24 June 1901, Cecil Rhodes pays his last visit to the town where he made his fortune.
Cecil Rhodes’ last visit to Kimberley
Cecil Rhodes’ last visit to Kimberley was when passing through from Bulawayo to Cape Town, his special train arriving on the evening of 24 June 1901. Accompanying him on the trip from Bulawayo were Dr Jameson, Sir Charles Metcalfe, Sir William Marriott, and his personal secretary Philip Jourdan, but when Rhodes continued his journey six days later to Cape Town by normal mail train, on Sunday 30 June, only Dr Jameson and Sir Charles Metcalfe were in his party. Jourdan had sent a telegraph to William Pickering, secretary of De Beers, at 9.30 am that morning from Kraaipan, some 30 kilometres from Mafeking, requesting that rooms be reserved with Hemming at the Sanatorium for the entire party as well as dinner that evening. Two carts and a trolley were also requested to meet the party at the railway station.
Travelling with the group on the train were two Eland and two Zebra destined for one of the farms around Kimberley, and for these an unusual request was that either mules, horses or cattle be brought to the station so that the wild animals could have company “to drive them with.”
Rhodes was aware that he was not well in the last few years of his life, and time was not to be wasted. The one morning during these last few days in Kimberley, he drove up in his cart to De Beers Head Office on Stockdale Street and found the place ‘close tyled’ as is the case when diamonds are being moved around and security is paramount. He knocked loudly on the door but received no response, and repeated the knocking several times. There was still no response, so getting red and angry he walked into the middle of the road and ran towards the door, giving the solid teak door a mighty kick. Soon afterwards the messenger opened the door and quite indignantly Rhodes rushed in with the icy comment “Don’t let this happen again when I am in Kimberley.”