise. He was in turn storekeeper, ferryman, farmer, transport-rider, fisherman, lighterman, prospector, captain of a small coaster and sub-manager of a shipping company. He was the first man to attempt to salvage SA's most famous wreck, the East Indiaman 'Grosvenor', from which he recovered cannon and gold and silver coins.
In his letters home, Turner describes people he encounters, white and black, governors, missionaries, chiefs, and relates anecdotes concerning African customs, wildlife, hunting and events of historical interest. He explored much of the Natal South Coast and Pondoland, visited the Orange Free State just before the outbreak of the Basotho War 1865, and tried his luck at the diamond-diggings in Griqualand West and the goldfields of Barberton.
Sidney Turner, son of John Turner, a tenant farmer of Norfolk, at age 22 married Bella COMPTON at St Patrick's Anglican Church, Umzinto (Alexandra County) on 18 June 1868. Her father was Walter Compton, Sidney's partner, who with Sidney bought in December 1867 600 acres of undeveloped Crown Land on the Natal South Coast (between Umkomaas and the present village of Clansthal) and called the property 'Ellingham', which it retains today. Ellingham was later to pass into the hands of Samuel Crookes, founder of the Crookes family of Renishaw.
During various trading trips to Pondoland, Sidney had heard of the wreck of the 'Grosvenor' in 1782, possibly from Rev Thomas Jenkins a missionary and advisor to Chief Faku who had picked up gold coins and sighted old cannon and ship's timbers near where the Indiaman was said to have struck the rocks. Having passed by the site in January 1880, Sidney decided to return with salvage equipment and try to recover the treasure believed to be embedded in the ship's hull. On 20 May 1880, the Natal Mercury published the news that Turner and a friend, Lieut BEDDOES, of the Durban Volunteer Artillery, had sailed to Port St John's in the 'Adonis' and had made their way to the site of the wreck, where they hired labour and commenced blasting the rocks with dynamite, finding a large number of coins - some were Venetian ducats and others were minted in India; he also found spoons, shoe-buckles, buttons and ear-rings. He and Beddoes salvaged several of the ship's cannon, two of which were later preserved at the Local History Museum Durban. As a result of his salvage work, Sidney was able to float a company in 1881 which commissioned the building of a small coastal steamer, the 'Lady Wood', which was built in a Greenwich shipyard. Other shareholders included George Hall Rennie, son of the famous J T Rennie, who was to be the recipient of a ship's cannon and some pig-iron used as ballast, all recovered from the wreck site. Several of Sidney's discoveries, including a goblet made of silver rupees which he had melted down by a silversmith, found their way into the Local History Museum's collection.
The 'Lady Wood' made frequent trading trips, going as far north as Delagoa Bay and to the Mzimvubu River in the south.
Sidney's visits to Pondoland in 1883 and 1884 kept him in close touch with the Paramount Chief, Mqikela, who controlled the east bank of the Mzimvubu. (The Mpondo royal lineage was divided into two sections, a great house and a righthand house. Faku allowed Ndamase, a son of the latter house, to establish himself west of the Mzimvubu River and after Faku's death in 1867, Ndamase assumed the rights of an independent ruler, thus splitting the Mpondo state in two. Faku was succeeded by Mqikela, the senior son of his great wife.)
On the opposite side of the river lay the embryo Port St John's which Mqikela's rival, Nqiliso (successor to Ndamase, Chief of Western Pondoland) had ceded to the British in 1878 in return for a thousand pounds and recognition of himself as independent ruler. Port St John's had been annexed to Cape Colony. The British government had first approached Mqikela requesting him to cede the Crown a site for a Customs post with strip of land adjoining, but the Chief had refused to do this and for this and other reasons was on bad terms with the colonial govt.
By the beginning of 1885 the trade carried on through Port St John's had become so lucrative that Mqikela decided to open a port of his own; he converted the Customs dues which were passing to the Cape govt and may also have hoped to arm his tribesmen with the help of gunrunners who dared not operate under the eyes of the British. Since Sidney Turner was high in his favour, the chief invited him to select a suitable place for a harbour and undertake the necessary construction work, and in return he gave Sidney a concession of 20,000 acres of land with a seaboard of several miles which included the site of the wreck of the Grosvenor.
A formal agreement was drawn up by Mqikela's secretary, a well-educated Englishman named MCNICHOLAS. The Paramount Chief made his mark at the foot of the document, with his chief councillor, Mhlangaso, Mr McNicholas and Mr W. PLEYDELL-BOUVERIE, a relative of the Earl of Radnor, signing as witnesses. This document granted Sidney Turner and his heirs the sole right to land and ship cargo from such port or ports that he may open up at any time between the rivers Umtata and Umtafuna (Umtamvuma).
Mr Harold Napier DEVITT, the SA magistrate and author, saw this document many years later and described it in his book 'People and Places' (1944 Cape Town) as 'a sheet of foolscap, yellow with age, bearing the rubber stamp of the Great Place, Pondoland, the head kraal of the chief'. Professor Percival KIRBY, author of 'The True Story of the East Indiaman, Grosvenor' stated in 1954 that the document was then held by one of Sidney Turner's descendants living in Rhodesia (Zimbabwe). Kirby presented a photograph of it to the Africana Museum in Johannesburg. The present whereabouts of the original document is unknown.
The site which Sidney chose for the new harbour was at the spot where the little Mkweni river enters the sea, not far from the site of the Grosvenor wreck. He named it Port Grosvenor and Mqikela granted him, as Port Captain, authority to collect Customs dues and make and enforce regulations for the control of the harbour and pilotage at the port. Sidney had no real desire to go and live in Pondoland but due to financial circumstances was forced to accept the offer - by this time - 1884 - he had seven children and a wife to support. The port was officially opened, despite strong opposition from the Cape govt, and Sidney and his family moved to their new home in 'a place that was as perfect a wildnerness as Robinson Crusoe's island' - which was Pondoland at the time. Their nearest neighbour was the missionary, Rev Jenkins, 35 miles away.
Sidney wrote home: 'Being entirely dependent on ourselves for doctoring, I often wish I had a good family medical work, also one with simple operations that could be managed by anyone who knows nothing of surgery (!) ... I have a good supply of medicines, as a Dr RYLANDS who had been staying at the King's kraal in Swaziland came down to Delagoa Bay ill with fever and incipient D.T's (!)and became a passenger with me in the 'Lady Wood'. He left some things in pawn with me to pay his passage, as he had no money ...'
Regrettably, Sidney's venture was doomed to failure, as the Cape govt declared his concession invalid under tribal law, and he lost his land and home, his position and means of earning a living. He moved to Port St John's with his family, and after their departure Port Grosvenor became nothing more than a memory. The last ship to call there was the coaster 'Somtseu' in January 1886. Sidney was not unlawfully dispossessed of his concession, since Mqikela had had no right to dispose of tribal land without first calling a tribal meeting and obtaining his chiefs' and headmens' unanimous consent to his proposals. The acquiescence of his councillors alone was insufficient in a matter of such importance.
During the Turners' first few months at Port St John's Sidney was desperately short of money. He opened a trading store but it did not prosper and neither did Bella's guest house, the Needles Hotel.
Despite help from his friend George RENNIE, by September 1886 Sidney felt it wasn't worth continuing the struggle at Port St John's (510 km from Durban), and, leaving Bella and the children behind he went to the Eastern Transvaal to try his luck at the Barberton goldfields - news had been released in July of that year of the discovery of rich goldfields on the Witwatersrand.
Bella Turner stayed on at Port St John's after Sidney's death on 15 September 1901 aged 51 at his farm 'Cremorne' on the east bank of the Mzimvubu River. He was buried on the farm and the site of his grave is marked by two Norfolk pines. The house he built is still standing. Bella died at the age of 80 having taken a great interest in local affairs. Six of their children married (their daughter Florence married Charles MAYTOM of Port St John's in April 1889) and there were 22 grandchildren.
There is a wealth of information in this book - the alleged discovery of copper in Pondoland etc - but Sidney's own fascinating accounts of his journeys paint a vivid picture of the country at that period. There are some inaccuracies in his statements - e.g. numbers of British killed at Majuba - but these are small points.
"The following is an extract from a book of personal experiences which occurred in the 19th century. Please note that there are some words in this extract that may cause offence. We decided to leave these words as they were in common use in those times and to serve as a reminder of how we have changed as a country and as a people. Extract Taken from: PORTRAIT OF A PIONEER by SIDNEY TURNER PROSPECTING FEVER Towards the end of 1867 Sidney Turner and his partner, Walter Compton, bought 600 acres of undeveloped Crown land on the Natal South Coast (between the modern town of Umkomaas and village of Clansthal) and called the property 'Ellingham', a name that it retains to this day. It was situated on the Mahlongwa River, a few miles inland from the sea, and was no great distance from two of the largest sugar-mills in Natal. The Deed of Grant 3532 / 1867 was dated 10 December 1867. Ellingham was later to pass into the hands of Samuel Crookes, founder of the celebrated Crookes family of Renishaw. It took the two young men about eight months to establish themselves, but by the middle of 1868 the farm was in good working order and Sidney was in a position to marry his fiancée, Bella Compton. He was twenty-two years old, and she was eighteen. The wedding took place at St Patrick's Anglican church, Mzinto, on 18 June 1868. Sidney planned to take his bride to England early in 1869, to introduce her to his relations, but the thrilling news that gold had been discovered on the Natal South Coast caused him to put off the trip for the time being, as he did not want to miss his chance of making a fortune. A gold rush to the South Coast had begun after George Parsons and Walter Compton claimed in August 1868 that they had made rich strikes along the Mtwalume and Mahlongwa rivers; many parties of diggers, including a group of Australians joined in the search.
[ To his parents ]
Ellingham February 15th, 1869
"... Our news is as yet so uncertain from the Gold Fields that it is hazardous doing anything in a hurry just now, as by immediately leaving [ for England ] one might throw away a chance and it might be years before having such another; on the other hand, the gold may turn out not in paying quantities. ... By September it will be well known (or before) whether or not these goldfields are the great success that people imagine than to be*... We are just completing a sort of wing to this house, of brick with an iron roof, so that our house is now this shape [ L-shaped ]. Our new rooms are a dining room, [ extra ] bedroom, kitchen and pantry. It will make the place quite a substantial house now. We shall have our barn and workshop up by the end of two months, as the bricks are all carted up and the iron ready for the roof. I have been busy making pigsties all this month, we have now about 70 pigs, and shall cure about two tons of bacon this winter time..."
On 20 April 1869 Bella gave birth to her first child, a daughter who was given the names Florence Alice (Flora). The confinement almost certainly took place at the Comptons' home at Mtwalume.
"... I brought Bella down two days ago, and she and Flora are both quite well after their trip down. I have made arrangements for a trip of a month to the source of the Umzimkulu, where there is lots of game to shoot. I must start in a month, if I go, and during the next month have to salt and pack forty pigs, make three wagon sails, tents, etc, for one working wagon, break in a lot of young oxen, mend wagons, make trek-touws, etc, ad infinitum. This will give you some idea of how I am situated ..."
[ To his parents ]
Ellingham July 7th, 1869
"... I am all ready for starting [ for the source of the Mzimkhulu in the Underberg area ] ... I expect to be away a month at least, on my trip, and in the meantime one of Bella's brothers and perhaps her sister will stop here with her. We had intended to have taken a wagon and both of us to go, but there have been such severe frosts lately that the Berg is sure to be covered with snow, and it would be too much for Bella and the baby which latter, I must tell you, is growing finely. I wish very much that Bella could have gone, but sleeping out at night and the many discomforts of a shooting trip would be too much, I fear.
You must imagine me with the cart, tent, three oxen, two horses, three dogs, two Kaffirs, a pot, kettle, saucepan, frying-pan, sugar, tea, salt, etc, four guns, that is a double smooth-bore, my double-barreled rifle, my buffalo rifle and the Kerr rifle, off to explore a part of the Drakensberg mountains which no-one else has as yet, I believe, ever crossed over. The game likely to be met with are buffalo, eland, gnus, quaggas, blesbok, springbok, pigs, and they say there are one or two elephants in a big bush at the source of the Umzimkulu, also some lions but the latter are scarce. I have one white companion... I look forward to plenty of sport. It is said that there are lots of Bushmen in the kloofs of the Berg, so when I get there I shall have to look out for the horses and oxen and keep watch..."
Sidney was away for six weeks, and thoroughly enjoyed his hunting trip. He shot 120 head of game of various sorts. On his return to the Mkomasi he set to work with fresh enthusiasm, and for a time his farming and trading enterprises were very successful; by June 1870, he could report that he and George Compton had five different trading-stations and a salt-meat businesses. A month or two later, however, the situation in Natal, as in the rest of South Africa, was entirely altered by the news that rich diamond-fields had been discovered in Griqualand West (a frontier area on the Northern Cape / Orange Free State border, bounded to the south by the Orange River) and Sidney found himself in a state of uncertainty, facing possible ruin.
[ To his parents ]
Ellingham August 4th, 1870
"...The great news from this part of the world are the diamond discoveries in the Free State. I have kept from saying anything concerning them till authentic news came down, but there is now little doubt but that they are a glorious success. Skilled men from the greatest diamond merchants in the world are on the spot, buying up for gold all they can get, and that is the best proof that they are genuine. A thousand white men are already on the spot, besides some 800 Kaffirs employed by them, and diamonds of great value are being daily turned up, a Natal man (by the latest news down) finding one that sold on the spot for £2,000.
All Natal and the Cape have the diamond-fever badly, and I don't believe I shall be exaggerating in saying that half the Natal people will be there in a month or so. Magistrates, doctors, parsons, and people of all professions and trades are throwing up their situations and making ready for a start, and such is the excitement that nothing else is talked or thought of in Durban and Maritzburg. Bella and myself are but just back from a pleasure trip to those two places, and diamonds were to be seen in Durban the day before we left. I saw them all at Mr. Evans's; one party of officers of the 20th Regiment are said to have got £17,000 worth. I send you the last papers on the subject, to judge for yourselves. Take my word for it that this will completely revolutionize all this part of the world, and from what I can see, if it really is only a quarter true we shall have to shut up and be off, as every white man in the country will go. It will be a dreadful bad job for all the planters, as plantations will go to the bad for want of overseers. Cattle are rising in price, transport will treble in price in the next three months, and in fact no-one knows what will be the end of it. It is sure to shut up our salt-beef business, as if cattle go up it will not pay to salt. All our traders will be off, and that will leave us terribly in the lurch. I would give anything to be completely out of business just now. It must eventually benefit us all, but it will dreadfully hamper many for a time like ourselves who have our businesses depending on white labour, as at present we employ about eight white men besides ourselves, and these we know too well will leave as soon as ever they come to how the facts..."
Sidney's partner, Walter Compton, was keen to try his luck at diamond-digging, and in October 1870, he left for the Fields. Sidney carried on farming and trading alone for a year, then let Ellingham and moved with Bella, Flora and the new baby, May, to a trading-post in Alfred County. Bad weather made the journey from the Mkomasi district a nightmare experience.
[To his parents]
Alfred County. November 9th, 1871
"When I last wrote, I think I was going to town, and on my return we were to start for Alfred, bag and baggage. After some delay (as we had our whole establishment to move 130 miles by ox-wagon, no trifle, I can assure you, all bad road and everything to pack with grass), we got off on 1st October and got as far as the Ifafa, about 25 miles from Umkomaas. Here began our troubles; we had to bridge a bog-hole, three wagons got over, the fourth smashed down and we had to off-load and send it back to be repaired. This delayed us two days, then it began raining and rained every day for fifteen days; nice this was for poor Bella and the children, cooped up in a wagon. The veldt was a perfect morass. We left Ifafa, and at Umtwalume the wagon carrying our crockery, stores and other household goods capsized and lay all four wheels in the air, the rain still pouring down. We left that to its fate and trekked on about four miles to a good halting place, I then went back with a Kaffir, picked up our traps, right sided the wagon, loaded up, and trekked (it was then pitch dark, raining hard, and an awful thunderstorm) for where I had left Bella. Three or four times lightning struck close to us... Just before we got to Bella we got out of the road. In went the wagon into a hole, and stuck. We left it for the night and got on to the other wagon, nearly dead with wet and cold. Next day we got the stuck wagon out and trekked, it was still raining and the roads like glass. We had to gallop down hills, as the oxen could not hold their feet sufficiently to keep the wagons back. We nearly capsized a dozen times. Next day we commenced by capsizing one wagon on a slippery hill. I had to offload that and pick it up, and about sundown three wagons having got safely across a frightful swamp at the Umzimayi the fourth went in over the hub of the wheels and although we put in sixteen oxen they could not move it. After working till night, up to our necks in mud, we had to give it up and set out for the wagons. On reaching them we found a man there who told us a large vessel had come ashore the night before and he had lost his way and in wandering had come to our wagons; that the rest of the crew had left him behind as he was knocked up. They thought they were cast ashore in a savage country, and all expected to be eaten. He did not know how far he had walked, but thought his ship must be about twenty miles further on. Next morning we saddled up and rode along the beach, and after going fourteen miles found a fine, full-rigged ship, the Defiance, of Liverpool, ashore. She had 6,000 bales of cotton aboard. We stayed there for a few hours, and I was just stripping to have a swim out to her as she lay only about 200 yards from the beach, when we saw about twenty large sharks come up. They were after the beef and pork that came out of her. I did not care to go in after that, so we rode home. After several more days of incessant rain we reached and crossed the Umzimkulu River at my old place..."