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Henri Bettelheim (left) and George Danford (right) in the 1884 Pirates rugby team


13 October 1870, The first newspaper, The Diamond Field, published at Barkly West.
13 October 1866, Thirteen miners die at De Beers Mine.
13 October 1897, Diamond Jubilee Wing of Beaconsfield Town Hall added.
13 October 1902, The Pirate King, George Danford, dies in Mocambique.

George Danford – the original and founding “pirate”

To tell the story of George James Atchison Danford, who died on 13 October 1902, one has to tell the story of the birth of the Pirates Club in Kimberley.

In 1883 a children’s performance of Gilbert and Sullivan’s “The Pirates of Penzance” took place in Kimberley under the direction of George Danford and a certain Mr Baratt.

At the conclusion of the operetta’s run, the participating boys formed a cricket and football team under the captaincy of George Danford and thus was the Pirates Club formed.

Pirates Club Kimberley HIstoryDanford was born at Hampstead St John, Chelsea in London, England, on 9 September 1855, and began his engineering career as a pupil in the works of Messrs Simpson and Company of Pimlico in London.

In 1876 he went to the then Transvaal, where he was employed on survey work for the Government of that country until 1882, when he was appointed the Assistant Engineer on the construction of the Kimberley Waterworks. He was later appointed resident engineer of the Waterworks Company.

While at Kimberley, he devoted much time to helping young men, and especially young engineers, and was largely instrumental in forming the ‘Pirates’ Club.

During his time with the Pirates Club he had captained the Pirates Rugby team which won all its matches except one, and that was against the Griqualand West rugby XV. He also captained the first ever selected team of the Kimberley Association Football Club, the equivalent of the provincial team today.

A man of immense sporting talent.

Known as the Pirate King he was a gentleman of strong personality and persuasion and according to M E Rice, took a personal interest in the welfare, mental and physical, of Kimberley’s youth.

When he left Kimberley Danford was given a farewell banquet held in the Pirates Hall on 7 August 1889, a function that was attended by a large number of Kimberley dignitaries. An un-named speaker compared Danford to General Gordon who was held in the highest repute in those far off days.

Danford, who had not spared time nor money for Pirates Club interests, was hoisted onto shoulders and carried around the room to the singing of “Auld Lang Syne” and “For he’s a jolly good fellow”.

He then embarked in land and other ventures in Swaziland, and in 1895 entered the service as Surveyor-General of the Companhia de Mozambique. One of his first works for that Company was to lay out the town of Macequece in South East Africa. Subsequently he made numerous surveys in the territory, including that for a projected railway from Beira to Lacerdonia on the Zambesi River, and a survey of the coast line south of Beira. He also made a complete triangulation survey of the rich Manica or Macequece gold belt mining area, large and small scale topographical maps of published by the Mozambique Company.

On the completion of that work, Mr. Danford settled on his farm “The Pirates’ Retreat” in the Revue alley near Macequece, and devoted himself to surveying and consulting work. During this period he visited Kimberley at least twice, in 1895 and again in 1897.

He died at his “Pirates’ Retreat” on 13 October 1902.

The plaque (pictured) was unveiled at the Pirates Club Kimberley on 19 April 1911. This particular Pirates Club is now the Kimberley Boys High pavilion.

Also pictured is Henri Bettelheim (left) and George Danford (right) in the 1884 Pirates rugby team.

From Kimberley Calls and Recalls on Facebook By Steve Lunderstedt

Aeon Computer Kimberley

About Steve Lunderstedt


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