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Lt-Colonel Robert Alexander Finlayson


UPDATED: 25/04/2022

25 April 1886, Daughter of Sir JB Robinson, Elizabeth, dies.
25 April 1901, Lt-Colonel David Harris and Lt-Colonel Finlayson awarded the CMG.
25 April 1905, The Kimberley-Alexandersfontein electric railway opens.

Robert Finlayson CMG

Robert Alexander Finlayson CMG (pictured) was born on 11 October 1857 at Edinburgh Scotland and educated there at the John Watson’s Institute. He arrived in South Africa in 1875 and by 1882 was employed by the Cape Government Railways. He joined JD Logan of Matjiesfontein fame in business in 1884 and remained with him until 1892. He was a soldier with the Kimberley Scots and joined the Kimberley Rifles in 1890 as a lieutenant, becoming a major by 1895. He commanded the Kimberley Rifles by 1897 and was appointed Lt-Colonel in 1898.

When the Kimberley Regiment was formed in 1899 (by that name) he became the first Officer Commanding and remained in this position until 1903. He commanded the Regiment during the siege of Kimberley and was mentioned in despatches and appointed CMG (Companion of the Most Distinguished Order of Saint Michael and Saint George). After the siege was lifted he was a commander of an infantry column that operated in the Free State, Transvaal and the Cape Colony.

He was married twice, firstly in 1887 to Emily Anne (nee Bees), a sister of Fanny Barnato, Barney’s wife, and secondly, to Winifred Nora (nee Cuthbert). The first union produced four children: Robert Barnett Finlayson; Margaret Finlayson; Walter Stuart Finlayson; and Olive May Finlayson.

The second marriage produced one daughter in 1920, name unknown.

For many years he was the President of the Diamond Fields Scottish Association, for recreation he played golf and competitive shooting.

He died aged 82 years in 1940 in Aled, Denbighshire and was buried at Colwyn Bay, Wales.

UPDATED: 25/04/2018

25 April 1886, Daughter of Sir JB Robinson, Elizabeth, dies.
25 April 1901, Lt-Colonel David Harris and Lt-Colonel Finlayson awarded the CMG.
25 April 1905, The Kimberley-Alexandersfontein electric railway opens.


The discovery of the fifth big mine in Kimberley came some 21 years after the Dutoitspan Mine saw diggers rush to the dry diggings; and two years after the great amalgamation of the Kimberley mines under Cecil Rhodes’ newly formed De Beers Consolidated Mines.

In either September or October 1890, the Wesselton Mine, pictured, then known as the Premier Mine, was discovered by Gerhardus Fabricius, a farmer. He was also a part time prospector and worked under contract to Henry Alfred Ward, pictured, who held the mineral rights to the ground that he leased from Johannes Jacobus Wessels, the owner of the farms Olifantsfontein and Benaauwheidsfontein.


Wesselton Mine

Ward always believed that diamonds would be discovered on Wessels’ farms and had various agreements with Wessels on the right to purchase the farms as well as the mineral rights dating back to October 1887.

The news was broken to the Kimberley public in early January 1891 when the Diamond Fields Advertiser wrote that Fabricius and his partner Nott, who were working the land under the agreement with Ward, were riding over the veld “some months ago” and Fabricius observed something glittering in the sand. Alighting from his horse, he picked up some ground that included the glittering stone and returned home to wash the soil. Not only was the glittering stone a diamond but the soil also contained a more than average amount of carbon and garnets.


Henry Alfred Ward

He did some more prospecting and concluded that there was another mine underfoot. Irvine Grimmer, who at the time of the discovery was the Assistant Secretary for De Beers, stated that Fabricius stumbled upon indications of diamondiferous ground in soil dug up from an ant bear hole, and then followed up his discovery. George Beet, who was in Kimberley at the time, suggests it was a meerkat scrape rather than ant bears. According to the agreement between Ward and Fabricius, Fabricius was paid £1000 for the discovery of the mine.

Despite common knowledge of Ward having the mineral rights to the land as well as negotiations being underway between Ward and De Beers, the diggers of Kimberley and Beaconsfield were most unhappy about the state of affairs. 
They “rushed” the site en masse on Thursday 5 February 1891, some 400 claims being pegged, and even petitioned for the land to be proclaimed a public digging. They did not succeed and a court decision upheld the agreement Ward had with farm owner Wessels, as well as the subsequent agreement between Ward and De Beers Consolidated Mines. 
De Beers gained control of the Premier Mine in December 1891 having bought the farm Benaauwheidsfontein (and Olifantsfontein) from J.J. Wessels, although they permitted Henry Ward as the bond holder the right to extract five million loads over a period of five years until expiration in 1896.

The mine was christened the Premier Mine by Ward in honour of Cecil Rhodes becoming the Premier of the Cape Colony in 1890, but was also known as the Wesselton Mine until it was officially proclaimed as the Premier Mine by Sir Alfred Milner, the Governor of the Cape Colony, in November 1899. At a De Beers Board meeting in November 1904 the Board “…resolved after discussion to call it the Wesselton Mine in future to avoid confusion with the Premier Mine, Pretoria…” that had been discovered in 1898.

De Beers Consolidated Mines sold Wesselton Mine to the Petra Diamonds in 2010, and is now under management control of Kimberley Ekapa Mining JV.

The most famous diamond from the Wesselton Mine is the bluish Baumgold Rough that weighed 609.25 carats when discovered in 1922. The Wesselton diamonds are noted for their superior purity and perfect octahedra.

25 April 1886, Daughter of Sir JB Robinson, Elizabeth, dies.
25 April 1901, Lt-Colonel David Harris and Lt-Colonel Finlayson awarded the CMG.
25 April 1905, The Kimberley-Alexandersfontein electric railway opens.


Sodom and Gomorrah is what the twin towns of Kimberley and Dutoitspan were known by in 1886 by other towns and cities of the Cape colony, with residents capable of any “sharper’s trick and of committing any and every crime on the calendar. We are not credited with morals”, wrote the Daily Independent, “and Kimberley society, when it is sometimes mentioned, is only mentioned with upturned hands.” Newspapers around the colony were accused of promoting Kimberley’s crime out of all proportion, local media complaining that if a black killed another black on the mine, then it was reported as “Crime rampant at Kimberley”, or even, “Another awful Murder”. Editors of newspapers based in other towns (when they had very few newsworthy stories) would write long, moralistic editorials on “Crime on the Diamond Fields”, all the while ignoring crime happening in their own backyard. Well, despite the bleating of Kimberley’s newspapers, the other towns and cities had every right to call Kimberley what they liked, and they were not at all wrong. In the 1880s it was certainly the city of murders in Southern Africa – could any other centre boast that their town had attracted the entire riff-raff of not only southern Africa, but apparently from all Europe and America as well.

From Kimberley Calls and Recalls on Facebook By Steve Lunderstedt

Aeon Computer Kimberley

About Steve Lunderstedt


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