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TODAY IN KIMBERLEY’S HISTORY 1 AUGUST

UPDATED: 01/08/2019

1 August 1871, Pioneer cemetery opens for business.
1 August 1890, The GW Football Association inaugurated with 4 teams.
1 August 1898, The new Halfway House opens in its present position.
1 August 1911, Ecstatic crowds greet the Griqua rugby team after winning the Currie Cup.
1 August 1914, Schoolteacher Mary Healey murdered in her house on Victoria Crescent.
1 August 1914, Mayor Ernest Oppenheimer “At Home” in the Town Hall.
1 August 1966, Judy Scott Library, the first coloured library, opens to the public.

DID YOU KNOW

A month before the Great Fire of July 1888 in the De Beers Mine, on the evening of 5 June, a group of miners protesting at the amalgamation that saw the birth of De Beers Consolidated Mines, the drop in share values, and subsequent unemployment marched from Dutoitspan, gathered in force at the Halfway House, and then continued.

The march was led by blacks, followed by a string band, then white miners carrying banners bearing the word ‘Rhodes’ followed by a Scotch cart in which an effigy of Rhodes reposed. Many other carts followed the effigy. The parade went along Dutoitspan Road, past the Kimberley Club – with loud calls to those within – and then carried on to the Market Square before halting outside the De Beers offices. The effigy of Rhodes was set alight and burnt to howls of delight from the gathered crowd before the death warrant of Rhodes was read out.

The intonation from the crowd as the effigy burned was: “We…now commit to the flames the last mortal remains of Cecil John Rhodes, Amalgamator General, Diamond King and Monarch of De Beers – a traitor to his adopted country, panderer to the selfish greed of a few purse-proud speculators and a public pest. May the Lord perish him. Amen”.

The big move for “The Half” came in 1897/98, and after negotiations with the London and SA Exploration Company and De Beers Consolidated Mines, the Hotel moved from its original position over Egerton road as Cecil Rhodes wished to build a luxury Hotel, which was done. The Hotel, first known as the Kimberley Sanatorium, and later the Hotel Belgrave, is now the McGregor Museum. The “new” Half in its present position opened for business on 1 August 1898.

The “sale” of the Old Halfway House was finalised in October 1898 and consisted of a building of iron and wood, a verandah in front, fitted European and “Native” bars, four large rooms, kitchen, bathroom and storeroom. It was boarded and ceilinged with American pine and partly fenced by corrugated iron.

UPDATED: 01/08/2018

1 August 1871, Pioneer cemetery opens for business.
1 August 1890, The GW Football Association inaugurated with 4 teams.
1 August 1898, The new Halfway House opens in its present position.
1 August 1911, Ecstatic crowds greet the Griqua rugby team after winning the Currie Cup.
1 August 1914, Schoolteacher Mary Healey murdered in her house on Victoria Crescent.
1 August 1914, Mayor Ernest Oppenheimer “At Home” in the Town Hall.
1 August 1966, Judy Scott Library, the first coloured library, opens to the public.

DID YOU KNOW

Although the Halfway House is 146 years in existence, it is 120 years ago this very day, on 1 August 1898, that it opened for business in its current position on Dutoitspan Road.PT-Halfway_House_Hotel-1897-2

The big move for “The Half” came in 1897, and after negotiations with the London and SA Exploration Company and De Beers Consolidated Mines, the Hotel moved from its original position over the road as Cecil Rhodes wished to build a luxury Hotel, which was done. The Hotel, first known as The Sanatorium, and later the Hotel Belgrave, is now the McGregor Museum.

The “sale” of the Old Halfway House was finalized in October 1898 and consisted of a building of iron and wood, a verandah in front, fitted European and “Native” bars, four large rooms, kitchen, bathroom and storeroom. It was boarded and ceilinged with American pine and partly fenced by corrugated iron. (Until recently, foundation stones of the building were visible.)

The longest serving owners and landlords of The Half were John and Emily Shalders, parents of the Springbok cricketer William. They owned the business from 1884 until it was sold in 1925 to Thomas Laity, so were the owners when it moved to its present position.

1 August 1871, Pioneer cemetery opens for business.
1 August 1890, The GW Football Association inaugurated with 4 teams.
1 August 1898, The “new” Halfway House opens in its present position.
1 August 1911, Ecstatic crowds greet the Griqua rugby team after winning the Currie Cup.
1 August 1914, Schoolteacher Mary Healey murdered in her house on Victoria Crescent.
1 August 1914, Mayor Ernest Oppenheimer “At Home” in the Town Hall.
1 August 1966, Judy Scott Library, the first coloured library, opens to the public.

DID YOU KNOW
Popular schoolteacher Mary Grace Healey was shot three times while she slept late on 1 August 1914, a cold, wintry Saturday morning. It was a crime that shocked Kimberley and despite the fact that a suspect was arrested shortly afterwards, the state declined to press charges and her murder is still regarded as unsolved. Mary was a young lady in the prime of her life, while the suspect, Albert William Alderson, was the son of a respected Kimberley pioneer, William Alderson .

Mary Grace Healey was born on 15 July 1885 to David George Healey, the Superintendent of Her Majesty’s Kimberley Gaol, and Louisa Jane at their residence in Giddy Street. The family, after George’s death at age 47 years in 1898, moved to 2 Victoria Crescent, a short stroll away from the Currey Street home of diamond mining magnate Barney Barnato, and on the fringes of both the elite suburb Belgravia and the cosmopolitan Malay Camp. She appears to have had a normal childhood, together with her two brothers Terence and Evelyn, and her sister Lilian , finishing her education at the Girls’ High School, Kimberley. Indeed, without leaving school, Mary became a student teacher in 1902 aged 17. She was appointed to the full time staff in 1905 having attained the Third Class Teachers’ and Higher Kindergarten certificates. The Principal of the “Preparatory and Kindergarten” department of the Girls’ School was Miss Redford.

Our Kindergarten (Pre-Primary) teachers are generally remembered as truly lovely people, which is what they should be – a special class of teacher blessed with patience, love and true understanding. Mary was such a teacher. She was bright, had a cheerful disposition, was extremely popular, and had a large circle of friends among her peers as well as among the more senior pupils, as she was not that many years older than they. Having been raised in Kimberley she would have known many, if not all the families of Kimberley. Her one great passion in life was drama, and shortly after being appointed as a full-time teacher, she started collecting picture postcards of stage and theatre stars and personalities of the period. Painstakingly placed together in an album, this enthusiasm for theatre manifested itself in real life, and she appeared in several amateur productions. Her last performance, in fact, was the same year of her untimely demise when she appeared in “The Whistler”, an amateur dramatical show that played to packed houses for seven nights. In photographs taken of the actors and actresses, Mary is pictured thoroughly enjoying herself in different costumes as the entire theatrical team posed for the cameraman.

Her lifelong ambition of traveling to Europe was never to be fulfilled, she wrote requesting six months leave from April 1915 a mere three days before she was killed. The School Board of Management did not discuss the letter as it had arrived between meetings.

Mary lived at No 2 Victoria Crescent with her mother Louisa, brother Terence George, and grandmother, the frail 76 year old Grace Elizabeth Terrill. (Upon her death aged 92 years in 1930, Mrs Terrill would be buried in the same grave as her murdered grand daughter). Her mother and brother both worked in the same office for De Beers Consolidated Mines as clerks. An Aunt Mary Fraser, sister of Louisa, and also a daughter of Mrs Terrill, had lived with the family until 1911 until she moved into a boarding house on Lennox Street, not more than fifty metres away. Mary Fraser was also the Godmother to Mary Healey.

There had been a dance at the Girls’ School on the night of Friday, July 31, which was not attended by Mary as she had a severe cold. Despite her cold, which had lasted a few weeks, she still managed to play the piano that evening and read a book, going to bed at 22h00. Her brother Terence last saw her alive that same night shortly before midnight when she asked him for some medicine for her cold.

It was Mary’s custom to sleep late on a Saturday morning, a common practice for teachers who get up earlier than most during the week.

Jane Mduba, the domestic servant who had worked for the Healey family for five years, started her working day that fateful Saturday morning of 1 August at her usual time of 06h30, and had knocked on the glass door leading from the verandah into Mary’s room (that she shared with her mother) to gain entry. Mary had opened the door for her and had appeared to be in good health. Jane made tea for both Mary and her mother, after which she made breakfast for Terence and Mrs Healey, both of whom had to go to work that morning at De Beers Head Office. Mrs Healey, before leaving for work at 08h45, popped her head around the door of the bedroom she shared with her daughter, and said that “It’s a cold morning Mary, don’t get up.” Mary replied, her last known words being “No, Mother, I won’t get up early.” Terence left for work on his bicycle at 08h55. Jane Mduba then continued with her duties of cleaning the house.

At 10h00 Mary Fraser arrived to visit, and in fact, put her head around the door of Mary’s door and asked if she was fine. There was no reply, she saw her mother (Mrs Terrill) and then went to town briefly, returning at about 11h00. At that time she signed a receipt for groceries that arrived at the front door. Jane Mduba, while Mrs Fraser was busy with the groceries, breathlessly appeared and announced that Mary was very ill and that a doctor should be called immediately. At 12h00 Terence received a message to return home at once, which he did, while Dr Evelyn Oliver Ashe was called from his duties, arriving at the house at 12h20. Mrs Healey arrived at about the same time in a taxi after Terence had gone to fetch her.

Mary was on the bed, fully attired in her nightdress, lying on her right side in the foetal position, her left shoulder showing, but with the sheets drawn up to her chin. The pillow was saturated with blood and her hair was disarranged. Dr Ashe reported that the body was “quite warm, and the blood fresh”, and that she had died as a result of a bullet fired into her head at close range “between two and three hours before he saw the body”. Thus, it appears that Mary had been shot between 09h00 and 10h00 hours that morning, and amazingly, neither Jane nor Mary’s grandmother had heard the shots nor seen anybody, nor seen anything strange during the morning. In fact, the only other people other than Jane or Mary’s Grandmother – both in the house – had been the Indian greengrocer delivering the groceries and the young gardener sweeping the garden. Neither the Indian nor the gardener had seen anybody.

The doors into and out of Mary’s room (that she shared with her mother) are the key to how the murderer entered the room, and indeed, the house. Remember, the room in which she was killed was the left front bedroom that faced the road. There was a glass door leading onto the verandah, which was latched once Jane the domestic servant had entered. There were another two doors leading out of Mary’s room – one into the passage, and another into the bedroom of her brother Terence. There was another door from Terence’s room leading out of the house onto York Street. It was from this door that the murderer had no doubt entered, as had he entered from any other door he would have been spotted. This York street door was not locked as Mary’s granny and the servant went out of the house this way upon discovering that Mary was dead.

Constable G.O. Ward arrived at 13h50 and the body was removed to the mortuary. The post mortem proved that three bullets had been fired, all through the head with one apparently hitting the right wrist. All three bullet heads and empty cartridge cases were retrieved. As it had been proved it was not a case of suicide Head Constable E.D. Fitzgerald then took over the case.

It was not long before a suspect, Albert William Alderson, a white clerk working in the Chief Accountant’s office of the De Beers company (and the same office as Mrs Healey and her son Terence) was arrested at De Beers Head Office on Tuesday 4 August on suspicion of being involved in the Crescent murder. He was a friend of the Healey family. Alderson was brought before Assistant Magistrate H.W. Hermans on Wednesday 5 August and kept in custody for purposes of a preparatory examination on a charge of murder.

Bert Alderson, who resided at 24 Ward Street near the Market Square with his mother and sister, had worked in the office of Chief De Beers Accountant John Neville for fourteen years, was considered extremely intelligent and an above average clerk as he translated all of De Beer’s foreign correspondence, being conversant in both French and German. He had published at least one book and a pamphlet.

He had visited the Healey home on Victoria Crescent regularly in the evenings (and occasionally during the daytime) since 1909, but since March 1914 had discontinued his calls. Both Mary’s aunt and brother Terence said that they did not know of any intimacy between Alderson and Mary, and in fact believed that Alderson was a friend of all in the family and did not visit anyone specifically when he called. Terence even said that that the two had not even gone out together on a date, and that his sister did not even like Alderson particularly. Despite the fact that Mary had gone into her bedroom on occasion upon seeing Alderson approach the house, there was no animosity between Mary and the suspect, said Terence. The evidence however, points to the fact that there was ill feeling between the two and that Bert Alderson had written at least two letters to Mary in which marriage was proposed.

Mary had gone to Johannesburg by train in June 1913 for a three week long holiday, and Alderson, at the railway station to bid her farewell, had handed her a letter in which he proposed marriage. She had started reading the letter, but had torn it up before the proposal, saying that the letter was “couched in disgusting terms”. He had tried to find out where she was staying in Johannesburg so that he could visit her, but no-one in the family let on, remembering that in December 1912 he had been in the same Cape Town hotel as themselves for their entire vacation. Upon finding out that Mary had not read the letter, he wrote another again asking for her hand in marriage, and this time she firmly rejected his proposal. On 31 March 1914 Mary’s mother asked him to stop visiting their home as it was distressing Mary. He had followed this advice.

The preparatory examination proved most interesting, and the Magistrate’s Court on Market Square was full when J.F. Malherbe prosecuted for the State. Edmund Colpoys Lardner-Burke of the legal firm Haarhoffs defended Alderson.

On 2 July, some four weeks before the murder of Mary, Bert Alderson was issued a license for two double barreled shotguns, two revolvers, 250 shotgun cartridges and 150 rounds for the revolvers. According to the licensing officer Allan Borchards, Alderson had said that the shotguns were for a holiday hunting trip to the Congo and the revolvers for personal protection. On 10 July Alderson purchased the weapons and ammo from the firm Messrs Henwood, Son, Soutter and Company. After testing the Ivor-Johnson revolver originally issued Alderson returned on 17 July to the gun-dealer and purchased a Webley and Scott automatic pistol. On 31 July, the day before Mary was killed, Alderson was taught how to fire the Webley and Scott pistol by Mr S Mitchell, the manager of the firm. Mitchell said that Alderson appeared very anxious and was unduly concerned about the weapons giving the impression he was going to be attacked before long.

On the day of the murder following the killing Head Constable Fitzgerald had gone to the gun-dealer enquiring about revolvers and who had purchased bullets recently, at the same time showing a cartridge case recovered from the scene. This fired cartridge case was identical to those supplied to Alderson for the Webley and Scott.

Mitchell had met Alderson and a mutual friend (Mr McLean) on the evening of the murder on Dutoitspan Road while outside “The Evening Star” newspaper offices, and naturally the tragedy was discussed. Quite surprisingly, Alderson could not recall Mary Healey, and on several occasions even queried: “Who is she?” according to Mitchell. Alderson then asked Mitchell and McLean whether he should visit the Healey’s to express his condolences as he knew the family very well, and was advised against it, as no-one knew whether it was suicide or murder. Alderson’s hand was bandaged at that stage.

Henrietta Makumpela, domestic servant employed by the Alderson family, recalled seeing Alderson at 10h10 on Saturday morning 1 August. He had been wearing his usual clothes with white tennis shoes and had gone into his room when a few minutes later she had heard a shot, and then another, one of the bullets wounding the small finger on his left hand. Henrietta also recalled that the previous evening Alderson had burnt several papers in the back garden, but even though the remnants were brought to court they were illegible.

Alderson had attended the dance at the school on the Friday evening despite not being invited.

Alderson stated that on the Saturday morning he was not feeling well so he did not go to the office, as was his norm. During questioning he said that he left his house on Ward Street at 09h30 to go to the church and the blacksmith on Bean Street, and had then gone to the tram stop at Victoria Crescent – some 30 metres from the Healey residence – to catch the tram to Alexandersfontein. He changed his mind when he reached the tram stop and returned home in case some De Beers employees saw him as he was supposed to be working. What is interesting here is that the tram left for Alexandersfontein at 08h45, a fact that he should have known. If Alderson had been there at 08h45 he would have seen both Mrs Healey and Terence leave for work.

Alderson visited the well-known Kimberley chemist, Nelson Otto Ruffel, that Saturday morning of 1 August between 10h00 and 11h00, when Ruffel was asked to dress the bullet wound, the same wound again being dressed on the Monday.

Alderson was supposed to work at the De Beers Head Office that Saturday morning from 09h00 until 13h00 but had not appeared, and in fact his superior only knew on the 4th that Alderson had been absent without leave that morning, but had on the Monday mentioned to a colleague that he had been feeling unwell. Surprisingly, no-one could recall that he had ever mentioned a hunting trip to the Congo – for which he required the weapons.

There is indeed substantial circumstantial evidence that suggests Albert Alderson knew more than he was letting on. The police, using the revolver (in reality a pistol) suspected of being the murder weapon, fired the gun in Mary’s room, and incredibly, the constables in the rooms on either side could only hear a noise resembling that of a pencil being tapped on a table. That same weapon, when confiscated by the police, had been recently fired and the muzzle had been thoroughly cleaned – Alderson explaining that he had been shooting on the veld and had cleaned the barrel afterwards. There were blood spots on the suspect’s tennis shoes too, but they could easily have been caused through the “accident” when Alderson shot his little finger, as the wound had bled a lot.

The science of firearms ballistics was some six years off; differentiation between male and female blood was 35 years away; DNA testing was unheard of, and the Attorney-General declined to prosecute Alderson on the circumstantial evidence available. Alderson left Kimberley for Europe shortly afterwards and was not heard of in Kimberley again although it was rumoured that he committed suicide years later. This cannot be verified.

Was Albert Anderson guilty of this terrible crime, or was he just an innocent bystander providential enough to escape the hangman? What is your verdict?

From Kimberley Calls and Recalls on Facebook By Steve Lunderstedt

Aeon Computer Kimberley

About Steve Lunderstedt

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