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Hodgson - The Old Man of the Berg
Stephen Coan


Joined: 01 Sep 2005
Posts: 39
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In Harry Klein's book Land of the Silver Mist (1951) there is a chapter titled 'The Old Man of the Berg'. The 'Old Man' is named as Hodgson and described as something of a hermit who modelled 'Zulu busts in clay to sell to tourists at Champagne Castle Hotel'. According to Klein he had been a naval officer and a soldier in 'Queen Victoria's army'. Klein implies he fought at Isandlwana and Rorke's Drift but definitely places him at Ulundi and has him in the cavalry describing how he rode out 'in that breathless charge which cut down and scattered Cetewayo's savage hordes'. Klein says Hodgson also fought in the Bambatha Rebellion. Hodgson is quoted as saying 'I was a District Commissioner before things went wrong for me.' Who was Hodgson? There was a JM Hodgson who was at the magistracy at Kranskop in the 1890s who might fit the bill. Given the above can anyone help pin him down.
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Peter Ewart


Joined: 31 Aug 2005
Posts: 1797
Location: Near Canterbury, Kent, England.
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Stephen

R.O. Pearse asks the same question in Barrier of Spears, although you probably know that as I suspect this is one of the first works you've checked, in case Pearse knew more than Klein. Or perhaps he merely followed Klein anyway, as he includes him in his bibliography in 1973.

Pearse only mentions that Hodgson had been an officer in the British Army without mentioning any campaigns. He includes some of the material you quote - as well as his painting of pictures and "writing for the papers", and says he was murdered in 1935, his body being found in a pool near his mud hut.

A quick look in what might potentially have been helpful works by contemporary District Commissioners and the like (who might, perhaps, have known him) such as Braatvedt and Colenbrander didn't turn him up, nor in the travel works or whimsical memoirs of such Natal favourites as TV Bulpin, Carel Kirkby, Barbara Buchanan or HC Lugg, although some of these are not indexed, so refs to Hodgson might still lurk there.

On Bambatha, neither James Stuart, Shula Marks nor Jeff Guy mention him (all indexed), and Chakijana (unindexed) isn't likely to. James B McCord's and RC Samuelson's memoirs both cover the Bambatha episode but aren't indexed, so they might be left as inconclusive. Works on the Berg itself, rather than those which focus on Durban or Maritzburg, are rather thin in my collection. Bulpin does go into the origin of the naming of Hodgson's Peak (Natal & the Zulu Country, pp343-345 and To the Shores of Natal, pp 264/5) but that Thomas Hodgson, a farmer buried up there in 1862, seems far too early.

Keith Smith's Local General Orders (plus Addendum) mentions no officer called Hodgson and he doesn't appear in the indexes of any of the more reliable AZW works I have - those which are indexed, anyway. And so many AZW personal memoirs also contain no index.

If there was a DC at Kranzkop of that surname and Hodgson claimed such a past, it seems very possible he was that man, although in Natal so many related surnames circulated around the same positions for years - Addison, Acutt, Colenbrander and the rest.

Not a very positive result, I'm afraid, but it might help just a little by mentioning what's not worth bothering to look at! Hopefully, someone with details of the 1877-79 medal roll might be able to help further. Tried the NASA online catalogue?

Peter
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Peter Ewart


Joined: 31 Aug 2005
Posts: 1797
Location: Near Canterbury, Kent, England.
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Stephen

Further to the above post, I suspect you may already have examined the NASA catalogue, in particular the refs to that material lodged at the PMB Repository?

Just a had a very brief look and there are quite a number of entries relating to the JM Hodgson you mentioned (one ref reveals his middle name as Martin) as he gradually climbed up the clerical ladder (assistant clerk, clerk of the court, Zulu interpreter, etc) of Natal government, firstly in Maritzburg & then in K'kop. He applied for transfers now & again and had his share of sick leave, rose to at least acting magistrate & magistrate by the look of it and, in 1903, it was probably him who was described as Chief Commissioner in Camperdown. His transfer requests appear to have paid off eventually as he was posted to Bergville itself in 1904 & I think there was also a ref at Mooi River in 1906, although there were lots of other Hodgsons in that area already - in Weston, Estcourt etc.

There were other Hodgsons around though - farmers etc. And an RL Hodgson's bosses were told by the Colonial Secretary in 1897 that his services could be dispensed with at the end of the month. Only had a brief glimpse & not sure of his rank at Bergville but if the "Old Man of the Berg" mentioned his DC past, and JMH was a Chief Comm'r at Camperdown at one time, he looks a very likely candidate, I'd say. As for his military service - his Bambatha involvement might have been only civilian/administrative, if any, and his AZW days may be true, who knows? Perhaps in the army - or in a colonial unit? Only glimpsed through the refs in the summary as in a rush.

In haste

Peter
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Stephen Coan


Joined: 01 Sep 2005
Posts: 39
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Peter

Many thanks for that comprehensive overview of the likely sources. Yes, I looked at NASA which threw up JM Hodgson as a likely candidate. Would be interesting to see if the name turns up in any of the regimental rolls.
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Peter Ewart


Joined: 31 Aug 2005
Posts: 1797
Location: Near Canterbury, Kent, England.
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My pleasure, Stephen. Yes, regimental or medal rolls will have to reveal something, I suspect.

It seems there were plenty of adventurers or misfits who drifted up there and remained for years, putting pasts behind them. In his Once Dark Country, A.W. Lee highlights the fact of many well educated "drifters" from GB who eventually settled into similar lives in all parts of Zululand in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. No doubt some of these had interesting tales to tell, although the odd Walter Mitty would undoubtedly be found among them.

Peter
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John Young


Joined: 30 Aug 2005
Posts: 982
Location: Lower Sheering, Essex
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Stephen,

Best I can find is a Private 2079 C. Hodgson, 17th Lancers.

There are five other men with the surname Hodgson, but none really fit the bill.

John Y.
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Stephen Coan


Joined: 01 Sep 2005
Posts: 39
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John

Many thanks for that. From what R.O. Pearse says plus the NASA holdings it looks to be a John Hodgson. There are 48 entries for a JM Hodgson who was in the Natal civil service and there is indication of a drinking problem - which confirms Pearse's comments in Barrier of Spears.
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Hodgson - The Old Man of the Berg
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