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TODAY IN KIMBERLEY’S HISTORY 1 OCTOBER

UPDATED: 01/10/2020

1 October 1881, Circus Proprietor Richard Bell dies.
1 October 1899, Six Black miners killed in a mud rush in De Beers Mine.
1 October 1909, Frances Baard born in Beaconsfield, Kimberley.
1 October 1920, De Beers announce that 101 employees were killed in World War I.
1 October 1921, DFA journalist Arthur Yemen killed in a freak car accident.
1 October 1931, Sir David Harris resigns as DBCM Director.
1 October 1967, Editor, journalist and historian Cyril Harris dies aged 72 years.
1 October 2019, Judge Steven Majiedt appointed to the Constitutional Court.

A not so well-known Harris of Kimberley
It is not often that editors of newspapers are remembered fifty years after their death, and even less so for journalists unless they won prestigious awards or were involved in a well-known murder case or even perhaps wrote about a world famous statesman. Such is the case of Kimberley journalist Cyril Bertram Harris, who, despite being the author (or co-author) of three publications, is not as well-known as his fellow Kimberlites named Harris such as Sir David Harris, Wilfred Harris, Herbert Harris and Tony Harris.

PT-Cyril_Bertram_Harris_1967

Cyril Bertram Harris

Cyril B Harris (pictured) was born on 11 October 1894 in Dawlais, Wales, and came to South Africa (and Kimberley) with his parents in 1902. At the age of 11 years, he could do shorthand at 100 words per minute, and in 1909, aged 15 years, joined the Diamond Fields Advertiser as a reporter. He was the youngest journalist in South Africa.

Possibly his major story for the DFA was reporting on John Weston’s historic flight in Kimberley on 16 June 1911 when the aviation pioneer set a South African non-stop flight record of eight-and-a-half minutes in his Weston-Farman biplane.

For a time he worked at the Natal Advertiser (now the Daily News) in Durban and for 12 years was the parliamentary correspondent for the Cape Argus in Cape Town. In 1920 he was a foundation member of the South African Society of Journalists (SASJ). Cyril was also the South African representative for the London-based Financial Times as well as being a representative of the South African Press Association for some 35 years.

He returned to Kimberley and the Diamond Fields Advertiser, finally retiring from the newspaper in 1949 as the News Editor. In its brief existence he was also editor of the Saturday Evening News, an extension of the DFA. His daily column was entitled “The Conning Tower” and his byline, or pen-name, was “Rockshaft”. This column was a hotch-potch of Kimberley and regional gossip and included many quite amazing interviews and stories from the early diamond days.

He may have retired from the DFA but not from journalism as Sir Ernest Oppenheimer approached him to take over the editorship of the “Diamond News and SA Jeweller”, a task he loved. He was still involved with the magazine when he died.

It was not all work and no play. In his youth he was an outstanding athlete being a noted 100 yard sprinter, and he was an above average cricketer and tennis player.

As an author, he wrote the biography of Sir David Harris, titled Pioneer, Soldier and Politician, in 1931; and co-authored with AJ Beet the memoir of the Kimberley siege of 1899-1900 in 1950. He was also co-author with Conrad Lighton, “Details regarding the Diamond Fields Advertiser (1878-1968)”, published posthumously in 1969. He was also the founder of South Africa’s first flight magazine in 1937, the SA Airnews.

Harris married late in life, tying the knot with Sophie Zweiback (nee Ettin), a widow, in 1946. (Sophie’s first husband, Dr Solomon Zwieback, had represented Beaconsfield in the Cape Provincial Council in the 1920s and been a town councillor for some time. He died in January 1943).

Harris was Chairman of the Red Cross Society and the editor of the Diamond News and SA Jeweller when he died in Kimberley on 1 October 1967.

Cyril Bertram Harris is buried in the West End Jewish cemetery.

UPDATED: 01/10/2019

1 October 1881, Circus Proprietor Richard Bell dies.
1 October 1899, Six Black miners killed in a mud rush in De Beers Mine.
1 October 1909, Frances Baard (pictured) born in Beaconsfield, Kimberley.
1 October 1920, De Beers announce that 101 employees were killed in World War I.
1 October 1921, DFA journalist Arthur Yemen killed in a freak car accident.
1 October 1931, Sir David Harris resigns as DBCM Director.
1 October 1967, Editor, journalist and historian Cyril Harris dies aged 72 years.
1 October 2019, Judge Steven Majiedt appointed to the Constitutional Court.

DID YOU KNOW

Frances Baard (also referred to as Frances Maswabi (or Masuabi)) was born Frances Maswabi (or Masuabi), in Green Point, Beaconsfield, Kimberley, on 1 October 1909 (other sources suggest 1901). Her father was Herman Maswabi from Ramotswa in Botswana, who had gone to Kimberley to work on the mines, while her mother, Sarah Voss, was a Tswana person from Kimberley. She married Lucas Baard in Port Elizabeth in 1942, having known him from school days in Kimberley.

She attended the Racecourse Primary School and the Lyndhurst Road School in Malay Camp, Kimberley, before enrolling for a short time at Kimberley’s famous Perseverance School (cut short owing to the death of her father). She trained as a teacher and obtained a post at a Paardeberg mission school, a position that she retained for only a year until a male teacher was available. She was then replaced.

PT-Frances_Baard-1956

Frances Baard

Baard then became a domestic servant in Port Elizabeth.

She joined the ANC in 1948 and became very involved with the ANC Women’s League. During the Defiance campaign she was asked to organize Home Care for the men and women who had been imprisoned for their part in the said campaign.
The Federation of South African women was formed on 17 April 1954 and she was elected President of the Port Elizabeth branch. She participated in the boycott of Bantu Education in 1955 and assisted in the potato boycott in response to the use of past offenders as labourers on potato farms in the Bethal district.

Frances was also involved in the drafting of the Freedom Charter in Kliptown in 1955. She was part of the 20 000 strong march of women on the Union buildings (Pretoria) on 9 August 1956 to protest against passes for women. On 18 October 1956 she was arrested and charged with treason, but later released.

During the 1960s the methods of banning organisations and individuals, listing people whose activities were seen as a danger to the state, and employing house arrest were all used to demobilise people and organisational activity.

Banishment was also frequently used. Frances Baard, a trade unionist who had spent her working life in the Eastern Cape was banished to Mabopane in the Transvaal. Here she was linguistically foreign, without shelter, far from her home and family. She describes her experience in moving terms:

“They got this place in Pretoria for me…a little dirty place: it was a two-roomed house. Not a house, a shack, and I was put in there. I had nothing with me from jail – only the clothes I was wearing…There was no blanket, nothing. It was very cold…I didn’t even know a person in that place, I couldn’t even speak the language of the people there. Since I was brought there by the S.B.(Security Branch) the people were afraid of me, to talk to me…”

She was buried a pauper when she died in June 1997.

1 October 1881, Circus Proprietor Richard Bell dies.
1 October 1899, Six African miners killed in a mud rush in De Beers Mine.
1 October 1909, Frances Baard (pictured) born in Beaconsfield, Kimberley.
1 October 1920, De Beers announce that 101 employees were killed in World War I.
1 October 1921, DFA journalist Arthur Yemen killed in a freak car accident.
1 October 1967, Editor, journalist and historian Cyril Harris dies aged 72 years.

DID YOU KNOW

By Frances Baard

My father, Herman Maswabi, was a well-educated man. He came from Ramotswa in Bechuanaland, to Kimberley to find work on the mines. It was there that he met my mother, Sarah Voss. She was a Tswana like him, but she was from Kimberley They got married there, and then they had us children.

We were six children all-together, four girls and two boys. The first-born was Leah, and the next one too was a girl, Regina. Then came Nicodemus, the first son. Nicodemus and me always got on very well, and even now we still go along together fine. He is still alive now, even though he is very old. He is about six years older than me. I was the next one after him. I think it was October 1908 that I was born, but I never saw my birth certificate or anything. My parents called me Frances Goitsemang. Goitsemang means ‘who knows?’ My sister, the one before me, was much older than me so when I was born my parents called me ‘who knows?’ ‘Who knows that we are going to have another daughter!’ After me came Adelaide. She was the youngest girl in the family. Then, the youngest one was Elijah. Those two boys, Nicodemus and Elijah, hawu! They used to fight a lot. But the girls, we got on very well with each other.

We used to live in quite a big house, six rooms or so, seven with the kitchen. My father built it himself and it was a very nice house. But it was just a simple place too. We didn’t have electricity there. There was a tap in the yard and we used to fetch water from that tap to take inside for washing and cooking and everything. But we had a little garden in the yard, and we had some flowers and some vegetables growing there. Us children used to take a little water in a bucket every day to water the garden.

Every Sunday we put on our special clothes so we look very pretty and then we go to church, the whole family. My father was a steward in that Methodist church. I used to enjoy it a lot. I like singing, and the hymns were very nice. And there was no other place we could go to, only church! From there we would go out in the afternoon. We had an uncle who was the only brother of my mother, and he was so fond of us. In the afternoon after church we used to go and visit him. Every time he would give us some monies and we go buying sweets and so forth. Sunday was a nice day because you know you are going to get some money from uncle.

My parents’ house was in Beaconsfield, in Greenpoint township just outside Kimberley. Beaconsfield is not a very big place. You know when you go out from Cape Town you get all those little places like Worcester, well, Beaconsfield was just like one of those small places. We used to have to travel by bus or train when we wanted to go to Kimberley.

I started to go to school in Kimberley. It was also a mission school like the one in Ramotswa, but my parents were not Lutheran, they were Methodist, so it was a Methodist school It was very nice at that school. They used to teach us in English and Tswana. Those that talk in English at home; they were taught in English, and those who spoke Tswana, they were taught in Tswana. So I studied at that school. My parents were very good, they looked after us very well, and they educated all us children too.

During this time that I was at school, when I was about nine, or maybe ten, my mother passed away. That was a very sad thing, and I was still so little. Adelaide and Elijah were even younger. It was during the start of that ‘flu, and I think it was the ‘flu that killed her. That changed things a bit. I was just left with my father, my brothers and sisters who were not yet married. For six months after that we all wore black in mourning for my mother.

My one sister was married already by that time. She used to teach at the mission school that I went to in Beaconsfield, and there she met the principal of the school, and they got married. After a while I was the only one who was staying in that big house in Beaconsfield with my father. The two of us stayed together and I went to school there.

I liked that school a lot. There were many things to do at school. I remember we used to play tennis and netball. I was very fond of playing tennis. I even used to play it after school. I used to sing a lot too. There was one song, which I liked particularly. When I was in standard six I went to another school at Lyndhurst Road, at a place called Malay Camp. It’s a place where the Malays used to stay, and so it was called Malay Camp. I got very sick when I was there at that school. I really forget what was wrong with me, but I was very sick. While I was so sick, I called my teacher ‘Please call my classmates to come and sing that song.’ I wanted to hear them sing that song I liked so much. I don’t know why they delayed, whether they thought I was going to die or what, or if they delayed on purpose, or if they couldn’t get the children together, but they never came to sing that song for me. That was a song! It was called Rock of Ages. I liked that song very much.

When I passed standard six, my father sent me to Perseverance Training School where they used to train teachers. They used to give lessons there in teaching the lower classes. I passed my first year there, and I started my second year. I was 16 years, 16 or 17 at that time. I was learning very well, but then during my second year, my father passed away.

Then I had no home in Kimberley anymore, so I went to live with my sister for a time. Then her husband, the one who was the principal of the school I used to go to, he got a post for me to go and teach at a place called Pardieberg. It’s somewhere in the Free State. You go out from Kimberley, and when you get into the Free State, it is just there.

(From “My Spirit Is Not Banned” by Frances Baard and Barbie Schreiner, published in 1986).

From Kimberley Calls and Recalls on Facebook By Steve Lunderstedt

Aeon Computer Kimberley

About Steve Lunderstedt

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