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UPDATED: 17/06/2022

17 June 1871, Carl Lotz discovers a 93 carat diamond at Bultfontein mine.

Kimberley citizens die on the SS Drummond Castle

On the night of Tuesday 16 June 1896 the SS Drummond Castle – one of Sir Donald Currie’s Castle line – hit rocks near the Ile D’Ouessant (Ushant), but closer to the Ile Moléne (Molene) off the coast of France, and sank within four minutes.

The liner had left Cape Town bound for London on Thursday 28 May 1896 and were one day away from docking when the disaster occurred shortly before 23h00 that night. The sea was calm, but visibility poor and the strong currents in the region had dragged the Drummond Castle way off course without the danger being realized. Rocks at the Pierres Vertes were struck by the ship, but in the brief time before sinking, there was no time for the lifeboats to be lowered.


SS Drummond Castle

243 passengers and crew drowned with only three survivors – two crewmen and one passenger. The majority of the dead were in bed at the time and bodies washed up on various coastlines over the next few days were in their pyjamas.

Kimberley, and most of the larger cities and towns in the Cape Colony, Natal Colony and the Boer Republics of Transvaal and the Orange Free State, had citizens on board, and none survived. Flags throughout South Africa were flown at half mast.

Kimberley lost at least fourteen residents or former residents, and until the detailed list of passengers was released, rumours spread like wild fire. It was believed that both Frank Mandy, well-known former Papal Guardsman, and JT “Chubb” Vigne, the auctioneer and South African rugby international, had been aboard the ship. They had not, Mandy being confused with his cousin, and Vigne had left by another liner, the “Goth”. Other names were mentioned but all were safe.

Mrs Ruby Harris, sister of Sidney Mendelssohn, daughter of the Reverend Mendelssohn, had only been married to Saul Harris, for twelve months when she drowned. Her husband was the Kimberley partner of Mendelssohn and Company.

Beaconsfield Town Councillor William Reed, his wife, and daughter, also died. An Australian by birth and education, he had been in the Colony since 1881 and Kimberley from 1882 having large mining claims in the Koffiefontein and Bultfontein mines. He was the Managing Director of the New Bultfontein Mining Company. Mrs Reed was a sister of Mrs Jackson Knight of Beaconsfield. Their two nieces, Geraldine and Beatrice Olive, 15 and 13 years old respectively and travelling with them to school in England, also drowned.

Mrs Aspinall was a good friend of the Reeds and was returning to her home in England after holidaying in Kimberley for some time. She had also visited her two sons working in Cape Town.

Bryan Thomas Knights and Harold Stephens of the legal firm Knights and Stephens, attorneys of Johannesburg, were among the drowned. They had both been in Kimberley from the early days and had relocated to Johannesburg in 1892. In Kimberley, Bryan Knights had originally been managing clerk to the solicitor Selby Coryndon, while Stephens had been a clerk to Knights before becoming a partner. Knights had also played an active part in the affairs of St Cyprian’s, being a church warden, and for some time had been a member of the Kimberley Divisional Council. Stephens was the son of the owner of Stephens’ Ink, Henry Stephens.

Anne Sophia Stephens (nee Skophammer), wife of Harold, and their two year-old daughter Anne, also drowned.

George Almond was a telegraphist for seven years in the Kimberley Telegraph Department, and was on six months leave. Endeared to all by his kindly and unassuming manners, he was a hard-working member of the Kimberley Athletic Club.

Two fellow telegraphists, James Dalziel and J Richardson, who both worked for several years in Kimberley before transfer, had joined Almond for an extended holiday in Britain.

All three drowned.

Another two ill-fated passengers were a Mr Norris and Mr Graham of the firm Pain and Company of London. They had been in charge of the pyrotechnic displays during the 1892 Kimberley Exhibition.

Matty Brookstein, formerly an employee of De Beers Consolidated Mines for many years, and his wife Emily (nee Matthews), both became casualties. They had moved to Johannesburg a few years prior and opened a boarding house.

A particularly tragic story is that of a Mr. Teelfsen and Mr. Ugland, two passengers going home to Norway. They had already survived being wrecked on a Norwegian ship, and reached Delagoa Bay in a destitute condition. Afterwards they embarked on the Drummond Castle, and were, therefore, in two wrecks within a few weeks.

The Mayor of Kimberley opened a Relief Fund for the relatives of the deceased, as did all major centres throughout South Africa.

UPDATED: 17/06/2021

17 June 1871, Carl Lotz discovers a 93 carat diamond at Bultfontein mine.

Poddy Shein remembered with affection

Herman Louis Shein, affectionately known to all as “Poddy”, had a great sense of humour, and would have appreciated the fact that he came into and left this world on two iconic dates.


Herman Louis Shein, affectionately known to all as “Poddy”.

According to the obituary in the Diamond Fields Advertiser he was born on 11 November 1913 (later known as Armistice Day that ended World War I in 1918) and he died aged 85 years on 16 June 1998 (Youth Day that commemorates the Soweto Uprising of 1976). However, other sources including his ID number, state that he was born on 9 November 1912. At the time of his death he was the eldest surviving old boy of St Patrick’s Christian Brothers College Kimberley and had enjoyed their centenary celebrations in 1997.

His parents were Israel and Girlie and there were three sons born to the union – Abe, Poddy and Bennie. His father Israel (Issy) and brother Bennie were butchers, while elder brother Abe was a medical doctor.

He married Henrietta Sarah (Girlie) Haberfeld on 20 October 1946. Married for 52 years Girlie would die shortly after her beloved Poddy.

Poddy served in World War II with the artillery, and in Kimberley had his own business specialising in furniture and electrical goods. Although the Kimberley business closed several years before his demise there were still Poddy Shein stores operating in Klerksdorp, Kuruman and Vryburg in 2017.

It was his community and charitable works that set Poddy aside from his fellow mortals in Kimberley.

He was a long serving President of the Kimberley Chamber of Commerce (now known as NOCCI), having been in the chair for two stints, 1967 to 1972, and again from 1975 to 1980. He would be elected an honorary member of the Chamber in 1987.

In 1968 as Chamber President he prophesied most wisely that “…a new “bug” had appeared in the business world – that of “discount wars”, and he feared that many small businesses would collapse or fail with competition from national firms. This indeed came true as large chain stores put paid to many small family businesses.”

In 1969 the “greatest venture of all time” occurred, the landing of man on the moon. “We salute them all,” said Poddy Shein.

Tourism came to the fore in 1970 when it was mentioned that 122 845 people that year had visited the Big Hole and the adjacent open-air museum. “If properly exploited Kimberley’s tourist potential is perhaps the brightest in South Africa,” said Shein.

He also mentioned that Kimberley “imports more than we export (excluding diamonds) and this has a detrimental effect on the economy of the town.”

Poddy was also the Chairman of the SA Perm, a Kimberley town councillor, member of the Kimberley Hospital Board, and an enthusiastic supporter of the Red Cross. He had also served on the committees of the Kimberley Club, Kimberley Regimental Association, the GW Hebrew Congregation and the Kimberley Town Bowling Club. He was a Life member of the bowling club and had been their champion in 1962, 1976 and in 1981.

He was an active member of the Rotary Club and was elected a Paul Harris Fellow in October 1992 for his outstanding services to the organization.

Always willing to give advice, he was a most charitable individual with a fantastic sense of humour, and in his time, was one of the leading citizens of Kimberley.

Remembered with great affection by many.

May he RIP.

17 June 1871, Carl Lotz discovers a 93 carat diamond at Bultfontein mine.


James Alexander Jones Smith was born in Stornoway, Ross and Cromarty, Scotland in 1853. He trained in Medicine at Edinburgh University and qualified with an LRCP (Edinburgh) in 1877 and subsequent FRCS (Edinburgh) in 1881. He was licensed to practice in the Cape of Good Hope in 1878 and Kimberley in 1901.

He joined the Cape Mounted Rifles and was awarded the Cape of Good Hope General Service Medal (1880–1897) bar: Basutoland, presumably for activities relating to the Basutoland Gun War (1880-1881). On the roll, he is listed as a Surgeon Major, one of two in the regiment.

He served in the Anglo-Boer War as Surgeon Major (attached to the Kimberley Regiment) and for his services was Mentioned in Depatches by Lt- Colonel Robert Kekewich. He was awarded the DSO and later the QSA bar: Defence of Kimberley. He also served as Captain Quartermaster in the Kimberley Light Horse (KLH). He did not live to receive these, dying of pneumonia aged 48 years at Du Toit’s Pan Road, Kimberley on 2 August 1901. His death notice lists him as a doctor with the Kimberley Regiment.

He was a personal friend of Cecil John Rhodes, the son-in-law of Gardner Fuller Williams and brother-in-law of Alpheus Fuller Williams, individually the first and second General Managers of De Beers Consolidated Mines.

His daughter was Constance who married Alpheus Williams, the well-known Constance Hall being named after her.

From Kimberley Calls and Recalls on Facebook By Steve Lunderstedt

Aeon Computer Kimberley

About Steve Lunderstedt


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