Inverarity Kirkyard

Peter Smith's Family Grave

Peter Smith's Family Grave Peter Smith went out to South Africa and, while farming there, he founded the town of Dundee in South Africa.

His close family - father, farmer at Hole Mill, Kirkbuddo, near Forfar, Thomas Smith (died April 1845) mother, Mary Paterson Smith (died May 1841) and brother, James Smith (died February 1844) - are buried here in Inverarity Kirkyard. The headstone was erected by Peter Smith.

Dundee, Natal, South Africa, is situated midway between Johannesburg and Durban, nestling in a valley of the Biggarsberg, foothills of the Dakensburg, and one of the centres of northern KwaZulu Natal.

4000 - 5000 years ago, the San people roamed through this area and left evidence of their lifestyle in the rock paintings still seen in caves and shelters.

200 years ago, the valley was home to black pastoralists as well as an amazing amount of wildlife.

Surrounded by evocatively-titled peaks - Indumeni  (Where the thunder rolls), Mpati  (The place of good waters) and Talana  (The shelf where precious items are kept), Dundee was formerly called Talana Farm, part of which was known as Fort Jones where British soldiers fighting the Anglo-Zulu War of 1879 had camped.

Dundee is very central to the battlefields of Rorkes Drift, Isandlwana, Blood River, the Prince Imperial, Fugitives' Drift and Elandslaagte.

Smith had bought Talana Farm from a Voortrekker settler called Dekker. After the soldiers had left, he started sending wagonloads of coal to be sold in Pietermaritzburg having recognised its fortunate location and planned a town.

Early travellers noticed the presence of coal in Natal and local farmers collected it from surface outcrops to fuel their stoves. Rich coal deposits brought merchants and fortune hunters thereby starting the coal industry in Natal.

By 1880, the first proper survey of the Natal coalfields was made. This only confirmed what the locals, like Smith, already knew that large workable deposits lay beneath the surface. The Dundee Coal and Estate Company was formed and a town plan set on the farm to meet the growing need for facilities and housing.

Peter Smith with his son, William Craighead Smith, son-in-law Dugald MacPhail (reputed to be among the last men to escape alive from Isandlwana, a major battle of the Anglo-Zulu War), and Charles Wilson, a close family friend, named the new township Dundee in 1882, after the town near to his home village in Scotland.

Smith floated the Dundee Coal Company on the London Stock Exchange in 1899, and Dundee soon emerged as a boomtown graced with stately homes and the first theatre north of Port Durban, Natal. Pioneer traders from the Indian sub-continent settled here during the following decade, when Dundee became the meeting place of seven roads into the hinterland and coast of Africa. It remains a convenient central base for exploration of this corner of KwaZulu-Natal.

On the 20th October 1899, the first shots of the Boer War were fired at Talana, just outside the town. It was the scene of the first battle between the British and Boers during the Anglo-Boer war of 1899 to 1902 and also the first time that British soldiers wore khaki instead of the usual red uniforms.

Thornley Farm, on the other side of Talana Hill, was the Boer forces headquarters, hospital and mortuary during the Battle of Talana. Restored buildings are on a private farm, but visitors are welcome.

British troops drove the Boers off Talana Hill suffering heavy losses and General Penn Symons, their commanding officer, was mortally wounded. As more Boers gathered around Dundee, General Symons' successor, General Yule, and the British Forces retreated to Ladysmith.

Boer forces occupied the town for seven months, renaming it Meyersdorp. Dundee was restored after the Battle of Helpmekaar in May 1900.

Today, Dundee, of Natal, South Africa, has a population of around 30,000 with a mild climate of warm summers but bracing winters. It is surrounded by a number of coalmines, which once earned it the title of Coalopolis. One pit is still open nowadays, although there is an interesting coal museum. Mining areas are not always attractive, but this one at least has a green and pleasant environment.

However, much of the surrounding farmland is centred on dairy farming. Many local farmers have encouraged wildlife to return to the area and promote tourism by providing hiking trails, accommodation and working farm holidays.

The information above relating to South Africa was gleaned from the following websites :- Transparent GIF The Battlefields

This website designed by and all photographs are the © copyright of Bob Douglas unless otherwise stated.

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