John Robertson McGregor’s vintage postcards sent during the Boer War

Great Uncle John Robertson McGregor

Dorpstraat – Heino

Born in 1880 , my great-uncle John (Jacko) Robertson McGregor studied medicine at Edinburgh in Scotland and at Dublin in Ireland at the time of the Anglo-Boer War (1899 to 1902). At some time during his period in Europe he also evidently visited the little town of Heino in the province of Overijssel in Holland.

During World War I he was in charge of the Wynberg Military Hospital in Cape Town.

While in Europe Jacko sent a number of postcards, all postmarked Edinburgh. Four of the cards were of scenes of Heino and six of various Irish scenes in Killarney. These postcards all had to pass through the military censors as the Anglo-Boer War was still in full swing when he sent them.

It would seem from the comments written on the cards that Jacko had quite a sense of humour.

Cards of Dutch scenes

Marktplein – Heino

The cards of Heino were all posted in Edinburgh on 8 November 1901, addressed to his sister, my great aunt Hetty.

It is interesting to note that Hetty’s address is simply “Robertson, Cape Colony.” The McGregors in the little town of Robertson were evidently well known and so no street address was needed!

On the card of “Dorpstraat – Heino (Town Street – Heino)” Jacko wrote the comment “Wakling (sic) her darling! Wie is hij (who is he)?”

Huize De Gunne – Heino

On the card of “Marktplein – Heino (Market Square– Heino)” he wrote, “Does this not remind you of the town from which we eloped yrs ago?” I have no idea what is meant by this comment, though it might

Molenstraat – Heino

refer to Robertson itself, though the family only moved to Cape Town in 1902.

On the card of the “Huize ‘De Gunne'” he remarks that it is “an ideal abode.” Not sure what the Dutch remark means.

Back of card showing censor’s stamp

“Molenstraat (Mill Street” is sent “to add to your collection” with the additional remark that “these will take the place of a letter.”

All four of these cards have triangular censor stamps indicating that the military censor had examined them. I wonder what he made of Jacko’s comments?

The Irish cards

Three of the Irish cards were, like the Heino set, sent to his sister Hetty. Two were sent to his mother and one to his oldest sibling, Elizabeth (Lily) Henrietta (McGregor) de Villiers. This card has been re-addressed several times, once to my grandfather. It seems that great aunt Lily was not as easy to find as her mother and sister Hetty!

The card of the “Meeting of Waters Killarney” shows a colour photo taken between 1890 and 1900 of the place where three lakes known as the Upper Lake, Muckross Lake (Middle Lake) and Lough Leane (Lower Lake) are joined.

The Gap of Dunloe (Irish: Bearna an Choimín), is a narrow pass between Macgillycuddy’s Reeks and the Purple Mountains near Killarney. It begins at Kate Kearney’s Cottage and ends with a descent into The Black Valley, a distance of approximately 11 km (7 miles).

According to Wikipedia, Innisfallen Island is home to the ruins of Innisfallen Abbey, one of the most impressive archaeological remains dating from the early Christian period found in the Killarney National Park. The monastery was founded in the 7th century by St. Finian the Leper, and was occupied for approximately 700 years. Over a period of about 300 of these, the Annals of Innisfallen were written, which chronicle the early history of Ireland as it was known to the monks.

Muckross Abbey was founded in in 1448 as a Franciscan Friary for the Observantine Franciscans by Donal McCarthy Mor. This color photochrome print was taken between 1890 and 1900. (Wikipedia)

Ross Castle was probably built in the late 15th century by one of the O’Donoghue Ross chieftains. Jacko mentions that his cousin Attie Louw from the Cape is visiting at the time of writing.

The Upper Lake is one of the three world famous Lakes of Killarney: the Upper Lake, Muckross Lake (Middle Lake) and Lough Leane (Lower Lake). Together they make up almost a quarter of Killarney National Park‘s area. On this card Jacko mentions that he has twice seen my grandmother’s brother Jan Hofmeyr who was also in the United Kingdom at that time.

All the above descriptions of the scenes are derived from the HistoGrafica website:

Apart from the intrinsic beauty of the old cards they have given me another insight into the “ancient history” of my family as well as the censorship system at the Cape during the Anglo-Boer War.

Those posted in 1902 arrived on 28 May 1902, just days before the Treaty of Vereeniging, which was signed on 31 May 1902, bringing to an end a bitter period of South African history.

~ by Tony McGregor on September 20, 2012.

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