Andrew Geddes Bain

Andrew Geddes Bain is best known for his building of Cape roads and passes. His diaries, from 1826 to the 1840s, were both working journals and accounts of his experiences and descriptions of the people he encountered in the course of his work. This volume includes his chronicle of his journey in 1826 to the northern Cape.

View of Kuruman, 1825

we had seen this mode of salutation & it was no small fund of amusement to us.

He then ordered two large wooden dishes to be brought which were inverted and given to us for seats that we might sit down by him. Then, asking us if we would eat anything, we said we would take a little milk which was brought us directly in a large well scoured wooden dish. His brother Kooa tasted it, according to custom, & then presented it to us.

His conversation commenced by asking us if many impediments had not been thrown in our way to visit him by his neighbours, the Bachapins & Baralongs, as he said he knew that they represented the Bawanketsie to be a very savage race. We owned they had tried many plans to dissuade us from coming, but we did not listen to their tales as Mr. Moffat had told us they were extremely hospitable, which account agreed exactly with the reception he had given us, for not one of the others had given us a drop of milk without getting tobacco for it. At this he laughed heartily & said he regretted he could not receive us better, for as he had been so buffeted about by the Mantatees he had now nothing comfortable about him.

He seemed surprised when we told him we had been more than three moons on our journey to him, that people could go so far from home. When his cattle came out of the Kraal we expressed our surprise at the great number of fine oxen he had & that we had never seen such large herds at one place before. He said, “I have now no cattle, (meaning comparatively), the Mantatees are fattening on my flocks & herds. When Makaba, my father, lived (continued he) then the Bawanketsies were rich, but now we are poor beggars without a single town to settle in.” He then presented us with a fine large ox that we might not starve (as he expressed it) In his dominions, & sent some men down with it to the waggons to kill it for us.

The Bawanketsie oxen are remarkable for the amazing size of their horns, being doubtless the largest in the world, tho’ the bodies do not exceed the common size of the Colonial oxen. Many of them have long loose horns hanging under their necks which has a very singular appearance. His flocks of sheep were very small compared to his oxen; many of their tails were much longer, tho’ I do not think heavier than those of the Colonial breed.

He now asked us if we would visit his wives & desired his brother Kooa to lead us to their huts. They were women of middle age, well loaded with beads & rings which seems to be all their minds are set upon. Each had a separate hut, merely a temporary dwelling, surrounded by a screen after the Bechuana manner, in the midst of which we found the ladies squatted attended by their domestics. After visiting his 3 queens, which was all he had in this place tho’ I believe he has altogether 16, we returned to Sibigho & he accompanied us to our waggons where an immense concourse of people was collected.

I fired a pistol by way of salute & to let them see the use of fire arms, but so terrified were they that they all fell flat on their faces & did not look up for some time. One poor woman swoon’d away, in which situation she lay nearly a quarter of an hour & was at last revived by a person blowing snuff up her nostrils.

Sibigho now presented us with an elephant’s tooth of at least 90 lbs. weight & in return we gave him some of our best beads & trinkets. We could scarcely think that all this kindness was from disinterested motives, as we soon found it was but a preamble to the Mantatee attack. We waived the conversation