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UPDATE: 16/10/2023

16 October 1886, Neville Pickering, Rhodes’ friend and secretary of De Beers Mining Company, dies.
16 October 1886, London office of De Beers opens.
16 October 1897, Richard Bawden accidentally killed in the De Beers Mine.
16 October 1939, Charlotte Maxeke, the Mother of Black Freedom in SA, dies.

The death of Neville Pickering (pictured)

Neville Pickering, secretary to the De Beers Mining Company and Rhodes’ best friend on the Diamond Fields, died on Saturday 16 October 1886. His friendship with Rhodes’ was such that the latter gave up negotiations on the gold fields of the Witwatersrand to rush to his friend’s deathbed in Kimberley in the cottage they shared near the Natal cricket ground. Pickering had joined the De Beers Mining Company in 1881 as the secretary but it cannot yet be ascertained when he had arrived in Kimberley from the eastern Cape. It has been said that Pickering’s death affected Rhodes considerably, and there is no doubt that it did, as he never again set foot in their cottage. Shortly afterwards he persuaded Neville’s brother William to join the De Beers Company.

Neville Pickering had been in the employ of Dunell, Ebden and Company in Port Elizabeth when he visited Kimberley, William at that stage being the Manager of Standard Bank in Dutoitspan. Neville, who was 29 when he died, was respected (beloved was the word used) by both men and women during his life, and did have relationships with the fairer sex. Indeed, Neville was engaged to be married to Miss Maud Christian of Port Elizabeth when he died, and when she married Justice Sir William Solomon, a well-known Kimberley man, in April 1891 , she still continued to wear Neville’s engagement ring on her hand next to her wedding ring. William Pickering’s descendants always believed that they were still engaged when Neville died.


Neville Pickering

Neville Pickering, considered by the De Beers directors to be the best diamond broker in Kimberley, had a rather sad and painful last two years. He had been out riding in a trap on Thursday afternoon, 26 June 1884, when he was thrown out and fell right into a thorn bush, some of the lengthy thorns entering below the knees of both legs. There had been great difficulty in extracting the thorns, and poison from the thorns had inflamed his legs considerably, and the poison spread into his lungs eventually. He never did recover from the accident and by 1885 he had been temporarily replaced as secretary due to his illness. Rhodes nursed him during his illness, whenever he could, and did everything humanly possible to save his friend’s life, but to no avail. Neville had been named as Trustee in Rhodes’ second will on 27 October 1882, and had written in a separate letter to him “the curious conditions of my will can only be carried out by a trustworthy person and I consider you one.” This second will, unusual in its brevity, stated simply “I, C.J. Rhodes, being of sound mind, leave my worldly wealth to N.E. Pickering.” At that time his legal counsel was Robert Dundas Graham.


Horse Drawn Trap of the 1880’s

Sir David Harris happened to witness an extraordinary scene at the De Beers Mining Company Boardroom on Warren Street a few days after Neville’s death. Rhodes and William Pickering were conversing. “I saw two men sitting at a bare writing table. Something made me stop and I stood quite still. They had no papers in front of them and did not say a word. Damn funny, it looked. They were both in the same attitude; one hand on the brow shutting the eyes and supporting the head with the elbow resting on the table, the other hand and arm lay flat on the table. Damn funny, I give you my word. I stood there stock-still, sort of fascinated. Then on the table between them I saw a gold watch and chain in a rough pile which Rhodes and Willie Pickering were alternately pushing from one to the other. First one would give it a shove and the other would only shake his head and push it back again. And I give you my word they were both crying. All I heard was, ‘No, you are his brother,’ and again, ‘No, you are his greatest friend.’

Pickering’s death did affect Rhodes, but he tried to dismiss the matter from his mind with the remark: “Well, one must go on with one’s work. After all, a thing like this is only a big detail.”

UPDATE: 16/10/2019

16 October 1886, Neville Pickering, Rhodes’ friend and secretary of De Beers Mining Company, dies.
16 October 1886, London office of De Beers opens.
16 October 1897, Richard Bawden accidentally killed in the De Beers Mine.
16 October 1939, Charlotte Maxeke, the Mother of Black Freedom in SA, dies.


Charlotte Maxeke (pictured)

One of Kimberley’s most remarkable Black women was Charlotte Makgomo Maxeke, nee Mannye. She was born in Limpopo Province in 1874 and grew up in a Christian milieu, receiving a missionary education in the Eastern Cape. After qualifying as a teacher, she taught in Kimberley where she joined the African Choir. The Choir, which comprised a number of Black Kimberley singers as well as a group from Lovedale College in the Eastern Cape, departed on a tour of England and North America in 1891 which lasted until 1893. At first it was quite successful and they were received by Queen Victoria, while the press was full of praise. However, it was a financial disaster and the animosity between the Kimberley group and the Eastern Cape group eventually led to the dissolution of the choir.


Charlotte Maxeke

Charlotte Maxeke - Sculpture by Zelda Stroud

Charlotte Maxeke – Sculpture by Zelda Stroud

While the group was touring the United States in 1893 Charlotte’s life took a dramatic turn. While the choir was performing in New York she decided to abandon her singing career and enroll at the Wilberforce University in Cleveland. There she acquired a Bachelor of Science, the first Black woman from South Africa to receive a baccalaureate degree.

On returning to South Africa Charlotte became the organiser of the Women’s Mite Missionary Society in Johannesburg, after which she went to Pietermaritzburg where she became a teacher-evangelist. She married Reverend M.M. Maxeke, who was also a graduate of Wilberforce University, in 1930.

Charlotte was far better known for her political activities than for her music. She founded the Bantu Women’s League of the South African Native National Congress in 1918, and even before her death on 16 October 1939 was honoured as “Mother of Black Freedom in South Africa.”

(Charlotte Maxeke’s story written by Maureen Rall).

From Kimberley Calls and Recalls on Facebook By Steve Lunderstedt

Aeon Computer Kimberley

About Steve Lunderstedt


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