Thursday, 15 May 2014

A Corner of An African Field...

I will post soon about my wonderful tour of Zululand but first, on this special date of 15 May, I wanted to share something totally unexpected that we found in a small lonely cemetery across the Buffalo River, not far from Rorke's Drift;

The small cemetery containing civilian and 1880's British soldier's graves

The large headstone of the grave on the right immediately stood out for me;

 Here's a closer look at the inscription;

'Mathieson' is my surname, (complete with the rarer 'i' spelling) and 'Alexander' is both my late father and my elder brother's name. You can see therefore why this particular 'find' really affected me.

Rather touchingly the headstone also bore the message " This stone is erected by a few of his friends".

At the moment I'm not aware of a direct family link with this particular Alexander Mathieson but the "Jock" confirms that he was of course Scottish. His age was 53 when he died in 1903, so sometime between 1850 and then he'd likely emigrated to South Africa and ended up in this remote spot.

Had he witnessed the Anglo-Zulu war of 1879 or had he made his journey after that and the later Boer War conflicts? At this stage I don't know and it won't be easy finding out but, seeing 'Jock's' grave all the way out here close to Rorke's Drift with the infamous iSlandwana hill in the background was really quite moving. To think that I may have a family connection so close to the sites that I have been fascinated with for much of my life is really quite something.

Jock's headstone looks towards iSlandwana hill

I of course wanted to show my respect and together with a local flower, placed a small cross on Jock's grave which Kate from our group had kindly and selflessly given me.

Today is the 15th May, the anniversary of his death so, whether we're related or not Jock, I'll be thinking of you, rest in peace.


  1. Hmm, moving my friend. Very moving - and an incredible coincidence that frankly if you had made it up, no one would have believed you.


  2. Thanks Chris, after 2 weeks of touring round numerous battlefields, memorials and graveyards, finding one with a possible family connection was, as you say, moving.

    I'd also climbed iSlandwana the day before - itself quite an emotional experience - so to find that Jock's grave directly faces it, well that was just too much...