About Walter Currie, Sir, Jnr
1820 British Settler
Walter Currie 1, together with his parents and one sibling, were members of Thomas Willson's Party of 307 Settlers on the La Belle Alliance.
Party originated from London.
Departed London, 12 February 1820. Arrived Table Bay, Cape Town on 2 May 1820. Final Port - Algoa Bay, Port Elizabeth May 1820.
Area Allocated to the Party : Beaufort Vale on the Bush River
- Mary Ann Currie 4
- Walter Currie 1
British South Africa A History of the Colony of the Cape of Good Hope from its Conquest 1795 to the Settlement of Albany by the British Emigration of 1819 [A.D. 1795 - 1825] WITH NOTICES OF SOME OF THE BRITISH SETTLERS OF 1820 by COLIN TURING CAMPBELL [Residient at Graham's Town, 1845-1871]
Sir Walter Currie's father, Lieutenant Walter Currie, a purser in the Royal Navy on half pay, came with Mr. Willson's party in the Belle Alliance, and lived on the location assigned to Mr. Willson's party, south of Manley's Flat, otherwise called Beaufort Vale, near Bathurst. Subsequently he acquired a farm near that, which he called Langholm. Here young Currie was brought up from infancy, being only one year old when his parents arrived in Albany. In the war of '34-35 he took the field as a volunteer in the corps of Guides, under the command of Captains W. Bowker and R. Southey. After the war Walter Currie returned to his farm, declining a commission in the Army offered him by Sir Benjamin D'Urban, and on his father's death removed to the little Fish River, near Somerset, where he had a sheep farm. During the war of '46 he did good service, scouring the country and driving the Kafirs from their strongholds. In 1850 he disarmed the disaffected Hottentots at Theopolis, and made prisoners of the ringleaders and took command of several wagon trains between Graham's Town and Cradock.
In 1852, when Governor Sir George Cathcart arrived and found the Eastern Districts in a still insecure state, he was appointed Commandant of the Albany District in the new corps, which was styled the Frontier Armed Mounted Police, in which corps he distinguished himself by his valour and daring, to which Sir George Cathcart gave expression in garrison orders, 12th January, 1853. On Sir George Grey's arrival, realizing the importance of a constant patrolling police force on the Frontier, arrangements were made to organize the force permanently, and Currie was appointed to continue at its head and superintend its management as General Commandant. Under this new force Currie distinguished himself in the expedition against Queesha and Vadanna in the Queen's Town district, and the after expulsion of the paramount chief Kreli from beyond the Bashee. These services were brought to the notice of Her Majesty the Queen by special despatches from Governor Sir George Grey, and Currie received the honour of knighthood, and also to mark His Royal Highness Prince Alfred's appreciation of his services during the long and interesting tour which that member of the Royal Family made in i860. Sir Walter Currie's routing and dislodging of rebellious Hottentots and Korannas, who had established themselves on the islands of the Orange River near its mouth, and were a source of annoyance and damage to the colonists in that part by their predatory and lawless habits, was a service in which daring and hardship were equally combined, but which brought his active career to a termination.
The fatigues of that campaign and the successive drenchings in reaching the islands and getting back to land, brought on an attack of acute rheumatism which rendered him a cripple till his death, which occurred at his residence, Oatlands, near Graham's Town, July 7, 1872. He left no descendant to bear his honoured name.
In our Friday’s issue it was our sorrowful duty to report the death of Sir Walter Currie, Kt., which occurred that morning. On Saturday afternoon, at 3 o’clock, the funeral procession moved from his late residence at Oatlands, followed by a numerous body of relatives and friends, including the detachments of Frontier Armed and Mounted Police, under the command of Inspector Hook and Sub-Inspector Wylde, a number of who preceded the hearse, and performed the duties of a firing party. The first part of the Burial Service was conducted by the Very Rev. the Dean of Grahamstown, in the Cathedral, which was filled by spectators and sympathizers. On leaving the church, the numbers of those who joined the procession were greatly augmented, and we were pleased to notice a number of farmers from the surrounding neighbourhood, who had come in to show a last token of respect and esteem to one who had always proved himself their friend as well as protector. We estimated the number of followers at about two hundred. On reaching the burial ground, the remainder of the service was read by the Rev. L. S. Browne, after which the firing party performed their duty over the grave of the late brave and gallant officer, and the company dispersed.
Below we give an outline of his life, partly taken from an account published some years since in the “Cape Monthly Magazine”, and partly compiled from notes placed in our hands by friends of the deceased.
Walter Currie was born in France, but while yet a child he accompanied his father to this colony, where attained to a well-deserved celebrity as the brave and efficient Commandant of the Frontier Mounted Police. His father, a retired naval officer, emigrated from England to the Eastern Province in 1820 and settled on a farm in the district of Bathurst where he was appointed local Magistrate and Justice of the Peace. Walter was then only eighteen months old and his youth was spent at Bathurst and its neighbourhood.
The Kafir tribes clustered along the border kept the early settlers in a state of considerable alarm, owing to incessant aggression; and young Currie, while yet a boy of sixteen, was taught to handle his gun, and become a witness of, and an actor in, those engagements which for so long a time harassed the frontier districts. In the war of 1834-5, he took the field as a volunteer in the Corps of Guides, under the command of Captains Bowker and R. Southey (the present acting Colonial Secretary). At this time Sir Benjamin D’Urban was Governor and several notable events occurred, among which was the death of Hintza, the paramount Kafir chief. At the close of the war, Currie – for dropping alike the “Mister” and the “Sir”, we shall style him by the simple familiar name, now a household word along the frontier – returned to his home at Bathurst choosing rather to pursue the peaceful avocation of an agriculturalist than accept a commission in the army which was offered by Sir Benjamin D’Urban. Here he continued for several years in the course of which his father died – and afterwards removed to a sheep farm which he had got on the Fish River.
In 1846, the frontier districts were devastated by another invasion of the Kafir tribes, and the inhabitants joined together to arrange the best means of defence. Places of rendezvous were appointed, leaders were chosen, houses and cattle kraals were made defensible, while many heads of sheep and stock were driven westward to places of supposed security. Currie at once formed an encampment in the Fish River, and held the position there until relieved by a party sent from Grahamstown to his assistance. During these proceedings, the burgher forces on the upper part of the frontier line were mustered under Sir Andries Stockenstrom, who had been appointed their Colonel-Commandant, and Currie joined them in the Somerset district. Their first operation was to clear the Zuurberg country; they rapidly scoured the Kowie, Kaga? and Kromme Forests, the enemy retiring whenever they made their appearance. They then penetrated the Amatolas, but without meeting any resistance; and afterwards, in company with Colonel Johnstone and a company of the 27th, made a diversion to Kreli’s country where it was understood a great quantity of the booty carried off from the colony had been secreted. On reaching the boundary of Kreli’s territory it was found that the chief had determined upon not coming to an engagement, and Sir Andries Stockenstrom had a parley and interview with him. The force did not, however, return empty-handed; they captured about eight thousand head of Tambookie cattle, with which they succeeded in reaching the colonial boundary at the Zwarte Kei. Then the burgher camp was broken up. Their services had been very valuable – not in extensively destroying the enemy, but in rapidity of movement, and wonderful endurance of fatigue which intimidated the scattered enemy, and prevented much devastation in the open country. But they had frequent skirmishes, in which men were lost on both sides.
As the war did not immediately close, Currie continued in the field, attached to a train of commissariat wagons in connection with the 73rd. When peace was restored, he returned again to the old farm at Bathurst, to cultivate the ground, and one of his brothers took charge of the sheep farm at Fish River. Their stocks of cattle and sheep were sadly diminished and impoverished; out of 1,300 of the cattle, scarcely 1,200 remained; but their lot in this respect was not more unfortunate than that of their neighbours, and so they set to work to restore their fortunes.
But only a few years elapsed ere war again broke out (in 1850), and Currie rode into Grahamstown, when he was chosen Commandant of the Albany Burghers. His first work was to organise a force in the Bathurst division; and finding the Hottentots disaffected at Theophilis, he co-operated with the Magistrate (Mr. Dyason), disarmed the whole of the population, and made prisoners of the ring-leaders, who had been threatening farmers with violence. He also took command of several wagon trains between Grahamstown and Cradock, during this war; and had several actions with the enemy at the Fish River, but was successful on all occasions in carrying the wagons through.
In 1852, when Governor Sir George Cathcart arrived in the colony to succeed Sir Harry Smith, the Eastern Districts were still in the same insecure state in which they had been since the commencement of the war, and dependent upon the costly and harassing exertion of the military force for protection. With a view to remedy the state of affairs, he determined to combine the old burgher levies with an organised powerful mounted police force, who were to be placed at the disposal of the Civil Commissioners of the disturbed districts, to patrol roads and intercept marauders, as well as to protect property. Governor Cathcart had also another most important consideration in view in the establishment of this local police force for purely local purposes – that was, that, once duly organised, and its benefits felt, as he had good reason to hope they would, it might be easily transferred to the entire management of the colonial civil government, and thus be a permanent means of obliging those living in more favoured districts to contribute to the protection of their less fortunate fellow-colonists.
There were many persons, even in the eastern metropolis, who, when Sir George Cathcart’s scheme was made public, doubted the possibility of its success. But His Excellency had relied upon finding the right men who could both understand the required duty and undertake it; and among them was Walter Currie, who was appointed commandant for the district of Albany, and whose ability and activity soon gave a favourable “prestige” to the corps. In connection with Colonel Carey, Cape Mounted Rifles, his party attacked the Kafirs in the Kowie bush, and routed them; then followed them to Bushman’s River, where they were dispersed. Various indeed were the skirmishes which they had with the enemy in that direction. Shortly after the preceding operations, it was reported that a lot of rebels had assembled at the Zuurberg, and were stopping the wagons from Algoa Bay. Commandant Bowers, of the Somerset division, and Currie’s brother (an officer under him), had already attacked these fellows: but finding they did not leave the place, Walter Currie was sent for, and routed them out. He followed them for eight days, and finally came up with them at the Fish River Bush, where an engagement took place, resulting in their total dispersion. There were several of the enemy killed, but the police lost only one officer (Lieutenant Ferriera) and three men. Currie was assisted in the affair by Captain Espinasse and a detachment of the 12th Regiment, who lost two men. This happened during Sir George Cathcart’s absence in the Sovereignty, and was the last resistance of any consequence which was made by the rebels. It was here, also, that the noted Hans Brander ( a deserter from the Cape Mounted Rifles) was mortally wounded; he died afterwards at Kreli’s great place. Sir George Cathcart, on his return, paid the following compliment to the gallant commandant’s party:-
“Head-Quarters, Grahamstown January 12, 1853
The Commander-in-Chief has had before him the report of Commandant Currie, of the spirited exertions of the Albany police, under his commanding, in tracing a band of rebel Hottentots through their haunts of the Zuurberg into the Fish River Bush, near Jantje’s Kraal, where sixteen of these banditti were killed and many wounded, the remainder dispersing in the bush.
His Excellency cannot express in too strong terms his high admiration for the gallant and patriotic conduct of the Albany police under their Commandant, Captain Walter Currie, who, ever since he has assumed his honourable and arduous command has evinced a gallantry and perseverance beyond all praise.”
At the close of the war, the forces (sic) was reduced from nearly 1,000 to 500 men, and their pay was lowered also. Sir George Grey shortly afterwards arrived, and fully realizing the advantage of a constant patrolling police on the frontier, he at once made arrangements for organizing it permanently, under the title of the Frontier Mounted Police. Under these circumstances, Walter Currie was constrained to continue as its head and superintend its management as general commandant. The force now consists of 600 men, including inspectors, sub-inspectors, &c. They are divide into detachments of about seventy men, who, in troubled times, are stationed in the most disturbed districts, or, during peace, patrol the country to see that there are no squatters, and drive them off; inspect trader’s wagons, and see that there are no arms carried out of the country; and also prevent cattle and horses from passing beyond the boundary unauthorizedly.
Their duties at the present moment are of the latter kind; but in the crises of 1857, when the Kafirs, deluded by one of their prophets, were killing their cattle preparatory to an attack upon the colony, the police performed the other and more important duty of protecting the frontier. All of their number who could be spared were placed along the boundary line from the Kaffrarian coast to the Stormberg, forming a cordon along the district of Victoria South and North, Queenstown, and Albert, and there they remained until the crisis was over.
Since the last war the duties of the Police have been of a less dangerous, but certainly not less responsible, character, and have consisted chiefly of protecting the farmers from the depredations of the natives, and watching the colonial boundary; and we have no doubt that for the series of peaceful years we have enjoyed we are to a large extent indebted to the watchfulness and tact of the Police, under the able command of the now lamented Sir Walter Currie. In all important movements in connection with the natives, Sir Walter’s advice and assistance was sought, and we find him taking a prominent part in superintending the settling of the Fingoes who were removed from the Colony to the Transkeian territory a few years since.
The last service that Sir Walter was enabled to perform, in his public capacity, was to punish the Korannas who had become so troublesome on the northern borders of the Colony, and to perform which it was found necessary to send up the main body of the Mounted Police Force. It will be in the recollection of most of our readers how effectually this difficult duty was performed by the force employed under the able command of their brave and gallant commandant. While superintending the transport of the supplies across the Orange River at a time when the current was strong, he almost met his death by drowning, in the manner described as follows by one of the Cape papers:-
“It was early dawn, the wagons were started across, and Sir Walter was first on horseback, guiding the cavalcade through the safest river beds, and keeping the wheels of the wagon free of stones, which abound in all directions. Sir Walter had been at that work about an hour, when his horse slipped of the rock on which the animal had been standing for some minutes, and off flew Sir Walter into the middle of the torrent. Being a first rate swimmer, he struck out well, and after battling with the roaring, rushing current, he grasped the rock and landed himself, drenched through and through, and quite exhausted. The poor horse had sunk never to rise again. Sir Walter then took his stand on the rock and gave orders. For about three hours everything went on favourably, and then the tow-line broke: the men being half-frozen with cold, could not jump smartly to re-fasten it, and Sir Walter, seeing the mischief of delay, rushed into the river with half-a-dozen men after him, and they put all right again. Sir Walter sung out “Let go.” No sooner said than done, and Sir Walter, thinking he could swim, struck out for the rock again, but not one limb could he move. The use of his arms and legs were completely gone, and the swift-rushing current carried him away, he calling for help. All help was by this time pretty far off; but at last four of his men, seeing the predicament he was in, swam after him, and carried him out, as they thought, a corpse. The doctor discovered that Sir Walter had life in him yet; but this discovery was not made until bottles of warm water had been placed to his feet, and all the other restoratives used for rescuing men from death by drowning.
In about two hours Sir Walter felt himself sufficiently strong to attempt to cross the river in his cart; but he was not permitted to run any risk in his then enfeebled state. The men put a tow-line onto the cart, and pulled so vigorously to get him quickly out of danger, that they pulled out the pole of the cart, and let him into the river for the third time. He was then compelled to save himself, for there was no one near to assist him, and he laid hold of the line and reached the shore again, more dead than alive.”
On both occasions of His Royal Highness Prince Alfred’s visiting the Cape, Sir Walter was chosen as one of his retinue, and doubtless added much to the pleasure of our Royal visitor, as he always enjoyed the character of being a most entertaining companion.
In conclusion we would say that as an officer his justice and considerate kindness secured the respect and attachment of both the officers and men he so long and gallantly commanded; and his services were acknowledged by the Government in their recommending him to his Sovereign as worthy of Knighthood. We feel sure that now his services are over, colonists will not be slow to acknowledge his worth, and the Colonial Government will act justly towards his widowed lady.
Grahamstown Journal 10.6 1872 p2 c7
The Late Sir Walter Currie, Kt.
The following short account by a relative of the late Sir Walter Currie will be read with interest. We regret that it came to hand too late to include in the account published by us in our Monday’s issue :-
The late Sir Walter Currie, the solitary Knight of the Eastern Province, was the eldest son of the late Walter Currie Esq., for many years resident Justice of the Peace for the village of Bathurst, where he was whilst living universally respected, and his memory still not forgotten, by all those that knew him in times passed away, having been an example in everything that was honest, virtuous, and just, to the surrounding inhabitants, which they all will gladly testify. The first military service performed by the late Sir Walter, when only sixteen years of age, was in the war of 1835, as a “Bathurst Volunteer”, under their Captain W. M. Bowker. Their testimonial, received from Volunteer Services, from the good Sir Benjamin D’Urban, ran thus :- “The Bathurst Volunteers, under their Captain, are a lot of fine, gallant fellows, always to be seen foremost in danger, where the brave become conspicuous.” In such places the late Sir Walter was never in the rear, being from first to last, from boyhood to premature imbecility, caused by God’s will, a true Frontier defender, of no second class. In the war of 1846 and 1847 he also performed good services under the then Governor, Sir Peregrine Maitland, that were appreciated. At the commencement of that war, he and his late brother William, and a few other brave spirits, defied for a time the Kafir hordes that laid waste the finest districts of the Frontier, and assisted others more numerous than themselves, until they saw that the Government were unable to assist them, when they were obliged to seek, at a distance from the Frontier, a place of refuge for the scattered remnants of their flocks. The late Sir Walter was of an excitable disposition, at all times full of dash and daring, which was his darling attribute. The writer has more than once, whilst hunting in the moonlight, seen both him and his horse “Star” come to grief in deep holes, he himself being landed some yards in advance of his steed, jump into the saddle again, clap spurs in and gallop on as if no obstruction had occurred to either; and nothing but his extraordinary activity, daring, and self-possession brought him unscathed through the many dangers that he hazarded in a voluntary and heedless manner. The writer of this claims some excuse for, may be, errors, which he hopes will be granted, it being sketched by the rapid pencil of an afflicted relative – one that has known and admired him from his boyhood, now, alas, no more. After the commencement of the war of 1850, Sir Walter was dubbed, out of a brace, one of Sir Harry Smith’s Special Commandants; and his eminent services, from the taking of Fort Armstrong on the Kat River, down to the dispersing of Brandrug and his rebels near the junction of the Great Fish River, and “Jontgie’s Kraal” at the close of the war, Frontier colonists admire and endorse. After the last war Sir Walter was appointed Commandant (by the Government) of the Frontier Albany Mounted Police, and gave, as far as was possible, universal satisfaction to Frontier farmers and the Government under which he served, with honour to himself, his services being so highly appreciated by the Home Government that the honour of Knighthood was conferred upon him by the Queen – an honour deserved by himself and highly appreciated by all true Frontier defenders of his class, of which there are yet many surviving, “ready! aye, ready” to repeat the praiseworthy deeds of former years when required, that will never forget the valued services of their lost comrade, now departed, and mourned over by “kindred spirits” of equal strength of arm and determination, both willing and able, when permitted by Divine Providence, to avenge their country’s wrong. The late Sir Walter was universally respected by everyone, and was always “at home” amongst every class where his lot was cast; but his too short life in this Colony has been a hard and exciting one; and one possessing his many abilities will not soon be again found in our midst.
Grahamstown Journal 14.6.1872 p2 c7
THE LATE SIR WALTER CURRIE
TO THE EDITORS OF “THE JOURNAL
Sirs, - Permit me, as a late companion in arms of my late esteemed friend, Sir Walter Currie, to add a few words to your obituary notice and recapitulation of his services to the Frontier. In your notice you refer to the encampment at the Fish River, in the war of 1846. This camp was not under the command of Walter Currie, but of the Field-cornet, the late Jurie Lombaard. Walter Currie was then a sheep farmer on the Fish River Randt, and had sought shelter in the camp of Jurie Lombaard. Innumerable attacks were made upon that camp by overwhelming odds of Kafirs, and all gallantly repelled; but the whole of their sheep (many thousands) and cattle were captured; and I believe that it was by the indomitable pluck of Walter Currie that the farmers held their ground. An express was sent to me to Grahamstown, by Field-cornet Jurie Lombaard (the Commandant of the camp), representing their helpless and infested position, and imploring assistance. I waited upon Sir Peregrine Maitland, and volunteered to proceed to the relief of this besieged camp, and take out a supply of ammunition. Sir Peregrine at once gave me ‘carte blanche’ to press as many horses as I require to mount my men. That gallant Frontier defender, Thomas Stubbs, of the Sporting Club, and others joined me, and the result of our expedition was thus noticed in Garrison Orders :-
“18th May 1846, The Mounted Volunteers, commanded by Mr. Stubbs, Mr. Meurant, and Mr. Rutherfoord, having returned to Grahamstown, after a six days patrol over a difficult and rugged country, in which they were the means of preserving much property and stock, the former valued at £2,000, and the latter numbering 25,000 sheep and 200 head of oxen, - the Lieut-Colonel (now General Johnstone) thanks them for their good service, performed as it was under trying circumstances and in very inclement weather the men being unprovided with field equipment, and many without blankets.”
We found Walter Currie at this camp, and it was in a great measure owing to his knowledge of the country, and his valuable advice and assistance, that our patrol succeeded in recapturing from the enemy the immense quantity of stock we did, besides several wagon-loads of meal and wool on the way from Cradock to Grahamstown, abandoned by the drivers. The meal I handed over to Walter Currie, who handed it over to Sir Andries Stockenstrom, whose burghers were nearly starving for want of that article. Not long after this, while I was stationed at Bathurst, with the Hottentot Levy under my command, Walter Currie and the gallant Holden Bowker, swam the Fish River, near its mouth, with despatches for Sir Peregrine Maitland. Bowker took rheumatic fever in consequence, and was laid up at Bathurst for several months, while Walter Currie proceeded to join Sir Andries Stockenstrom, in the Somerset district, as one of his commandants.
In the war of rebellion of 1850, Walter Currie was one of the first at the storming of Fort Armstrong.
I am, &c L. H. MEURANT C. C. Late Field-Commandant
Grahamstown Journal 21.6.1872 p3 c2
Sir) Walter CURRIE (2.4.1819 - 7.6.1872) m. Helen, dau. of Lt. W. GARDNER of 6th Regiment