29 MAY 1901, 128 carat diamond found at Klipdam.
DID YOU KNOW
What on earth do Jack the Ripper of the London Whitechapel murders and infamous poison murderess Daisy de Melker (pictured) have to do with Kimberley? Read on…
On Saturday 23 June 1889 a well-dressed man named William Brodie was brought before the police court in Cape Town under extremely strange circumstances. Inspector Rowbottom told the Magistrate that Brodie had walked into the police station and handed himself over for arrest, stating he was the man they were looking for in connection with the Whitechapel murders (attributed to Jack the Ripper). The Inspector went on to say that Brodie looked as if he was “suffering from a bad attack of ‘the horrors’ ”. The Magistrate, aware of the murders in London, asked Brodie how long he had been in the Cape Colony. Brodie answered that he had been in the colony about ten months, having been “up-country” and working in Kimberley at the Bultfontein Mine. He had left Kimberley to come down to Cape Town “for a spree”, but would, Brodie assured the Magistrate, return to Kimberley at once if at all able to do so.
The Magistrate, having examined the evidence, ordered William Brodie to be discharged immediately and advised him in all sincerity to give up drinking!
It must be presumed that Brodie returned to Kimberley. But how and what did the Magistrate check for evidence in Brodie’s claim that he was indeed the man responsible for the Whitechapel murders? Did Brodie have evidence that he was definitely working in Kimberley at the time of the murders? Given that it took about three to four weeks to get to Cape Town from England, it means he may have been in London right up until the middle of May 1889 if he was not in Kimberley at the time. Murders unquestionably committed by Jack the Ripper were those of Polly Nichols (31 August 1888), Annie Chapman (8 September 1888), Kate Eddowes (30 September 1888) and Mary Kelly (9 November 1888), with the murders of Martha Tabram (7 August 1888) and Liz Stride (30 September 1888) probably being Ripper victims, according to the “definitive” work on Jack the Ripper by Philip Sugden. The other murders in 1888, 1889 and 1891 attributed to the Ripper are considered copycat murders.
If indeed the so-called copycat murders were committed by someone else other than Jack the Ripper, then the lenient Magistrate in Cape Town may well have released Jack back into circulation.
Did Jack the Ripper hand himself over, only for no-one to believe him, especially the Magistrate? Inspector Rowbottom said the prisoner had a bad attack of the horrors. Was it from alcohol? Was it from acknowledging his deeds as the Ripper? Will we ever know if Brodie did work at the Bultfontein Mine? Brodie’s does not normally come up as a Jack the Ripper suspect, and when he does, is dismissed quite quickly. Perhaps his claim deserves more than just a cursory glance.
While on the case of Jack the Ripper, Kimberley does have a rather dubious link to the Ripper murders in the person of Charles Warren, the General in charge of the British army at the disaster of Spionkop in the Anglo-Boer war on 23-24 January 1900. General Sir Charles Warren, after whom a Masonic Lodge was named in Kimberley, criss-crossed the northern Cape colony from 1876 onwards, lived in Kimberley for short periods on-and-off, and then founded the town Mafeking in Bechuanaland during 1884/1885 while fighting one of Queen Victoria’s little wars. The town of Warrenton is named after him. At the time of all the Ripper Whitechapel murders, Warren was Chief Constable of the Metropolitan Police in charge of the search for the murderer (This from 1886 to November 1888, when he resigned.) Enough of Jack the Ripper, and now for South Africa’s most notorious murderess, Daisy de Melker, who has a much closer and intimate link with the diamond city.
What is not generally known is that Daisy de Melker was married to Sidney de Melker, a plumber from Kimberley who played rugby for South Africa. Sidney was a Springbok from 1903-1907. South Africa’s most notorious poisoner was born Daisy Louisa Hancorn-Smith on 1 July 1886 near Grahamstown. In 1896 she lived with her family in Bulawayo (then Rhodesia) and came to South Africa in 1900. In that four-year period she trained as a nurse and was also engaged to a ‘Native Commissioner’, one Bert Fuller. (That means she was aged between ten and fourteen years old!). Fuller died of Blackwater Fever, so the inquest was told, and Daisy inherited a sum of money, her first such windfall connected with death. She married William Cowle in 1909, whom she murdered with arsenic in 1923, then married Robert Sproat in 1926, who died of poisoning in 1927, and then married Sidney de Melker on 21 January 1931, who, fortunately for him, survived the marriage. Daisy inherited large sums of money from both deceased husbands. The crime, for which Daisy was hung, was for the murder of her son Rhodes Cecil Cowle (named after Cecil Rhodes).
In February of 1932 Daisy bought arsenic and slipped some into her son’s coffee the next month. Rhodes died a day after drinking the coffee. Her trial began on 17 October 1932, and lasted 39 days; she was found guilty and was executed on 30 December that same year. What is not generally known is that Daisy had FIVE children, all of whom died. There were twin boys, who died shortly after childbirth, two other boys who died before they could turn five years old, and of course, Rhodes, who lived until Daisy decided he shouldn’t. It is a known fact that Daisy killed her two husbands and one son. It is not beyond the capabilities of Daisy for us to believe that she may well have had a say in the death of not only her other four children, but also in the death of Bert Fuller in Bulawayo. Sidney de Melker can consider himself fortunate that he did not join his predecessors, but can also consider himself unfortunate that it is his surname that is remembered as an embodiment of evil in the history of South Africa.
Back to the Kimberley links with Daisy. Apart from Sidney de Melker, Daisy’s sister lived in Kimberley for many years, and indeed, was living in Kimberley when Robert Sproat was murdered by Daisy in 1926. Fannie (Fanny) Hancorn-Smith had married a sergeant in the South African police, one W.M. MacLachlan, and they lived for many years at 22 Tapscott Street in Kimberley. Fannie’s son, known as “Ginger”, was mentioned during Daisy’s trial, while Fannie herself was a witness. Daisy visited this house on numerous occasions.
Daisy’s grandmother and uncle are buried in the Dutoitspan cemetery, both having died in the early 1870s while prospecting and digging for diamonds. Although research is continuing with no result at this stage, it is presumed that several other members of the family, and perhaps Daisy as a young girl, lived in Kimberley.
Sidney’s daughter Eileen, born and educated in Kimberley, was also a state witness during the trial – she lived with her stepmother and father during the period that Rhodes Cowle had been poisoned. So, Kimberley’s links with one of South Africa’s most infamous murderers are close indeed, much closer than anyone would ever believe.
29 MAY 1901, 128 carat diamond found at Klipdam.
DID YOU KNOW
The Kimberley Chamber of Commerce recommended a new Post Office in 1962, and despite the fact that there was a temporary automatic telephone exchange, there were still many complaints about the service. Doug Henderson in 1964 said that “our antiquated telephone service is no longer adequate to meeting the demands of a city developing like Kimberley”. Business was indeed booming and flights into and out of Kimberley were increasing, although the Chamber still requested a direct flight from Kimberley to Durban once a week. Some things never change! At least two people in the country knew that the diamonds would not last forever (in Kimberley at least). Sir Ernest Oppenheimer had mentioned the fact earlier in the century, and Chamber President Doug Henderson reiterated the fact in 1967.
“Where would Kimberley be without the diamond industry. We cannot depend entirely on the diamond mines forever…and must take immediate steps to supplement this industry if Kimberley is to expand. Some definite action must be taken and taken now”, he thundered at the Annual General Meeting. The genial Poddy Shein, a perennial President on and off for the next twenty odd years, prophesied most wisely in 1968 when he said 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 concerns.
29 MAY 1901, 128 carat diamond found at Klipdam.
DID YOU KNOW
Richard Liversidge, naturalist, ornithologist and museum director, was born on 17 September 1926 in Blantyre, Nyasaland (now Malawi), and died on 15 September 2003 in Kimberley.
As a youngster, Liversidge lived for various periods in India, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe, and it was as a schoolboy that his interest in birds originated. His initial training, however, was in engineering, when he was apprenticed as a fitter and turner. He began at the University of Cape Town, in engineering, in 1946. Working full-time as a technician at the university, he then commenced studies in zoology and botany, one subject a year, finally graduating in 1955. He took up an appointment as ornithologist at the Port Elizabeth Museum, where he began his study of the ecolology of the Cape bulbul which in due course he wrote up for a PhD.
Subsequently Liversidge worked as a conservator with the Natal Parks Board.
Richard Liversidge was the first curator at, and guiding spirit behind, the Tsitsikamma National Park on the south Cape coast.
In June 1966, Richard Liversidge was appointed as Director of the McGregor Museum in Kimberley. This was a position he held until his retirement in 1986, whereafter he continued to serve the museum as a Research Associate and as a member of the Board of Trustees.
During Liversidge’s directorship, the McGregor Museum underwent unprecedented growth. It was at this time that the museum acquired two important historic homes in Kimberley, The Bungalow (Rudd House) and Dunluce, while he was instrumental in developing the Magersfontein Battlefield Museum and Pioneers of Aviation Museum on the outskirts of Kimberley. The most significant project of this period was undoubtedly the moving of the museum’s headquarters from Chapel Street in Kimberley (where the original 1907 building and an annexe added in the 1950s were hemmed in by buildings in the city’s commercial centre, constraining opportunities for expansion) to the Sanatorium, a rambling building in Belgravia, adjacent to the Duggan-Cronin Gallery, where there was much space for future additions of offices and laboratories for a constantly augmented staff and, crucially, of store-rooms for the museums growing collections.
The move from Chapel Street took place gradually through 1973 and 1974, with the Sanatorium being officially opened as the McGregor Museum’s headquarters on 22 November 1976.
Liversidge’s interest in history also ensured that what had been primarily a natural history museum came to be recognised, as significantly, for its humanities collections (with important holdings particularly of historical papers, photographs and textiles).
Liversidge published more than 80 scientific papers and 40 articles in a variety of journals on botany, ecology, ornithology, mammals, and history. A major contribution was as co-author, with Geoff McLachlan, of the first (1957) and subsequent three revisions of the Birds of South Africa, originally published by Austin Roberts in 1940.
Later, he wrote A Rapid Bird Guide (1978) and The Birds Around Us (1990), using the fine watercolour paintings of birds by Kimberley artist Jill Adams. The latter comprises almost a thousand accurately detailed and realistically coloured paintings of sitting, standing, swimming and flying birds. The main section of the book is divided into 15 habitats.
He was a co-author of several other books on history and game management.
A major achievement in Richard Liversidge’s ornithological career was the identification and description of two new species of pipit, the long-tailed pipit (Anthus longicaudatus) and, together with Gary Voelker, the Kimberley pipit (Anthus pseudosimilis).
He also carried out long-term work on the ecology of the springbok, and had the remarkable ability to predict rain, almost to the day, based on his observation of springbok behaviour.
A member of several historical and game farmers’ societies and associations, his interests covered a wide range of subjects.
Liversidge was a founder member and moving spirit behind the establishment of the Historical Society of Kimberley and the Northern Cape (which he would characteristically refer to as the Hysterical Society), serving as chairman over many years. Several of the society’s publications were brought out at his instigation.
Passionate about old buildings, Liversidge served on the National Monuments Council for 14 years from 1977 and was a recipient of the Cape Times Centenary Medal (1990) for outstanding achievements in the conservation of historical buildings.
He served also on the councils of the Zoological Society of South Africa and the Wild Life Management Association. He had also been the last surviving founding member of the Cape Bird Club, the Western Cape branch of BirdLife South Africa.
Recognition of his contribution to natural history included his being made a Fellow of the Linnean Society of London in 1994. He was elected a Corresponding Fellow of the American Ornithologists’ Union in 1974 and an Honorary Fellow in 1991. He was made a Fellow of the South African Museums Association in 1996. Other awards were for Game Conservation in Cape Province (1976), a Merit Award from the Northern Cape Game Ranchers’ Association (1990), a Lifetime Achiever Award from the Kimberley Publicity Association (2002) and an Annual Scroll and (posthumous) Gold Medal from the Wildlife and Environment Society of South Africa (2002).
Liversidge was a long-time and valued member of the Rotary Club of Kimberley (part of the worldwide service organisation Rotary International), serving as its president in 1976/77. Through Rotary he made significant contributions to the Kimberley, South African and International communities and was famed in the club as an impromptu speaker of note. In 1991 he was made a Paul Harris Fellow in recognition of his services to Rotary and to the community.
May he RIP.
(Mostly from Wikipedia).