Posts Tagged ‘In Search of South Africa’

This is the first entry from this book, as I promised. I will just post very short bits from the book. I hope it inspires more people to get hold of the book and to read it, especially South Africans. It is really a book I treasure and I can’t thank Denis enough (from the chess site) for sending me this book! The way he describes places and the people/events that happened at that time and earlier is very informative….the country was still the “Union of South Africa”….we became a Republic in 1961. This book was published the first time in 1948!

In Search of South Africa….by HV Morton–First Published in 1948.

from the “Introduction”

While I was in the Union of South Africa I was constantly reminded of the classical world, in which illusion I was assisted of the air and the architecture of Sir Herbert Baker. It seemed strange to me, as indeed it still does, that a part of the earth which the Greeks and the people of the Hellenistic world would have adored, and the Romans have found so profitable, should have remained concealed from them.

….Flying to South Africa, which sophisticated friends told me would be boring, turned out to be a sheer delight from beginning to end. ……..I alighted in a country of haunting beauty and found myself among a people whose kindness and warmth of heart are not anywhere exceeded. As I travelled about the country, I learnt a page of history new to me, and one, I might add, which is not too well known in Europe or America. …..My thanks are due to Mr Winston Churchill for permission to print for the first time the text of the letter he left on his bed the night he escaped from prison in Pretoria in December, 1899. This interesting document has been cherished ever since as a family heirloom, and I am grateful to Mrs O E de Souza of Baberton for showing it to me. In a letter authorising its publication, Mr Churchill says, “You are at liberty to contradict the story of my having swum the Apies River.”

Chapter 1

……..I knew, of course, that South Africa had grown up in the course of the last fifty years, but the full extend of this growth, whose most spectacular proof is perhaps Johannesburg, was striking and unexpected. Johannesburg, like the word Klondyke, builds up in the mind a picture of gold rush, bars and tin shacks, a picture that was perfectly true fifty years ago. But I stepped out the next morning into a city which seemed to me to bear some resemblance to a small New York, while at the same time retaining something which reminded me of Kingston, Jamaica.
……….When for the first time you found yourself in a crowd of South Africans, your first impression is that these people look, speak, and dress more as we do in Great Brittain than any other folk. And this is true also of those South Africans of Dutch, French, and German descent who have no wish to be like us in any way, for they belong to the same racial stock and cannot help it. Even their language – Afrikaans – has the same roots as English, and gives one the impression that any student of Chaucer should be able to learn to speak it, or at any rate to read it, in a few weeks.
…….to begin a tour of South Africa in Cape Town, and I went there in the Blue Train…….It was a train of great splendour and finer than any train at present running in Europe, and as fine as the best the United States can boast. It was a train of blue sleeping-coaches and restaurant cars, even each compartment, air-conditioned, as I discovered when I found it possible to raise or lower the temperature by moving a little chromium switch above the bed. ……………….There came a time when, traversing the Hex River Pass, the train became a snake which twisted back upon itself, so that the locomotive was seen puffing valiantly now wat the left-hand window and now at the right. All round were mighty mountains, each cleft and corrie filled with pale blue shadow, the shadows we know on the west coast of Ireland as “Atlantic blue”; and so we came down into a happy land of peach-blossom and grape-vines, where a stream of ice-clear water ran beside the train for a long time. ………Such was my first impression of Cape Town: a city of dignity and beauty seated at the foot of a blue mountain where two oceans meet, and washed by a magic light that should make of men poets, artists, and philosophers.
———–to be continued…………

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