About Thomas Dennison
In 1912 the 2nd Zeederberg Coach robbery took place on Pilgrims Hill. The Highwayman was Tommy Dennison. Dennison had come out to South Africa as a private during the Anglo Boer War. He was a bugler and despatch rider for the Earl of Athlone and was discharged after being wounded on active duty. He somehow found his way to Pilgrims Rest and started work as a barber. A more efficient barber put him out of business so he employed some black women and started a laundry service. It was during this time that he thought up the idea of robbing the coach obviously inspired by the success of the 1st robbery. Mr.A.P.Cartwright in his book Valley of Gold mentions that he actually met Tommy Dennison, who quite willingly spoke of his escapade. On that fateful day the coach was stopped by a masked rider on the well recognised grey horse that Dennison had recently bought from the Reverend Maurice Ponsonby.
When Piet du Plessis the coach driver was ordered in a fake accent to throw down the money boxes, one box fell and burst open scattering silver half crown and florins on the ground.
The highwayman was heard to yell "You fool I thought you said it was gold sovereigns". The coins were scooped up into a bag and the robber took off. The next day during his laundry delivery Dennison started paying all his debts in silver coins, which aroused suspicion. He was arrested and admitted his guilt saying that it was a practical joke, hoping for leniency. The judge saw nothing funny about this and laid down a five year jail sentence in the Pretoria Central Prison. After serving his term he returned to Pilgrims Rest and worked as a cartage contractor for the mines He one day decided to open a garage, his sense of humour came to the fore and when people saw his sign "The Highwayman" there was much laughter. He mentions that Dennison referred to his days in prison as his college days. When offered a copy of this interesting book he asked the author to please sign it.