Tartan Rainbow

Clarens News Caledon River near Clarens

Back in the early 1990s Desmond Tutu coined the phrase “Rainbow Nation” when referring to South African society.  No exaggeration there!  For a country so long isolated at the southern tip of Africa, an extraordinary range of nationalities, ethnic groups, language groups and races settled and took root in this land.

By the end of the seventeenth century four European nations were already represented in southern Africa – Portuguese, Dutch, German and French, besides the indigenous Koi San and Koi Koi and the black nations, eventually represented by nine language groups, who had been migrating from equatorial Africa for centuries.  During this time Malayan and west African slaves were shipped in, many of whom escaped and fled, mixing with the Koi Koi and resulting in various forms of mixed races populating the hinterland.  Mixed race proliferation was ongoing in the Cape peninsula.

The British arrived during the eighteenth century.  During the nineteenth century there was an influx of Greeks, Italians and Indians.  The diamond and gold rushes drew a kaleidoscope of foreign nationals, and immigrants continued to settle throughout the twentieth century.

Our photograph this week is of the Caledon River, which is the boundary between Lesotho and South Africa.  It was named after the Earl of Caledon, who was the Governor of the Cape in the early nineteenth century.  While the Earldom of Caledon is a peerage in Ireland, the name Caledon has its origins in Scotland.  Caledonia was the name given to the Scottish Highlands by the Romans.  One wonders if the area around our Caledon River was reminiscent of the Scottish Highlands to the one who named it, a Colonel R Collins but, with the name Collins, it was more likely in patriotism to the Irish Earl.

The British have played a significant role in the development of South Africa, albeit one that has not always had positive consequences.  Invariably we interchange British with English in our speech, largely because the English have always been the driving force behind British activity abroad.  Yet historically the Scots, while also British, have had a mind of their own and have to a large degree acted independently in the distant countries they have migrated to.  And their contributions surely cannot be overestimated.

Perhaps it is their work ethic of constructive practical contribution and their modest, even scant, political ambition that has enabled the Scots to make inroads and to integrate in their adopted countries, whereas the English have sought political dominance and, failing this, have often returned home.  This seems to be in contradiction with the population size of people of English descent in South Africa but, considering the deliberately large injection of English settlers into this country in 1820 on a one way ticket, and the English immigration during the colonial and union years, their population growth was inevitable.

There is much in southern and South Africa for which we have the Scots to thank.  Their superb engineering and construction skills are in evidence around this country in the form of roads, passes and bridges.  They contributed enormously to literature, education, medicine and science.  Their names are synonymous with the early missionaries and explorers.  And those iron horses of the veld, that linked by rail our port cities with the cities and scattered towns in the interior, were in large part the result of the engineering and manufacturing expertise of Scottish steam locomotive engineers.

The Caledon River is a tributary of the Orange River and the confluence of the two rivers is near Bethulie in the southern Free State.  The main tributary of the Caledon River is the Little Caledon River, which joins the Caledon upstream from the photographed area.  A little way downstream is Caledonspoort, where there is an international border post to Lesotho.

It is interesting that this name combines Scottish and Afrikaans words.  In fact, this is quite symbolic of the noteworthy relationship that has always existed between these two nationalities.  It is not at all unusual to come across Afrikaners with Scottish ancestry, or to meet an Afrikaner with a Scottish surname.  This peculiarity was set in motion at the start of the nineteenth century, when the interior of the country was becoming increasingly populated by the trekboer and his family and servants.  But there were no churches and no church ministers.

Scotland and the Netherlands had forged close relations during the Protestant Reformation.  Both nations were strong followers of John Calvin, the developer of Calvinism.  Reciprocal theological education and training between the two countries resulted in a high degree of bilingualism between ministers of the two countries, so when the Scot, Andrew Murray, arrived in the Karoo parish of the Dutch Reformed Church it was an easy transition for him to make.  He, and later his son, also Andrew, were the driving force behind the transformation of the Dutch Reformed Church into a dynamic evangelical church that provided services to anyone who spoke Afrikaans irrespective of their colour.  They developed a missionary outreach that touched peoples way beyond the boundaries of this country, and they established a tradition of effective pastoral and practical care to those in need within their communities, a legacy that continues to this day.

Perhaps the most tangible reminders of the Scottish influences in our country are in the names of places – Dundee, Orkney, Elgin, Aberdeen, Balgowan, Clanwilliam, to name a few.  We have a Loch Logan in Bloemfontein, and a Lochiel in Cape Town.  And a Craigrossie just outside Clarens.  Further afield in Malawi, the commercial capital of the country was named Blantyre after the town in Scotland where David Livingstone was born, and to the present day this name has never been changed to an African name, such is the respect that the country has for its former Scottish legend.

Equally, in our Eastern Free State Highlands, we have respected and loved the name of our Caledon River to such an extent that, not only have we kept the name, but right from the outset we gave its tributary the same name, but in the diminutive form!

The picture insert features in the 2014 calendar produced by and sold in aid of Cluny Animal Trust.  Calendars can be purchased at Clarens Gallery, Clementines Restaurant and the Old Stone Bottle Store, in Clarens.  Alternatively they can be ordered from Katherine on 0827886287, Jan on 0782462553, Helen on 0582230918 or by email tojansander22@gmail.com .

Article and photograph by Mary WalkerMary Walker

Clarens News: October 2013





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