work in progress, this will take a while, please be patient
A small town in the Natal Midlands, geo-position: 29.0623S, 30.5907E and 517m altitude.
The town was first laid out in 1850 on the farm of LJ Nel. The people of the area who were mostly Voortrekkers wanted to name the place after Andries Pretorius (the Voortrekker leader), but that was vetoed by the government who named it after the governor of the Cape, Sir George Grey.
It is the St.James Anglican church, a pleasing sandstone building. It was built 1911. There was an older church of which some of the elements were transplanted into the newer church, such as the foundation stone, the doorway and some glass stained windows. The old church was built in 1867 and demolished in 1911. A memorial stone marks the spot where it used to stand.
The inside of the church is well decorated and has memorial plagues all around. Including some beautyfull stained glass windows, all donated by and in memory of a person.
A fair amount of space is used by the Umvoti Mounted Rifles. Since the time they were formed in 1864 they have been involved in many conflicts, such as the Zulu War, the Anglo Boer war, the Bambata rebellion, the 1st World War and the 2nd World War. Which brings me to one of the plaques and I have a gripe. It reads: To the Glory of God; and in cherished memory of; the old boys of St Davids House; Greytown; who laid down their lives; in the cause of humanity; in the great world wars; 1914-1918 and 1939-1945. Now, my grandfather also died in one of those wars, but he was fighting for the other side, did he also do that for the glory of God? Just asking, I think we have a misuse of the name of God here. Sorry, just a little gripe that I had to vent.
We have two Methodist churches in Greytown, The one in the picture is the first and oldest one, erected in 1877. It was built using natural stones available in the area. The piece of gable showing on the top left is from the newer church, which is the one in use now. According to the foundation stone that one was laid in April 1902.
The congregation of the NG church (Nederduitsch Gereformierte Kerk) ceded from the Pietermaritzburg congregation in 1859. The first church was built in 1866. That building was so severely damaged by a storm in 1878 that it had to be demolished. A new church was inaugurated 1883, that is the one in the picture (source ref 2).
Growing numbers made it eventually necessary to construct the 3rd church. This is the one still standing today. Inaugurated in 1929, it was designed by the architect Wynand Louw.
A very well stocked the museum. It used to be the house of the magistrate. Originally built by Dr,Daniel Birtwell on land bought by him in 1879. Dr.Birtwell was the district surgeon at the time. 1889 he sold the residence and some of the land to the government. A number of magistrates stayed in it until it was sold to the Greytown municipality 1973 and it became a museum.
The large fig tree in the ground has a history, it was planted by Annie Birtwell (nee Botha), the wife of the doctor and the sister of the later prime minister of SA, Louis Botha.
I have to apologise for not having a picture of the house itself, I had one but it got lost in my computer. Is there anybody in Greytown who could supply me with a picture, the author will be acknowledged, of course.
When I initially got to this grave I was somewhat skeptical about it's identity. How can it be that a grave marked Sara Marais can be the Sarie Maré of the well known Afrikaans folksong? It all got revealed when I visited the museum in Greytown.
The grave is about 20 km out of town near the Kranskloof road. The route to it is well sign posted.
The background to the song is as follows. In early 1902 Boer general Louis Botha was concentrating his forces around the Vryheit and Utrecht districts in preparation for a new invasion of Natal. Ella de Wet, wife of NJ de Wet, a member of Gen.Botha's staff, took up residence in one of the farm houses. Having access to a piano she encouraged the Boer soldiers to sing. She only had a book of American songs available. The one song that caught on was 'Ellie Rhee'. It wasn't long and the words were replaced by a text about Sarie Maré. And this goes back to Paul Maré, a chaplain with the Boer forces who loved to tell stories, many of them featuring his mother, Sarie Maré.
Her proper name was Sara Marais, was born in 1840 and died 1877, after having given birth to eleven children. She was buried on this farm, in those days part of Natal.
The grave stone reads translated from Dutch: In memory of; Sara Johanna Adriana Nel, born Maré; beloved house wife of; Louis Jacobus Nel; born 10 May 1844; died 27 Dec 1877.
The grave next to it is marked: Sarah Johanna Adriana Maré, 1810 to 1875. This could have been her mother.
The sound clip is the first verse of the song and it is from an LP record, South African Sing Along, 1967. Not a very good recording, I don't have the technology for a good scan.
The trains don't run anymore, the line is out of use. The town was connected by rail to Pietermaritzburg in 1900. It was later (1914) extended to Kranskop. The station building is still there as a partial ruin, now being used by a trucking company.
The Umvoti Mounted Rifles started as a military unit in 1964 with 45 cavalry volunteers. Later they were transformed to a motorised regiment in the South African army. Over the century and a half they were involved in all the major conflicts, Zulu war, 2nd Anglo Boer war, Bamabata Rebellion, both World Wars, Cato Manor and the SWA border war. The number of men lost during some of theses conflicts can be read on a commemorative plaque in the Anglican church, 1 in the Anglo Boer war, 3 in the 1st World War and a staggering 37 in WW2.
Their head quarter was across the road from the Anglican church. It is a burned out shell. The regiment as such doesn't exist any more.
Ref 1.: Standard Encyclopaedia of Southern Africa, Nasou Limited
Ref 2.: "Ons Kerk Album van Hollandsche Kerken en Leeraren", publisher: unknown, printed in the 1920's