Stoep Stories No 1
Thursday, 1st May 2014
STOEP STORIES- TALES FROM THE KAROO
Published by the Graaff-Reinet Heritage Society February 1999
Ann Murray as told by Paddy Archer
During the Anglo Boer War a division of the British Cavalry under Major-General Lord French was holding the line near Colesberg. Gen French had his wife and family with him. While in the military camp the four-year old son became desperately ill and the British doctors attending to the troops advised that the child be sent to the highly-regarded Children`s Clinic in Graaff-Reinet.
Three Dominican nuns, trained as educationists, ran the clinic under the guidance of a local doctor, who schooled them in childhood diseases. And so it was that the sick boy and his mother, under escort with a white flag, embarked on the long journey to Graaff-Reinet. The kindly nuns did all they could for the sick child but, sadly, the boy died.
The family requested that he be buried in the Catholic cemetery in Graaff-Reinet.General Lord French, who was not himself a Catholic, asked what he could give the nuns to show his appreciation for all that they had done. They declined any personal gifts but replied that something for the chapel would be most welcome and suggested a lamp. Feeling that this was far too modest, he presented them with a large and beautiful chandelier with thirty six candles.
Many years later the Church in Graaff-Reinet that had been in the diocese of Port Elizabeth was transferred to De Aar. The council; went through all the church records and finding references to the boys grave wrote to London for further particulars. A representative of the French family wrote back saying they were very pleased to have heard about the burial place of General French`s son as it filled a gap in the family tree. However, they would like to point out, with respect, that the name is spelled ffrench.
What happened to the chandelier? No-one knows; probably when electric lights were installed, it was discarded. And some have said that it ended up being cut in half and sold to an antique dealer.