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Cecil John Rhodes statue at the Kimberley Club

TODAY IN KIMBERLEY’S HISTORY 20 MARCH

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THE JOHN TWEED STATUE OF CECIL RHODES

On 16 June 2009, exactly 33 years after the start of the Soweto Uprising and 77 years and six days after the statue of Cecil Rhodes was unveiled and dedicated in the then Mafeking (now Mahikeng), the same statue was quietly removed from the town made famous by Baden-Powell and brought to Kimberley. The statue began its’ stay in Mafeking during the Great Depression, saw out the steam train era, was part of the Apartheid enforced Bantustan Bophutatswana, witnessed at close quarters the racial fighting of the transition to black majority rule in 1994, was daubed (and worse), and had already been moved from the eyes of a public that did not quite see Cecil Rhodes as those in the 1930s had seen the statesman, imperialist and colonialist.

In Kimberley, Rhodes’ statue, the last sculptured by the great John Tweed before he died, was placed in the garden of the world-famous Kimberley Club, the Club Rhodes was instrumental in founding in 1881; the same Club where he spent days, nay, weeks, months and years planning not just the amalgamation of the diamond mines, but also the expansion of Great Britain’s Empire northwards into Africa. He will once again gaze northwards, but here in Kimberley where he made his fortune, he will be close to both his homes – the cottage he shared with Dr Jameson just over the road, and the Club itself where over the many years, Rhodes, his friends, colleagues and partners had enjoyed many happy hours of relaxation and contemplation.

While politically the removal of Rhodes’ statue from Mahikeng may by welcomed, in the bigger picture of tourism attractions and history, Mahikeng’s loss is undoubtedly Kimberley’s gain. Sculptor John Tweed, who also sculptured such famous and admired statues such as Lord Kitchener, the Duke of Wellington, Clive of India, and Colonel Benson who led the Highland Brigade into Magersfontein on that fateful day in 1899, among many others, will now also be remembered.

This is history, and the Kimberley Club has led the way in showing what can and should be done to attract more visitors to the diamond city.

The sculptor was John Tweed and the High Commissioner who originally unveiled the statue was Sir Herbert Stanley.

Mafeking, then aptly described as the Gateway to Rhodesia, was paid a fitting tribute on Friday 10 June 1932 when Sir Herbert Stanley, High Commissioner to South Africa, unveiled a statue of Cecil John Rhodes by the sculptor John Tweed.

Sir Herbert was accompanied to the unveiling by Sir James MacDonald, who was largely responsible for the erection of the statue, Captain Holbech (aide de camp), and the Mayor of Mafeking, Mr WR Galloway.

The statue was erected on the Square outside the railway station.

When Sir Herbert arrived outside the railway station, the children present sang the British National Anthem and afterwards he inspected the Guard of Honour, a detachment of Boy Scouts.

The Mayor opened the proceedings by welcoming the visitors. He thanked Sir James Macdonald to whom, he said, Mafeking owed a debt of gratitude for without his benevolence and hard work the statue would not have been erected.

Sir Herbert Stanley in his address considered it a privilege to be involved in the unveiling of the statue.

“It has been erected as a tribute to the memory of one of the greatest of immortals in the African Valhalla, and it is fitting that it should have been erected here at the gateway to those northern regions in which his dreams and his vision have found their fullest realization.

It is true that if ever there was a man whose life and achievement no monument of bronze or stone is needed in South Africa such a man was Cecil John Rhodes. All that was mortal of him was buried 30 years ago.

His work and his spirit survive, active and imperishable, and on this side and that of the Zambezi his name is borne in perpetuity by territories vast in area, notable in record and rich in promise. The lives of most men are creatures of circumstance. Here and there at rare intervals it is given to a man to create conditions which mould the lives of contemporary and future generations.

He was sure that Mafeking would take pride in the gift which was being bestowed upon it.

I am also sure that the people of Mafeking are not unmindful of the generosity of those to whom the erection and gift of this statue are due. I will mention only one name, that of my old and dear friend, Sir James Macdonald.

We are happy to have him among us today, and would ask him to accept our thanks for this splendid benefaction, and to convey them to his colleagues and fellow contributors.”

Sir Herbert unveiled the statue after his address and handed it over to the Mayor and people of Mafeking.

The Reverend Mr Wilson then dedicated it.

The statue is 8 feet high and was the third sculpture of Rhodes that John Tweed had executed.

In recent times, the statue of Rhodes was not given the support of the Mayor and citizens of the town to whom it was entrusted.

The Square in front of the beautiful Victorian Railway Station was turned into a taxi rank during the 1980s and the Statue was the centre of a rubbish dump and used as a toilet. During the racial fighting of 1994 it was a focal point for black citizens who drove past it giving the amandla salute and had also been daubed. By 2004 the station was demolished and a shopping centre erected so the statue was moved into the marshalling yard of the railways.

John Tweed
Sculptor

Born Glasgow 21 January 1869 Died London 12 November 1933

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John Tweed – Sculptor of the Cecil John Rhodes Statue

Tweed was educated in Scotland and studied at the Glasgow School of Art. The son of a publisher – he took over the business when his father died.

As a young man he assisted the sculptor Hamo Thornycroft on many works, Thornycroft being well known in Kimberley for the equestrian sculpture of Cecil Rhodes.

A good friend and associate of the famous sculptor Rodin, Rodin always stayed with Tweed when he visited London.

In 1895 Tweed moved to 108 Cheyne Walk, London with his new wife, Edith Clinton, secretary to the Women’s Suffrage Society. (At one stage he was engaged to Joanna Banham.)

When the Peers’ War Memorial was unveiled in the House of Lords in London on 1 March 1932 the Mafeking statue of Rhodes was in the casting foundry.

Tweed was the sculptor of the following statues:

Landing of Van Riebeeck relief in Cape Town
Duke of Wellington in St Paul’s Cathedral
Joseph Cowen 1906 (Portrait sculpture)
Clive of India in London 1912
Captain James Cook RN at Whitby North Yorkshire
Kings Royal Rifle Corps in Winchester
Lord Kitchener in Horse Guards Parade, London 1923
Field Marshal Sir George Stuart White (Ladysmith) Equestrian in Portland Place 1922
The Rifle Brigade at Grosvenor Place, Victoria Station, July 1925
Joseph Chamberlain bust in Westminster Abbey
Rodin (Bronze sculpture)
Lt-Colonel GE Benson in Northumberland
Barnsley War Memorial (Part of) in Barnsley, Yorkshire 11 Oct 1925
Peers War Memorial in the House of Lords 1 March 1932
Sir Charles Coghlan in Bulawayo 27 May 1932

Another two statues of Rhodes were also done by Tweed.

From Kimberley Calls and Recalls on Facebook By Steve Lunderstedt

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