On this day in 1895, the Delagoa Bay (Maputo, Mozambique) Railway opened in South-Africa by President Paul Kruger. The link connected the Transvaal (Boer) Republic with the coast without having to go through the British controlled ports of Port Natal (Durban) or Cape Town.

 

As such we bring you a South African folktale of heroism during the “Groot Trek” (Great Trek) inland from the Cape Colony. This story occurred in about 1843 approximately 50 years before the Boer Wars (yes, plural, there were 2 Boer Wars)……..

 

Rachel de Beer (1831–1843) (sometimes known by the diminutive form, Racheltjie) is an Afrikaner heroine who gave her life in order to save that of her brother. She was the daughter of George Stephanus de Beer (b. 1794).

 

The fable goes that in the winter months of 1843 Rachel was part of a trek from the Orange Free State to the south-eastern Transvaal. During one of their nightly stopovers, the members of the trek realised that a calf called Frikkie, much-beloved by their children, was missing.

 

A search party was formed, in which Rachel and her six-year old brother also took part. However, during the gathering dusk Rachel and her brother got separated from the search party and became lost. As the night progressed it got very cold and started snowing.

 

Realising that their chances of survival were slim, Rachel found an abandoned anthill, hollowed out by an aardvark, took off her clothes, put them on her brother and commanded him to get into the hollowed-out anthill. She then lay in front of the opening of the anthill in order to keep out the cold.

 

The children were found the next morning by the trekking party. Rachel was dead, but her brother had survived.

 

Note: The story of Rachel de Beer is entrenched in the Afrikaner culture, which is evident by the number of streets and schools named after her.

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