The Boer War – letters from South Africa sent to The Radleian magazine. No. 1

24 September 1899 from Mr Heighway in Pretoria, published on 30th November 1899

“We look out most anxiously for the mail, and it never seems too late in the evening to go to fetch letters. We have no postal delivery in Pretoria, so we each pay twenty shillings a year for a postal box. The P.O. people give a key for us to open the box to take out our letters, and if we lose this key and the finder takes it to the officials they give him a shilling, and then put a notice in the box to the effect that the key has been found and the owner can recover it at such a quarter on payment of the shilling; though how the owner is to read the notice unless he can unlock the box only a Boer official can say.

We are all most anxious for a settlement of all this misery which is ruining the country. People are running away, and business is at a standstill, provisions are ruinously dear (meat 1/6 a lb., etc.), and although we all hope for peace we feel as though war could not be much worse than the present condition of things. It is sad to speak to the Boer farmers from the interior. One brought some forage here yesterday, and said how sorry they were to have to go to war, for this time after beating the British they would have to go and take England, and they did not want to do this, for they did not know what they should do with it, as they had now more land than they wanted, and he finished up by saying he supposed they would have to put the Queen in Pretoria gaol.

As one Boer said to me, ‘I am not for the government, which is rotten through and through, but I am sorry for the poor Boers, for they will have to fight, and they have no idea of the power against them,’ and this is the general feeling among the educated classes. But unfortunately, the Raad is composed of a lot of illiterate men (with one or two exceptions) who think more of drawing their allowance of £1,500 a year as Raad members, and also of the bribes which they receive for their votes on nearly all business which goes through their Raad, than of anything else. To an English mind it is incredible that in order to get any power for anything one must bribe all round, from the President downwards – a single member receiving £1,500 as a bribe is not thought anything of here … The distress among the middle and poorer classes is terrible.”

Read more >>> letter no. 2