Water Charges Are Fair But!!!!!

With regard to Irish Water and water charges, I want to make it clear that I fully appreciate that it costs money to collect, filter and distribute water to every person in the country and I would be quite happy to pay whatever somebody thinks is a fair charge for this purpose and I do know that the new figures set out by the government do not go any where near paying for this service.  The new figures are only a trap to catch the monkey, ie those that are now going to register.  What we are getting is crisis management trying to muddle through a situation to which no proper intelligent thought has been given and where everything was rushed through in late 2013 without thought of the consequence.  Better could have been achieved if the problem had been set for a kindergarten to sort out.

However there are a few provisos to that first sentence:-

1. The collection, filtering and distribution of water in Ireland has always been paid for out of the central tax fund.  It is only the mismanagement of previous governments who failed to put enough funds into this service that we are in the pickle we now find ourselves in.  So if that funding is being finished and a new system introduced, we need some serious and fair minded civil servant to work out the saving to the central tax fund and give that back to the people of Ireland in a reduction of income tax.  Enda Kenny in a snarling moment a few weeks ago suggested that if the people of Ireland did not toe the line with regard to water charges then he would have to slap 4% onto income tax.  So let that then go the other way under this new system.

2. The water that is to be distributed has to be fit for purpose ie., fit for drinking.  The cryptospiridium infested water we in Boyle and many other places in Ireland are receiving is not potable and therefore should not be charged for.  Denis Naughton, our local popular Independent TD said in the Dail that we people of north east Roscommon will not have drinking water available until March 2017.  Therefore we cannot be charged under a water tax for “piss” as our Euro MP, Ming Flanagan, suggested earlier this year in the Dail.

3. There is also another contaminant in the water at present which is the introduction of fluoride into the supply of water in Ireland.  Fluoride is a carcinogenic poison that all countries in Europe have backed away from, so until that practice is stopped by the HSE.  I cannot pay any water charges whilst we continue to die of cancer whilst we grin over the tops of our coffins showing our magnificent set of knashers.

4. On health grounds also I cannot accept the introduction of a smart metering system to measure the consumption.  Smart meters give off electro-magnetic radiation which is harmful to everybody but especially pregnant women and children.  But I will accept a standard charge per dwelling for un-metered water, it has worked well in Britain for years.

5. Since May 2013 we here in Boyle have been under a boil water notice. Every week from then until June 2014 we have had to spend €30 per week buying bottled water.  On June 1st 2014 I bought a special filter from England (They do not sell them in Ireland).  The filter cost €630 and takes cryptospiridium and fluoride out of the water supply.  It cost €100 to fit it to the incoming supply.  The filter element needs changing every year at a cost of €198.  So if we just take the cost up to March 2017 when the situation might start to look rosy, the cost to me for government inadequacy is;-

Bottled water from May 2013 until end of May 2014 – 56 weeks @€30 =  €1680

Installation of filter = €730

Filter elements from May 2014 until May 2017 is 3 years @ €198 = €594.

A total cost of €3004

This sum will lie as a credit in my account with Irish Water so that over the years they can deduct my annual charge from this figure.  With my advanced age there should be enough left in my account for Irish Water to buy my wife a coffin when I shuffle off this purgatory they call life.

What we do not want between now and that pie in the sky day of March 2017 is lies because for the last year the Fine Gael/Labour Coalition government and its tax construct, Irish Water, have been doing nothing but.  We need openness, transparency and honesty from these people or as the Minister for the Environment, Alan Kelly, said when talking in the Dail to Independent TD, Mattie McGrath on 10th December, they can “fuck off”

So my water has to be fit for purpose, uncontaminated by cryptospiridium, fluoride free, with no smart meters and then in mid 2017 when all that is done to my satisfaction Irish Water can then charge me a fair rate and deduct it off my balance of €3004 which built up because the Government of Ireland were not doing what by law they were supposed to do ie., supplying potable drinking water.  Some how or another I can see many a battle taking place before that happens

Irish Water, Fine Gael, Labour = Total Inadequacy

Well it was on March 10th this year when I started my protest against the Coalition’s new tax construct, Irish Water.  It was then I parked my trusty old Land Cruiser over my stop cock and told GMC/Sierra, the contractor appointed by Irish Water to go from whence they came.  Well GMC/Sierra, new to the game of protest, new to anything in fact, took a hissy fit and called in their allies, Irish Water and the Garda Siochana, who made several visits to my home.  I told Irish Water the same as I told GMC/Sierra that whence would be better for them.  I was more polite to the Garda as you have to be to the boys in blue as although their Oath of Office states that they “will faithfully discharge the duties of a member of the Garda Siochana with fairness, integrity, regard for human rights, diligence and impartiality, upholding the Constitution and the LAWS and according equal respect to all people”.  We all know that if you do not jump when they tell you to, they can make it hard for you. Just like the Kerry Garda did for the cleaning lady when naked he asked for the ride.  We also know that if your nice to them they might even wipe the points from your driving licence.

I kindly and submissively asked the garda who was telling me that I was committing an offence that when he sends me to prison could he get me a place in Castlerea, as it was a lot nearer than most prisons and it would be easier on my wife to travel to as she is a frail old lady.  The garda gave a grin or was it a grimace, took a photograph and was off and I have seen neither GMC/Sierra, Irish Water or Garda since.  Obviously they were all to busy sorting out rebellions and mass protests up and down the country to be bothered with little old me.

So there it was yesterday in Dublin, another mass protest in a chain of mass protests with even more mass protests to come, I suppose until the Coalition government open their eyes and realise they will not have a job at the next election unless they back down from this high and mighty stance they have taken.  Did you notice that the Garda Siochana, forgetting their Oath of Office and taking on their true mantle of Government bully boys, closed off sections of Merrion Row, Kildare Street and Molesworth Street not allowing the public to stroll down the thoroughfares they own.  I thought to close a street you had to apply for a licence to do so from the city council.  I bet that procedure did not occur.  Thousands of people were stopped going about their business because the Garda were favouring one party and not “according equal respect to all people”

Meanwhile in the Dail yesterday while the shananikins was going on outside, Catherine Murphy, the Independent TD for North Kildare was asking questions of Enda Kenny, our beloved and utterly decent Taoiseach who huffed and puffed as only he can.  She wanted to know after the Government had failed to respond to previous repeated questions, how GMC/Sierra, which is owned by a Denis O’Brien company, Millington Ltd, won their metering contracts.

She told the Dail that there were some “known facts” about the tendering process.  She said “we know that the bids had to be in by 30th June 2013.  We know that one of the companies awarded one of the major contracts did not exist until 15th July 2013, weeks after the closing date for bids.  If the closing date for applications to be considered for the contract was 30th June 2013, according to a parliamentary reply last year from the former Minister, Mr Phil Hogan, how did GMC/Sierra, company registration number 530230 and which did not come into existence until 15th July 2013, manage to win a contract?  How could a company that did not satisfy the requirement to have a tax clearance certificate be considered for the contract?”

Enda stuttered and farted in that great Mayo style of his and said that he would immediately get answers for the good lady and “I hope that we do not get a watery reply” he said trying to put a little humour into a subject that did not need it.  “I will see that the detail the Deputy has asked for is provided.  Of course it should be on the public record.”

Catherine Murphy also asked about Millington Ltd acquiring the utility support services company Siteserv owned by IBRC, which she said was off loaded at a significantly reduced cost, a deal which she said “saw the State lose €105 million.  Again Kenny huffed and puffed and did not or could not answer.  Catherine Murphy said it was essential that concerns be addressed.

Now to make the reader more aware of what all that meant I will try and explain.  Millington Ltd was a new company set up in 2012 in the Isle Of Man.  It is a company owned entirely by our old friend Denis O’Brien, a very shady, slippery but rich character, who none of us like and who  always crawls out from every sod you turn over when looking for light and transparency.

In late 2012 without trading in any shape or form, Millington applied to buy Siteserv, a massive construction conglomerate which had come into the ownership of IBRC, the state run bank that had been appointed to sell off assets of indebted companies.  It seems to have been bought quickly and cheaply.  One of the companies in the Siteserv empire was Sierra and another was Eventserv and it would not surprise me if the miles of fencing and pedestrian barriers put up by the Garda for yesterday’s parade originated from them.

So Catherine Murphy seems to have stirred up a right can of worms and I do hope Kenny is able to come up with some credible answers.  But it does look as if old Irish political jiggery pokery is at work.  Nothing seems to change but that day of change is definitely coming and it certainly will not come with the advancement of Sinn Fein who tended to take over yesterday’s demonstration.  For the next march scheduled, I think for 31st January 2015, I hope Right2Water retake control and give the water issue back to the people of Ireland and not let that very shady bunch, Sinn Fein, be put in the spotlight.  Let the people of Ireland not forgive Sinn Fein because they should not be able to forget.

Do you know what an almighty shambles this country has become in the eyes of the world, caused by the total inadequacy of the FineGael/Labour Coalition.  Politician beware we want something far, far better from you in the future.

Wandering through South Africa – Part 9

I have to raise my hand to the people of Aliwal North for the welcome they gave us and the graciousness with which they accepted our presence, we whose forbears had helped to destroy some of their heritage.  I was talking to a local politician Hennie du Preez, a councillor of Maletswai Municipality.  He wanted the names of the group for the local newspaper and I said I would write to him when we returned to Ireland.

Hennie,

I’m the fellow who laid the wreaths at the impressive and emotional ceremonies at the Boer Memorial and the British Cemetery at Aliwal North on Wednesday last.  Can I just say it was the highlight of our three week tour following in the footsteps of the Connaught Rangers of 114 years ago.  The reconciliation ceremony at your memorial remembering the dead of the concentration camp at Aliwal was mind-blowing.  The fact that 77% of those who died were children under the age of 15 and when multiplied by the number of such camps in South Africa meant a whole generation  of people were wiped off the reproductive map of the country, which is an everlasting stain on the history of Britain.  We were so glad to have been there and meet you all, the survivors of this holocaust.

Those from our party who were there want to express similar sentiments.  They were:-

Paul Malpas General Secretary of the Connaught Rangers Association from Boyle in Co Roscommon in Ireland

Kieran Jordan retired Lt Colonel in Irish Army from Limerick in Ireland

Thomas Gunn flag bearer and ex-Sergeant in Irish Army from Mullingar in Co Westmeath in Ireland

Michael Cryan Committee member of the Connaught Rangers Association from Boyle in Co Roscommon in Ireland

Mark Stewart Connaught Rangers official photographer from Liverpool in Lancashire in England

Please thank all the people from Aliwal North who made our welcome so special.

Paul Malpas

A day or so later Hennie wrote back:-

Dear Paul

Thank you for your communication.

It was indeed an honour and priviledge to share the company of honourable gentlemen (and soldiers) of the Connaught Rangers Association.

We were all deeply touched by your efforts to visit us.  The sincerity of your visits to the memorial sites and the respectful flag ceremonies gave honour and dignity to those before us who made the ultimate sacrifice – on all sides.  War never determines who were right, but only who are left behind.

Thank you so much for reminding us that, even after 114 years, we still need to carry the flag of remembrance for our fathers, mothers, sons and daughters who died and for our sons and daughters still to be born!.. Please convey our sincere appreciation to all members of your party, for sharing your mutual sentiments with us and helping us to reconcile the past with the future.

You will always be welcome to our mutual village of remembrance.  Rest assured that we will look after your loved ones (who stayed behind) even though they are more than 10,000 kilometres away.

I am doing this communication on behalf of our town, the farming community, the friends of the museum and all present during a very special day

Yours sincerely

Hennie du Preez

What a nice man and what a whole nice bunch of people the citizens of Aliwal North were.

On the day we said our goodbyes, we had to go, Bloemfontein was calling and another bloody game reserve this time called Emoya Lodge and we were stationed in the Bantu village, a collection of chalets resembling same.  Inside however was pure luxury but of an earthy nature.  Here cockerels, rabbits and other small animals roamed around, while giraffe, springbok and Zebra looked on as we ate our evening meal.  A nice friendly place who would not charge me for a phone call to Ireland.  A long day, a glass or two of wine and early bed.  None of us have the youth we once had.

Day 17 was another warm day, breakfast at Emoya was followed by a visit to the National War Museum in Bloemfontein.  I ducked, I had enough of museums, I preferred solitude and the pleasantness of my own company to catch up with my writing and actually do nothing if I liked.  For me solitude is one of life’s great gifts and I revel in it.

However the real purpose of the trip to Bloemfontein was to visit Arnold van Dyk.  He had invited us back to his house for a meal and a chat.  He is a really nice man and probably the nicest man of all the people I met on this trip and I have to say I met some decent people.  He is a doctor and historian and a world expert on the Boer War.  We drove up to the estate he lived on and our way was blocked by an imposing prison gateway structure with I think two gates in and two gates out with guard rooms on both sides.  There were six or seven security men in uniforms hanging about.  Going off on either side of the gates was a 6 metre high wall surrounding the estate.  You would not get in unless you had made previous arrangements and our driver Robert had a pin number he pressed into a keyboard and the gates opened and in we went.

Arnold met us outside his stately pile and welcomed us in through various rooms until we came to the heart of the house.  A pool through the sliding doors and a massive built in barbecue with its own flu fired by lumps of logs.  Whilst his lovely wife came round generously pouring out wine and beer into large glasses, Arnold was throwing what looked like two sheep onto the grill.  Satisfied that things on the barbecue were under control, he took us round his house which really was a literary museum of the Boer War.  I was amazed at the high quality in terms of original documents from political and military leaders that he had collected over the years.  As I said before if there was such a person as the world expert on this conflict, Arnold is your man and so affable and modest.  About a dozen of us sat down to this ovine feast and we ate the lot, a delightful meal.  More wine and it was time to go.  It was an absolute pleasure to be in the company of the pair, our farewells were brief, we had an early start the following day.  Back through the charade of the security gate; I could not live like that if you paid me to do so.  All the people within the walls were white being guarded by security that was black and serviced by people who were black.

Because I had left my hat at Arnold’s house we had to go back there at 6.00 am next morning, Arnold met us at the gate, the servants were being dropped off by vehicles that had to stop 100 metres from the gate and everybody had to walk down to security and be let through by very diligent guards.  Who is sheltering who from what and because of that South Africa could never be my country. Day 18 started with a 670 kilometre trip across the heart of South Africa.  We set off at 6.30am and Des nosed us into Durban Airport at 4.00pm for our 6.30pm flight to Dubai, an eight and a half hour flight, a break of an hour and onto a six and a half hour flight to Dublin and seamlessly into a taxi for a trip to Boyle dropping Mullingar off at the place he knows best, the Colonel had gone off to Houston Station for his train to Limerick and Flash started looking for Terminal 1 and good old Ryan Air.  Boyling and myself arrived back in Boyle at 3.00pm after 33 hours continuous travel but a glass of wine and a quick reminisce with our loved ones, for those that had loved ones to reminisce with and then to bed.  So ended this unbelievable trip of a lifetime.

I would like to thank Des Armstrong of Howick in KwaZulu Natal for planning, organising and driving us round.  In retrospect there was a lot of hard work and long hours put in to make the trip such a success.  I would also like to thank Des’ wife Ulla for coming so far with such a lovely lunch as we had at Clouston and Robert his son for spelling the old man in the driving seat.  I would also like to thank my travelling companions, Flash Harry for his constant attention to duty, Boyling Scouse for his patience in always hogging the back seat in the bus, Mad Mullingar for parading the flag so well and always being able to curb his natural tendency to drink South Africa dry and a special thank you to the Colonel for being able to say his prayers in 30 different languages and keep a straight face, four honourable gentlemen.  I suppose I should give myself praise also, I took all the flak, I was the one to always face their irritability, to cover up their bad manners and to always look into my glass that was always half full and certainly never half empty.

I hope the reader forgives my thoughts on South Africa because they are only the thoughts of a man there for three weeks.  I could only look at it from the white man’s side, we were never introduced to a black man.  I did not like the way the whites were as nice as pie on the surface and then spitting on the black man’s culture and philosophy once his back was turned.  No matter what you say and think racial prejudice runs riot in South Africa and until that is sorted out the country will continue to drive itself backwards.  There are signs of improvement, I could see it in Drakensberg School, I saw it at Charles Barrett’s house but those signs were few and far between.  I saw a lot more of the Apartheid South Africa than I wanted to see, the South Africa that was internationally blanked until 20 years ago.

For future reference the high spots were  and purely in chronological order, The Fernhill Hotel in Howick, The Champagne Castle Hotel, the Drakensberg Choir School, the battlefields and cemetery’s of Spion Kop, Colenso, Harts Hill. Isandlawana, Rorkes Drift, the luxury of Nambiti, Aliwal North in all its forms, Sarie Mehl and Arnold van Dyk.  The low spots were few and it is not really decent to mention them but I had indifferent thoughts about the Sandstone Estate, Game Reserves in general, racial prejudice, long hours spent driving, the mucky ex-service man’s club in Dundee and those pestilent camp followers in Dundee.  We did not really need their presence and in fact they scared me to death.

Wandering Through South Africa – Part 8

Day 14 it was and a very long drive round the top of Losotho, an independent country surrounded by South Africa.  We were headed for Ficksburg in the Orange Free State, a journey of about 270 kilometres.  The lads in the back had snuggled up to each other on the journey and were like the Babes in the Wood.  It was early afternoon by the time we got to our destination, The Sandstone Estate which must be the biggest museum of agricultural, locomotive and military hardware in the world as well as being a farm of some 20,000 acres.  The Irish flag was fluttering in the breeze as we made ourselves at home in a cluster of chalets.

However Des had a different agenda and he had us back in the bus to go visiting.  We were already a few miles off the asphalt road and he was taking us further into the hinterland along a track that a tracked bulldozer would find a challenge.  After 30 minutes of this cross-country expedition we arrived at this farmstead and we wondered how anybody could live in such isolation.  The farmer Charles Barrett and his wife were there to greet us and welcomed us into their house as though we were one of the family.  He took us into his museum which contained every piece of weaponry used in the Boer War from machine guns down to bayonets and every piece in perfect working order and licensed for use.  Mullingar and Flash were drooling, armaments like animals do absolutely nothing for me.  The only thing I remarked on was the weight of these pieces, even the revolvers.  Charles was telling us that unlike all the rest of the farmers round there, he has no trouble from the marauding Basuto people from Lesotho who cross the trickle of water that is the Caledon River for rich pickings in the Orange Free State.  The South African army are on constant patrol along the border and have a camp at Sandstone but Charles has told them to steer clear of his place.  He seems to have a relationship based on mutual respect with the very poor native population and it obviously works.  I saw it nowhere else in South Africa which is much to the detriment of the country as a whole.

The Barrett family have farmed this land for over a hundred years and Charles was an officer in a Durban Regiment before retiring and taking up his historic duty at home.  He specialises in making liqueurs and brandy from the acres of cherry trees on his land.  We tasted them all and his wife served us biltong, sausage and pizza and we were nicely set as we bade our goodbyes and headed back to Sandstone.

For all its publicity there was nothing really grand about the accommodation.  The evening meal was a bowl of stew, the meat from undefined source, the bar was basic and spoiled by the manager keeping a large diesel engine running belching fumes into our bottles of Castle.  Bed we decided was our best option.

Day 15 improved matters somewhat.  After a hearty breakfast we were taken on a tour of the place.  Firstly a ride in an ox wagon pulled by eight massive long horned beasts whilst the guide explained how they trained these animals.  It was a bone jarring ride as we covered about half a kilometre in 30 minutes.  We were then piled into a armoured personnel carrier, another uncomfortable ride, but quicker, as we headed out to the border lands overlooking the Basuto town on the far side of the valley.  All buildings round here had had their roofs stripped off.  The guide said that anything they can carry, they take.  He had a different tone than Charles with obviously different results.

Sandstone has a massive collection of railway equipment, locomotives, carriages and other rolling stock.  They even had a large locomotive built by Beyer Peacock in 1900.  Beyer Peacock was the largest locomotive manufacturer in Manchester and exported steam engines and later diesel locos to every part of the world closing down in 1966.  It was dear to my heart, as we demolished the said works in Gorton in the 1970s.

In a way I was glad to be off from Sandstone, it did not offer me much and we had another long drive, 320 kilometres to Aliwal North which was in northern  Cape Province in the Eastern Cape to be exact, over five hours continuous driving again keeping Lesotho on our left hand side We hit Aliwal as it was getting dark and parked up at this twee little place called La Riveria on the side of the Orange River.  It consisted of a series of bungalows around a pond full of birdlife, fine accommodation but no food and no bar.  We ate out at a local pub/restaurant that Des recommended, the beer and wine was good but we waited for hours for the food and when I got mine it was the shittiest plate of grub I had had in years.  I should have had the steak like the rest of them.  You live and learn.

Muted comments by the locals, La Riveria was full of black tax officers on a convention, it was thought that they should not be staying in accommodation as good as this.  I do not see why not, there would have been no comment if these civil servants were white.  Another example of the white attitude towards the blacks.  It wore me down this tongue-biting way the whites carry through their miserable lives. Day 15 was a fine day made better by a good breakfast.

On April 10th 1900 The Connaught Rangers left the Ladysmith area, entrained to Durban, leaving their sick and wounded behind and were put on a boat to East London, a port south of Durban in the cape.  They were taking on the Boers in guerilla warfare as the Boers with depleted resources could no longer take part in set piece battles after wandering around a little the Rangers eventually centred themselves round the town of Aliwal North where they remained until the peace treaty was signed in May 1902.  They created quite a name for themselves in Aliwal and the local population had great time for them but on 14th July 1901 chasing Commandant Myberg’s commando of 170 men, they were led into an ambush on Becker’s farm at Zuurvlakte just off the Jamestown Road about 10 kilometres out of Aliwal, where on open ground Commandant Fouche commando of 300 men opened fire at a distance of 400 yards and killed seven men and wounded three officers and 15 men and took five men prisoner.  Darkness came and the Boers retired.  The next morning two men were brought in off the battlefield and were buried with a man who had died of his wounds overnight in a grave adjacent to the Becker family burial ground

2405 Pte Bernard Hegan 5th Battalion Age 20 of Ballina Co Mayo

6702 L/Cpl Michael Cryan 1st Battalion from Gurteen Co Sligo

6454 Pte M Cullen 1st Battalion

and that afternoon three other bodies were brought in and buried with a man who had died of his wounds that afternoon:-

5368 Pte J Brown 1st Battalion

1682 Pte T Hanley 5th Battalion

6716Pte M Leonard 1st Battalion

1513 Pte T Lohan 3rd Battalion

A young 18 year old Boer officer by the name of Olivier was also buried. Over the nexfew months three other Connaught Rangers were buried in this plot:-

6835 Pte Henry Speers 1st Battalion who died of his wounds after an ambush at Jamestown on 28th July 1901.

6399 Pte J Rooney 1st Battalion captured at Lemoenfontaine on 16th November 1901 and executed

6538 Pte M Cunnane 1st Battalion captured at Lemoenfontaine on 16th November 1901 and executed.

So the little family cemetery at Zuurvlakte contained the graves of 10 Connaught Rangers.  These graves along with other graves of Connaught Rangers killed locally were exhumed in 1972 and reinterred in Aliwal North cemetery.  Others exhumed were:-

4261 Pte R J Casey 1st Battalion who died of disease on 22nd September 1902

4477 Pte M Fogarty 1st Battalion Age 34 who died of disease on 2nd June 1902

Others also in Aliwal North Cemetery who died in town of enteric:-

6927 Pte P McNally 1st Battalion who died on 11th February 1902

3594 Pte P Myers 1st Battalion who died on 22nd August 1901

the name of 925 Pte P Sullivan is remembered on the memorial stone who was accidentally drowned in the Orange River on 23rd February 1901  and his body never found.

We met up with a crowd of local people at the Museum in Aliwal and led by Arnold van Dyk from Bloemfontein, an ordnance expert Johan Loock and Mr Becker who owns the land, we were taken out to Zuurvlakte in a convoy of white 4x4s.  A pleasant open area of about 4 or 500 acres with an artificial lake to the south, a hill to the north and a series of small rises to the east where Fouche commando lay hid. Nothing has changed in 113 years and you can still kick up empty casings of 303 Lee Metford rifle ammunition.  They are all over the place, I picked one up and Mr Loock confirmed by its markings that the ordnance was made at the Kynot factory in Birmingham.  Arnold and Johan talked us through the day of 14th July 1901 and the following day of the burials.  Mr Becker had brought with him his foreman, a black man, who had lived on the farm since 1950 and was present at the exhumations in 1972.  He explained how the grave with the bones of three men in it was recognised as Cryan, Hegan and Cullen’s grave by the presence of a corked bottle with the names of the three men written on a piece of paper.  The contents of the other graves were then recognised by a process of elimination.  The Boer, Olivier’s grave is still there and marked by a gravestone. Prayers were said in Afrikaan and Irish, I read out Jourdain’s description of the day and the burial process ordered by Major Moore at the time and we all came away sadder and wiser men and women.

Back in town we stopped at the Boer Memorial on the site of the Aliwal North Concentration Camp.  These concentration camps were a stain on the history of the British Army and were a result of Kitchener’s scorched earth policy in dealing with the Boer guerilla tactics.  By gathering up the Boer women and children and old men, killing all the livestock and burning down the farms, it stopped the Boers chain of food supply.  In the Aliwal camp there were some 2700 women, children and old men, 735 of them died of disease of which 561 were children under 15 years of age, some 76% of all deaths.  Throughout South Africa some 37,000 died in these camps a whole generation decimated.  We laid a wreath of reconciliation, we lowered our flag, our piper played a lament, the attendant Boers wept and so did we, certainly a highlight of the trip and the most emotional.

We then moved on to the military cemetery where 14 Connaught Rangers are now interred and for the last time another wreath, another lowering of the flag and one last lament.  These occasions never fail to produce tears and the respect by the Boers was palpable.  We then went back to the Museum where the burghers had laid on lunch for us, speeches were made, the Colonel once again proving what a good sort he was and then we were honoured with the presentations of various gifts for our museum in Boyle.

We were then off for our 200 kilometre drive to Bloemfontein our day was not yet done.

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