Изображения страниц
PDF
EPUB

So the Boers finally stayed the sweep of the Zulu scourge which had laid waste a great stretch of land north of the Cape settlements. Since the first expeditions scores of roving hunters had chased their game over a network of devious tracks, traversing every nook of the land between the Orange and the Vaal, and often camping for days upon their banks. Then the trekking farmers plodded on after the hunters, sprinkling their huts and kraals over the face of the country, but naturally squatting first on the arable lands and grazing ground nearest to water courses.

The defeat of the hordes of savages had made it possible for these pioneers to live in safety along the Orange, Vaal and Caledon Rivers.

For years Dutch and English traders, hunters, pioneers, farmers, shepherds, and missionaries trekked heedlessly over these African beds without picking up a diamond. There is nothing surprising in this. No spot in a diamond field has any resemblance to a jeweller's show tray. Hardly a person in all South Africa had ever seen a rough diamond. The roving hunters were looking for game bounding over the veld, and gave no heed to the pebble-strewn bank. The stolid Boer pioneers would hardly bend their backs to pick up the prettiest stone. that lay upon the banks of an African river.

The discovery of diamonds was the reward of daring adventurers and stubborn pioneers who had pushed into the heart of the dark continent.

A poor farmer's child found a pebble on a river bank, carried it home and dropped it with a handful of other pebbles on the farmhouse floor. One little white pebble was so sparkling in the sunlight that it caught the eye of the Boer's wife.

The story of how a Dutch neighbour, van Niekerk, obtained possession of the stone and handed it to the trader, John O'Reilly, of how it was passed on to Lorenzo Boyes, then Civil Commissioner at Colesberg, and finally reached Dr. Atherstone at Grahamstown, has been told too often to be repeated here.

For more than a year after the discovery of the first diamond there had been a desultory search for diamonds in the gravel along the banks of the Orange and Vaal rivers. The first systematic digging was begun by a party of prospectors from Natal. This was the forerunner of the second Great Trek to the Vaal from the Cape, to be followed by thousands of adventurers from all parts of the world. Nearly all were without experiences in mining of any kind.

The advent of Australians and Californians experienced in placer mining for gold was of great service in conducting the search for diamonds. The men composing this influx were largely of English descent, but men from every part of South Africa joined in the rush, and nearly every nation in Europe was represented.

No laboured recital can compass and picture in print any approach to the instant impress on the eye and ear of the moving drama on the banks of the Vaal. It was a mushroom growth of a

seething mining camp in the heart of the pasture lands of South Africa.

Outside of the Indian and Brazilian fields no considerable supply of diamonds had been discovered anywhere. Some diamond-bearing gravel had been found in Borneo, which yielded a small return, and in 1829 Humboldt and Rose discovered the first diamond in the gold placer field of the Ural Mountains. In Bohemia, Australia, Mexico and the United States, the picking up of a few isolated specimens was noted as a curious occurrence.

So at the time of the discovery of diamonds on the banks of the Vaal River, there were no known methods for the extraction of diamonds beyond the shovel of the Indian, the batea of the Brazilian, or the cradle of the gold miner.

As the discovery became known, a motley throng of fortunehunters began to pour into the valley of the Vaal. It is doubtful if a single one of this fever-stricken company had ever seen a diamond field, or had the slightest experience in rough diamond winning, but no chilling doubt of themselves or their luck restrained them from rushing to their fancied Golconda. Many were as bitterly disappointed by the rugged stretch of gravel at Klip-drift as the gay Portuguese cavaliers were at the sight of the Manica gold placers.

Prospecting for diamonds was going on not only upon the river banks, but also upon many of the farms on the high veld.

Diamonds are said to have been found on the farm Jagersfontein even earlier than the memorable stone which was found on the bank of the Orange River. Whether this be true or not, it is a wellknown fact that a large diamond was found on this farm in August, 1870. In the following month diamonds were found at or near du Toit's pan. Early in 1871 diamonds were unearthed close to the farmhouse of Bultfontein, to be followed during the first days of May by the discovery of diamonds on de Beer's farm, Vooruitzigt. Two months later a second diamond bed was uncovered on the same farm.

So within a year, August, 1870 to July, 1871, the Jagersfontein mine and the Dutoitspan, Bultfontein, De Beers and Kimberley mines were discovered in succession.

But who could calculate, or even pretend to predict with any assurance, the prospect of fortune in this African wonderland, so phenomenal in character and so slightly explored ?

Here was a strange, luring beacon in the heart of traditional Ophir where river banks were apparently lined with diamonds, where diamonds were strewn on the face of farms. Who would not rush to a region so sparkling in promise, where another Koh-i-nur might be lying in wait in the dust for the first passer-by, and where a lucky adventurer might stuff his pockets with gems far surpassing the hoard of any nabob ?

I need not tell you of the privations and sufferings and disappointments of the first swarm of prospectors along the banks of the Vaal River, nor repeat the history of the rise of the diamond mining industry. Many of you were among the pioneers of the early days. Credit is due, however, to these pioneers for the change which came

a

over the dismal face of South Africa, until then an almost unknown and unexplored wilderness.

There must always be some strong incentive to cause men to leave comfortable homes, and brave every danger to seek fortunes in remote parts of the world.

The discovery of gold in California led thousands upon thousands of daring adventurers to that country, there to settle and become the backbone of its future prosperity, which, in a few years, depended less upon its output of gold than upon its agriculture, its commerce, and its industries. So, too, Australia, at first a purely mining country, has grown year by year to be less dependent upon its mineral resources.

If Dame fortune was slow to reward the search for King Solomon's mines and the gold of Ophir, she at last revealed to the light of the world pits more dazzling than the glittering stones of fire in the inaccessible valley which the great Alexander beheld, and richer than the soil that Sinbad the Sailor found " which

was of diamond, the stone wherewith they pierce minerals and precious stones—whereon neither iron or hardhead has effect.'

Nor did Dame Fortune stop with her display of diamonds. Following this revelation came another even more astounding. In the unknown expanse of Africa tradition, as has been told, had placed King Solomon's mines and the marvels of Ophir. For centuries men had braved strange perils to reach these mines, but their labours remained unrewarded until, by chance, the marvellous discovery of gold on the Witwatersrand, made possible by the pluck of brave men, who tore the wilderness from the clutch of the lion and beat back the impis of Tschaka, Dingaan and Umsilikazi, was made known. Here were mines richer than King Solomon's, waiting the coming of men from the new Golconda, men of courage and enterprise and ability ; men with brains that were capable of great conceptions and great performances.

By the discovery of the diamond mines in Griqualand West, the exports of South Africa have been increased by nearly £90,000,000, and the gold mines of the Rand, discovered in 1886, have swelled this great exhibit of mineral wealth by the addition of gold already aggregating over £, 1.10,000,000.

I cannot do better than to repeat here the substance of the remarks I made upon the eve of my departure from Kimberley in December last. Farming is to-day the backbone of several countries which a few years ago depended solely upon their mines for resources.

Here in South Africa farming is carried on under great difficulties. Able engineers are required to plan and build reservoirs to conserve the water which flows in torrents for a few hours and then leaves the crops to wither in an almost tropical sun before there is another downpour. It will require the combined energy of the scientists and the farmer to rid the country of the various diseases which make cattle and horse raising so precarious, and of the locusts and other pests which make the raising of crops even more uncertain. What has been done in other countries can be will require the combined energy of the people to act

I would urge you to bear in mind that the pros; Africa does not depend alone on its mineral wealth enormous productions are being taken out of the edi Association, must not be unmindful of our duty to 1: large.

As Cobden remarked on the future greatness of " just in proportion as mental development goes forw. proportion to the development of wealth and mental rnin the same proportion will our destiny be exalted,, reverse."

While you are devoting your time to scientific i technical work in connection with the great mining enterpi various other pursuits, do not neglect the intellectual train young men and women of the country, for upon them the f perity of South Africa will depend.

The struggle for existence has become so acute that the does not use his brains to assist him in his work is left f those who have had proper education and training. It is the an Association like this, the influence of which is far-reachi! all in its power to improve the educational facilities, so : youth of these colonies may be given opportunities for higher training

Before closing my address, I beg leave again to expr regret that I am prevented from being with you on this og and to thank the members of the Council for the honour the conferred upon me.

[merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small]

in ice a day, id before te sunset

llowing

and sea,

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »