First hand accounts of life at the Cape...Part 1
A final update in the saga of Jan Blanx. Quite simply he disappeared from Van Riebeeck's Journal after his last misdemeanour. I can only assume that Commander Van Riebeeck was only too pleased to get rid of this irritating thorn in his side and packed him off to the 'Fatherland' on one of the many ships returning from the East. The only way to continue a search for him would be to consult documents relating to the Company's employees e.g. discharge papers or further trials, for I don't think that our Jan would have changed his ways much on leaving the Cape! This I will leave to someone else! There are so many interesting things in Van Riebeeck's Journal and it is a must for anyone researching the earliest settlers as well as the future history of the settlement.
In fact journals and diaries remain one of the richest sources of life in general for any family historian and there is a vast array of them to be found that were written in the early days at the Cape. The most famous of these would be those of Van Riebeeck and later that of Lady Anne Barnard, written between 1797 and 1801. Apart from being an accomplished writer, Lady Anne was also an interested and adventurous observer of life in all its facets. She obviously loved people and her great love of animals and her compassion for them is evident throughout her letters and journals. She tells of a buck in the following manner: "I reared him myself, without a mother, and he seems now to regard me as one, following me like a dog, and begging hard at night for Barnard's [her husband] permission to sleep on my feet." She also had a couple of secretary birds and a sea calf which she says "I gave in charge to a slave, with orders to seize the golden opportunity of his bleating to insert the spout of a teapot in his mouth and give him his bellyful of milk." Then there was a penguin "the penguin is half the day in the pond with the calf and the other half of it in the drawing room with me." She had two jackals which were 'the delight of the dogs in the garrison...and allow themselves to be chased all round the flat topped wall of the fortress for about 2 hours," before they hid for the night in a cellar in the Castle. She also had two wild cats, a horned owl and a green chameleon from Madagascar..."but the buck possessed my heart."
Lady Anne left a vivid account of life at the Cape. She mentioned people in detail, she travelled far afield and wrote about who she met and the places at which they stayed. She wrote about the price and quality of food and wine and laughed at those who sneered at the local wines. Her sense of humour is evident throughout her letters most of which were addressed to her great friend Henry Dundas, First Viscount Mellville. She was curious and down to earth when it came to interacting with 'local' people. Politically she was aware of the nuances prevailing at the Cape between the Dutch and the new British occupants and made sure that she did not heed the snobbery of some of her countrymen when it came to socialising.
All in all this is a fantastic read - but there are other diaries which you will find just as fascinating. More on these later.