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Today in Kimberley's History

TODAY IN KIMBERLEY’S HISTORY 22 FEBRUARY

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UPDATE: 22/02/2018

The British army totally encircle General Piet Cronje’s force at Paardeberg after General Christiaan de Wet withdraws from Oskoppies on the 21st, 1900

DID YOU KNOW?

That D.M. Ramoshoana wrote a letter in 1932 to the Diamond Fields Advertiser relating to Solomon T Plaatje’s keen interest in the progress of Setswana literature:

“For many years he devoted much of his time to the improvement and standardization of the Sechuana orthography as far as it was possible. When he was in England he assisted Professor Daniel Jones to produce a Sechuana Reader in International Phonetic Orthography, the aim being to solve the problems of different sounds which are represented by one and the same letter, and to prove the advantage of one letter and one sound. It is probably not generally known that it was he that took the initiative in reforming the Sechuana spelling, and so brought into being the latest orthography, which will probably be accepted by all concerned in Sechuana literature. At the time of his death he was working hard to enlarge and revise the Sechuana-English Dictionary, and to prepare a second edition of the Proverbs…Further, to prove his deep interest in his mother tongue, it may be worth the while to mention that when he was the editor of Tsala ea Batho he undertook the translation of some of Shakespeare’s plays, and continued it on his voyage to England on a tossing sea in 1914, when he was one of the delegates sent to lay the grievances of the Africans against the Natives Land Act of 1913 before the British Government and public. Of the four translations – Julius Caesar, Comedy of Errors, Much ado about Nothing and Merchants of Venice – only one, Diphoshophoso (Comedy of Errors) has been published.

Who will take his place in the interests of Sechuana literature is a question that can only be asked, but not answered, or, if answered at all, can only be answered in the negative.”

UPDATE: 22/02/2017

Nothing has yet been found that happened this very day in Kimberley’s history. Research continues…

DID YOU KNOW

Barney Isaacs, an English “diamond king,” promoter, and speculator; was born in London on 21 February 1851; and committed suicide by jumping from the deck of the steamship “Scot,” June 14, 1897, although this is still argued about to this day. His father, Isaac Isaacs, was a small general dealer with a prosperous business. Both Barnett and his elder and only brother, Henry, were educated at the Jews’ Free School, Spitalfields, the head master of which was Moses Angel.

In 1871 Henry went to try his fortune at the Kimberley diamond-fields, South Africa; and, his means being at first slender, he endeavoured to raise money by appearing as a conjurer and entertainer under the professional name of “H. I. Barnato.” A little later he became a diamond-dealer, and wrote home advising his brother to join him. Barnett sailed for Cape Town in 1873 and reached Kimberley with about £50. Finding his brother to be generally known as “Harry Barnato,” he decided to adopt the same surname.

Thenceforward he signed himself “B. I. Barnato,” and was popularly referred to as “Barney Barnato.”

In 1874 Barney and his brother commenced business as diamond-dealers under the firm-name of “Barnato Brothers”; and in 1876 Barney, who was then worth about $15,000, purchased four claims in the Kimberley mine, which soon brought in an income of $9,000 a week. In 1880 he visited London and established the firm of “Barnato Brothers,” financiers and diamond-dealers. On his return to Kimberley he floated his first company, “The Barnato Diamond Mining Company,” for $575,000, which paid a dividend of 36 per cent per annum.

The same year Cecil John Rhodes floated the first De Beers Diamond Mining Company; he and Barnato were continued rivals until the amalgamation of that company with the Kimberley Central Company. Barnato next turned promoter. In the Rand he organized the Glencairn, New Crœsus, Primrose, and Roodeport companies. He invested in the Johannesburg Water Company, and became a member of the Johannesburg Stock Exchange and of other concerns. At the height of his financial career he enjoyed the confidence of the public to such an extent that in a single day $5,500,000 was subscribed for shares in one of his enterprises.

Barnato was returned for the Legislative Assembly of Cape Colony as member for Kimberley, after a fierce contest, in 1888, and was re-elected in 1894, although he had been burned in effigy a short time before.

Barnato’s success as a speculator caused him to revisit London, where he became known as a daring operator; and for a short time his companies received some public support. In July, 1895, he attained the height of his popularity in England and was lionized; but his career was meteor-like. His experience in the London stock-market, with which he was unfamiliar, was disastrous. He formed a trust company which he named “The Barnato Building Company”; and the demand for participation in this enterprise was so great that the £1 shares rose to £4 at the opening of the subscription lists, though they fell below par soon afterward, owing largely to the fact that the securities held by the company were of uncertain value. In November, 1895, the lord mayor of London gave a banquet in honour of Barnato, who, wishing to be under no obligation, handed a check for $50,000 to him as a donation to the fund for the benefit of the poor in Spitalfields, in whose welfare the lord mayor was then actively interested.

Events resulting from the Jameson raid into the Transvaal, which jeopardized Barnato’s interests, compelled him to return to South Africa, where he remained to adjust his affairs; but the strain was more than he could stand. Hoping to benefit his health by a sea voyage, he sailed for England in the care of his wife and two nurses; but he grew no better.

PT-Barney_Barnato_Headstone-1897

Barney Barnato Headstone

While in a state of frenzy, he succeeded in eluding his attendants, and, jumping overboard, was drowned. His body was recovered, and now lies in Willesden cemetery, near London. Although Barnato was at one time reputed to be worth $85,000,000, it is doubtful if he ever had more than $35,000,000. At the time of his death his estate was valued at $3,000,000. As an amateur actor, Barnato was a never-failing attraction, especially as Matthias in “The Bells”—a part he often played in the early Kimberley days.

Bibliography: The Times, June 16, 1897, London;
The Jewish Chronicle, June 18, 1897, London;
H. Raymond, B. I. Barnato; a Memoir, New York, 1897.

Nothing to report on today in Kimberley’s history. Research continues.

DID YOU KNOW
The most popular theory is that Thompson Street was named after George William Thompson who reputedly started the first pub in Kimberley. Other theories are that it was named after John Cyprian Thompson, a Cape lawyer commissioned in 1871 to administer the laws in the new province of Griqualand West, and a member of the Legislative Assembly of Griqualand West in 1874; and also that it was named after Francis “Matabele” Thompson, a colleague of Cecil Rhodes. Of the three suggestions, the most likely is the second. More notable is that the Prospector’s Lodge building on Thompson Street was formerly the Masonic Hotel, famed for spectators watching the nearby executions from the roof.

The Executioner’s Yard, where early Kimberley and Griqualand West murderers were executed in the 1870s and 1880s, was where the Van Heerden’s Building and TAB betting shop is situated today. The gallows were erected in the yard prior to each hanging, the executions being viewed from the roof of the Masonic Hotel (now the Prospector’s Lodge), and from Debris Heaps around the Police barracks area. It is suspected (as research is ongoing) that the very first execution occurred where the fast food franchise is now situated on Roper Street. Later executions (in the 1890s) took place at the New Gaol on the corner of Phakamile Mabija Road (formerly Transvaal Road) and Hull Street (about 1 kilometre further down the Johannesburg road).

From Kimberley Calls and Recalls on Facebook By Steve Lunderstedt

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