Thursday, June 18, 2020

Relief of Mafeking celebrations

The siege and battle for the town of  Mafeking in South Africa is one of the most well known events in the South African or Boer War. The siege lasted  217 days from October 13, 1899 to May 17, 1900. When the British (which included Australian forces) 'won' the battle and the town of Mafeking was 'relieved' there was wide-spread celebrations throughout the British Empire including Australia. These are some accounts of local celebrations, but before we look at these this is an account of the Siege from South African History on-line, see it here.

The Siege of Mafeking (now known as Mafikeng) was an important battle in the South African War (Second Anglo-Boer War). The war began in late 1899; President Kruger (1) issued an ultimatum, instructing the British to withdraw their soldiers from the border of the Transvaal. When the British failed to heed the instruction, Kruger's government declared war. In 1900 Afrikaans Commandant Eloff was sent to put the town of Mafikeng under siege. Eloff (2) instructed General Piet Cronje (3) to lead approximately 5000 Afrikaner soldiers (numbers vary) to Mafikeng. For almost seven months fighting ensued; with the Afrikaner soldiers burning the Barolong huts and the defences that the British lieutenant-general, Robert Baden-Powell (4), had set up. A turning point occurred on 17 May 1900, when British forces, led by Colonel Mahon (5) and Lord Roberts (6) fought their way into the city and lifted the siege. The British forces were dubbed "defenders of Mafeking". The relief is said to have sparked so much jubilation in London that a new word was coined in English, (to "maffick" came to mean "to revel inordinately). Although the war was fought primarily between the British and the Afrikaner soldiers, the battle of Mafeking claimed the lives of 400 Barolong, who fought alongside the British. The British lost were 212 soldiers and over 1000 Afrikaner lives were lost.
The Siege of Mafeking (now known as Mafikeng) was an important battle in the South African War (Second Anglo-Boer War). The war began in late 1899; President Kruger issued an ultimatum, instructing the British to withdraw their soldiers from the border of the Transvaal. Source: South African History on-line, see it here.

There was wide-spread joy at the end of the Mafeking Siege, which can be summed up by this report of a Berwick Shire Council meeting. A letter had been received from Mrs. Flower, Pakenham, requesting inter alia  that the name of the street be changed from King to Mafeking street. Cr. D. Bourke moved that....the change of name be made as desired .....Seconded by Cr. a'Beckett and carried.  (South Bourke and Mornington Journal August 15, 1900, see here).
The name was changed, it was still called that in 1918 but I don't know how long it lasted, because it is not called that now.

Nurse Lowen of Mafeking Street, Pakenham East
Pakenham Gazette April 26, 1918

What follows are the accounts of local celebrations. This all took place 120 years ago - attitudes and language have changed  a lot since then.

From The Argus, May 25, 1900, see here.
The enthusiasm here was intense on Wednesday. An immense bonfire was lit on the highest part of the township, and a splendid display of fireworks was shown, lasting for two hours. The school children were assembled at the post-office, where patriotic songs were sung. They were then marched to the scene of the bonfire, and cheers were given for the Queen, Major-General Baden-Powell and his garrison, and Lord Roberts.

From the South Bourke & Mornington Journal May 30, 1900, see here.
The rejoicings over the relief of Mafeking are past, and Berwick turned out right loyally on Wednesday to participate in the general festivities. We had a grand display of fireworks and a large bonfire, in the evening, and it was a pretty sight to see the rockets and other incendiaries ascending.

From the South Bourke and Mornington Journal, May 23, 1900, see here.
To say that Cranbourne looked gay on Saturday last would be putting it very mildly indeed. News of the relief of Mafeking caused residents to make a bold display in honor of the event, and the amount of enthusiasm shewn by the townspeople was very great.

From the South Bourke & Mornington Journal May 30, 1900, see here.
Our quiet little township made a great demonstration on Wednesday last in honor of the relief of Mafeking. People from Cranbourne and district gathered in large numbers at the Shire Hall in the evening, when speeches of a patriotic nature by Mr. Downward, M.L.A. (7),  President Le Roux (8), and Mr. J. W. C. McLellan (9), and other gentlemen were given. Appropriate songs were rendered by Mrs. Wiltshire (10) and Miss Allan, each number being illustrated by the Rev. E. Robertson on a screen with the aid of a magic lantern. The assemblage sang "Rule Britannia" and "God Save the Queen," whilst hearty cheers were given for Her Majesty, Major-General Baden-Powell, Lord Roberts, and General White (11). At the close of the proceedings the Rev. A. A. Wiltshire (10) thanked those who had assisted in the evening's entertainment, and expressed the hope that the war would soon be over. The band played a number of selections, and a collection taken up to defray expenses resulted in over £2 being gathered. The hosts of our respective hotels laid themselves open for the occasion, and their respective houses were gaily dressed in bunting, whilst a line of streamers floated bravely over the main street. Truly "there was a sound of revelry by night," and-an-array of defunct "Sandersons" (12) in a certain pub next morning testified to the fact that both the "spirit" and the flesh were willing.

Relief of Mafeking Celebration in Pakenham
Image: North of the Line: a pictorial record (Berwick Pakenham Historical Society 1996)

From the South Bourke and Mornington Journal May 23, 1900, see here.
Our friend Host Hogan (13), of the Gembrook Hotel, was so delighted at the relief of Mafeking that he held open house for the night, and the rejoicings were carried out in a very enthusiastic manner, singing and dancing (for joy) being vigorously carried on till further orders. There in no doubt about Mr. Hogan being a Britisher, and he very fitly hoisted the Union Jack and Stars and Stripes interwoven at the salute on Monday. Never, before, and probably never again, in the lives of the present residents, will there be occasion to celebrate such a memorable and soul stirring event as the relief of Mafeking. For seven months, against overwhelming odds, "stormed at by shot and shell" daily, and the last month literally starving, this garrison of solid heroes knew not defeat, but actually, almost on the last days of the siege, rushed out of the beleaguered town and inflicted a severe defeat upon the enemy.

Little wonder that the whole civilised world is to-day looking with awe and reverent respect on the nation that can produce men capable of such a feat of endurance and such unsurpassed bravery and heroism; and it is good, that even in a little township like ours, that on such an occasion as this we should rejoice and be thankful that we belong to the empire that claims these heroes of Mafeking as her sons and daughters. On Saturday night, there was indeed "a sound of revelry" in the township, and every patriotic song known was sung and received with deafening cheers, the assemblage letting their long pent-up feelings loose with a vengeance. A tall pole was set up in the township and a large new Union Jack hoisted, whilst at Webster and James' and Paternoster's store, the empire's flags were very conspicuous.

On Monday the flag was hauled down until 2.30 p.m., when the local detachment of Mounted Rifles with their captain preparatory to their drill drew, up in front of the pole, and hoisted the Union Jack with which was interwoven the Stars and Stripes of America, amid the cheers of the people present, and fired a Royal salute to the flag, of 21 guns. The National Anthem was then sung and cheers given Baden-Powell and "Our Bobs," and with the consent of the captain, three more cheers for the American flag. The assemblage then dispersed, to meet again on Wednesday (to-day) to further celebrate this gallant and glorious defence and relief.

From the South Bourke and Mornington Journal May 30, 1900 see here.
The relief of Mafeking was celebrated in a right royal manner here, and our usually staid township fairly eclipsed itself in the effort to do honor to the gallant defender and his band of heroes. The children attending the three local schools marched in procession from the Toomuc Creek bridge through Old Pakenham, along the Main road to the Mechanics' Institute in the new township singing patriotic songs and waving Union Jack flags to the strains of music provided by Mr. C. Battersby, who headed the procession in a buggy. They were halted under a line of flags across the Main street, including the Union Jack, Royal Standard, Stars and Stripes, and others, when they sang the National Anthem. They then adjourned to the Hall, where tea and edibles were served to young and old. Patriotic songs were then sung by Mr. W. Close amidst ringing cheers, the singing being taking up by the audience must enthusiastically. Loud cheers were given for The Queen, Baden-Powell, Lord Roberts, and the Union Jack. The children were marched under the leadership of our worthy Racing Club secretary, Mr. R. C.Clements, who was assisted by the teachers of the respective schools, and every praise is due to them for the efficiency of the arrangements. A special word of praise is due to the members of the Rifle Club, as it was they who very fitly mooted the idea and to two of their members -  Messrs. W. H. Bloomfield and H. Hogan who collected the amount due to defray the cost of the treat - but they must have felt well repaid for any trouble taken in the matter to hear the happy expressions of approval given sound to by the juveniles and seconded by their seniors. A souvenir handkerchief was presented to every child marching, which they will no doubt treasure in remembrance and honor of the brave souls who so gallantly defended Mafeking. A matter spoken of during the proceedings was the formation of a local band, and, as there is plenty of material here, the matter is well worthy of the residents' consideration, and it is hoped someone will take this matter, up at once.

Trove List - I have created a list of articles on Trove about any local connections to the Boer War and any articles on the Relief of Mafeking Celebrations, access it here.

(1) President Kruger -  Stephanus Johannes Paulus Kruger (1925 - 1904). He was president of the Transvaal, or South African Republic, from 1883 until his flight to Europe in 1900, after the outbreak of the South African (Boer) War. Source: Encyclopedia Britannica, see here.
(2) Eloff -  Sarel Eloff, described as a 'dashing young officer', grandson of President Kruger. You can see a photograph of him, here. He was taken Prisoner of War at Mafeking and sent to St Helena along with Piet Cronje and others.
(3) Piet Cronje - Pieter Arnoldus Cronjé (1836 - 1911), was a Boer General. Source: Encyclopedia Britannica, see here.
(4) Robert Baden-Powell - Robert Baden-Powell (1857-1941) 1st Baron Baden-Powell of Gilwell, established the Boy Scout movement in 1908. Source: Encyclopedia Britannica see here.
(5) Colonel Mahon - General Sir Bryan Mahon (1862-1930), British General and later an Irish Senator. See his obituary here.
(6) Lord Roberts - Lord Roberts (1832 - 1914) was Frederick Sleigh Roberts, 1st Earl Roberts, a British Field Marshal. Source: Encyclopedia Britannica  see here.
(7) Mr Downward, M.L.A - Alfred Downward (1847 - 1930). Member for the Legislative Assembly seat of Mornington from 1894 until 1929. Source: Parliament of Victoria website, see here.
(8) President Le Roux - Prosper Henry Victor Le Roux, Cranbourne Shire Councillor 1896 until 1905. Shire President 1899-1900. Source: The Good Country: Cranbourne Shire.
(9) Mr. J. W. C. McLellan -  John William Charles McLellan -  Cranbourne land owner and Councilor 1903 - 1905.  Source: The Good Country: Cranbourne Shire.
(10) Reverend A.A. Wiltshire and Mrs Wiltshire - Albert Arthur Wiltshire. The Reverend Wiltshire was the Anglican Minister, President of the Cranbourne Brass Band established in May 1899, and a member of the Cranbourne Rifle Club formed in March 1900. He died in an accident in 1908 at the age of 42, you can read his obituary here.The other information comes from The Good Country: Cranbourne Shire. Mrs Wiltshire was born Sara Hodgson and they married in 1890.
(11) General White -  Field Marshal Sir George Stuart White (1835 - 1912). Awarded the Victoria Cross in the Afghan War in 1879. Source: the British Empire website, see here.
(12) Sandersons - was a brand of Scotch Whiskey.
(13) Host Hogan of the Gembrook Hotel - Charles F. Hogan was the licensee of the Hotel from at least 1894. The Gembrook Hotel is the hotel in Main Street in Pakenham near the Railway Station.

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