A response to Jane

Hi Jane, here’s a quick response to your Map Monday: indigenous history around the world, pre- and post-colonization with me sharing a little more detail from my comment, as you know I always enjoy your thoughtful and fascinating Map postings.

Generally when someone reaches their fifties they begin to wonder about generations past, a time when they begin to research their family’s history which I did several years ago prompted by anecdotes handed down from my Grandmother.

As I said my Great Grandfather Matthew with wife Jane and two young children (more were to follow when they resituated to the UK) lived in South Africa at the turn of the nineteenth century, though we’re unsure if he travelled to fight for the British army in the 1898-1902 Boer War, or whether they were already living in SA having emigrated earlier. We’re unsure but we do know Matthew served as a military Trooper having been later awarded the Queen’s South Africa Medal pictured above, and you’ll see one bar attached to the braid reads Orange Free State however the Bethulie home Town photo reads Bethulie Orange River Colony which suggests they were already living in Bethulie, all treasured items given to me probably because I was the Grandchild who always asked to see them when I visited.

The point to my reply is Matthew served in the South African Constabulary in Bethulie a small Mission Town situated in the Orange River Colony, Bethulie has a shameful history being the site of the world’s first concentration camp used to imprison Boer women and children living in truly appalling conditions. Little is known about the black inmates of the camp but they were certainly there, A.G.H. Daller the first travelling inspector in the ORC observed the presence of black children as,

‘A peculiar feature is the presence of the families of “adopted” or “apprenticed” little coloured children – virtually slaves’, he noted. Their lives must have been hard for they received no rations, depending on their employers for food. As the black townspeople were virtually destitute, blacks in the camp could get little help from that quarter either.’

An appalling and shameful episode in Britain’s colonial past of which there are many, whether Church of England missionaries converting brown skinned girls and boys into Christian English speaking ‘subjects’, or transporting slaves to the America’s I’m afraid we have little to be proud of when talking Empire and her Colonies, the current troubles in Israel are a direct consequence of Britain’s meddling in Palestine.

So a question remains as to my Great Grandfather’s place in just one shameful colonial War, South Africa was quite literally a diamond jewel in Queen Victoria’s crown, our Matthew was a military policeman in a Concentration Camp Town fighting in a Colonial War, so as a family we’re left asking ourselves as a policeman what atrocities did he witness? He would have been aware of the camp housing 1700 prisoners but is there a darker side to my family’s history, might Matthew have visited or worked in the Camp? Questions we’ll never know the answer to and after all these years perhaps it’s best we don’t know.

A. Shepherdson 2021

Is your most prized possession IN FACT worthless?

I hope you’ve read my previous blog, linked here, lol if you haven’t not to worry it’s a very personal family tale written about an ancestor of mine who goes by the name of Matthew, to me a truly fascinating character. I’d love to have met him because I have a feeling we both have similar character traits, how do I know? Well I take after my father, he after his father and so on, we all have so much in common…………… everyone says I’m my father’s son and more so than I’d like to admit……. put it this way when growing up we had a difficult relationship as eldest sons often do!

My thoughts behind this evening’s post are both what value we place on possessions and I’ve decided to put memories of my family into electronic print (WordPress). I know I don’t have children but I have ‘little people’ for relations and who knows one day they maybe interested? Whether my memories are interesting to other readers is a totally different matter but I know several bloggers have been interested in the past, we’ll see 🙂 …………… and certainly different to the tale about a Romanian masseuse sticking her lubricated finger up my asshole and tickling my prostate gland, she wasn’t a doctor mind you, she was ‘milking me’ with her other hand! You haven’t heard my prostate massage tale?

Well lol you never will because it got deleted! 

Anyways not to worry tonight I’ll leave you with a question, what value do you put on your personal possessions? I’d guess the majority of you could do without possibly all your material possessions but I’d guess there will be several that mean the world to you, monetarily worthless however for very personal reasons they are priceless and irreplaceable.

I have two.

My home is overflowing with ‘clutter and stuff’ I’d guess your own is very similar, cupboards are crammed full of papers books, shelves groan under the weight of items I’ll never use again, but honestly speaking I have only two personal possessions that I value above all else. I’d be heartbroken if I ever lost them, you just don’t know how upset I’d be if they were mislaid forever.

And what two items am I referring to?

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The gentleman standing in the doorway of his village butcher’s shop, is my Great Grandfather and according to everyone I’ve heard talk about him they all say he was lovely man. He was a Church elder, he gave meat to poor women in the village, one hundred flag bearers of the Royal British Legion stood at his graveside on the day of his funeral, and a fine upstanding gentleman who served his Country on the Western Front during World War One. He didn’t fight in the trenches but he was stationed very near Ypres though he was only a private and butchered meat to feed army soldiers. 🙂 An important job all the same.

Btw he never sold or ate offal, and a butcher’s opinion is good enough for me! 

He wasn’t Catholic by faith, making the decision Church of England was his personal path toward the Kingdom of God, however Catholicism is linked to my treasured possession, oh yes those two personal possessions my mind does tend to meander. My Great Grandfather wasn’t Catholic however for some unknown reason throughout 1917 and 1918 whilst stationed on the Western Front, he kept those Rosary Beads on the left of the photo with him throughout his time in France. We know he purchased them or was given them by someone in Bethune village because when you hold the Rosary up to the light, look through that tiny eye glass in the middle, you can actually see is different photographs of Bethune’s village Church!

Those Rosary Beads in the photo are the first possession I’d be heartbroken if I ever lost it, that he kept them with him throughout his tour of duty must have been for a very good reason? They obviously meant a lot to him perhaps an antidote to all the horrors going on about him, and although I’m very much a non believer (I truly wish I did believe in God btw) you could offer me any sum of money for my/his Rosary and I wouldn’t exchange.

I should add out of all his many Great Grandchildren for some reason my Grandma handed her father’s Rosary Beads to me for safe keeping and I know not why? Perhaps there’s a reason I’m not aware of but she considered them safest in my possession and another reason why they’re so valuable. Lol all my other Cousins were given monetarily valuable stamp albums and the like, and I have the Beads and Medal. 

Perhaps she somehow knew I’d be the one who coveted them above all else?

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An extra photo for you, My Great Grandfather’s WW1 Medal after serving on the Western Front


The second item one or two of you may have already guessed, I have another Great Grandfather who was awarded the Queen’s South Africa medal for his Military service in the Second Boer War 1899-1902. It’s quite heavy, struck in solid silver and yes they sell for a considerable amount of money on eBay, but again appreciating the QSA medal was earned for Matthew’s military service and handed down to me means the world, it would never ever be sold however much I was offered. Link here for tales of my Great Grandfather Matthew.

©A. Shepherdson 2018