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Southern African Collections : Diary of Agnes Wilson in South Africa

Southern African Collections

<p style='text-align: justify;'>The diary, 100 x 120 mm, is comprised of two notebooks bound together totalling 374 pages, and is lettered 'A.M.W. South Africa 1901-2' on the front board. There are entries on most of the right-hand pages, and notes, photographs, passes, tickets, cuttings and other souvenirs on the left-hand side. The diary describes life on board ship, visits to the Cape, travels in the interior, and events of the period in South Africa, including comments on the ongoing Anglo-Boer war, or South African war, which had entered its guerilla phase. There are two pages of reflections on WIlson's work with knitting classes in the refugee camps in Bloemfontein and elsewhere, written in 1952. There is a botanical specimen (pressed flower) labelled 'Flowers from Caesar's camp' on <a href='/view/MS-RCMS-00206/329'>folio 160</a>, with fragments housed <a href='/view/MS-RCMS-00206/413'>separately</a> (Caesar's Camp featured in the Battle of Wagon Hill or Platrand during the siege of Ladysmith in Jan. 1900).</p><p style='text-align: justify;'>The diary is not a day-to-day account but is divided into sections as follows: <p style='text-align: justify;'>- sea voyage from Southampton to Cape Town, 3 - 11 Nov. 1901 [folios <a href='/view/MS-RCMS-00206/17'>3</a>-<a href='/view/MS-RCMS-00206/91'>44</a>];</p><p style='text-align: justify;'>- stay in Cape Town and train journey to Bloemfontein, Nov. 1901 [folios <a href='/view/MS-RCMS-00206/96'>47</a>-<a href='/view/MS-RCMS-00206/138'>67</a>];</p><p style='text-align: justify;'>- list of people entertained by the Wilsons between Nov. 1901 and Apr. 1902, including dinner party for Lord Milner (Alfred Milner, administrator of the Transvaal and Orange River Colony, 1901-2) [folios <a href='/view/MS-RCMS-00206/139'>68</a>-<a href='/view/MS-RCMS-00206/175'>84</a>];</p>- journey to Johannesburg and Pretoria, Mar. 1902 [folios <a href='/view/MS-RCMS-00206/176'>85</a>-<a href='/view/MS-RCMS-00206/255'>124</a>];<p style='text-align: justify;'>- visit to Brandfort, site of a British concentration camp, Mar. 1902 [folios <a href='/view/MS-RCMS-00206/257'>125</a>-<a href='/view/MS-RCMS-00206/267'>130</a>];</p><p style='text-align: justify;'>- 'Easter Ausflug' [excusion] and visit to Thaba 'Nchu [Blesberg] [folios <a href='/view/MS-RCMS-00206/269'>131</a>-<a href='/view/MS-RCMS-00206/324'>158</a>];</p><p style='text-align: justify;'>- journey through Natal to Durban, April - May 1902 [folios <a href='/view/MS-RCMS-00206/332'>161</a>-<a href='/view/MS-RCMS-00206/400'>191</a>];</p><p style='text-align: justify;'>- 1952 postscript [folio <a href='/view/MS-RCMS-00206/403'>193</a>].</p></p><p style='text-align: justify;'>Agnes Maria Wilson (1867-1957), known as Amy, was the sister of Sir Henry Francis Wilson (1859-1947), Colonial Secretary of the Orange River Colony. In November 1901 she sailed to South Africa to act as her brother's hostess. She remained until 7 May 1902, when she accompanied him back to England on leave. Harry Wilson married Isabelle Anderson in August 1902, and Amy Wilson returned to South Africa on her own account in 1903. She bought property near Pietermaritzburg, and engaged in farming until just before the Second World War. After retirement from public service, Harry Wilson served as secretary of the Royal Colonial Institute from 1915-1921.</p>

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