Stoep Stories No 30

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Friday, 30th May 2014


Published by the Graaff-Reinet Heritage Society 


By Marj Noel ( from Brenda Horwitz)

During the Anglo-Boer War at the end of the last century, the British forces were heavily dependant on the Cape Railway system for transport of troops and supplies. As much of the line ran through the remote unguarded expanse of the Karoo, it was a soft target for the highly mobile Boer commandos who struck at every opportunity. To deal with this, a line was constructed of forts at regular intervals, with smaller dug-out positions in between. One of the dug-outs was on Frank Horwitz`s farm near Merriman. They called it “Die Fortjie”.

Years later, in 1955, a railway ganger was patrolling this part of the line. The railway had been fenced on both sides by this time and the gangers dog, chasing a hare plunged through the wire, closely followed by the ganger. In the heat of pusuit he stumbled into a disused dug-out and kicked up a rusty bully-beef tin. Many of these littered the ground but this one appeared rather solid so he picked it up. To his surprise, the tin contained 21 dirty old coins.

He showed his find to the Station master at De Klerk Siding on the farm but was told that they were rubbish. Perhaps the Station master never saw the coins properly; he had been stung by a bee and both his eyes were swollen almost shut. However, the ganger then showed the coins to an employee of the Agricultural Department temporarily in the area on locust control. Cleaning one coin, he recognised that it was a Queen Victoria gold sovereign. He offered the ganger one pound each. Frank Horwitz, becoming aware of the find, claimed his rightful property from the Extension Officer. By now the coins had already found their way into other hands but but Frank could rescue 11 for which he also paid one pound each.

Today, Frank`s wife Brenda, owns a very handsome bracelet made up of the gold coins dating from 1853 to 1877. They still spare a thought for the unknown Tommy British Tommy, the original owner, who never retrieved his treasure trove. Perhaps he lost his life nearby in some violent action.

“Die Fortjie” and the surrounding area was well searched by other folk subsequently but nothinhgfurther was found.

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