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TODAY IN KIMBERLEY’S HISTORY 15 SEPTEMBER

UPDATED: 15/09/2017

15 September 1889, Jonathan Hayne dies while attempting to extinguish an underground fire in Bultfontein Mine.
15 September 1908, Sr Louisa, Principal of St Michaels in 1877 dies.
15 September 1912, Miner Daniel Cox killed in a fire at the Kimberley Mine.
15 September 1917, Diamond digger Sydney Clegg murdered at his claim in Barkly West.
15 September 1972, 1890 Pioneer Memorial unveiled by Desmond Lardner-Burke.

DID YOU KNOW

The Community of St Michael and All Angels is an Anglican religious order of nuns in South Africa. The Community was founded by Allan Webb, the second Bishop of Bloemfontein in 1874 – although the idea was first mooted by Webb’s predecessor, Edward Twells. In a letter he’d written in 1868, Twells highlighted the need for a Sisterhood to set up schools for girls in Bloemfontein.

Three novices and three lay helpers under Emma, a Mother Superior, travelled from England to Bloemfontein via Port Elizabeth, arriving towards the end of April 1874. They immediately opened a boarding school, St Michael’s, and a day school. St Michael’s School exists to this day as one of the leading schools in South Africa.

In 1877 the Community established the St George’s Cottage Hospital in Bloemfontein, the first hospital in the Orange Free State.

The Community’s work was extended to the nearby mining town of Kimberley, from 1876, where Henrietta Stockdale, a sister, pioneered the training of nurses at the Carnarvon Hospital. She was later influential in securing the first state registration of nurses in the world.

A St Michael’s School for girls was established in Kimberley in January 1877, but did not survive, the formation in 1887 of what is now the Kimberley Girls and Boy’s High Schools sounding the death knell. By 1895 Sister Henrietta had taken over the building originally used as the St Michael’s School.
Belgravia Junior School later occupied a building designed by William Timlin at the bottom of Memorial Road, which was built on the site of the former St Michael’s School. After Belgravia Primary had amalgamated and moved to the Kimberley Junior School premises, this building became the Sister Henrietta Stockdale Nursing College.

Sister Louisa had been the Principal of this school for girls.

15 September 1908, Sr Louisa, Principal of St Michaels in 1877 dies.
15 September 1912, Miner Daniel Cox killed in a fire at the Kimberley Mine.
15 September 1917, Diamond digger Sydney Clegg murdered at his claim in Barkly West.
15 September 1972, 1890 Pioneer Memorial unveiled by Desmond Lardner-Burke.

DID YOU KNOW

Digging for alluvial diamonds can be a dangerous way of earning a living, having to cope with not only disease, cave-ins, sudden flash floods, extremes of weather, lightning, but also when the digger, tired after a hard weeks work, rests quietly at home over the weekend. It was such a day on Saturday 15 September 1917 at the diamond diggings at Gong-Gong on the Vaal River in the Barkly West district.

The 60 year old Sydney Clegg lived alone, as did many diggers, in his little iron shanty on the banks of the river, his nearest neighbours being other diggers some distance away. Clegg had lived there at least twenty years, searching for the elusive diamond that would change his life, and his life, although frugal, was a happy life. Most diggers are content with their lot, away from the maddening crowd, living a healthy existence on a diet of sunshine, hard work, and dreams. He had passed the day quietly, alternating between fishing, sleeping and reading, had eaten his supper, and gone to bed early as most diggers did, so when the loud knocking came at his door he awoke with a fright.

He lit the candle next to his bed, grabbed his old brass handled horse-riding crop, and went to see who would be so inconsiderate on waking him up in such a manner. Upon opening the top half of the door, which had a deadbolt on the inside, he saw a man silhouetted in the starlight, as there was no moon at that time. The man knocking at the door was drunk.

Jafta Nessels (also known as Wessels), a so-called Coloured person, was a labourer on the diggings at Gong-Gong, and he had run out of alcohol at his own house, so had decided to wake up the elderly Clegg and ask him for some drink so that he could continue his revelry. Clegg was not at all amused at this intrusion upon his privacy and leaning forward over the bottom half of the door, struck at Nessels with the riding crop. Nessels grabbed the end of the crop (whip), ripped it out of Clegg’s hand, and hit Clegg with his own crop, the heavy end striking Clegg a heavy blow on his head. The digger fell to the ground, quite senseless. The drunk Nessels then entered the hut, and proceeded to strip it of what he deemed valuables, being a coat, wallet, clothing, shoes and several other small articles. He had wanted brandy, but had found none, and departed, leaving the dying man on the floor of the hut.

A friend came to visit the next afternoon, and upon hearing moaning, entered the hut by the open doorway, and found Clegg in a coma. He called for assistance and the injured man was rushed to the Barkly west hospital, but died without regaining consciousness on 18 September, three days after the attack. The inquest heard that only one blow was struck, had not caused a fracture, instead causing an effusion of blood on the brain, the result of which was death. The advanced age of the deceased had contributed to him dying from the wound. The black eye and an abrasion on the head were caused by his fall after being struck by the crop.

Rapid police and military deployment in the region saw Jafta Nessels soon arrested on suspicion of murdering the elderly digger. His home was in an old diamond shaft near the river, the stolen articles being recovered by Rifleman A.G. Hough, a member of the South African Mounted Rifles. The SAMR was a military unit that helped the police in the search. After a brief preliminary hearing, Nessels was formally charged of murder, and the court went into recess for the Christmas holidays, the Griqualand West criminal session resuming in February 1918 under Sir John Lange. Mr C. Lansdowne prosecuted, with Advocate F.K. Loewenthal appearing for the defence.

Jafta Nessels pleaded guilty to manslaughter, but not to murder. It was not his intention, Advocate Loewenthal said, to kill the diamond digger, merely to get some more alcohol to drink. The prosecutor said that he was satisfied that Nessels did not go to Clegg’s hut with any weapon, and that the death of Clegg had come about through an altercation with Clegg more than likely attempting to strike Nessels. Nessels had attempted to put the blame for the killing onto another resident in Gong-Gong, but after both had spent some time in the gaol awaiting trial, Nessels had been stricken with a guilty conscience and had admitted that it was only he involved in the death of Sydney Clegg.

Judge Lange, before sentencing Jafta Nessels to ten years hard labour for culpable homicide, said that isolated diggers on the river must be protected against the likes of Nessels. They lived a lonely life, hardly saw their neighbours, and it was difficult to police the diggings satisfactorily, so the sentence was not just punishment for the crime, but also a deterrent to any other person committing similar crimes.

Sydney Clegg, happy in the life he chose to live, was not able to choose the way he died. The craving for alcohol had gotten the better of the craving for diamonds. The River of Diamonds had claimed another life.

From Kimberley Calls and Recalls on Facebook By Steve Lunderstedt

Aeon Computer Kimberley

About Steve Lunderstedt

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