Boer and Uitlander is a collection of articles published by Arthur Griffith in The United Irishman from between 1899 to 1902, mainly under the pseudonym ‘Ier’, during the Second Boer War between the British Empire and the Boer Republics.
Griffith, who had spent several years in South Africa from 1896 to 1898, was a staunch supporter of the Boers and The United Irishman became one of the most decisively pro-Boer organs in Ireland, the Boers’ most ardent supporters amongst the Irish being Maud Gonne, Michael Davitt, John O’Leary and most famously John MacBride, who commanded the Irish Transvaal Brigade. Griffith often wrote of his past experiences in the region and his admiration for not only the Boers but also the local black population.
Irish involvement in the Second Boer War was estimated to have been two units of commandos; the Irish Transvaal Brigade which numbered no more than 300 volunteers during the war, commanded by MacBride until its disbandment following the defeat of the Boers at the Battle of Bergendal, the final set-piece battle of the conflict, and the Second Irish Brigade, which was formed by former members of the Irish Transvaal Brigade but its 150 volunteers were multi-ethnic in its composition, including Australian, Greek, German, Italian and Boer volunteers, stationed mainly in the province of Natal. For more information on MacBride’s Brigade, an excellent History Ireland article can be found of its activity here.
The Boer War, although resulting in an official British victory, was a pyrrhic victory and was generally seen as a humiliating display against a well-organised and mobile guerrilla force in the Boers, many of whom refused to surrender despite its decisive defeat in pitched battle early on in the war. The treatment of Boer civilians under British occupation was also heavily scrutinised and condemned by sections of the British public, namely its scorched earth policy against Boer farmlands and its establishment of mass concentration camps, leading to around 26,000 Boer civilian fatalities of starvation and disease.
Griffith’s writings on the Boer War thus serve as a fascinating insight into Irish nationalist support and sympathy of the Boers as not only a manifestation of anti-English sentiment but a genuine mutual respect fostered between the Boers and the Irish, a mutual respect that has long been forgotten.