16 JUNE 1900
As the crow flies Lydenburg is some 150 miles from Pretoria. Once upon a time it was a Republic of its own, but after a quarrel it kissed Pretoria and was happily married. People sometimes speak of Lydenburg as the ‘Irish Town.’ There are not very many native Irish to be found there now, save amongst the old men, but there is a fine stalwart breed of Irish Boers—young men and maidens from Dutch mothers and Irish fathers, who sing ‘God Save Ireland’ in the taal, and hate the Red-necks with a double-barrelled hatred. In houses up Lydenburg way you will find pictures of Robert Emmet on the walls, side by side with the portrait of Oom Paul and the drawing of red-bearded Cronje scooping in Jameson and his schelms at Doornkop. The Irish were the pioneers of the Lydenburg gold diggings, and they spread themselves over the face of the land, washing and fossicking for the yellow metal. Wherever he goes—Africa, or Australia, Asia, or America, the Irishman is always the pioneer. By-and-by, when he has pioneered worth something, the Englishman and the Jew—arcades ambo—come along, and a while later you meet the Irishman plodding across the desert, with his blanket and his billy-can, and his pipe, seeking new lands to pioneer, and striving to figure out how the Saxon and the Hebrew have scooped him. He generally gives up trying to find out—for the Irishman is as a child in the way of Anglo-Saxon-Jewish civilisation.
When Lydenburg ‘broke out’ he Irishman was first there—just as he was first in California, Australia, and the diamond-diggings. He panned and lived merrily. He was a stranger in the land, but he had no grievances. In after years, when the Englishman and the Jew came along they brought the grievances. Australians, Yankees, Scandinavians, and Scotchmen came tumbling up after the Irishman. The Scotchmen opened stores and sold bad whiskey—the others drank it.
The diggers and the brutal Boers fraternised. Some of the diggers made fortunate, married the daughters of their oppressors, and settled down; others made no fortunes, but cheerfully married the daughters of the land and hustled along happily. Others, again, made fortunes and spent them, and others never made a cent at all. But nobody ever starved. It was only when the Anglo-Saxon and the son of Israel got their claws on the country men began to starve.
The Boer Government sent a message to the diggers. There is no red-tape about the Boers. The message was simple and direct. ‘Boys,’ it said, ‘don’t you think you had better send a representative to the Volksraad?’ The diggers elected one of their number—a North of Ireland man, if my memory serves me, named M’Lachlan—and he went up as member of the Raad for the gold-diggers. And whenever the Dutchmen were considering things bearing on the gold-diggings, the President would ask ‘What do the boys want, Mac?’ And whatever the boys wanted the boys got. There was no ‘franchise question’ then, for there were no crawling capitalist conspirators infesting the country, and the Boers, who lived in friendship with the diggers, knew that these rough, good-natured men without guile would as soon have dreamed of plotting against the land and the people as they would have dreamed of becoming teetotallers.
Frank Watkins was the last member of the diggers sent up to the Raad. Frank was a civilised Englishman. At the beginning of this war he crossed to England to explain to his countrymen that it was wrong to Rob and Slay. He escaped with his life.
De Kaap and the Randt ‘broke out’ and Lydenburg became half deserted. John Bull and Ikey Moses came along, and darkness covered the face of the land. The good old Anglo-Saxon system of wage slavery was introduced. Fat Jews and fat Englishmen set up in Johannesburg, and built a Stock Exchange and other institutions, which I will spare the blushes of the innocent by not naming. They invited the workers to flock in, and when the workers flocked in they started a fine old English game called Competition. It is a simple game—you put two men to work, and whichever does the most work and asks the least for it, wins. The Boers, who hold primitive ideas, disliked this game. They noticed that the loser in it was thrown out on the roadside to die, and they commenced making laws which were inimical to the game. Then the great British nation discovered that the Boers were a vile, ignorant, cowardly, dirty, bigoted, non-progressive race, whose existence was an insult to God Almighty and a menace to humanity, and they started in to wipe them out.
Methinks I wander from Lydenburg. The old diggers preferred their independence round Lydenburg to Anglo-Jew control in Johannesburg. Even to this day, the real gold-digger is to be found in Lydenburg and Lydenburg alone. On Patrick’s Day the diggers used to hold high festival. Burgomaster De Villiers, who loved the Irish as his own children, would hoist the green flag side by side with the vierkleur on the Government buildings, and the boys would sing and dance and speechify and banquet to St. Patrick till the 18th of March sun came bounding over Spitz Kop, and Catholic Irishmen and Protestant Dutchmen would part with one final cheer for the saint who was rough on snakes. There was one digger name Arthur O’Keeffe.—But I fear I am rambling, and the story of O’Keeffe is too long. Suffice it to say, there were good old times in Lydenburg.
If I were asked how long the Boers could hold out in Lydenburg I should say five thousand Boers can hold that country indefinitely against all the force England can muster. Some of the English papers have assured their readers that ‘seven or eight weeks’ will be quite sufficient to reduce the Boers in that district. If the Boers have the district and the great Origstadt Valley prepared, as I believe they have, seven or eight years would not suffice to reduce them.