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PostPosted: Wed Mar 18, 2009 1:31 am 
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Location: Vancouver Island, Canada
The Burnley Gazette, Saturday, March 16, 1895.

A BURNLEY MAN IN SOUTH AFRICA.

Below we give some interesting extracts from a record received in Burnley recently from Mr. George Wilkinson, who has gone out to South Africa. The writer is the son of Mr. Isaac Wilkinson, furniture dealer and general furnisher, Sandygate, Burnley, and is about 28 years old. When 21 he went out to Brazil and spent there nearly three years, visiting many parts of the country and having altogether an interesting and unique experience. Not long after his return to England his desire to travel once more took possession of him and he found his way to South Africa, where he has been for nearly three years, roughing it there, rather than having it comfortable in England. Appended are some quotations from his letter:-

“Buluwayo, Jan. 20th, 1895.
The weather here this Sunday afternoon is fine – a dazzling but not too hot sun, as it is cooled by the ever present breeze. A deep blue sky ruffled by a few white clouds. Such is the weather day by day. I know if you had our weather over there you would be glad. But we get used to it and think nothing of sunny days. But it is not all gold that glitters. Money is very scarce here. I went round Buluwayo last night but there was no hum of life and nearly all the shops were closed – only the canteen seemed to be doing anything. Building operations are at a standstill. There was a couple of stands sold last night but prices are firm. You see a stand is land, 140 feet by 100 feet in Buluwayo township. I told you in a previous letter that I thought of making ginger and hop beer. But now we have to pay a £10 license, and hop beer they have prohibited the sale or making of, putting it down as alcoholic. Such is the Chartered Company’s law. I was in the market yesterday and could have bough fresh butter at 2s. 6d. per pound-cheap (it had been as high as 6s. per pound)-but it is a luxury I don’t treat myself to. My intention is to buy a stand, or half a one, and if times mend, put rooms up. I may say that auctioneers here charge 10 per cent for selling. Not many relics to be seen here –there are the Matebele headdresses, composed of short black ostrich feathers, but I hear there is a heavy duty on same in England. If not I will send one when I get a good one. You asked me to give you full details of my journey from Johannesburg to Buluwayo. It would be too long a description to tell you of that four months journey-the hardest four months of my life. I had looked forward to a pleasurable journey and did not spare money or myself to insure success. But alas! Want of experience and false friends wrecked almost the good ship. We left Johannesburg and made our way to Pretoria. Short of donkey strength the whole way-say 600 miles. And then when we got fast-which was often-what work digging, shoving, shouting. And all the time living on meat and bread. And then losing the donkeys, climbing snail-like over mountains, now descending into flat country of great sameness-full of low scraggy bush for ever tearing us. Forests of them-if you can call scraggy thorny bush a forest. Now and again we did see nice patches of high trees, but the dry grass all around imparts no sense of life to the surrounding scenery. Here night falls quickly, and the stars appear the same, and a quietness pervades the atmosphere which I have nowhere else felt. Occasionally we passed a wagon or a farm, or a few native huts, the owners of which were dressed in skins, like our forefathers. They offered eggs, etc., in exchange for old shirts and other oddments. And so we went on; now toiling through miles of sand, two weeks, on the banks of the Crocodile, now pulled across, with the water running into the wagon, creeping over miles of boggy ground; crossed the Ghashi, whose mighty river had dried up to a small stream; then helped across its 2,000 yards of sand, dazzling in the sun, and like sands of the sea shore. We entered Matabeleland through mountains of granite, crossed the Umzangani, and, finally, sighted Buluwayo. Of being lost with Charlie for two days and half, and of nearly dying of thirst, I may tell you another time. – From your loving son, George Wilkinson, Stand 665, Buluwayo.


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