Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Thames (NZ): The South African War 'Rifles' return to Thames

Why did three Spingboks players come to Thames last week?

The Thames Coromandel District Council Email Newsletter 17/09/2013 said:
Springbok players – brothers Jannie and Bismarck Du Plessis - and Ruan Pienaar spent most of Thursday in Thames on an unofficial visit that included Thames High School, The Treasury, Thames-Coromandel District Council and the Thames Rugby Club.
The visit was facilitated via Johan Volsteedt, the former Head Master of all three men and a man who devoted his life to their own high school, Grey College in South Africa. The players visited not as Springboks but as Old Grey College Boys whose ancestors were affected by the Boer War. The visit gave them a rare opportunity to see with their own eyes Boer rifles that bear their surnames and are now housed at The Treasury in Thames.
It was a surprise to many to learn about the influence that Sir George Grey had in South Africa, he was of course a famous and much respected visitor/resident/MP of Thames in the goldfield days. It is reputed  by many that he planted the Oak trees by Thames South School and resided in Grey Street.
The Treasury now holds (once again) the 15 South African Boer War rifles that were gifted to the town. A total of 200 of these rifles that are inscribed and numbered were given to New Zealand after the war. Thames received the first 15 rifles and now today is the only town/place with an intact set. They were originally housed in the Public Library at Thames - the building now used by The Treasury (The Thames Coromandel Heritage Trust research facility). In 1912, The North Otago TImes reported that a local town had received some rifles. A newspaper report for Thames is still to be found. (Please let me know if you find one)
Full research material is available at the building for all level of researcher - due largely to the work of Mike Dwight, who wrote: WALTER CALLAWAY: A MAORI WARRIOR OF THE BOER WAR. This book is available for sale at The Treasury shop.
The Sprinbok visit featured on the television programme 'Seven Sharp' and can be viewed from the television archives.
The South African Boer War Rifles Display at The Treasury, Thames, New Zealand
Details of the people of Thames-Hauraki that served in the South African War are available at The Treasury online and at the Queen Street, Thames building.