A Novel – The many roads we travel

The sea, the sea, it is all around us.  We are safe while we are in the Boat.  We often see whales, and dolphins, and other sea creatures.  And as we approach land, the sea gulls come out to greet us.

Other than that we clean and polish the boat.  It has to be spotless.  Including the galley, and our bunks and clothes.  If anything, we are taught to be spotless in ourselves.  And then we attend lectures and are taught to man the guns and protect the vessel and all the property belonging to England.  Oh yes, this is the navy and navy life.

Besides the activity, I do spend a lot of my free time just thinking.  Thinking about who I am, and where I came from.

In my memories, I remember the night my Father passed away.  He had been ill for a long time, and I enjoyed sitting on his bed and listening to the stories he told me. Mother would bring him his medicine and a bowl of soup, and I would be encouraged to join her and my sister in the kitchen for a bite to eat. Mum’s face was always sad with the evidence of tears.

Now on the boat we are given good meals, and never have a hungry feeling in our tummies.  But at home we were often left with little to eat.  Most of the few pennies Mother had was to be spent on medicine!  Today I have quite a lot of money saved, and wish I could have had it then.  How I miss my family.  In my dreams I can still hear Mother humming to herself while she cooked and cleaned.  Sister Mary had tried to teach me to read and write, but when I went to school that was achieved.

My thoughts move to the boarding school I attended after Father passed away, and I was enrolled to attend school with the view of being a cadet in the Royal Navy.  Such a proud tradition.

I was born on 13 July 1825 in Bidstone, Cheshire, England.  My Father was George Hazlehurst, my Mother, Clara, and my Sister, Mary who was born in 1822.

I went to School

The school was an impressive double storey building, housing the boys who live there permanently and the boys who attended the school daily.  I was introduced to the system of the school, and given a school uniform and a space in the dorm where I would sleep and keep my belongings.

Ten boys sleep in each dormitory, or ‘dorm’ as it is called.   Each boy had a locker for clothes and a locker for books. 

We were tutored by school masters with the goal that the boys must be disciplined and trained to be good solid citizens and candidates for being a cadet in the military forces.  They did not tolerate babies, and ‘big boys don’t cry’.  We attend school lessons and are taught to read and write and do sums!  Our days were busy, and we were expected to help in the kitchens and the gardens. Our bedroom space has to be spotless at all times!  How I longed for my family life. I missed my mother with a passion.  When I have learnt to write, I will write to mother a letter every week.  I lived here for seven years – during which time I grew up!  I have learnt to be independent.

On my last day at school, I sat in my dorm room and in my mind I reviewed my life.  I was only seven years old when I was enrolled, I believe that all these arrangements were planned for me.

It had been hard to leave my home, but within the week father died and then mother and Mary found other employment, and they had to move from the house we had called home.

I joined the Royal Navy

It was 1840 when I joined the Royal Navy, I was fifteen years old and felt very grown up.  I, and the other boys going to enlist, were taken by carriage to the docks where the ship, “H.M.S Eurydice”, which was to become our new home, waited for us. 

This commission was to serve in the 45th Regiment aboard the H.M.S. Eurydice, a 26-gun Royal Navy corvette.  Having visited the medical team on board, received and changed into new Navy uniforms, we assemble on deck. The band plays a march, while the ship moves slowly out to sea. 

 “Welcome Aboard!”

England is not at war, but we will be trained for war.  We will be taught navigation, the mechanics of the ship, have to remember the names of the officers and their ranks.  We will learn about the stars, we will have to know about the countries we will be assigned to, and how to load and fire the guns, without killing ourselves!  At first I was in awe of the vast expanse of water that surrounds us, but soon appreciated the freedom and fresh air that we enjoy.  The food is good, like boarding school.  Had I not experienced boarding school, most probably, life with such a large crew would have been impossible.

Our education continues and we are informed of World politics, and the conflicts between nations, concentrating on the countries where the Eurydice was heading.  Never having ever left the shores of England, I am now being introduced to other countries and peoples.  The world is a huge place!

The First Commission

The first commission aboard the H.M.S Eurydice, will be three years of service on the North American and West Indies stations, between 1843 and 1846. Our Captain is George Augustus Elliot, the eldest son of the designer of the boat.

George was the name of my father and my older brother, so I felt comfortable with the captain.

Second Commission.

Under the second commission between 1846 and 1850, our ship would be sent to the South African Naval Base, in Simonstown, the Cape of Good Hope.  The sea has always been very treacherous in that area and the sea route around the Cape had formerly been named “Cape of Storms”.  We often saw wreckages of ships that had not survived.  South Africa was a relatively new country. The Dutch, French, and English people set up industry and government.  It was an ideal place for ships to stop for taking on new supplies or have damages repaired.

Again we were informed of what to expect in Africa.  We were not the only Royal Navy seafaring vessel headed that way, and with our guns and expertise we would defend and protect the British property and land.  The sea route to India went around the Cape, and was preserved for trading reasons.

The indigenous people of the country, are dark skinned, and spoke other languages, I try to learn a few words of greeting so that I can communicate with them. It is rumoured that the country is rich in minerals, and that fortunes could be made by brave souls who dare to venture inland.

I had been at sea for many years, and in my quiet moments I wonder what it would be like to have a home on land.  I am in my twenties, and desire, above all else, to settle and have a home and a family of my own, to be able to make my own decisions about what to eat and what to wear.

I have heard stories that many ships sailing this route, carrying prisoners from England to Australia, lose their passengers when they jumped ship in Natal, because, from there they were in a large enough country to hide from the authorities. A living wage was available to them, if they were willing to work for it.

Our ship regularly travels the route between the stations of the Cape and Natal, the other British Naval Base.  I discussed my thoughts with the Captain, and he was sympathetic.  “Well, would you like to leave the Navy when we are back in England or sooner?” So my plan was to resign from the ship in Natal. 

Having completed all the paper work, I was told by the Officer that the most convenient place to leave the ship would be in Natal.  So on our next commission to Natal, I changed my uniform for civvies, and after greeting the crew and Officers I walked into the town, on dry land!

I was 7 years old when I went to school.

15 years old when I joined the Navy

19 years old when I left the navy.

I found employment with the Forestry Department cutting down trees that were needed for wood to make furniture, or for building houses, or for the mines.  Even to be exported!

I registered as a settler in Natal in 1847 – I was 22 years old. Doing manual work made my body fit and strong.  I felt good.

My First Family

In 1850, a few years later, on one special evening, I danced with Myna. We planned to meet again and again, eventually falling in love, and we formed a relationship and moved in together. Two years later in 1852 our first daughter, Ann, was born.

Life was rewarding, I adored my little girl, and slowly remembered the songs my mother had sung to me.  Singing them now reminded me of my mother, and I felt sad that I did not know where she was.

Myna was accustomed to working it was the way things were in the Dutch culture.  At last I was a family man.   I am 27 years old.  It was super to come home at night, and have dinner prepared, and my family waiting for me.  When Myna was expecting our second child, I believed that nothing could go wrong in my life, but in 1857 Myna left me, taking the children with her.  Our second child, a little boy, died in infancy, and I was served a court order for custody of my daughter Ann.  I still lived in the Natal province.  My heart sank when I arrived home to find an empty house, my family had left and I was all alone again.

I initially lived in villages near the saw mills in Boston, Pietermaritzburg, Zwartrivier and Woodside, Karkloof.  Working as a woodcutter in the vicinity of Pietermaritzburg, and in the Government Forests in Kliprivier, Drakensberg bush in the Oliviershoek area, Zwartkop Bush Sawmills, and Boston Sawmills, north of Pietermaritzburg, where, later, I had a share, and also Woodside Umgeni and Karkloof Forests. Karkloof is a beautiful range of hills stretching for over 50 kilometres between Rietvlei, Curry’s Post and Howick in the Midlands of Natal.  I had never experienced anything like this.

The forests in that area were abundantly lush, and work as a woodcutter was a good job.  It was not easy work, but many men coming to South Africa thought they could make it, just to get on their feet. 

We were required to arrange our own accommodation on the land loaned to us, and we were paid on a weekly basis for the amount of wood we cut.  Our quota of trees to cut down depended on the market place.  Special trees were used to make furniture, and they commanded the best prices.  The lesser quality trees were used as props in the mines.  This is why we did not stay in one forest, and had to move about to reach the best trees needed.

Working in teams gave us safety, and most indigenous folk who worked with us were forest-wise and could warn us of danger. They taught us to set traps to catch animals for food, and how to find edible fruit and roots in the forest. The forests were very beautiful and pristine.  Animals, both large and small inhabited it, and snakes were plentiful.  I made friends with a Zulu man called Jonas, he loved to hear about my adventures on the sea, and I loved to hear about his family and, how best to stay alive in the forest. I had so much to learn – about living on land, the plants, the animals, even the rain was different.  I heard it on the roof at night, and I did not have to fight the sea and the waves to survive. But now I was my own boss.

An article written in 1913 in the “South African Who’s Who”, by James   (my son) claimed that I arrived in Natal in 1847.  My presence in Natal was mentioned in the early part of 1850. 

Natal had been proclaimed a British Colony in 1843, and administered from the Cape Colony in 1844. However, it was not until the end of 1845 that an effective administration was installed with Mr. Martin West as lieutenant-governor that the power of the Boer Volksraad finally came to an end.

In the Anglo-Zulu War of 1879 the British defeated the Zulu army, and Zululand was annexed to Natal in 1897.

Life Is Not All Roses Or Is It!

When I found myself alone again, I fell into a state of depression, as this was not what I planned for my life.  However, one morning when I awoke and the sun was shining and I still had work to do, I shook off the negative feeling.

I had been brought up in the Christian faith and in June 1857 was visited by Christian missionaries visiting Natal.  I realized that I must get my spiritual life in order, and made a plan to attend the church services on a regular basis.

A trip to Pietermaritzburg was necessary when I needed to do shopping. To buy a new saw and a gun, boots and trousers were also in a sorry state and had to be replaced. And I was encouraged to attend a church service whilst there. Little did I know the consequences of my decision!

I had shortened my surname to “Hazel” until, in about 1857, I returned the ‘hurst’ again!  I had a new surname. Was I a new man?

After the church service I was introduced to the Holgate family.

Mr. Holgate took a great interest in me because I had come from England and had served with the Royal Navy for four years.  As I was free for the rest of the Sunday, I was invited to have lunch with them.

Then I met the daughter, and I fell in love with her. She was so beautiful!  Her name was Anne Holgate. She was born in Cork in Ireland in 1843.

We married on 21 March 1858 in the Cathedral Church, Parish of St Peter, in Pietermaritzburg.  I was 33 years old, and Anne was just 15!

Anne’s father is Joseph Benjamin Holgate, born in 1814 in England. Her mother is Mary Holgate, born in Dublin, Ireland, on 10 March 1821. The Holgate family came to Port Natal in 1843 aboard the “Emerald Isle”. They had eight children.

When I married Anne I married into her family. So on that same day I had a mother and a father and seven siblings!  We had a lot in common, Anne loved hearing my stories of life at sea, and my adventures in other countries, but was thankful that I had given it up.

 My New Family

We set up home living near her parents in Pietermaritzburg.  This was beneficial to both parties because when our first child was born and died within 10 months, her mother was with is, and offered us support.  Having a baby in the house was a new experience.  So small, yet so demanding!  Food must be provided every few hours or the most terrible screaming would take place.  Yet I was so proud to be a father.

Altogether eleven children were born to us.

We were very proud of our children and all the grandchildren that they brought to our family! I give thanks for all the bounty and joy that we have been given.

 My Travels

1864 We moved to Howick, and opened an accommodation house.  We lived there for four years.  Howick is in the same area as Karkloof, where I had worked as a wood cutter.

1868 We travelled to Wakkerstroom


Previously named Marthinus Wesselstroom, it was, later, renamed Wakkerstroom.

1868: When we arrived the town it was only eight years old, and was limited to four Hartebeest houses, the magistrate’s residence, the jail and a coach house.   Zulu and Swazi Tribes lived close by. In time we learnt to speak their languages, and Afrikaans, the language of the founders of the town.

When we arrived in this small town these were our children:

  • Joseph born in 1860
  • Edward born in 1861
  • George born 1863
  • Elijah born 1865
  • William born 1867
  • James born 1868

The surrounding area of the town was very beautiful, rolling green grasslands, wetlands that accommodated many species of fish and birds, rivers and dams and mountains.  Many of the people moving to the area chose to farm. Cattle, horses, sheep and alpacas could be seen grazing.  Too beautiful!

The settlers built their residential homes in Wakkerstroom of stone and iron, with wrap-around verandas. We had to provide our own food and, fortunately, the erven were large enough to resemble mini-farms.  Depending on the size of the plot, we could plan the ‘farm’. We had enough to do at home without still travelling to the forests!

Anne was a person who could really get the garden growing, and within a couple of months we had plenty of veggies and fruits, and kept poultry, cows, sheep and horses.  Horses were needed to pull the buggy, and to ride!

However, on one afternoon, when we arrived home it looked as if a tornado had hit our property, our gardens were flattened!  But then we saw the huge footprints.  Elephants!  The circus had come to town, and these two ellies had escaped and found our luscious garden.  Fortunately it was not too big a problem when the animal trainers took their livestock home with them.  For us this experience was amazing – who, in England, had elephants walk onto their property?

Our children did well in this new settlement, and were destined to be winners!

The ‘farming’ enterprise would stand us in good stead when we had to feed visitors to our Traveler’s Home Hotel.  And, later, when Wakkerstroom had an influx of soldiers, food was a key commodity, so we were able to supply much of what was required to the British Army on a consignment basis.  What was I, a naval man, doing farming?  It was hard work, but when I saw the garden filled with vegetables, I was so proud, and the children well fed!

1873, I started trading in Wakkerstroom.  My travelling days were over, or so I thought. We had enough to do at home, what with all our children, the house and the garden.

1876 I opened the Traveler’s Inn Hotel in Market Street, later renamed van Riebeeck Street.

From the age of twelve years old, Joseph our second son, was quite a character.   He smoked a calabash pipe, did not drink strong alcohol.  He helped me with the daily running of the Hotel and our house, he was popular with the guests and this was where he excelled at playing billiards.

Joseph grew into a tall well-built young man, and was popular with the indigenous black people of the Zulu and Swazi Tribes.  They gave him the name of “big feet” because he wore a size 12 shoe.  They called him “Masondo Ndlovu”, an affectionate name meaning Elephant Feet.  People nicknamed him Big Joe, a name that stuck to him.

Joseph was not a fighting man and did not participate in the Anglo-Boer wars.  In 1900 he was interned by the British because of his reluctance to get involved in the war. In the same year his first-born son, Charles, was also taken prisoner by the British and held in Durban Harbour. In the same year, his son Alfred was born.  Joseph got on well with the British Soldiers, amazing them with his skills at billiards and his physical strength.  He was released eventually.

Joseph was appointed Town Ranger of Wakkerstroom, and during this time, he planted lanes of weeping willow trees along the entrance roads to the town.  Big Joe enjoyed Wakkerstroom, the hills, the grasslands and the rivers.  He did not seem to want to wander further afield, he did not take after me who was always on the go!  He was often seen riding about the town in his one-horse buggy, giving the smaller children rides.

Big Joe married Adela Charlotte Hilder and they had fourteen children.

From 1870 our four daughters were born, all such beautiful girls, they must have taken after their mother.  Grace has the most amazing singing voice and eventually went to London to the Royal Academy Music for further training.  She became known as Madame Hurst.

Alice. Emma and Mary all married and we were able to visit them and their children.  That was such a blessing to Anne and I.

Another resident and I decided to seek our fortunes in diamonds as many young men were doing.  We travelled to Kimberley in 1873.  We even registered a small company, R Fenton and E Hazelhurst.  But we were not as lucky as most others were, and we decided to cut our losses and go home!

I became active in the public affairs of Wakkerstroom, and even signed a petition to the magistrate on 2 January 1874.

The Conflict of War

Natal became a centre of many of the war battles. It was all around us.  The Boers fought the British, who fought the Zulus.  The people who lived here had inter-married and the English speaking persons married the Boers, Afrikaans-speaking, and the allegiances were confused. The people enjoyed the company and services of all the people.

At one time I believed that my family lived in one of the safest places in South Africa, but Wakkerstroom got involved in the wars, like it or not.

Then I heard very sad news.  The end of the “H.M.S.Eurydice”, my home for some years, came when it sank in 1878, off the English coast.  It is rumoured that Sir Winston Churchill, then a young man, watched the ship go down. The phantom of the Eurydice, has been frequently sighted by sailors over the years since her sinking, including Prince Edward.  It is believed that when the Captain of a ship goes down with the ship. It can become a Phantom Ship, and is seen intermittently. Fortunately not all hands were drowned.

  1. When Wakkerstroom was occupied by British forces we realised war was close.

With my experience of being a military man I could not hide myself from getting involved.

1878-1880: Commanding the First Wakkerstroom Battalion of the WI, Field Cornet PF Henderson.  Officers included Edward Hazelhurst, myself, proprietor of the Traveler’s Inn Hotel in Wakkerstroom.  I had held a commission as a Captain in the British Forces, in the Anglo/Zulu War. AMJ Laas, who had been prominent in negotiations with both Swazi and Zulu tribes. LP Henderson Google Military History Journal Volume 13 No3/2005 Utrecht District and the Anglo/Zulu War 1879.

When the British soldiers arrived in Wakkerstroom, it caused a lot of dissention amongst the families, Boer and British alike.

The British built a line of twenty-one blockhouses between the towns of Volksrust and Wakkerstroom, and one hundred blockhouses between Wakkerstroom and Piet Retief.  These were built to protect the British supply rail route from Durban.  There were approximately twenty-one British soldiers per 1,6 kilometers along the border.

  • The 58th North Staffordshire Regiment.
  • The 80th South Staffordshire Regiment.
  • The 1st Kings’ Dragoon Guards.

The camps of the South Staffordshire Regiment and the Scots Guard could be seen on the summits of Ossewakop and Voortrekkerkop, south of Wakkerstroom

  • In 1880 – 1881 the 1st Anglo Boer war was won by the Boers
  • In 1899 – 1902 the 2nd Anglo Boer war was won by the British.

In the local Cemetery a section was cordoned off to make a Historical Cemetery and a memorial stone was erected in honour of the British forces who had been stationed and died in this area

1890 I was a member of the St. Mark’s church and served on the Building Committee

We lived in Wakkerstroom for many years, and although we often travelled to Barberton, where some of our children and friends had settled when gold was discovered, we were happy here!

 I had been shot in the leg   and the wound had never healed, it developed into gangrene, and we will have to travel to Pretoria to see the surgeon and have a possible operation.  Our daughter and her husband had settled there, Mary and Henry Rose-Innes, so it is convenient for us to stay with them.  My doctor had said to stay until I was healed.

The End

The photo below was taken by Mr. Findlay, an attorney in Pretoria, who had often visited me in Pretoria, and it was given to my family.  Sad to see the crutch I had to use!  

In 1907 Edward Died.  He was buried in the Church Street Cemetery in Pretoria.  When Edward died, Anne went to stay with her daughter, Emma and Sir James Rose-Innes, in Barberton. When she died in 1911 she was buried in Barberton.

H.M.S. Eurydice
Cape Town - Table Mountain
Edward Hazlehurst
Grandpa Hazelhurst
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