Dark Origins – Little Jack Horner, a nursery rhyme

When I was a girl I loved nursery rhymes. I had a beautiful Mother Goose book which I used to read often. Over the years that book disintegrated from frequent use and it was eventually disposed of. When my oldest son was born, I replaced it with a few new nursery rhyme books, all of which are beautifully illustrated.

Nursery Rhymes Are Not What They Seem: The Story Behind “Little Jack Horner”  | History Daily
Picture from: https://historydaily.org/nursery-rhymes-are-not-what-they-seem-the-story-behind-little-jack-horner

One of my favourite nursery rhymes is Little Jack Horner. The modern version goes like this:

Little Jack Horner.

Sat in the corner,

Eating a Christmas pie;

He put in his thumb,

And pulled out plum,

And said “What a good boy am I.”

The text of the original nursery rhyme is somewhat different and is believed to have originated in 1538 during the English Reformation. During the years 1536 to 1541, King Henry VIII set about an administrative and legal process whereby he disbanded monasteries, priories, convents, and friaries in England, Wales and Ireland. The incomes previously earned by the monasteries were expropriated by the crown and their assets were seized.

It is speculated that the Jack from this nursery rhyme is Thomas Horner who was a steward to the last abbot of Glastonbury, Richard Whiting. According to the story, Horner was sent to London with a Christmas pie for King Henry VIII. Inside the pie the deeds to twelve manor houses were hidden. These were intended to be a gift to the king and a last effort by Richard Whiting to prevent the nationalisation of church lands and the destruction of Glastonbury Abbey.

On the way to London, Horner discovered the deeds hidden in the pie and took for himself the deeds of the manor of Mells in Summerset. Shortly afterward, Horner moved into the manor and his descendants have lived in the manor house for generations. They dispute the claim that the deeds were stolen by Horner.

The origin of this nursery rhyme fascinates me so much I have incorporated it into my writing. In my supernatural novel, Through the Nethergate, it is mentioned by one of the main supporting characters, the Monk.

Extract from Through the Nethergate relating to Little Jack Horner

Here is an short extract from Through the Nethergate that details the original wording of this nursery rhyme and a peek into its history:

“Margaret continued to watch him. She wasn’t sure where this outpouring of information was going.

I’m talking to a ghost, she thought. Someone who says he was born in 1483. Bewilderment and fear fluttered in her stomach.

The monk seemed to pull himself together and continued to speak:
“In 1536, King Henry VIII set about the dissolution of the monasteries. Monasteries, priories, convents and friaries in England, Wales and Ireland were disbanded and their income and assets appropriated by the Crown.”

The monk’s eyes seemed to glisten in the dim light.

“In the run up to Christmas 1538, Richard Whiting sent a gift to the king in a last effort to prevent the nationalisation of church lands and the destruction of the abbey. The gift was a huge Christmas pie with the deeds to a dozen manor houses hidden inside it. The abbot chose two trusted men to deliver the gift; one was his steward, Thomas Horner, and the other was me.”

A smile suddenly lit up the monk’s face.

“Do you know the nursery rhyme, Little Jack Horner?”

Margaret nodded again. A little taken aback at this sudden change of direction to the conversation.

Now he sings of Jackey Horner,
Sitting in the Chimney-Corner,
Eating of a Christmas pye,
Putting in his thumb, Oh fie!
Putting in, Oh fie, his Thumb,
Pulling out, Oh strange! A Plum.


“That nursery rhyme was written about Thomas Horner. During the journey, he opened the pie and took out the deeds of the manor of Mells in Somerset, which he kept for himself.”

“What about you?” Margaret asked. “What happened to you?”

The monk looked at Margaret, his smile slowly fading.

“I was killed, of course. Stabbed through the heart by that treacherous and thieving Thomas Horner.”

The monk’s shoulders slumped dejectedly and his mouth turned downwards.”

The story of the Monk’s death is included as a short story in a murder mystery anthology, Death Among Us.

Picture from Wikipedia here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Glastonbury_Abbey

I was planning to visit the ruins of Glastonbury Abbey last year, but sadly Covid-19 put paid to that trip.

There are two interesting features of Glastonbury Abbey that make it very interesting to me:

  1. The graves of King Arthur and Queen Guinevere’s tomb are purported to be in Glastonbury; and
  2. The Abbot’s Kitchen is described as “one of the best preserved medieval kitchens in Europe”
Site of King Arthur and Queen Guinevere’s purported tomb beneath the high altar. Picture from Wikipedia here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Glastonbury_Abbey

About Roberta Eaton Cheadle

I am a South African writer specialising in historical, paranormal and horror novels and short stories. I am an avid reader in these genres and my writing has been influenced by famous authors including Bram Stoker, the Bronte sisters, Amor Towles, Stephen Crane, Enrich Maria Remarque, George Orwell, Stephen King, and Colleen McCullough. 

I was educated at the University of South Africa where I achieved a Bachelor of Accounting Science in 1996 and a Honours Bachelor of Accounting Science in 1997. I was admitted as a member of The South African Institute of Chartered Accountants in 2000. 

I have worked in corporate finance from 2001 until the present date and have written seven publications relating to investing in Africa. I have won several awards over my twenty year career in the category of Transactional Support Services.

I have been published a number of anthologies and have two published YA books, While the Bombs Fell and Through the Nethergate. I have recently published my first adult novel called A Ghost and His Gold which is partly set in South Africa during the Second Anglo Boer War.

Find Roberta Eaton Cheadle

Blog: https://wordpress.com/view/robertawrites235681907.wordpress.com

Twitter: https://twitter.com/RobertaEaton17

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/robertawrites

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Roberta-Eaton-Cheadle/e/B08RSNJQZ5

_____________________________________________________________________________________________

Want to be sure not to miss any of Robbie’s “Dark Origins” segments? Subscribe to Writing to be Read for e-mail notifications whenever new content is posted or follow WtbR on WordPress. If you found it interesting or entertaining, please share.


Dark Origins – Hansel and Gretel

Most people are familiar with the story of Hansel and Gretel, a German fairy tale collected by the Brothers Grimm and published in their Grimm’s Fairy Tales in 1812.

In summary, the story goes as follows:

Hansel and Gretel are a brother and sister whose starving parents decide to abandon them in the forest. Hansel overhears his parents plotting and drops pebbles on the path so that he and Gretel can find their way home later. The family’s plight does not improve and a short while later the mother [or stepmother depending on the version] persuades the father to take the children into the forest again and leave them there. This time, Hansel drops a trail of breadcrumbs but the birds eat them and the two children become lost in the forest.

The starving children come across a gingerbread house and they begin to break off bits and eat it. The house, however, is a trap set by a wicked witch who captures the children, enslaves Gretel and locks Hansel in a cage. She sets about fattening Hansel up so that she can eat him.

Gretel saves Hansel by shoving the witch into the oven which she has heated up in order to cook Hansel. The pair escape and manage to find their way home with the witch’s treasure. In the meantime, their mother [or stepmother] has died and their father is a broken man having abandoned his beloved children. The family live happily ever after.

Hansel and Gretel - Wikipedia
Picture from Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hansel_and_Gretel

The real history behind this already rather grim story, is even more grim.

The true story of Hansel and Gretel may have its roots in the great flood and great famine of 1314. 1314 was a year of continuous rain and this continued throughout 1315 and 1316. The wet conditions resulted in crops rotting in the ground, harvests failing and livestock drowning or starving. Food prices increased dramatically as a result of severe food shortages.

The great famine is estimated to have effected 400,000 square miles of Europe, 30 million people and to have resulted in the deaths of up to 25 percent of the population in certain areas.

The famine was so bad that during the winter of 1315/1316, the peasants resorted to eating the seed grain they had stored for planting in the spring. People resorted to begging, stealing and even murder in their quest for food. Parents abandoned their children to fend for themselves and their were rumours of cannibalism. An Irish chronicler wrote that people “were so destroyed by hunger that they extracted bodies of the dead from cemeteries and dug out the flesh from the skulls and ate it, and women ate their children out of hunger.”

In the story of Hansel and Gretel, the pair are taken into the forest by their father and abandoned. They are taken in by an old woman living in a cottage. When the old woman starts to heat the oven, the children realise she is planning to roast and eat them. Gretel tricks the woman into opening the oven and pushes her inside.

It is interesting to note that this time of famine coincided with the end of the medieval warm weather period and the beginning of the little ice age. The changing climate with its cooler and wetter summers and earlier autumn storms damaged the harvests. Given the strange wet and cool summer South African is experiencing, coupled with severe cold in the northern hemisphere, this really is food for thought.

Another grim early tale along the lines of Hansel and Gretel is a Romanian story called The Little Boy and the Wicked Stepmother. You can read this story here: http://www.planetofbirds.com/the-story-of-the-little-boy-and-the-wicked-step-mother

The story of Hansel and Gretel was the inspiration for my recent twisted fairy tale Covid-19 cake which featured a gingerbread house and a witch who is trying to keep children out after they are declared to be vectors for the virus.

About Roberta Eaton Cheadle

Roberta Eaton Cheadle has published nine children’s books under the name of Robbie Cheadle. She has branched into writing for adults and young adults and, in order to clearly separate her children’s books from her adult books, is writing for older readers under the name Roberta Eaton Cheadle.

Her supernatural stories combine fabulous paranormal elements with fascinating historical facts.

Supernatural fantasy YA novel:
Through the Nethergate

Horror Anthologies (edited by Dan Alatorre):
Spellbound
Nightmareland
Dark Visions

Paranormal Anthologies (edited by Kaye Lynne Booth):
Spirits of the West
Whispers of the Past

Murder mystery Anthology (edited by Stephen Bentley)
Death Among Us

Find Roberta Eaton Cheadle

Blog: https://wordpress.com/view/robertawrites235681907.wordpress.com

Twitter: https://twitter.com/RobertaEaton17

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/robertawrites

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Roberta-Eaton-Cheadle/e/B08RSNJQZ5

_____________________________________________________________________________________________

Want to be sure not to miss any of Robbie’s “Dark Origins” segments? Subscribe to Writing to be Read for e-mail notifications whenever new content is posted or follow WtbR on WordPress. If you found it interesting or entertaining, please share.


Dark Origins – Mary, Mary, Quite Contrary

Mary, Mary, Quite Contrary is an English nursery rhyme which is believed to have religious and historical significance.

Picture from Origins – What Does History Say?

The most common modern version of this nursery rhyme is as follows:

Mary, Mary, quite contrary,

How does your garden grow?

With silver bells, and cockle shells,

And pretty maids all in a row.

The oldest known version was first published in Tommy Thumb’s Pretty Song Book in 1744 and the lyrics were a little different.

Mistress Mary, Quite contrary,

How does your garden grow?

With Silver Bells, And Cockle Shells,

And so my garden grows.

The origins of this nursery rhyme are disputed and these are the three most popular theories.

Religous origin

One theory is that this nursery rhyme is a religious allegory of Catholicism as follows:

Mary is Mary, the mother of Jesus,

The bells are the sanctus or altar bells used to create a joyful noise to the Lord as a means of giving thanks for the miracle taking place on top of the altar,

The cockleshells are the badges of the pilgrims to the shrine of Saint James (one of the twelve Apostles of Jesus according to the New Testament) in Spain, and

Pretty maids are nuns.

Historical origins

The origin of this nursery rhyme has also been attributed to two 16th-century British queens, Mary Queen of Scots and Mary I, also known as Bloody Mary.

Mary Queen of Scots

Picture from Biography of Mary Queen of Scots where you can read more about her life

The tragic Mary Queen of Scots may have been the heroine of this nursery rhyme.

The cockle shells and silver bells were thought to have been ornaments on a dress given to her by her first husband, the Dauphin of France, who died in 1561, leaving her a widow.

The pretty maids all in a row is believed to refer to her ladies-in-waiting, the famous Four Mary’s: Mary Seton, Mary Fleming, Mary Beaton and Mary Livingston. These four young girls, all of noble and high birth, accompanied her when she travelled to France. They all had Scottish fathers and two of them had French mothers and could be relied upon to be loyal to the Scottish Queen and also to her French mother, Marie de Guise.

Mary I or Bloody Mary

Mary I was the elder daughter of King Henry VIII. Mary was a devout Catholic and upon ascending to the throne, following the death of her brother Edward VI, restored the Catholic faith to England. This, according to this theory, earned her the description Mary, Mary, Quite Contrary.

Bloody Mary was renowned for torturing Protestants and “silver bells” was a nickname for the thumbscrews. “Cockleshells” were believed to be instruments of torture attached to the genitals. Pretty maids in a row was said to represent people lined up to be executed by the Halifax Gibbet, the same as a guillotine, which was nicknamed ‘a maiden’.

“How does your garden grow?” could be a taunt about Mary I’s failure to produce an heir or it could be a reference to the cemetery and the fact that the more deaths there were, the more the cemetery flowers would grow.

What do you think about this nursery rhyme? Which theory do you think is the most likely? Let me know in the comments.

About Roberta Eaton Cheadle

Roberta Eaton Cheadle has published nine children’s books under the name of Robbie Cheadle. She has branched into writing for adults and young adults and, in order to clearly separate her children’s books from her adult books, is writing for older readers under the name Roberta Eaton Cheadle.

Her supernatural stories combine fabulous paranormal elements with fascinating historical facts.

Supernatural fantasy YA novel:
Through the Nethergate

Horror Anthologies (edited by Dan Alatorre):
Spellbound
Nightmareland
Dark Visions

Paranormal Anthologies (edited by Kaye Lynne Booth):
Spirits of the West
Whispers of the Past

Murder mystery Anthology (edited by Stephen Bentley)
Death Among Us

Find Roberta Eaton Cheadle

Blog: https://wordpress.com/view/robertawrites235681907.wordpress.com

Twitter: https://twitter.com/RobertaEaton17

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/robertawrites

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Roberta-Eaton-Cheadle/e/B08RSNJQZ5

_____________________________________________________________________________________________

Want to be sure not to miss any of Robbie’s “Dark Origins” segments? Subscribe to Writing to be Read for e-mail notifications whenever new content is posted or follow WtbR on WordPress. If you found it interesting or entertaining, please share.


Second Anglo Boer War propaganda poetry – the British side of things

South African War | Definition, Causes, History, & Facts | Britannica
British troops fighting in trenches during the Second Anglo Boer War

In my post entitled Second Anglo Boer War propaganda Poetry – the Boer side of things, I gave a brief overview of the circumstances that led to the Boers declaring war on the British Empire for the second time.

The late 19th century saw a significant increase in imperialism in Britain, spurred on by the theories of social Darwinism which argued that the biological concepts of natural selection and survival of the fittest should be applied to sociology and politics. This imperialism provided an ideological foundation for warfare and colonisation in the name of the British Empire.

Journalism was used to disseminate these ideas to the British public and, in the years leading up to the Second Anglo Boer War, newspapers were characterised by extreme pro-war propaganda, which was strictly controlled by the British High Commission in South Africa, Sir Alfred Milner.

After a holiday to South Africa in early 1898, Rudyard Kipling became friendly with Cecil John Rhodes, a British mining magnate and politician in southern Africa, Leander Starr Jameson, the leader of the botched Jameson Raid which aimed to overthrow the Transvaal government in December 1895, and Sir Alfred Milner. Kipling cultivated these friendships and came to admire these men and their politics. Before and during the Second Anglo Boer War, Kipling wrote poetry in support of the British cause in the Boer War.

Rudyard Kipling - Wikipedia
Rudyard Kipling as a young man

One of Kipling’s early propaganda poems was The Old Issue which is published in his The Five Nations book of poetry.

The Old Issue

OCTOBER 9, 1899
(Outbreak of Boer War)

By Rudyard Kipling

“HERE is nothing new nor aught unproven,” say the Trumpets,
    “Many feet have worn it and the road is old indeed.
“It is the King—the King we schooled aforetime !”
    (Trumpets in the marshes—in the eyot at Runnymede!)

“Here is neither haste, nor hate, nor anger,” peal the Trumpets,
    “Pardon for his penitence or pity for his fall.
“It is the King!”—inexorable Trumpets—
    (Trumpets round the scaffold at the dawning by Whitehall!)

.     .     .     .     .

“He hath veiled the Crown and hid the Sceptre,” warn the Trumpets,
    “He hath changed the fashion of the lies that cloak his will.
“Hard die the Kings—ah hard—dooms hard!” declare the Trumpets,
    Trumpets at the gang-plank where the brawling troop-decks fill!

Ancient and Unteachable, abide—abide the Trumpets!
    Once again the Trumpets, for the shuddering ground-swell brings
Clamour over ocean of the harsh, pursuing Trumpets—
    Trumpets of the Vanguard that have sworn no truce with Kings!

All we have of freedom, all we use or know—
This our fathers bought for us long and long ago.

Ancient Right unnoticed as the breath we draw—
Leave to live by no man’s leave, underneath the Law.

Lance and torch and tumult, steel and grey-goose wing
Wrenched it, inch and ell and all, slowly from the King.

Till our fathers ’stablished, after bloody years,
How our King is one with us, first among his peers.

So they bought us freedom—not at little cost
Wherefore must we watch the King, lest our gain be lost,

Over all things certain, this is sure indeed,
Suffer not the old King: for we know the breed.

Give no ear to bondsmen bidding us endure.
Whining “He is weak and far”; crying “Time shall cure.”,

(Time himself is witness, till the battle joins,
Deeper strikes the rottenness in the people’s loins.)

Give no heed to bondsmen masking war with peace.
Suffer not the old King here or overseas.

They that beg us barter—wait his yielding mood—
Pledge the years we hold in trust—pawn our brother’s blood—

Howso’ great their clamour, whatsoe’er their claim,
Suffer not the old King under any name!

Here is naught unproven—here is naught to learn.
It is written what shall fall if the King return.

He shall mark our goings, question whence we came,
Set his guards about us, as in Freedom’s name.

He shall take a tribute, toll of all our ware;
He shall change our gold for arms—arms we may not bear.

He shall break his judges if they cross his word;
He shall rule above the Law calling on the Lord.

He shall peep and mutter; and the night shall bring
Watchers ’neath our window, lest we mock the King—

Hate and all division; hosts of hurrying spies;
Money poured in secret, carrion breeding flies.

Strangers of his counsel, hirelings of his pay,
These shall deal our Justice: sell—deny—delay.

We shall drink dishonour, we shall eat abuse
For the Land we look to—for the Tongue we use.

We shall take our station, dirt beneath his feet,
While his hired captains jeer us in the street.

Cruel in the shadow, crafty in the sun,
Far beyond his borders shall his teachings run.

Sloven, sullen, savage, secret, uncontrolled,
Laying on a new land evil of the old—

Long-forgotten bondage, dwarfing heart and brain—
All our fathers died to loose he shall bind again.

Here is naught at venture, random nor untrue—
Swings the wheel full-circle, brims the cup anew.

Here is naught unproven, here is nothing hid:
Step for step and word for word—so the old Kings did!

Step by step, and word by word: who is ruled may read.
Suffer not the old Kings: for we know the breed—

All the right they promise—all the wrong they bring.
Stewards of the Judgment, suffer not this King!

Commentary

Kipling’s description of the Boers as “sloven”, “savage” and “evil” was insulting and most definitely part of the British government’s pre-war campaign to dehumanise the enemy in the eyes of the public. The lines “He shall take tribute, toll of all our ware, he shall change our gold for arms – arms we may not bear” are arrogant and indicated that Kipling believed the British had a legitimate claim to the gold of the Transvaal.

A Ghost and His Gold by Roberta Eaton Cheadle – Cover reveal

About Roberta Eaton Cheadle

IMG_9902

I am an author who has recently branched into adult horror and supernatural writing and, in order to clearly differential my children’s books from my young adult and adult writing, these will be published under the name Roberta Eaton Cheadle. My first young adult supernatural novel, Through the Nethergate, has recently been published.

I also have two short paranormal stories in Whispers of the Past, a paranormal anthology edited by Kaye Lynne Booth.


Like this post? Let me know in the comments. You can be sure not to miss any of Writing to be Read’s great content by subscribe to e-mail or following on WordPress. If you found this content helpful or entertaining, please share.


Is Shakespeare still relevant 400 hundred years after his death?

Bust of Shakespeare at The Globe Theatre, London

My son and I have different opinions on the relevancy of Shakespeare in our modern world. Greg thinks Shakespeare’s works have become irrelevant and would prefer to study more modern writers who have written about issues that have shaped our modern world.

He would rather study 1984 by George Orwell which is about totalitarianism, discrimination, tracking and other issues that, in his opinion, are still a concern today. He sees Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury as being relevant because he does not see people burning books in Western society.

I disagree with Greg on both counts but I am limiting this post to my thoughts about the relevancy of Shakespeare, who just happens to be one of my favourite authors.

These are the reasons that I think it is still worthwhile for students to study literature:

We quote Shakespeare all the time

Shakespeare invented over 1700 of our common words. He did this by changing nouns into verbs, changing verbs into adjectives, connecting words never before used together, adding prefixes and suffixes, and devising entirely original words.

Some of my favourite Shakespeare originated words are green-eyed, assassination, bloodstained, lustrous and obscene.

In addition to all the words Shakespeare invented, he also put words together in new ways to create phrases and idioms. Most people know the famous quotes which are commonly attributed to Shakespeare including:

  • All the world ‘s a stage, and all the men and women merely players. They have their exits and their entrances; And one man in his time plays many parts;
  • Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon them; and
  • How sharper than a serpent’s tooth it is to have a thankless child!

Many people don’t realise, however, that many everyday sayings are attributable to Shakespeare such as be all and end all, catch a cold, heart of gold and to much of a good thing.

Inside The Globe Theatre, London – the stage

His works are universal and enduring as are his characters

Shakespeare’s plays portray timeless themes of human experience and interaction that have remained relevant since his death. They are also considered to be among the most expertly written and beautifully poetic works in the history of literature.

The outstanding features of Shakespeare’s play are as follows:

  • Characterization: Shakespeare created very real and intense characters who deeply feel all of their emotions. This makes them alive and real to the reader and/or audience;
  • Language: As detailed above, Shakespeare contributed a significant number of words, phrases and idioms to the English language. His usage of language was masterful and make his works enduring and memorable;
  • Range of plays: Shakespeare wrote at least 37 plays and collaborated on several more. His plays comprised of comedies, histories, tragedies and sonnets. Nearly all of his work was of an extraordinary high quality of excellence which is one of the reasons his plays are still studied by students of literature;
  • Shakespeare has had a massive influence on literary culture: In addition to the use by modern writers of his words, idioms and phases in their work, allusions to Shakespeare and his plays have influenced a number of well-known subsequent literary works including the following:
  •              Moby-Dick by Herman Melville (allusions to Macbeth/King Lear);
  •              The Daughter of Time by Josephine Tey (Richard III);
  •              The Dogs of War by Frederick Forsyth (Julius Caesar);
  •              Love in Idleness by Amanda Craig (A Midsummer Night’s Dream);
  •              The Talented Mr Ripley by Patricia Highsmith (Macbeth);
  •              Brave New World by Aldous Huxley (The Tempest);
  •              Cakes and Ale by W Somerset Maugham (Twelfth Night);
  •              The Black Price by Iris Murdoch (Hamlet);
  •              Wise Children by Angela Carter (The Taming of the Shrew et al); and
  •              A Thousand Acres by Jane Smiley (King Lear);
  • Exciting plots: Shakespeare’s plots are exciting and are filled with romance, horror, bloodshed, family feuds, fairies, ghosts, witches and comedy.
Open ceiling inside The Globe Theatre, London

What is your view? Do you think Shakespeare is still relevant? If not, what would you have preferred to study instead?

Balconies inside The Globe Theatre, London

About Roberta Eaton Cheadle

IMG_9902

I am an author who has recently branched into adult horror and supernatural writing and, in order to clearly differential my children’s books from my young adult and adult writing, these will be published under the name Roberta Eaton Cheadle. My first young adult supernatural novel, Through the Nethergate, has recently been published.

I also have two short paranormal stories in Whispers of the Past, a paranormal anthology edited by Kaye Lynne Booth.

Like this post? Let me know in the comments. You can be sure not to miss any of Writing to be Read’s great content by subscribe to e-mail or following on WordPress. If you found this content helpful or entertaining, please share.


Second Anglo Boer War propaganda poetry – the Boer side of things

Background

For those of you who do not know, a Boer is the Dutch and Afrikaans word for “farmer”.

Britain occupied the Cape in South Africa in 1795, ending the role of the Dutch East India Company in the region. After the British occupation, the infrastructure in the Cape Colony began to change as English replaced Dutch, the British pound sterling replaced the Dutch rix-dollar and a freehold system of landownership gradually replaced the existing Dutch tenant system.

Between 1835 and 1840, the Great Trek took place when approximately 12 000 Boers from the Cape Colony migrated into the South African interior to escape British control and to acquire cheap land.

Over time, the Boers achieved the independence of their two republics, the South African Republic (Transvaal) and the Orange Free State which shared borders with the British controlled Cape Colony.

When Sir Alfred Milner took over as Governor of the Cape Colony and High Commissioner for Southern Africa in May 1897, relations between Britain and the two Boer republics had been strained for some time. The Boers had already successfully defended the annexation of the Transvaal by the British during the first Anglo Boer War. Milner knew that an independent Transvaal stood in the way of Britain’s ambition to control all of Africa from the Cape to Cairo and that, with the discovery of gold in the Transvaal, the balance of power in South Africa had shifted from Cape Town to Johannesburg.

After the discovery of gold in the Transvaal, thousands of British and other gold seekers called Uitlanders, flocked to the Witwatersrand. The Boers considered that the Uitlanders threated the independence of their republic and refused to give them the vote. Milner used the Uitlander issue as a pretext to provoke the Boer government. The two republics declared war on the British Empire on 11 October 1899 and the second Anglo Boer War started.

Propaganda during the war

During the Second Anglo Boer War or South African War, there was a lot of propaganda on both sides. Propaganda is common in a war scenario. It is a significant tool used by government to get men sufficiently wound up against the enemy to shoot them without conscious.

As with all wars, some terrible things occurred during this war. One of the worst developments, in my opinion, were the concentration camps that Lord Kitchener created to incarcerate the families of fighting Boers. Approximately 48 000 people, a lot of whom were children, died in the concentration camps between September 1900 and May 1902.

Lizzie van Zyl

Emily Hobhouse tells the story of the young Lizzie van Zyl who died in the Bloemfontein concentration camp: She was a frail, weak little child in desperate need of good care. Yet, because her mother was one of the “undesirables” due to the fact that her father neither surrendered nor betrayed his people, Lizzie was placed on the lowest rations and so perished with hunger that, after a month in the camp, she was transferred to the new small hospital. Here she was treated harshly. The English disposed doctor and his nurses did not understand her language and, as she could not speak English, labeled her an idiot although she was mentally fit and normal. One day she dejectedly started calling for her mother, when a Mrs Botha walked over to her to console her. She was just telling the child that she would soon see her mother again, when she was brusquely interrupted by one of the nurses who told her not to interfere with the child as she was a nuisance. Quote from Stemme uit die Verlede (“Voices from the Past”) – a collection of sworn statements by women who were detained in the concentration camps during the Second Boer War (1899-1902). 

While I was doing the research for my new novel that tells the stories of three ghosts who all experienced different aspects of this war, I came across the following propaganda poem about the concentration camps.

The refugee camps (so called)

Lord Roberts he boasts that he stands at the head

Of all that is noble, and nice, and wellbred,

So we’ve got to believe it, it’s only his due,

He says so himself – so it’s bound to be true.

 

If against the “cowardly ignorant Boer”

In a barbarous manner he carries on war,

Why! What does it matter to me or to you,

He says so himself – so it’s bound to be true.

 

The Boer has deserted his children and wife

For the purpose of leading a pleasanter life

Yes, “Such are those people, unnatural crew!”

Lord Kitchener says – so it’s bound to be true.

 

If he harries weak women and children tender

It is not to induce the men to surrender,

Oh no! that’s a thing he never would do,

He says so himself – so it’s bound to be true.

 

If the women and orphans he drags away

In his pest-smitten camps are willing to stay

Let no one assert he the Innocents slew,

He says so himself – so it’s bound to be true.

 

If by thousands they die of disease and starvation

In those sweet health-resorts they call “concentration”

No matter! Those people deserved it too,

He says so himself – so it’s bound to be true.

 

Lord Kitchener persecutes woman and child

Because he was always exceedingly mild

And the more they objected the kinder he grew

He says so himself – so it’s bound to be true.

 

Oh! He is so gentle, the Mahdi’s head

He cut that off when his foe was dead;

In uncivilized warfare, that’s nothing new

He says so himself – so it’s bound to be true.

 

The wife gets a pass and may go away

To bring in the man; but the child must stay;

This, of course, Lord Kitchener never knew,

He says so himself – so it’s bound to be true.

 

But Thanks to our wives, for they do not care

Whatever the hardships they have to bear,

They willingly suffer their woeful plight

If their husbands stand firm for God and the right.

 

By her noble example the Burgher’s wife

Still gives him strength to continue the strife

And she cheers him on with all her might

To stand up firmly for God and the right.

 

O Africander! Be staunch and true

For that’s what your wife is expecting from you

You will help her to make the burden light

By standing firm for God and the right.

This poem is published in The War Reporter The Anglo-Boer War Through the eyes of the Burghers by J.E.H. Grobler

A Ghost and His Gold by Roberta Eaton Cheadle – Cover reveal

The cover of my new novel, A Ghost and His Gold about the Second Anglo Boer War

About Roberta Eaton Cheadle

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I am an author who has recently branched into adult horror and supernatural writing and, in order to clearly differential my children’s books from my young adult and adult writing, these will be published under the name Roberta Eaton Cheadle. My first young adult supernatural novel, Through the Nethergate, has recently been published.

I also have two short paranormal stories in Whispers of the Past, a paranormal anthology edited by Kaye Lynne Booth.


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